For the first time in its 114-year history, the Australian Army’s most senior staff are all Special Forces officers. Chief of Army Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, Deputy Chief of Army Major General Rick Burr, and Commander Forces Command Major General Gus Gilmore all hail from the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR). This is a historic time for the Australian Army and also for Special Operations Command (SOCOMD).
Unlike some of our allies, SOCOMD is not a separate and autonomous branch within the Australian Defence Force (ADF). SOCOMD still falls under the Australian Army Order of Battle (ORBAT), which means that we are still governed by a conventional hierarchy. This is the first time in over a century that these top spots have been filled by Special Forces officers, with all three bringing an incredible amount of experience to the table.
Lieutenant General Angus Campbell
Chief of Army Lieutenant General Angus Campbell began training at the Royal Military College (RMC), Duntroon in 1981. After graduating as an infantry lieutenant in 1984, his first posting was to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) before he passed selection for the SASR. Lieutenant General Campbell has enjoyed a range of senior defence positions prior to taking the Army’s top spot.
His military appointments include time as an SASR troop and squadron commander, commander of the 2nd Battalion Group on deployment to the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, leader of the Military Strategic Commitments Division, commander of all Australian forces deployed in the Middle East area of operations, and commander of Border Protection Command where he spearheaded Operation Sovereign Borders.
Outside of the military and between 2005-2010, Angus Campbell joined the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet as first assistant secretary in the Office of National Security, where he was later promoted first to deputy secretary and then to deputy national advisor.
Major General Rick Burr
Major General Rick Burr graduated from RMC the year after Lieutenant General Campbell in 1985. His first posting was to the 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (8/9 RAR) before he later passed selection for the SASR. From here, Burr has enjoyed a diverse career in a number of extremely notable command positions, staff and representational appointments, as well as training appointments both domestically and abroad.
Burr has commanded Australian conventional and Special Forces troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2013, the Pentagon appointed Major General Burr as deputy commanding general – operations, United States Army Pacific (USARPAC), the first foreign officer to ever hold such a position. Major General Burr’s other senior command roles include command of the 1st Division and Deployable Joint Force Headquarters, the Special Air Service Regiment, the International Security Assistance Force Special Operations Forces (ISAF SOF) in Afghanistan, and of Australian Special Forces Task Groups in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Major General Gus Gilmore
Major General Gus Gilmore graduated from RMC in 1983, where he, too, saw his first posting take place with 8/9 RAR. Major General Gilmore completed a number of postings prior to completing selection for the SASR and posting in as a troop commander in 1988. He would also go on to serve as a squadron commander and later as the commanding officer within the Special Air Service Regiment, where he led the first Australian Special Forces Task Group into Afghanistan in 2001.
Major General Gilmore also brings an incredible amount of experience to his position as commander of Forces Command. He has commanded the coalition Advisory Support Team to the Iraqi Joint Headquarters in Baghdad, commanded all NATO and other Special Forces assigned to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF SOF) in Afghanistan, and served as the director general of Future Land Warfare, as well as the director general of Defence Public Affairs. Major General Gilmore was also seconded to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, where he worked in the National Security Division. He was appointed Special Operations Commander Australia in 2011 and then deputy chief of Army in 2013.
All three generals know each other well and have progressed through their careers together since each graduating from the Royal Military College between 1983 and 1985. The last 15 or so years has been an incredibly busy time for the Australian Defence Force and, in particular, our Special Forces. The roles that East Timor, as well as the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, have played for the units of Australia’s SOCOMD cannot be underestimated.
These men have all had extensive command and leadership roles in combat which, prior to East Timor kicking off in 1999, hasn’t happened since the Vietnam War. Their cohesion and combined experience through the suite of command—staff and representational—as well as training appointments, will no doubt have a positive impact on the Army and SOCOMD over the next three years.
(Featured image courtesy of theguardian.com)