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

Eric Sof

Tactical Assault Group (TAG) is an Australian domestic counter-terrorism 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 1st SAS Company. By 1964, two companies had been added, and the Company was renamed the Special Air Service Regiment. For more than 50 years, they have served proudly to their country.

History

The newly formed SASR saw action in Borneo just a year later, where it found itself involved in an overall counterinsurgency operation. Not long after, SASR operators were sent to Vietnam (although records indicate some may have been present as early as 1962) to train 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 reduced 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 that occurred regularly.

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 is the very capable No. 1 Commando Regiment, part of the Army reserves. A requirement of further specialization within the SASR led to the Tactical Assault Group (TAG).

The TAG was formed in the mid-1980s. The Group shared these responsibilities with its brother unit, 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, reports indicate 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 staff the new unit. As the name suggests, the offshore Assault Team (OAT) 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.

Both units are HALO/HAHO qualified and proficient at heliborne insertions. 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

There are two tactical assault groups, TAG East and TAG West. Each belongs to a different parent unit, and each protects another 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 uses 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 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 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 the Royal Australian Navy’s Clearance Diving Branch personnel. 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 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)

Like 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 Fort Bragg and Little Creek, NAB. They also have had a close relationship with the British SAS 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
  • 2016 Kaiyo Maru No. 8 boarding

Quick facts

Tactical Assault Group
Country:Australia
Agency:Australian Defence Forces
Active:August 31, 1979 – Present
Motto:
Type:Special operations forces
Role:
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Overseas special recovery operations
Headquarters:TAG East: –

TAG West: –

Size:approx. 200 operators
Notable operations:see here
Abbreviation:TAG, TAG East, TAG West
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