Desert Auscam Shorts

This week’s Australian post is a little different in that we are looking at something in the desert pattern of camouflage, rather than the more usual temperate pattern. The pattern was developed in the late 1990s and after a number of changes began to see regular service in the early 2000s when the Australians began deploying to Afghanistan. Whilst Australia has dropped shorts for combat, as have most other nations, it still issued them for wear in barracks and forward operating bases when off duty as a more comfortable alternative to trousers.

The cut of the shorts matches that of the trousers issued at the time in both temperate and desert patterns of camouflage, but cut off at knee length. A set of belt loops is fitted at the waist and the short’s fly fastens with a zip and button (note the button is a replacement and not the correct pattern):

A pair of pockets are sewn to the thighs, each with a thin Velcro fastening at the top:

A pair of slash pockets are provided at the hips and a buttoned patch pocket is sewn to the seat:

The shorts have a label inside which shows they were made for an Australian Army contract in 2006:

In 2006 the Australian Army was heavily involved in fighting in Afghanistan and in July 2006 committed troops to Operation Perth.

The nine-day search and destroy operation occurred as part of a wider multi-national coalition operation to clear the Chora Valley, 40 kilometres (25 mi) north-east of Tarin Kowt, involving more than 500 troops from six nations, including the Netherlands Korps Commandotroepen. The operation was undertaken by the Australian Special Operations Task Group, including personnel from 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and the Special Air Service Regiment, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Mark Smethurst. Fixed and rotary wing support was provided by a range of Coalition air assets, including Australian CH-47 Chinooks from the 5th Aviation Regiment. Heavy fighting with Taliban insurgents resulted, and during the intense combat the Australians fought their way through the valley, clearing it in a series of synchronised and closely coordinated operations. Despite meeting stiff resistance from several hundred insurgents, the operation was ultimately successful with the Taliban sustaining heavy casualties and eventually fleeing the valley.

During the later stages of the operation a Coalition force came under heavy rocket-propelled grenade, mortar and machine gun fire. Pinned down, an Australian commando platoon fought its way across the valley in order to arrange its extraction. The Taliban force resisted strongly, firing repeated RPG volleys which resulted in the death of one soldier and the wounding of thirteen others, including six Australians. Despite losing a third of their strength the Australians continued the assault and amid heavy fighting the commandos successfully neutralised the insurgents before arranging the evacuation of the wounded. The fighting had been intense and a number of Australians suffered serious injuries, including one soldier whose jaw was blown off, while the company sergeant major suffered extensive leg injuries. Meanwhile, three US AC-130 Spectre gunships ran out of ammunition for their cannon and machine-guns while supporting the Australians. Likewise the Australian long-range patrol vehicles also ran out of ammunition, including for their Javelin anti-armor missiles and machine-guns.

In total, six Australians were wounded during Operation Perth making it the bloodiest battle for Australian forces since the Vietnam War at the time. Yet ultimately, superior weaponry and overwhelming airborne fire support had allowed the Australians to destroy a large and well-armed Taliban force and a number of Australians later received gallantry awards for their actions during the fighting. Taliban losses were estimated at 150 killed.

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