Airborne forces raised by Australia have included a number of conventional and special forces units. During the Second World War the Australian Army formed the 1st Parachute Battalion; however, it did not see action. In the post-war period Australia's parachute capability was primarily maintained by special forces units. In the 1970s and 1980s a parachute infantry capability was revived, while a Parachute Battalion Group based on the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) was established in 1983. In 1997, a full time commando regiment was raised that was able to conduct large-scale operations which matured during the 2000s. In 2011, 3 RAR relinquished the parachute role with the Army deciding to opt out of a conventional parachute capability in preference to a special forces large-scale parachute capability.
Like the British Army, Australia did not have a parachute operations capability at the outbreak of the Second World War; however, the demonstration of the effectiveness of such forces by the Germans in the early stages of the conflict soon provided the impetus for their development.In November 1942 the Paratroop Training Unit (PTU) was formed, while approval was granted for the establishment of the 1st Parachute Battalion in August 1943. Later, an airborne artillery battery and engineer troop were also raised in support. Members of Z Special Unit were also trained in parachuting for covert operations against the Japanese. The PTU also developed techniques for the aerial delivery of stores. Despite this, the first Australian Army unit to conduct an operational parachute jump was the 2/4th Field Regiment, after a section of artillerymen with no parachute training jumped with their guns in support of US paratroopers during the Landing at Nadzab on 5 September 1943. Z Special Unit teams were parachuted into the interior of Borneo during 1945 as part of the preparations for the Australian-led Borneo Campaign. The 1st Parachute Battalion reached full strength by January 1944, but, although it was warned for action a number of times, including the possible rescue of prisoners of war held at Sandakan in 1945, it did not see any fighting. After the war it participated in the reoccupation of Singapore, before being disbanded in early 1946.
Initially, no requirement to maintain airborne forces in the immediate post-war period was foreseen. 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) north west of Xuyen Moc on 15–16 December 1969.However, in October 1951 Airborne Platoon was formed as part of the Royal Australian Regiment, although it had no operational role and was primarily used to develop parachute and special forces techniques. Meanwhile, the Parachute Training Wing was formed at RAAF Williamtown under the control of the Royal Australian Air Force, and was responsible for all parachute training for Army, Navy and Air Force personnel, with the first course commencing in September 1951. Regardless, during this period Australia's parachute capability was primarily maintained by special forces units, consisting of two reserve Commando Companies formed in 1955 (later placed into a regiment in 1981) and the 1st Special Air Service Company formed in 1957 (expanded to form the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) in 1964). Although during the Vietnam War the primary method of insertion used by the SASR was by helicopter, 3 Squadron made an operational parachute jump
Later, the Australian Army looked to revive a parachute infantry capability, with D Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR) forming a trial airborne company in 1974.Meanwhile, the Army also took over responsibility for parachute training at this time, with Airborne Platoon being absorbed into the Parachute Training School (PTS). Yet the capability was not maintained and it was not until 1980 that airborne company was re-raised by 6 RAR. Moves then began to develop a parachute capable battalion, with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) selected for this role in 1983. Based at Holsworthy Barracks in Sydney, 3 RAR subsequently formed the basis of the Parachute Battalion Group, which also included an engineer troop, signals detachment, artillery battery, and medical support, including a parachute surgical team. In 1997, a full-time commando unit was formed based on the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (later renamed to 2nd Commando Regiment). In September 1999, 3 RAR deployed to East Timor as part of INTERFET, although not in the parachute role. The battalion helped secure Dili during the early stages of the operation, before conducting patrols along the West Timor border and later secured the Oecussi Enclave. The bulk of the battalion returned to Australia in December 1999. In April 2002, 3 RAR returned to East Timor as part of UNTAET and UNMISET. 4 RAR (Cdo) provided the parachute capability whilst 3 RAR completed a six month tour.
As part of the "Hardening and Networking the Army" initiative in 2006 it was announced that 3 RAR would be reorganised as a light infantry battalion.Meanwhile, the battalion or its sub-units subsequently served multiple operational tours in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan. 3 RAR subsequently relinquished the parachute role to provide the Army with greater flexibility to develop an amphibious infantry battalion. On 26 August 2011, the Chief of Army transferred responsibility for maintaining the Army's parachute capability from Forces Command to Special Operations Command. There was opposition to the Army losing a conventional parachute capability.
