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Army July 21, 2011
By Sgt Andrew Hetherington
THE important work the Special
Operations Task Group (SOTG) per-
forms in Afghanistan and the mecha-
nisms in place for the welfare of its
soldiers were among topics discussed
at a Canberra media brief on July 8
by the Special Operations Commander
Australia, Maj-Gen Gus Gilmore, and
the most recent CO SOTG, Lt-Col G.
During his brief on the SOTG rota-
tions 14 and 15, which he commanded,
Lt-Col G emphasised the outstanding
work being performed by the task group's
soldiers in curtailing insurgent operations
and in building the capacity of the Afghan
National Security Forces to maintain sta-
bility and security in Uruzgan.
Lt-Col G explained how SOTG had
operated since 2010 to provide a better
and lasting future for Afghanistan by pur-
suing three key lines of operation, sum-
marised as; shield, build and shape.
"The first and most crucial line of
SOTG's operation was shielding the pop-
ulation from the insurgency," Lt-Col G
"This was achieved by protecting
local nationals from the threats posed by
the insurgency, and providing medical
support to Afghan civilians wounded by
SOTG's second line of operation was
to build the capacity of the Government
of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,
through the Afghan National Security
"SOTG has instilled a greater con-
fidence and expertise in the Provincial
Response Company -- Uruzgan, readying
them for the role of maintaining stabil-
ity and security in Uruzgan well after our
eventual withdrawal," Lt-Col G said.
"Our third and final line of opera-
tion -- shape -- focused on influence in
the battlespace, on attacking insurgent
networks and those networks that finan-
cially support the insurgency, to degrade
their capacity to harm the people of
Afghanistan, while allowing ISAF to
deliver security, governance and develop-
SOTG's operations have focused
largely on targeting insurgent leaders,
which has degraded the insurgent net-
works and prevented them from effec-
tively targeting Australian and Afghan
"By disrupting the command and con-
trol, morale and plans of the insurgents,
SOTG also significantly undermines
insurgent ability to conduct operations
against our Combined Team Uruzgan and
MTF 3," Lt-Col G said.
"The most significant operational suc-
cesses were the removal of two Taliban
shadow district governors from the prov-
Special insight into ops
ince during partnered missions."
Maj-Gen Gilmore explained to the
media the assistance in place to manage
the mental and physical wellbeing of the
task group's soldiers, many of whom have
deployed to Afghanistan multiple times.
"It's one of the most important issues
that commanders have and we need to
make sure there are gates in place, checks
and balances and management tools avail-
able to manage our soldiers' welfare.
There are several ways Defence
ensures SOTG soldiers are monitored and
looked after, including a rotation cycle
which allows for a longer pre-deployment
training period, shorter duration deploy-
ments and a respite phase where com-
manders ensure personnel don't carry
large amounts of unused leave and have
access to psychological support.
Maj-Gen Gilmore also explained
the role of the newly created Soldier
"This cell was set up to ensure we've
got an area that wakes up every day and
knows their responsibility is to make sure,
on a case-by-case basis, we are managing
those who've been wounded psychologi-
cally and physically," he said.
DURING a roundtable brief to
the media on July 8, the CO of
Special Operations Task Group
(SOTG) Rotations 14 and 15,
Lt-Col G, released more details
of the mission during which Sgt
Brett Wood was killed.
On May 22, members of
SOTG, including Sgt Wood and
the Afghan Provincial Response
Company Uruzgan, were con-
ducting clearance operations in
the Kajaki district of southern
"Two platoons entered sepa-
rate villages before first light
and the first platoon conducted
a cordon and search of sev-
eral compounds before being
attacked by insurgents firing
RPGs, mortars, heavy machine
guns and small arms from multi-
ple directions," Lt-Col G said.
"The second platoon,
which included Sgt Wood, was
involved in an intense fire fight,
which continued into the night
and across the following day.
"The battle spanned 41
hours and it was the most
intense combat seen by
Australian troops this year."
Insurgents used tunnels
and mouse holes to manoeuvre
between compounds and key-
holes to fire through.
SOTG suffered six casual-
ties during the height of the bat-
tle on May 23.
One soldier was wounded
in an exchange of mortars, and
two more received fragmenta-
tion wounds from grenades.
"An aero medical evacua-
tion was requested and as the
helicopter approached, Sgt
Wood and his team aggres-
sively engaged the enemy with
suppressing fire which permit-
ted the helicopter to land and
ensured his mates received a
safe extraction," Lt-Col G said.
"It was later that afternoon,
when a team of commandos
raced down an alleyway to
interdict a group of insurgents,
Sgt Wood was killed when an
IED detonated and two other
soldiers were wounded.
"Under waves of heavy fire,
SOTG soldiers provided imme-
diate first aid to the three casu-
alties and requested another
aero medical evacuation.
"Despite the tragic loss of
Sgt Brett Wood, this important
operation was highly successful
in destroying an IED factory, dis-
rupting the insurgent safe haven
in Kajaki and degrading their
ability to conduct attacks against
Afghan and ISAF forces."
Tragic events explained
Tough job: A Special Forces soldier observes a valley in Chenartu, Uruzgan
province. Inset, SOCAUST Maj-Gen Gus Gilmore and the CO of SOTG rotations 14
and 15, Lt-Col G, brief reporters in Canberra.
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