Good Reading : October 2008
OCTOBER 2008 ı goodreading 19 behind the book The stories of the soldiers after they hang up their boots are just as compelling as the stories in The Amazing SAS, for these are exceptional people. I found that, although their jobs might be new and the uniform gone, the emotional bonds forged during their SAS service also make the transition into civilian life as a powerful part of the fabric of their lives. Some of their most searing military experiences, such as the 1995 Kibeho massacre in Rwanda, the first death of an Australian sold in Afghanistan, that of Sergeant Andrew Russell in 2002, and the unbelievably gruelling training that has claimed far more SAS lives than active combat, remain indelibly stamped on the psyches of the men who leave the regiment. So I decided that it was important to invite them to reflect on their military careers as part of drawing together the strands of their new lives. I wanted to write another story that would reach both a general readership and the men themselves, using their own voices as the vehicle for a pacy journey through some rattling good yarns.The former soldiers and officers who agreed to speak to me once again gave generously of themselves. These include former SAS Major Terry O’Farrell, who is now a colonel and special forces commander in the United Arab Emirates and Jim Truscott, who runs an international security business.We also catch up with George (whose full name cannot be used) in his role as a trainer in the UAE and follow the career of a former head of the Australian Special Operations Command, Duncan Lewis, who now sits at the right hand of the Prime Minister as the point man on international security. I also wanted to tell stories of some of the earlier SAS generations, dipping into the Vietnam era and the pioneering counter-terrorism teams from the 1970s, who put their lives and bodies on the line to develop tactics that are still used today. Not all are stories of glory and reward. Some of the most painful stories come from men who have been left not been treated with the honour they deserve.These are men such as Dave Howe and Roger Croucher from the first Nullah and Gauntlet counter-terrorism teams, whose medical files stand many centimetres thick and who have been fighting for justice and recognition for more than 30 years. Men damaged during their extreme service form an integral part of this vast network with powerful bonds formed under dangerous circumstances. I was also grateful for the personal revelations of some who have been broken of body but not of mind, such as the inspirational Ken Webb who, from his wheelchair, continues his fight isability rights and has forged ce for himself in the global rity business. New voices include Rob ieson (not his real name) who ds the boards in corporate rdrooms with a message of monious co-existence rather n military domination in urity management.The former hter pilot, musician and battle- rdened SAS officer draws on s experiences in Afghanistan nd Iraq, including a near- saster in the Western Desert ith a squadron from the British oat Service (SBS), to weave his compelling pitch across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In corporate life we meet Chris Roberts, a former commanding officer who joined his brother John’s giant construction company Multiplex, and is now retired. We also meet Bill Forbes, who after leaving the SAS ior manager in Wester n Australian emergency services nd now runs security for Woodside Petroleum and sits n an important national body r the protection of critical nfrastructure. The altruistic urge is alive nd thriving with such people as ajor Grant (whose full name nnot be used), whom we met the first book, whose passion is lping Aboriginal communities anage their coastal land, and ry Hilder, a new voice, who kidney transplant recipient d a nurse. Then there are the politicians, uth Australian Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith and West Australian Labor MP Paul Papalia, whose near-death experiences and extreme service have equipped them well for this very different battlefield. This informal but potentially very powerful network is in action on most days, providing solutions or manpower or advice, intelligence and support to mates in all the corners of the world from Africa to the Pacific Islands and Russia to the Middle East and, of course, Australia. Soldiers Without Borders by Ian McPhedran is published by HarperCollins, rrp $35.00. Former SAS officer Bill Forbes and friends during a security assessment mission in Kenya. Former counterterrorism operators in Perth, 2007. Gerry Bampton (centre) became a paraplegic in the 1996 Black Hawk tragedy. Men damaged during their extreme service form an integral part of this vast network with powerful bonds formed under dangerous circumstances. Main image: SAS soldiers in training at Campbell Barracks, Swanbourne. © John Feder, News Limited.