A large-scale parachute capability is now provided by the 2nd Commando Regiment. In November 2019, the PTS was renamed the Australian Defence Force Parachuting School.Other units from Special Operations Command, including the SASR and the reserve 1st Commando Regiment, also maintain a range of parachute capabilities and Combat Controllers from the Air Force's B Flight, No. 4 Squadron. These forces are supported by the Parachuting School located at Nowra since 1986, parachute riggers from the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps and an air dispatch squadron provided by the Royal Australian Corps of Transport. The Parachuting School has an Army Parachute Display Team known as "The Red Berets".
There are five different parachute badges worn by qualified personnel in the Army, three of which are regiment specific (3 RAR, commando regiments, and SASR), in addition to the standard Army parachute badge, and one for parachute jump instructors.A maroon or dull cherry beret is also worn by airborne personnel (3 RAR prior to being re-rolled as light infantry, as well as parachute riggers and air dispatch personnel that are parachute-qualified). During the Second World War members of the 1st Parachute Battalion also wore the dull cherry beret, which they adopted from airborne units of the British Army. A range of cloth parachute badges were also worn by trained parachutists, including those of the 1st Parachute Battalion and its supporting arms (artillery and engineers), as well as the Services Reconnaissance Department (Z Special Unit) and the 1st Australian Parachute Training Depot (Army Wing).
A paratrooper is a military parachutist—someone trained to parachute into an operation, and usually functioning as part of an airborne force. Military parachutists (troops) and parachutes were first used on a large scale during World War II for troop distribution and transportation. Paratroopers are often used in surprise attacks, to seize strategic objectives such as airfields or bridges.
The Special Air Service Regiment, officially abbreviated SASR though commonly known as the SAS, is a special forces unit of the Australian Army. Formed in 1957, it was modelled on the British SAS sharing the motto, "Who Dares Wins". The regiment is based at Campbell Barracks, in Swanbourne, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia, and is a direct command unit of the Special Operations Command. It has taken part in operations in Borneo, Vietnam, Somalia, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as many other peacekeeping missions. The SASR also provides a counter-terrorist capability, and has been involved in a number of domestic security operations.
The 1st Commando Regiment is an Australian Army Reserve special forces unit part of Special Operations Command with an integrated structure of regular (full-time) soldiers and reserve (part-time) soldiers, which together with the full-time Australian Army 2nd Commando Regiment, provides the Commando capability to Special Operations Command. Raised in 1955 it is the oldest unit within Special Operations Command and in 2008 deployed to Afghanistan to become the first Australian Army Reserve force element on combat operations since World War II.
The Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) is the parent administrative regiment for regular infantry battalions of the Australian Army and is the senior infantry regiment of the Royal Australian Infantry Corps. It was originally formed in 1948 as a three battalion regiment; however, since then its size has fluctuated as battalions have been raised, amalgamated or disbanded in accordance with the Australian government's strategic requirements. Currently, the regiment consists of seven battalions and has fulfilled various roles including those of light, parachute, motorised and mechanised infantry. Throughout its existence, units of the Royal Australian Regiment have deployed on operations in Japan, Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam, Somalia, Rwanda, Cambodia, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Special Operations Command (SOCOMD) is an Australian Defence Force command that was established on 5 May 2003 to unite all of the Australian Army's special forces units and by 2008 was fully operational. Australia's Special Operations Command is of equivalent status to Australia's Fleet, Forces and Air Commands. It is modelled on the equivalent commands in the United States and British military forces, and is led by a major general as Special Operations Commander Australia (SOCAUST).
The name commando has been applied to a variety of Australian special forces and light infantry units that have been formed since 1941–42. The first Australian "commando" units were formed during the Second World War, where they mainly performed reconnaissance and long-range patrol roles during Australia's campaigns in New Guinea and Borneo, although other units such as M and Z Special Units performed more clandestine roles. These units were disbanded following the end of the war; however, in the 1950s it was realised that there was a need for such units again in the Australian forces. Today, the Australian Army possesses a number of units that perform more conventional direct-action type commando roles, as well as counter-terrorism response, long-range patrolling, and clandestine deep-penetration operations.
The 3rd Brigade is a combined arms brigade of the Australian Army, principally made up of the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment. Initially raised in 1903 as part of the post-Federation Australian Army, it was removed from the order of battle in 1906 following the restructure of the field force. It was re-formed in 1914 for service during World War I, taking part in the fighting at Gallipoli and on the Western Front in Europe. During World War II the brigade was used in a defensive role before it was disbanded in 1944. It was re-raised in 1967 for service during the Vietnam War and later went on to provide the nucleus of the deployment to East Timor during the Australian-led intervention in 1999. The brigade is currently based at Lavarack Barracks in Townsville, Queensland.
