Australian Government, Department of Defence
MinisterNavyArmyAir ForceDepartment
Defending Australia and its National Interests
Army :: The Soldier's Newspaper


Navigation Bar End




The basic SASR patrol course is one of the first modules undertaken by Reinforcement Cycle soldiers.
Photos from SASR

Work outside the square
Training with the SASR

Maj Greg Smith follows two troopers through their reinforcement cycles

This issue we start an occasional series on SASR.

It's a down-to-earth look at what type of person serves with the regiment and an insight into what happens in the 18 months it takes to train someone for duty in the Perth-based regiment.

The series will follow the careers of two soldiers, Tprs Sam and Stuart, who are among 23 soldiers currently in training.

The series will appear each time the duo passes a milestone in their training schedule (reinforcement cycle) and hopefully will remove the apprehension many soldiers have towards a career with SASR.

With the next cycle not scheduled until March 2004 (the same time as the next selection course), we pick up as the troopers are almost seven months into their training, having just completed a demolitions course and preparing for an unusual event - a weekend off.

"I guess I'll just sleep, maybe visit the gym or the beach and have a few beers," said 24-year-old Tpr Stuart, who is contemplating a relaxing two days off from SAS training.

Likewise, fellow REO (the term for soldiers in the reinforcement phase) Sam, 23, was looking forward to some breathing space.

Even at this stage of less than halfway through their training, both said it was too early to tell how they were progressing.

"To be honest, I haven't even thought about it; probably because you don't get much time to do any thinking like that," said Sam.

"We just go from one training activity to the next and any time off in between is spent recovering."

In the space of 28 weeks they have completed courses in weapons, basic patrolling, parachuting, combat survival, signaller/medic, heavy weapons, demolitions and method of entry.

The next phase would be a six-week urban combat course.

Both REOs are relishing the opportunities before them, they are different to anything they've ever done.

"It's just a complete change to normal Army life," said Stuart, who originally contemplated SASR as a career during recruit training.

Certainly, for Stuart, the change is more pronounced than for most, considering he comes from a career as a RAEME technician with 5 Avn Regt.

"I guess I'd always been interested in the Army, with Dad being a reserve," he said.

"And even though I joined as a techo, I always wanted to join SASR, ever since I heard about them at recruit training.

The basic SASR patrol course is one of the first modules undertaken by Reinforcement Cycle soldiers.
Photos from SASR

"But you can't join them straight-up, so I did my time training as a technician at Wagga and Oakey then with 5 Avn Regt in Townsville.

"I just had to try to do it (SAS) at some stage, otherwise I would have regretted it.

"So one day I just came home and it just felt right."

While one may not associate the hard physical grind of an SAS trooper to that of a helicopter technician, Stuart had a strong sporting background that made it easier to cope with the physical demands of the selection course.

His technical skills were a bonus on a course that demands so much out-of-the-box thinking.

His preparation consisted of a few pack marches and spending some time in the bush at Hinchinbrook Island. But "at the opposite end to the resort".

Like everyone who attempts selection, Stuart said the course moved him out of his comfort zone.

"You learn your limits and how far you can go," he said.

"Basically, you have to be confident in yourself to be able to have a go."

The big difficulty for Stuart, as expected, was learning the basics of infantry soldiering.

"As you can guess, I haven't spent a lot of time out bush. But you not only learn from the instructors, but from the guys in the group, most of whom come from infantry."

Sam, on the other hand, has been in infantry for all of his four years in the Army.

Like Stuart, he also has family military history to draw on, with his father and grandfather both having served in the Army.

And Sam also always had it as a goal to attempt SASR selection.

"Even though I had an infantry background, I found it [the course] extremely physically demanding," said the pint-sized soldier with the baby face, who went from 68kg to 55kg during selection. (Stuart went from 92 to 80kg).

"Yes, well, I don't weigh much to begin with, and the food deprivation does get to you at first. But you get used to it."

Despite the difficulties, the duo were encouraged by those around them on the course.

"We were all of a single purpose, so it was motivating to have like-minded people around," said Sam.

"We all wanted the same thing, so that made us all push towards a common goal and made it easier to cope with the demands, knowing that other people were suffering the same as you."

For both soldiers, the change in culture has been enlightening.

"It's a highly-demanding unit as far as work goes," said Sam. "But while the hours are long, they make a point of taking downtime if it's there. You don't hang around if there's nothing on.

"I'd compare it to playing in a professional sporting team, where everyone just wants to perform at a constantly higher standard. The type of work also makes us a very close-knit bunch.

"And living in Perth is great. The living standards and lifestyle are high. It's a place where you'd want to bring up kids."

Top of side bar








Top Stories | Letters | Features | Personnel | Technology | Entertainment | Health & Fitness | Sport | About us | Home