The terrorist attacks that took place on 9/11/2001 have been regarded as one of the most spectacular and transforming events in world history. The damage inflicted by al-Qaeda that day triggered an enormous and justified retaliation from the United States and many other NATO and non-NATO nations. The declaration of the ‘War on Terror’ by U.S. President George W. Bush on 20 September 2011 and the invasion of Afghanistan that soon followed saw Australia pledge its unwavering support to the mission.
That same month, Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard announced that the Government was invoking Article IV of the ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand, United States) Treaty in response to the terrorist attacks against the United States. On the 22 October 2001, the first contingent of operators from the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) under the designation of the Special Forces Task Group (SFTG) departed Australia to assist the U.S.-led International Coalition Against Terrorism (ICAT).
The 2nd Commando Regiment, then known as the 4th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (Commando) (herein referred to interchangeably as the 2nd Commando Regiment, 2 Commando, and the Regiment), were first deployed to Afghanistan in August 2005 under Australia’s renewed military commitment to the region. During this time, the Commandos and troops from six other nations were involved in Operation Perth whose mission was to clear the Chora Valley of insurgent fighters.
After nine days of heavy fighting and an estimated 150 dead Taliban fighters, the operation was deemed a success and had set the precedent for what was to come from the Regiment. The 2005 commitment lasted for 12 months before the last Commando contribution to the SFTG were welcomed home in November 2006. Two members of the unit received gallantry awards (Star of Gallantry and the Medal for Gallantry) for their involvement in Operation Perth, and the unit was awarded a Unit Citation for Gallantry and the task group as a whole received the Meritorious Unit Citation.
Afghanistan’s government in 2007 faced a resurgent and focused Taliban resistance that ultimately saw Prime Minister John Howard announce that another commitment of special forces soldiers, this time under the designation of the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG), would be redeployed to Uruzgan Province for a minimum two-year mission. The two year mission quickly turned into a six year commitment, and from May 2007 until December 2013, the 2nd Commando Regiment was unrelenting in its contribution to the NATO mission by providing a full Commando Company Group (CCG) for each of its back-to-back SOTG rotations.
Over this time, operators from the unit have been awarded four Stars of Gallantry along with an exceptionally large number of Medals for Gallantry, Commendations for Gallantry, Distinguished Services Crosses, and Distinguished Service Medals. In 2014, Corporal Cameron Baird VC MG was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia and the NATO Meritorious Service Medal. The performance of the Regiment and its personnel have also earned international acclaim and accolades, with a number of members being awarded United States gallantry and meritorious service medals.
The unwavering commitment of our government after 9/11, and the continuing of a proud tradition of standing side-by-side with the United States against a common enemy, was the catalyst for the 2nd Commando Regiment’s shotgun force-modernization. The baptism of fire that was Afghanistan saw the 2nd Commando Regiment catapult from what was a relatively new unit under Australia’s Special Operations Command to one of the world’s most elite and capable special operations forces.
Our international reputation and successes in Afghanistan have not come without a heavy price, however, with the Regiment having lost more soldiers in Afghanistan than any other unit in the Australian Defence Force. These sacrifices are testament to the determined and enduring commitment that we have against those who threaten our values and way of life. This unquestioned alliance is something which is steeped in the collective history of our respective nations, and is something that my colleagues and I are extremely proud to have been a part of.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
(Featured Image Courtesy: This image is one of a series of previously unreleased images of the Australian Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) conducting combat operations in Afghanistan during 2011.)