BYE, BYE BATTALION
by Sasha “Uzi” Uzunov
A very sad day for those of us who served as non-commando riflemen with Australian army unit, The 4th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment – Commando – 4RAR (Cdo). It will be renamed 2nd Commando Regiment with effect 19 June 2009.
Some of us have fond memories of our service with the unit–based in Sydney’s Holsworthy Barracks– in peacetime and on Active Service in East Timor 2001.
See the Department of Defence media release:
MSPA 183/09 Thursday, 4 June 2009
4 RAR (COMMANDO) TO BECOME THE 2ND COMMANDO REGIMENT
Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, today announced that Army’s 4th Battalion (Commando), the Royal Australian Regiment, (4 RAR Cdo) will be renamed as the 2nd Commando Regiment (2 Cdo Regt) on 19 June 2009.
The decision follows a comprehensive consultation process with current and previous serving members of 4 RAR (Cdo), as well as their families and support associations.
“While there were vast opinions to consider, we accepted the strong desire amongst current serving 4 RAR (Cdo) soldiers to rename the unit and effectively raise 2 Cdo Regt,” Lieutenant General Gillespie said.“The name 2 Cdo Regt more accurately reflects the roles and capabilities of the commandos and their command structure, which are distinct from our conventional infantry battalions.”
Army’s infantry battalions are primarily used to seize and hold territory, where commandos focus on special operations including raids, interdiction of enemy communication lines, seizing points of entry and counter terrorism / hostage rescue.4 RAR began transitioning in 1996 when Government directed Army to establish a second commando regiment with the ability to conduct special recovery and strike operations.
4 RAR (Cdo) is now nearing maturity as a special operations unit, and the name change to 2 Cdo Regt recognises this achievement as well as the skills and qualifications of its members.“Army will continue to honour the contribution the past members of 4 RAR and 4 RAR (Cdo) have made to its rich history, and the unit name will not be lost. 4 RAR will remain on Army’s Order of Battle and may be reinstated in the future, if and when the need arises,” Lieutenant General Gillespie said.
The name 2nd Commando Regiment was chosen as it logically complements the existing 1st Commando Regiment, and also reflects the unit’s historical links to the Australian Independent Commando Companies that operated in the Southwest Pacific in the Second World War.
2nd Commando Regiment will join the Special Air Service Regiment, Incident Response Regiment, 1st Commando Regiment, the Special Forces Training Centre and the Special Operations Logistics Squadron as part of Army’s Special Operations Command.
Brief History, courtesy of 4RAR Association website
4th BATTALION, ROYAL AUSTRALIAN REGIMENT
4th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment 4 RAR (Cdo) is a battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment whose roll is Commando. They wear the distinctive Commando Green beret with the badge of the Royal Australian Regiment and the Commando Green parachute wings. They operate however as a Special Forces unit under Special Forces Operational Command.
The Beginning 1964: 4th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, (4 RAR) also known as “The Fighting Fourth” was raised at Woodside, South Australia on the first of February 1964 and as such was the first Infantry battalion of the Australian Regular Army to be raised on Australian soil.
Malaysia 1965 – 1967: After rigorous training in Australia, some training performed for the first time by any unit, the Battalion relieved 3 RAR as the Australian battalion of the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade located in Malacca in West Malaysia.
Borneo 1966: This was a period of war with Indonesia which was opposed to the newly formed state of Malaysia. After conducting advanced training in West Malaysia, 4 RAR deployed to Borneo in April 1966 for the next five months conducted operations against the Indonesian army. During this time two significant large scale cross border raids by Indonesian forces were neutralised by the Battalion. The Battalion also conducted approximately 12 secret, long range platoon sized patrols deep into Indonesia.The Borneo area of operations was either rugged mountainous jungle or fetid swamp. This difficult terrain and the nature of secret long range patrols into Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan) demanded a high standard of patrolling and battlecraft skills that provided excellent operational experience for the Battalion’s subsequent tour of South Vietnam in 1968 to 1969.
4 RAR returned to Australia from Malaysia in October 1967 and was immediately warned for deployment to South Vietnam. The Battalion had only seven months in Australia before beginning its tour in South Vietnam in June 1968.
South Vietnam 1968-1969: On arrival in Vietnam the Battalion was to be reduced to three rifle companies (usually four) and incorporate two companies of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment and would be known as 4th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment/ New Zealand (ANZAC) or 4 RAR/NZ (ANZAC).During the Battalion’s twelve months tour of South Vietnam during 1968 and 1969, it took part in 11 major operations and spent a total of 270 days in the field operating as a battalion, in addition to five major company sized operations and many smaller operations. As a result of some 90 contacts with the enemy, the Battalion lost 19 men killed in action and 84 wounded in action. It accounted for more than 300 enemy dead.
After this tour, the Battalion returned to Brisbane in June 1969 and prepared for a further tour of South Vietnam in 1971.
