The Command Post
Iraq
May 13, 2003
Rare Insight into Special Forces Tactics

An Australian officer who is about to leave the SAS (to be the Australian liason officer at the US Task Force HQ) agreed to an interview about his experiences in Iraq. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

"Dare I say it - I'm pretty comfortable in that environment. Our special forces are the best in the world and our level of physical and psychological training is very high so we can cope with that sort of thing . . . easily, really. The Americans know that too and they love working with us for that reason. From our point of view, it is excellent to work with the Americans because . . . we get a reach into their intelligence and equipment, which is first rate."
Nonetheless, the approaches of the Australian and US special forces differ greatly, he said.
"The US special forces are very big and good at operating in chaos - and that's largely because creating chaos is one of their tactics. We often look for another way than always going in straight away with a lot of punch."
Another Australian special forces member, who declined to be named, said: "We look for different ways of doing things - you could say we are more lateral.
"We don't always see the way through as killing the opponent straight away, whereas the Americans almost certainly do - in this war we used a lot of psy ops [psychological operations] very successfully. I believe we managed to convince many [Iraqi soldiers] to go back to their families, to think again, not to fight . . . I'm not sure the Americans would claim to have done that."
Polish, Australian, British, US Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force Special Forces, all with different strengths. A difficult combination to defend against.

Posted By Alan E Brain at May 13, 2003 11:13 PM | TrackBack
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I seem to note allot of the articles about the Aussie SAS make jabs at US special forces. This quote

"We don't always see the way through as killing the opponent straight away, whereas the Americans almost certainly do - in this war we used a lot of psy ops [psychological operations] very successfully. I believe we managed to convince many [Iraqi soldiers] to go back to their families, to think again, not to fight . . . I'm not sure the Americans would claim to have done that."

Seems silly in that light of that most of the Psy Op systems (i.e. broad cast drones, e-intel planes, satellite networks etc.) have all been US built and supplied. Janes has numerous articles on US psy ops and the billions invested in hardware.

Maybe I am being testy but the comments seem sort of lame..


Posted by: robi sen at May 14, 2003 02:36 AM

What's wrong with killing the enemy?

Posted by: Penosity at May 14, 2003 03:14 AM

My question exactly, Penosity. This is a war. Why risk soldiers' lives on an uncertain outcome from the use of psy-ops measures when you can take steps that your enemy will not be around to bother you any more?

Hey, you Aussies...you're not getting squeamish on us, are ya? ;-)


Posted by: Curt at May 14, 2003 07:21 AM

British and Aussie claims of being better soldiers are made every time we fight together (or against each other). You cannot read an article concerning the soldiers of the three countries written by a Brit or Aussie writer without comments like

"Our special forces are the best in the world and our level of physical and psychological training is very high so we can cope with that sort of thing . . . easily, really. The Americans know that too and they love working with us for that reason"

It's to be expected really. What else would a Brit or Aussie reporter write? "The Americans are clearly the best and we were just glad we could be there to help!" The man would never be able to find a job in his own country.

This is a story that has been told in every war we have fought together. It goes something like this:

"We (Brits usually) are the better soldiers and officers BUT, the Americans have more guns/tanks/planes/troops so they are the ones who win the wars."

It does no one any harm to let the Brits & Aussies have their professional pride, and there may be truth to some of the claims. But I doubt you would find many SEALs or Delta Force soldiers, or US Marines who would agree.

Posted by: Partisan at May 14, 2003 07:21 AM

It's not really like-for-like. In terms of "best", I doubt any nation state invests more in extended training than the US and ergo Delta is probabaly top of the pecking order - after all, they train with all the resources NSA, CIA, DIA and the black agencies can give them. No other nation can get Elvis to fly a saucer out of Area 51 and beam down a tactical to a Delta team outside Osama's cave (only kidding...?)

For dirty lo-tech, it's probabaly the SAS / ASAS. Even the US looked to Hereford after WWII. If you're a hostage held by Islamocrazies in 5000 square miles of Malaysian jungle, it's George and Bob from Stirling Lines you want to (not) see peeking through the canopy.

Posted by: GilesF at May 14, 2003 09:46 AM

As a Yank I read his comments as being his own personal viewpoint, and nothing more. No offense intended and none taken. Just vast appreciation for a 'job well done'. Thanks, mate.

Posted by: 49erDweet at May 14, 2003 11:31 AM

Actually I dont think this is SF troops bragging but either a bais in Aussie papers or Aussie themselves to show them selves as takeing great pains to spare lives while the americans have no problem killing anyone. For exmaple another comman post post .

Also.. I suspect this persons "view point" has more reflection on the editoriar opinion.

