Tactical Assault Group (TAG): TAG East and TAG West

Tactical Assault Group (TAG): TAG East and TAG West Australia
Tactical Assault Group operators during exercise held in Brisbane, Australia (Photo: XY)

Tactical Assault Group (TAG) is an Australian domestic counterterrorism unit drafted from the SASR. Today, Tactical Assault Group is divided into two tactical assault groups, TAG East and TAG West.

Introduction

Australia got their own Special Air Service in 1957 with the creation of the 1st SAS Company. By 1964, an extra two companies had been added and the Company was renamed the Special Air Service Regiment. For more than 50 years they serve proudly to their country.

History

The newly formed SASR saw action in Borneo just a year later where it found itself involved in a broad counterinsurgency operation. Not long after, SASR operators were sent to Vietnam (although records indicate some may have been present as early as 1962) to aid in training the Australian Army.

By the time the Vietnam War was over, the Regiment had racked up an impressive combat record and established itself as a significant player in the special operations arena. Peacetime led to a reduction from three Sabre Squadrons to two, not including a new Training Squadron and an Operations Research Unit. During this time, special attention was given to countering the increasingly visible international terrorist incidents which befell with regularity.

Australian SASR in Afghanistan
Australian SASR operators in Afghanistan (Photo: Pinterest)

Today, this group is one of two special units responsible for Counter-Terrorism in Australia, the other being the very capable No. 1 Commando Regiment, which is part of the Army reserves. A requirement of further specialization within the SASR led to the formation of the Tactical Assault Group (TAG).

The TAG was formed in the mid-1980s. The Group shared these responsibilities for a time with its brother unit at the time, the Offshore Installations Assault Group (OAG). At the time, OAG was tasked with maritime operations such as assaults on ships or oil rigs. This latter unit was disbanded, however, there are reports that an offshoot of the original OAG remains, designated the OAT, or the Offshore Assault Team.

Initially, twenty divers from the RAN Clearance Diving Teams switched branches to the SASR to help man the new unit. Offshore Assault Team (OAT), as the name suggests, is rumored to specialize in maritime assaults; including ships, ferries, and oil rigs. Offshore Assault Team is considered a separate but equal element of Tactical Assault Group.

Members of both units are HALO/HAHO qualified and are proficient at heliborne insertions as well. As “B” squadron of the SASR, members of Tactical Assault Group undergo the same selection and training that members of the “regular” SASR. The selection phase is three weeks long, those that pass undergo nearly a year of training before they can wear the coveted sand-colored beret.

Tactical Assault Groups

At present, there are two tactical assault groups, TAG East and TAG West. Each belongs to a different parent unit and each protects a different domestic geographical area of Australia. Both groups are structured to conduct offensive domestic counter-terrorism operations focusing on direct action and hostage recovery.

Tactical Assault Group WEST (TAG West)

Tactical Assault Group-West’s training facilities include advanced outdoor close quarters battle ranges, an urban Counter-Terrorism complex, aircraft mock-ups, and sniper ranges that provide the best terms for quality military training. The SASR also makes use of the dry savannah woodland of the High Range Training Area. The headquarters of TAG West is based in Perth.

TAG West has primary responsibility for offshore recovery operations, such as ship-boarding or incidents on oil platforms, and also international/overseas incidents.

TAG West Operator brandishing his gun during the exercise
TAG West Operator brandishing his gun during the exercise (Photo: XY)

There are currently 550 (approximately 200 in Tactical Assault Group) members of the SASR which is headquartered at Campbell Barracks in the Perth suburb of Swanbourne, Australia. Assault teams are composed of four men.

Tactical Assault Group EAST (TAG East)

TAG East draws its members from the 2nd Commando Regiment and rotates one company through the role for a pre-determined length of time. It is also supplemented with personnel from the Royal Australian Navy’s Clearance Diving Branch. The Royal Australian Navy component consists of an operations officer, a clearance diver (CD) assault platoon, and an underwater medic. Approximately 30 Clearance Divers are permanently attached to the group at any one time.

Australian Tactical Assault Group West (TAG West) preparing to perform a building entry during the CT training
Australian Tactical Assault Group West (TAG West) preparing to perform a building entry during the CT training (Photo: XY)

Same as the TAG West, they have access to world-class training facilities including advanced outdoor close-quarters battle ranges, MOUT villages, urban CT complexes, full-size aircraft mock-ups, and sniper ranges. Their training center and headquarters are based in Sydney.

Training

Cross-training with other countries is not uncommon; Australian officers are permanently assigned to both Fort Bragg and Little Creek, NAB. They also have a close relationship with the British SAS which has been shared since 1957. Cross-training has also occurred with the New Zealand SAS (NZSAS), Germany’s GSG-9, and others. It is not believed that the SASR is used in covert operations abroad, due to a general governmental reluctance to conduct such operations.

Operations

In Australian history, there haven’t been any bigger issues with terrorism. Despite that fact, TAG operators were engaged in dozens of events where they have provided security such as:

  • 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games
  • 2000 Sydney Olympics Security: Joint Task Force Gold
  • 2003 Rugby World Cup: Operation Scrummage
  • 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games: Operation Acolyte
  • 2007 Sydney APEC Conference: Operation Deluge
  • 2008 World Youth Day Sydney and visit of Pope Benedict XVI: Operation Testament
  • 2014 G-20 Brisbane summit
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