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Sun-Herald

SAS TROOPS QUIT

Author: By FRANK WALKER
Date: 02/05/2004
Words: 557
Source: SHD
          Publication: Sun Herald
Section: News
Page: 1
UP to 40 members of the elite SAS force have quit the army since the regiment fought in Iraq, with some going back there as highly paid private security guards.

Australia's highly regarded SAS troopers can triple their pay overnight to $1500 a day by switching to the swelling private security forces in Iraq, and recruiters are hovering to snap them up.

The exit has left the Defence Force scrambling to cover the gaps left by the troops, who gained valuable experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor.

With one SAS soldier costing about $2 million in training and irreplaceable experience, the loss to Australia's defence capability is enormous.

There are 500 in the SAS regiment, but only 100 saw combat in Iraq. They left as soon as their job was finished and were replaced by 300 commandos.

Four SAS soldiers who fought in Iraq 12 months ago are back in the country working as private operators for AKE , a British-based international security group.

One veteran commanded a squad involved in heavy fighting in Iraq 12 months ago and was regarded as a huge loss to the regiment.

Paul Jordan , a former SAS trooper who runs AKE in Australia, said the group took only SAS men as they were the best.

``We have 13 former Australian SAS guys in Iraq," he said. ``We aren't poaching from the SAS. We only talk to troopers who have already put in their discharge papers."

But he conceded SAS soldiers knew they could walk into security jobs such as that with AKE, where they could double or triple their income.

``The guys are in high demand," he said. ``We take only lower ranks as they have been on the front line.

``The guys we take are all trained paramedics.

``They can liaise with coalition forces and the Iraqi locals to ensure our clients can do their job in safety."

The former SAS members try to be invisible and don't brandish weapons openly as do most private guards. They go unarmed if possible. Their weapon of choice is a pistol tucked into the back of the pants and an M4 assault rifle hidden nearby.

But former SAS members working with AKE have twice had to pull out their concealed weapons to protect clients.

One operator had to fire to escape an ambush and saved two clients.

In the second incident, a car crammed with gun-toting Iraqis drew up beside two vehicles carrying a CNN news team and opened fire. Two local men were killed in the rear vehicle but the AKE operator in the first car returned fire. The Iraqi gunman fell and the Iraqi vehicle drove off.

The Australian Defence Force won't say how many troopers have left the SAS since the Iraq engagement, but sources close to the elite special forces regiment say it is about 40.

Former West Australian deputy commissioner for veterans affairs Jim Dalton , who has taken up the cases of injured SAS soldiers fighting for more compensation, said many SAS members were leaving because of what they saw as a lack of government concern for injured SAS soldiers and their families.

 
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