The International Force East Timor (INTERFET) was a multinational non-United Nations peacemaking taskforce, organised and led by Australia in accordance with United Nations resolutions to address the humanitarian and security crisis that took place in East Timor from 1999–2000 until the arrival of UN peacekeepers. INTERFET was commanded by an Australian military officer, Major General Peter Cosgrove.
The 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment is a mechanised infantry battalion of the Australian Army, based in Townsville as part of the 3rd Brigade. 3 RAR was initially formed in 1945 as the 67th Battalion and has seen active service in Japan, Korea, Malaya, South Vietnam, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment is an amphibious light infantry battalion of the Australian Army part of the 1st Division Amphibious Task Group based at Lavarack Barracks in Townsville.
The 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment is a motorised infantry battalion of the Australian Army. It was originally formed in 1973 by linking together both the 8th and 9th Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment. Over the next twenty-four years the battalion would remain on the Australian Order of Battle based at Enoggera Barracks in Brisbane, Queensland, until it was disbanded in 1997 amid a number of Defence-wide cutbacks introduced by the Howard government. In 2006 it was announced that the battalion would be re-raised as part of a plan to expand the size of the Army and since then it established itself as a fully deployable motorised infantry battalion as part of 7th Brigade.
The special forces of the Australian Defence Force are units of Special Operations Command and associated units of the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force that conduct and or support special operations to advance and protect the national security of the Commonwealth of Australia. The special forces of Australia have a lineage to a variety of units raised in the Second World War such as the Independent and Commando Companies, Z Special Unit, Navy Beach Commandos, and the Coastwatchers. Australian special forces have most recently been deployed to Iraq in Operation Okra as the Special Operations Task Group, as the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan, in Afghanistan in support of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and regularly for counter-terrorism pre-deploy to locations of major domestic events throughout Australia in readiness to support law enforcement such as the 2014 G20 Brisbane summit.
The 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment is a regular infantry battalion of the Australian Army. It was originally raised in 1965 as part of Australia's commitment to the Vietnam War and it eventually served two tours in Vietnam in 1967 and 1971. In 1973, following Australia's withdrawal from the conflict, the battalion was amalgamated with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment to form the 5th/7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
The maroon beret in a military configuration has been an international symbol of airborne forces since the Second World War. It was first officially introduced by the British Army in 1942, at the direction of Major-General Frederick "Boy" Browning, commander of the British 1st Airborne Division. It was first worn by the Parachute Regiment in action in North Africa during November 1942. Although coloured maroon, the beret of the British Parachute Regiment is often called the "red beret."
The 2nd Commando Regiment is a special forces unit of the Australian Army, and is part of Special Operations Command. The regiment was established on 19 June 2009 when the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando) was renamed. It is based at Holsworthy, New South Wales. The 2nd Commando Regiment often trains and deploys with the Special Air Service Regiment, is highly regarded by coalition special operation forces abroad, and has been involved in operations in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan, where it was used in a direct action warfighting role. It has also been involved in a number of domestic security operations including the 2006 Commonwealth Games and the 2014 G20 Leaders Summit.
The Long Range Patrol Vehicle (LRPV) is a 6x6 patrol vehicle that was used by the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The uniforms of the Australian Army have changed significantly over the past century, although the accoutrements worn over this period have remained relatively similar. The forces of the Australian colonies and the early forces of the Commonwealth post-Federation in 1901 closely followed the uniforms of the British Army. Since then it has continued to be influenced by British but also US styles, as well as including some distinctly Australian designs, reflecting local conditions and trends.
The Australian Defence Force School of Special Operations is an Australian Army training unit part of the Defence Special Operations Training and Education Centre (DSOTEC) responsible for the recruitment, selection, training, education and trade management of all Special Operations Command (SOCOMD) personnel. It is based at Holsworthy Barracks, New South Wales. The school was established on 19 November 2019 following the renaming of the newly formed Special Operations Training and Education Centre.
Major General Jeffery John Sengelman, is a retired senior officer of the Australian Army. He joined the army via the Officer Cadet School, Portsea in 1980, was commissioned into the Royal Australian Infantry Corps and spent much of his military career in special forces. He commanded the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando) (2000–01) and the 6th Brigade (2010–11), deployed on operations to East Timor and Iraq, and served as Commander Forces Command in 2011, Deputy Chief of Army from 2011 to 2012, Head of Modernisation and Strategic Planning – Army from 2012 to 2014, and Special Operations Commander Australia from 2014 until his retirement in 2017.