Ok Ill shut up now. I suspect I am beinging senstiive.

BTW .. Delta is modeled after the SAS and trains with both UK, New Zealand and Aussie SAS.

Posted by: robi at May 14, 2003 01:54 PM

As an American, I would echo 49erDweet with a big THANK YOU to all the coalition partners. It's very natural for allied militaries to each feel they are the best. So you can bet an interview with an American special forces guy will tout our strengths, too. No harm, just a healthy attitude and healthy competition. It's if they don't compete verbally and on the field that you know they have no respect for each other.

That said, I'm sure different groups have different strengths and traditions. I liked his comment that we're good at creating chaos. It seems to me that creating chaos is the best way to get the upper hand and possibly to minimize casualties on all sides.

The psy-ops comment is an interesting one. Certainly our psy-ops budget and development must be the biggest in the world, so I'm sure we did our part. Maybe there is a spectrum or range of specific psy-ops skills/tactics and they are better at some. Perhaps, it's "pressuring" an enemy field commander until he becomes convince that dissolving his unit is the best alternative...I would imagine that a few "voluntary" sessions of beer drinking and arm twisting by a squad of intelligent, well-trained Australian dudes each the size of Andre the Giant would be convincing enough...

Posted by: Raoul at May 14, 2003 02:09 PM

Allies always squabble, partly out of jealousy about what the other lot have got (better kit, better billets, better chow) but also to let off steam. These are aggressive warfighters we're talking about, not sunday school teachers.

That said, allies also work together to get the job done. They don't pull a sulk if someone else seems to be getting the 'glory' in the press, or refuse to share intel or kit if an ally needs it to deliver an outcome. In the end that's what counts in mulit-nation operations: gung-ho.

I don't see the ASAS comments as America-bashing, more like a kid brother poking his elder sibling in the ribs - competetive, but still good natured. Australia is still a small nation in terms of headcount (not in terms of heart and guts certainly) and the Australian Defence Force is probably keen to emphasise to lawmakers that they do make a big difference in the world and their budgets should go up accordingly - hance the PR job in the press. If I was John Howard I'd ram a Defence Bill through parliament right now and get these guys the bucks they need to keep on doing their job!

Posted by: Bobster at May 14, 2003 02:27 PM

I believe we managed to convince many [Iraqi soldiers] to go back to their families, to think again, not to fight . . . I'm not sure the Americans would claim to have done that."

Yes the Americans did, when half your unit is bombed the hell out of, your officers are dead, and the only thing you have in abundance is leaflets, why stick around?

Posted by: Original Mark at May 14, 2003 02:35 PM

I read his comments as being:
"We both have different strengths and tactics based upon our resources and goals. We're each the absolute best at what we do."

And ANY SpecOps soldier who DOESN'T think his unit is the absolute best at what they do is probably in need of finding another post.

Orion

Posted by: Orion at May 14, 2003 02:45 PM

"If I was John Howard I'd ram a Defence Bill through parliament right now and get these guys the bucks they need to keep on doing their job!
"

Damn straight! Its upsetting to see the kind of gear that UK forces especially have to work with. While the Enfield/bullpup rifles are nice and they (I hear) have good food their commo is so outdated its not even funny. Their Challengers could not even operate on our Comm nets and had not FOF systems like our M1A's (and this caused some Blue on Blue incidents).

Hopefully our Allies will be albe to afford to upgrade their militaries and I am glad the US is helping some of them like Poland do just that.

Anyways.. I want to make clear that I love the Aussies but I just some time sense a real derogitory attitude in alot of their papers.

Posted by: robi at May 14, 2003 02:45 PM

I participated in various training scenarios, SPECOP courses and maneuvers where US forces always had British and Australian SAS/SBS folks. I remember jogging with heavy equipment all night and all day and becoming somewhat disoriented to my exact location on the ground; I must have appeared bewildered because an Aussie slipped out of the forest and asked me where I thought I was and I showed him. He said it is not at all as it appears and to retry my LOB's. Which of course were askew because of fatigue. We are all comrades and I think it's healthy to have some Interservice and InterForces rivalry, not unlike the Army-Navy Game.

Posted by: ew at May 14, 2003 03:55 PM

" I want to make clear that I love the Aussies but I just some time sense a real derogitory attitude in alot of their papers. "

The Aussies are very proud of their armed forces, but there's still an attitude amongst some in Australia that they're forever fighting 'someone else's war' for them. This doesn't equate to anti-Americanism, just a questioning of strategic decisions taken by their government.

In a way I can understand the sentiment - the first questions a nation asks when it deploys troops abroad are 'why here and why us?' But Australia is a Western nation in the Southern hemisphere, and its strategic priorities are generally in line with the West.