South Vietnam 1971-1972: In May 1971, 4RAR, again as an ANZAC Battalion, began operations only a week after arriving in South Vietnam. The Battalion actually remained in the field for the next seven and a half months. From June to December 1971, when the battalion was continuously engaged in patrolling, ambushing and attacking enemy bunker positions. During this period the Battalion conducted nine major operations. This included the major battle of Nui Le on the twenty first of September 1971,when D Company fought a fierce battle against two battalions and the Regimental Headquarters of the 33rd Regiment of the North Vietnam Army. After the battle, the last major engagement by Australian forces in South Vietnam, the 33rd Regiment removed itself from Phouc Tuy Province and never operated as a unit again.In December 1971, most of the Battalion returned to Townsville, Queensland. D Company remained behind until March 1972 to protect the remainder of the Australians prior to the withdrawal of all Australian troops from South Vietnam as a result of the North Vietnamese signing a peace treaty.During this second tour of South Vietnam, the Battalion suffered nine soldiers killed in action and thirty eight wounded in action. The Battalion accounted for ninety one enemy dead but it is highly probable that a further significant number of enemy were killed or wounded in the battle of Nui Le.
2/4 RAR 1973 – 1995: In 1973, the 4th Battalion and the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment were linked together to form the Second/Fourth Battalion or 2/4 RAR. This was because after Vietnam, the Army went through a major reduction in personnel. The Royal Australian Regiment was reduced from nine battalions to five and several battalions were linked together.Although 2/4 RAR did not deploy overseas as a battalion during this period, many individuals from the battalion served overseas in peace-keeping rolls in Cambodia in 1993, Somalia in 1993 and Rwanda in 1994.
4 RAR Re-raised 1995: On the First of February 1995, the 2nd Battalion and the 4th Battalion were separated and 4RAR was re-raised, 31 years after it was originally raised. The Fighting Fourth took up its new home at Holsworthy, NSW.
4 RAR (Cdo) 1997: On the first of February 1997, 4RAR was converted to a Special Forces Commando unit and renamed 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando) or 4 RAR (Cdo).The first four years as a commando battalion kept the Fighting Fourth very busy training soldiers for its Special Forces role. At the same time it was tasked in a counter terrorist role for the Sydney Olympic Games.
East Timor 1999: In September 1999, a small team from 4 RAR (Cdo) were sent to East Timor and were involved mainly in VIP protection.
East Timor 2001: From April to October 2001, the Battalion deployed to East Timor, now officially named Timor Leste after gaining independence on 20 May 2002, where it again opposed Indonesians who attempted to interfere with the emergence of East Timor as an independent country after it broke away from Indonesia.
Counter Terrorist Training 2002 – 2003: After returning from East Timor in October 2001, the Battalion commenced intensive training to meet its Special Forces and Counter Terrorist capabilities.
Iraq 2003 – 2006: In February 2003, a 4 RAR (Cdo) company group was included in the Australian force deployed to support the Coalition forces during the second Gulf War.This was the first time that the Battalion had deployed a force on operations to undertake commando specific tasks such as Combat Search and Rescue and support to Special Air Service operations. 4 RAR (Cdo) remained in Iraq until 2007.
Afghanistan 2006: In 2006, a large 4 RAR (Cdo) element deployed on operations into Afghanistan as part of the Australian Special Operations Task Group. Much of the battalion’s operations in Afghanistan is still subject to security restrictions, but the Battalion has been involved in some fierce fighting. After one such action described as the fiercest action since the battle of Nui Le in South Vietnam, a sergeant was subsequently awarded the Star of Gallantry and a corporal was awarded the Medal for Gallantry. 4 RAR (Cdo) was awarded the Unit Citation for Gallantry and the 4RAR (Cdo) members who made up the Special Operations Task Group were awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation.
East Timor 2006: 2006 also saw the return of elements of 4 RAR (Cdo) to East Timor where they remained until 2007.
Australia 2006: 4 RAR (Cdo) now provides a long standing counter terrorist capability with the emphasis on rapid response, within eastern Australia.
Afghanistan 2007: 4 RAR (Cdo) was again warned for operations in Afghanistan and departed for Afghanistan in mid May 2007.Summary4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando) is the Australian Army’s first regular commando unit, capable of undertaking large scale offensive, support and recovery operations beyond the scope and capability of other Australian Defence Force units.
4RAR (Cdo) today spans the divide between conventional and unconventional operations, providing the Australian Defence Force with a highly effective and flexible capability in times of crisis. It is now regarded as the best Commando unit in the world.
4 RAR (Cdo) is made up of approximately 800 men including Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force personnel but 800 men do not make a battalion. The 800 men have to learn the soldiers’ trade and disciplines. Even then they are not a battalion. An effective battalion, ready to fight implies a state of mind, a state of grace and a state of duty. It implies that it is possible to say, ‘the battalion thinks’ or ‘the battalion feels’ and this is not an exaggeration.
4 RAR (Cdo) is definitely a battalion in this sense and always was. It is not an exaggeration to say that 4RAR (Cdo) is regarded by friend and foe alike as the best of the best. They live and fight by the motto of The Royal Australian Regiment . . . . . . DUTY FIRST
Sasha “Uzi” Uzunov, 1 Section, 1 Platoon, Alpha Company, 4RAR (1-1-Alpha), on a hearts and minds patrol, Balibo, East Timor, 2001.
youtube clip featuring some archival footage of 4RAR -2000-01 period