Australian special forces in the spotlight

Lisa Martin
(Australian Associated Press)

Imagine having a job so secret and dangerous you couldn’t even tell your family about an average day at the office.

The activities of Australia’s special forces personnel deployed overseas would rival any Hollywood action blockbuster.

But for a long time, it has been an untold story in Australia’s military history.

A new exhibition entitled From the Shadows, at the Australian War Memorial, which opens on Wednesday, hopes to give the public a unique insight into their roles.

It features 25 rare interviews and 660 objects including uniforms, equipment, and awards from the Special Air Service Regiment, Commando Regiments and the Special Operations Engineer Regiment.

Special forces soldiers have had a busy two decades – serving in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The timing of the exhibition comes in the wake of allegations of a vicious rivalry between commandos based out of Sydney and SAS troops based out of Perth.

The Defence Force Inspector General is also holding an inquiry into claims war crimes may have been committed in Afghanistan between 2005-2016.

Meanwhile, an SAS soldier was recently cleared of war crimes after cutting off the hands of two alleged Taliban fighters in 2013.

At the exhibition launch, War Memorial director Brendan Nelson acknowledged that it was “inevitable for controversies to emerge”, but said it was important to tell the stories.

“We can’t apply the prism of our comfortable sanctimony to judgments about what they have to do in the operations we send them to conduct,” he told reporters.

“Our easy comfortable lives can breed easy judgments about…those at the pointy end of the pointiest end of the stick.”

Dr Nelson said the ongoing Afghanistan War had been some of the hardest fighting since Vietnam.

* The exhibition runs for 12 months.


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