Being new to the research of recent military history I have discovered some interesting stories and amazing people in the hunt for information on the NZSAS in Afghanistan.
The NZSAS has a fifty-year history as a Regiment with roots stemming earlier in WWII It has built, over that time, a reputation for being able to do the tough jobs under the toughest conditions. From the beginnings of the Special Forces from New Zealand (the LRDG or Long Range Desert Group) where a bunch of kiwis soldiers joined others from the Commonwealth (or The Empire as it was in those days) to reconnoitre deep behind enemy lines in search of vital intel, the Kiwis have forged this reputation in the hard sweat and blood of the men who went into these tough places, faced their fears and came through serving with the pride of the country behind them.
The NZSAS deployments to Afghanistan were no different. In the beginning the Kiwis went to the Afghan theatre with what they carried. The original missions saw the men make foot patrols lasting days in the mountains of the Afghan Highlands. Specialists in mountain operations, and learning from early mistakes, they excelled in being able to avoid being compromised. The issues they faced were mainly transport and operational deployment. With no capability to insert under their own steam they relied on their allies to fly them in and out. A state which the fiercely independent NZSAS felt uncomfortable with.
Soon the War turned from digging out the Taliban from the mountain holdouts to a more wide ranging infiltration and the Leaders of the NZSAS in Afghanistan had to beg, steal and borrow equipment just the way 2NZEF had had to in North Africa in WWII.
With Humvees from the US, shipped to theatre by the Canadians, the troops of the squadron had 10 days to fit them out and create Dumvees (desert converted with particular emphasis on long range patrolling). Finally the Kiwis were ready for action. Desperation being the mother of invention the troopers had created a template copied by other Special Forces for Long Range Recon vehicles.
Lessons learnt from our Aussie mates the patrols required outriders. The use of trail bikes for scouting enabled the patrols to extend even further and faster and allowed the men on patrol to keep ahead and evade the enemy. Unfortunately the NZ army had no bikes in Afghanistan at the time, being resourceful and cunning the troops found some unused Austrian KTN bikes that the German SF had. A deal was struck and the outriders were under way.
The Patrols travelled for weeks at a time supplying intelligence and striking deep against the enemy. For their actions and work in this period (2002) the 1 NZSAS Group received the USNPUC (United States Navy Presidential Unit Citation). The next deployment where Cpl Apiata was to receive the VC had a lot to live up too. More on that next time.
My Empress Kickstarter models have arrived and I have the model resembling Willie Apiata VC (Not that you are rubbing it in- Ed). The next step will be to create a representation of the patrol involved in that action with at least one Dumvee (I’m looking very jealously at yours Adam) and a couple of outriders (Eureka do some great models). I am lucky in that we have a two day painting seminar coming up in a couple of weeks – so I am aiming to learn some great tips and skills to paint the NZSAS.