Within mere hours of a group of terrorists hijacking a passenger ferry in Sydney’s Middle Harbour, Australian commandos were already above and beside their target. Six rigid-hulled inflatable boats packed with operators whizzed toward the ship. In the sky, a flock of Blackhawk helicopters circled to fast-rope additional assault teams and provide critical aerial sniper support. The terrorists, once full of macho confidence as they made their demands to the Australian government, now exchanged panicked shouts as their demise edged closer.

The operation was over in just a matter of minutes—a routine performance by the operators of the Australian 2nd Commando Regiment.

This scenario—Exercise MARS Rotor Anchor Toothfish— was rehearsed in late July by the 2nd Commando Regiment’s Tactical Assault Group–East (TAG-E), one of the Australian Defense Force’s (ADF) go-to counterterrorism teams.. Realistic training is the best preparation for real-world contingencies.

“The exercise is really about consolidating our key domestic counterterrorism skills,” said Captain N., a platoon commander of the 2nd Commando Regiment, during a review of the exercise on the Australian Army’s website. “Part of that is the maritime counterterrorism piece, where we have a remit out to 200 nautical miles. We covered off on ship-alongside and ship-underway assaults, including sub-surface approaches with our divers. We were also working on force projection, using helicopters to launch us into top-down assaults to achieve vertical envelopment and using Royal Australian Air Force assets to deploy interstate.”