For a number of years in the 80's/90's Australia tried to re-orientatie its priorities towards the Pacific rim, with varying degrees of success. But in the end Australia is atypical of a Pacific rim nation; it's history, culture and political system is generally Western, as is a lot of its trade. If Australian media sometimes has an 'up yours' attitude to America it does need to be seen in this context, a country still considering what it means to be a Western style nation with Eastern neighbours.

Still, look on the bright side - you should see what they write about the Brits!

Posted by: Bobster at May 14, 2003 04:49 PM

Everyone appreciates everyone else's contributions - lives were saved by the intense training and professionalism of the anglosphere's fine special forces.

That said, like robi I'm tired of the smug little digs. That thunderous clang you heard during the two or three days the U.S. required to take Baghdad was the door slamming shut on the simplistic, self-congratulatory notion that the U.S. was learning to do whatever it was going to do by watching the British pick away at Basra for weeks.

I'll make you a deal. I'll admit the British did things exactly right at Basra - and that staying outside was obviously a part of the coalition's bypass strategy. A well-done job that economized force and saved lives. You admit that an awestruck, admiring U.S military wasn't "taking notes", except in the sense that professional armies always study and learn from their own and everyone else's operations.

Posted by: Ark Royal at May 14, 2003 05:14 PM

I spent and still do on reserve basis, 23 years in the military.
I have been trained and still train with all the coalition troops, brits, Aussies Americans, germans polish I talians etc.

The other post is right, it is healthy compition to be the best, and many a mess fight has been done about it.
This is where the term, 'boxers mitt" comes from, it's usualy contracted from a mess brawl, where you punch a brit in the jaw and don't do it quite right, and bust a bone above your pinky finger, hurts far a while, but you can still do push ups, pitch a tent, and laugh about it next mess gathering.

The aussies talk too much when they fight, and usually you can sucker them with their mouth open, but, they are known to be a crafty bunch, so watch out for that boot in the nuts, if they get you with that, you go down, and them they give you the traditional Aussie boot, which is a kick in the ass

Posted by: Bubba at May 14, 2003 07:11 PM

I'm sorry, I left out the Americans. They fight like Canadians, which is dirty, but we mostly always win.
see ya'll who are going to fort maCoy on june 6

Posted by: bubba at May 14, 2003 07:15 PM

OOPS!
I left out the hand to hand combat skills of the french and germans...................Someone please tell me if they had any experience in that regard

Posted by: Bubba at May 14, 2003 07:24 PM

As what I remember from being a paratrooper in "Nam", the Aussies were damn good soldiers, and alot like us. SAS is a damn good unit. Special Ops troops are a little different from the the other members in the Military. A little more brash, maybe a little irritating at times, but make no doubt that you would live to have them in a vicious little war! But I admire our own Special Forces troops (the Green Berets), they are widely known as the "Quiet Professionals" . Highly trained, highly motivated and damn intelligent. They let their success speak for themselves and quietly go about their duties! Airborne!

Posted by: Airborne 72 at May 14, 2003 07:32 PM

Airborne, 23 years has been a long while to be in the army for me.
I know the army, air, the greens, marines, the whole bunch. I train alot of these people who move on to 'specialties'
It takes guts and dedication to be a soldier, no matter the unit your in.
I know 2 of the fine, brave American boys who died, I had the honor of meeting them while training in winter survival.
They were not "stupid boys with guns" as that person who posted as "JIm HOUSTON" thinks. They were Men. As we know, when you volunteer for military, you sign on the line, knowing you may die.
They may come in as young boys, but when they face combat, they are men, and they do their job.

If it wasn't for people like those who died, this world would be a horrible place.
It's Idiots like JIM HOUSTON who have no rspect, courage or any morals who are a danger and cause the destruction of nations.

They don't even realize that the freedom they have to spout off against the country was earned by the blood of the forefathers of these great nations.
I really pity their souls

Posted by: Bubba at May 14, 2003 07:45 PM

The ASAS comments show the difference between them and us. Our S.F. (green berets) are multi-taskers, we leave the psyops to the psyop and c.a. people. We do win hearts and minds though as seen splendily in A-stan. S.F. can do many missions and are force multipliers. Five A-teams took A-stan in 60 days( with the fast movers) and caused many casualties. There is nothing more motivating to a taliban to go home than knowing a 500 pounder is going to find you.
So if the ASAS blokes want to talk their way out of a fight let em, but the militant islamist is not prone to
listen. They only respect the sword. By the way I am a 26 year vet with S.F. and will be jetting over there soon, spiker

Posted by: SPIKER18C at May 14, 2003 10:08 PM

I'm glad thay think they're the best. That's the way warriors should think. Who wants a Special Operator or fighter pilot who doesn't think he is the best.
The best part is that they stood with us when we asked. Not like the former land powers of Europe - France, Germany and Russia. Now there is a unique alliance of self serving former powers!

