I always knew that I would join the Army. As a young boy I would spend hours reading “Combat and Survival” magazine and watching “Tour of Duty”. On the weekends my best friend, Sam Townsend, and I would ride our bikes into the bush, not far from where we lived, and practice the skills needed to survive on the battlefield, patrolling, ambushing, observation and reporting. It was always just part of what made me tick.
On my 17th Birthday, I went to the recruiting office in Adelaide and sat the interviews and tests required to join the Army. The 5th of February 1991 was to be my first day in the army and what followed was 20 years of hard work. It wasn't the glamorous, glossy life that was depicted on the pages of “Combat and Survival” magazine, but in many ways I had a very fortunate career, and in some cases I was just in the right place at the right time. I attended the first Commando Selection Course in 1996 for the newly raised 4th Battalion “Commando”; of which I was a founding member. I was also a founding member of the Tactical Assault Group – East (TAG-E). My operational deployments included Somalia as a forward scout (1993), Timor as a Reconnaissance Patrol Commander (2001), Timor again, as the 3rd Brigade Special Operations Liaison Officer (2006), and I deployed twice to Afghanistan, the first time as a Company Operations Officer (2008) and the next time as a Commando Platoon Commander (2010).
I owe much to the Army and the men and women that I served with, way too much to detail as an author’s note. Suffice to say that I am the person that I am now because of these amazing life experiences, the formal training that I received throughout my career and the strong bonds and relationships that I formed with fellow warriors, but enough about me...
Matt Rix is my way of taking you, the reader, into battle.
Let me tell you now that close combat is exciting, your senses are on overdrive and your awareness is amplified, you can do the seemingly impossible. The relief that flushes over you when those first rounds start cracking overhead is something you have to experience to believe, it’s euphoric and once you've tasted it you want more, so much more.
Let me tell you now that combat is terrifying; the fog of war can overtake your senses and make you ineffective, rifle shots and machine guns, screams and explosions all make up the stimulus flooding in to the mind. The adrenalin alone can cripple the fittest man and make you gasp for breath, the easiest tasks become totally unachievable and once you've experienced it you never want to again.
Matt Rix has experienced both of these dimensions of combat. He is a flawed person. At times he is a great leader and at other times he is ineffective. He isn’t real though, nor is his platoon or any of the other characters save for the obvious historical figures. What are real are the descriptions of the landscapes and the descriptions of combat. I have tried to capture the frictions of war that I personally experienced and describe the stress that it puts on leaders and their soldiers.
Finally, much is said and implied in the book of the relationship between The 2nd Commando Regiment and The Special Air Service Regiment. This relationship can occasionally be strained. When two units espouse their mottos “Without Warning” and “Who Dares Wins” this is going to happen. It’s important, however, to note that both units are full of exemplary Australians, people who have devoted their whole lives to the defence of Australia and put themselves deliberately in harms way again and again to ensure mission success, at home and abroad. Some of these men have given everything. On behalf of all Australian’s, and to both these units, thank you.
To you the reader, I hope that you enjoy Matt Rix’s deployment as much as I did.
Bram Connolly, DSM