Having spent the last six years of my career serving with the 2nd Commando Regiment, I have been fortunate enough to have witnessed and been a part of some of the unit’s most important transformations over its relatively short history. The unit has evolved at an incredible pace, which is undoubtedly and inextricably linked to our involvement in Afghanistan.

Our operational requirements have driven the unit’s capability developments and transformed Australia’s newest special forces unit into one of the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) most experienced. It has seen the unit evolve from what was traditionally a support role of the long-established Special Air Service Regiment to the ADF’s primary offensive-strike and direct-action organization.

The 2nd Commando Regiment, formerly known as the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando), or 4RAR (Cdo), was re-tasked as a special forces unit on the first of February, 1997. This designation came after the unlinking of the 2nd/4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, which left both the 2nd and 4th Battalions as individual regular infantry units.

At the time of the retasking, soldiers who were already members of the 4th Battalion were given the choice to either undergo commando training or elect to be posted to a regular infantry unit. From there, the unit got busy creating its internal structure, its rapid acquisition and capability-development programs, and began refining its recruitment and selection process for individuals suitable for commando training. Bravo Company and Charlie Company were the first Commando Company Groups (CCG) to be raised in 1998 and 1999, respectively, which came just in time for the unit’s first operational deployment to East Timor in 1999.

East Timor

Despite the early operational experience, the deployment to East Timor as part of the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) was something of a disruption to the unit’s development of its newly acquired special forces status. Due to the operational requirements in East Timor, 4RAR (Cdo) was retasked as a light infantry battalion, which saw Bravo and Charlie Companies retain their commando-qualified status, but saw an additional two companies, Alpha and Delta, raised and filled with regular infantry soldiers.

After the battalion’s deployment to East Timor was over, it returned to Australia where it resumed its previous structure as a commando battalion. This saw the dissolution of the regular infantry soldiers from the hastily raised Alpha and Delta Companies, and the focus was thus returned to developing the unit’s special-operations capabilities, backed by four full-time strike companies.