Posted by: Ed at May 15, 2003 12:41 AM

I STRONGLY AGREE WITH THOSE THAT SAID IT IS NATURAL FOR ALL SPECIAL OPS TROOPS AND UNITS TO THINK THEY ARE THE BEST OR THEY SHOULDN'T BE IN SPEC OPS. TWO THINGS ARE IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER, ONE THAT STANDING SHOULDER TO SHOULDER, BACK TO BACK IN THE FIGHT OUT WEIGHS WHO IS THE BEST. ALSO EACH SPEC OPS UNIT HAS ITS OWN STRONG POINTS WHICH WHEN BLENDED TOGETHER MAKE THE WHOLE BETTER THAN THE INDIVIDUAL UNIT. IT IS THE STRENGTH OF THE TEAM THAT MAKES SPECIALOPS WHAT IT IS. I KINDA THINK THAT CAUSING CHAOS AND KILLING THEM STRAIGHT AWAY IS A PRETTY EFFECTIVE PSY OPS TOLL IN ITS OWN RIGHT. SHAFE-D6951

Posted by: SHAFE-D6951 at May 15, 2003 11:19 AM

what the fuck... as a soldier hopefully looking to be SF some time in the future i see this post as just... really fuckin stupid. how childish is this "no we're better" "hell no we're better" blah blah blah who gives a fuck. we all know who the best military power is. hooah! PLUS its war ass holes. you're suppose to kill the enemy... we're train to eliminate them. not make friends with them. death comes with war its what is expected. so i say grow up... and face facts that killing will oocur on the battlefields, not by saying hey man... go home. pys ops are nice but it all comes down to the dirty work. killing all of them fuckers.

Posted by: 11bravo at May 17, 2003 10:04 PM

haha i just happened to find this.

Australian SAS

A large group of Taliban soldiers are moving down a road when they hear a
voice call from behind a sand-dune.

"One Australian SAS soldier is better than ten Taliban".

The Taliban commander quickly sends 10 of his best soldiers over the dune
whereupon a gun-battle breaks out and continues for a few minutes, then
silence.
The voice then calls out "One Australian SAS soldier is better than one
hundred Taliban".

Furious, the Taliban commander sends his next best 100 troops over the dune
and instantly a huge gunfight commences. After 10 minutes of battle, again
silence.
The Australian voice calls out again "One Australian SAS soldier is better
than one thousand Taliban".

The enraged Taliban Commander musters one thousand fighters and sends them
across the dune. Cannon, rocket and machine gun fire ring out as a huge
battle is fought. Then silence. Eventually one wounded Taliban fighter
crawls back over the dune and with his dying words tells his commander,
"Don't send any more men, it's a trap, ...there's actually two of them."

Posted by: 11Bravo at May 17, 2003 11:30 PM

Im an aussie about to join the ADFand eventually the SASR
We are by far the best trained and effective small S team in the world. This is due to us learning off other SF teams, like the SEALs and British SAS. Yes they may have better weapons, and more men and more technology, but the SASR is far more effectie at removing the enemy, without actually causing death to themselves, or the enemy, but conning them into leaving and heling to rebuild their country.
check out the war in iraq, right, 0 Australian casualties, injuries or captures, but we removed a couple air bases, blocked off basically half the country, took out many outposts, killed hundreds of soldiers and basially captured many more. You americans and all your technology, run into the country, and kill your own people even before engaging the enemy....
Aussies are the best, the americans have said so, the brits are reluctant but realize that we are at leats equal to them, and hey, we deserve that credit
so ne one who wants to argue that we arent the best or atleast in the top 2 SF teams in the world, good luck

Posted by: Dreggy at May 18, 2003 09:35 PM

wow you really don't know when you're wrong. i trained with aussie soldiers before and they were the frist killed in MOUT. they're more gung ho than any other soldiers i've met. and for aussie SAS securing most of the country... wow not bad for a few hundred soldiers compared to the 200,000 us and uk tropps. the us faced more casulties cuz they have more personel in there donig the work. whos the first in there taking them out? US. the UK pretty much cleaned up the rest while the US continued on and they did a great job, but lets not forget about the polish SF i'm sure they did their share. i'm sure american delta is better trained along with british SAS.

Posted by: 11bravo at May 24, 2003 11:58 PM
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