Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran Roger Hayden spent ten days with the Australian Special Air Service during a mission in Vietnam. Hayden, then with SEAL Team One, invited the Aussies to go out in their area of responsibility. They had a blast Hayden told fellow Navy SEAL vet Jocko Willink on his podcast.
But for the entire ten days, the Aussies didn’t say a word. They just used hand and arms signals.
Some people may not be aware just how far back SEAL history goes. SEALs were first birthed during World War II, so by the time of the War in Vietnam, the use of Naval Special Operations was a lot more perfected than it was in its earliest days. The United States wasn’t the only country to have special operators in Vietnam. Many are surprised to discover the Vietnam War was fought by a handful of countries who also believed Vietnam was the front line of the ideological war pitting capitalism versus communism. One of those countries was Australia, which sent (among others) its own special operators.
For Australia, it was the largest force contribution to a foreign war in its history and for the longest time, remained its longest war. It was also just as controversial for Australian civilians at home as the war was for American citizens at home.
Australian soldiers from 7 RAR waiting to be picked up by U.S. Army helicopters.
(Vietnam Forces National Memorial, Canberra.)
For Vietnam-era Navy SEAL Roger Hayden, the Australian SAS were some of the best he’d ever seen. He went to Army Ranger School, Raider School, and others, but he says he learned more about reconnaissance in his ten days with the Australians than he did anywhere else in the world.
“In UDT (underwater demolition teams), you just didn’t have the fieldcraft to be out in the jungle looking for people,” Hayden said of the SEALs at the time. “Their [the Australians’] fieldcraft was so good… and you gotta have your sh*t together.”
According to Hayden, they lost a lot of SEALs because of their lack of fieldcraft preparation.
Hayden and his fellow SEALs took over from those they replaced the very same day they arrived in country, with little to no preparation or turnover. They had to start completely brand new, flying into a South Vietnamese base near the U Minh Forest, today called U Minh Thượng National Park. Hayden says they were doing dartboard ops – where they would throw a dart at the map, going to wherever it hits.
“We didn’t have intel, we didn’t have sh*t,” Hayden says. “We were pretty isolated out at a Vietnamese base camp in BF-Egypt, you know what I mean?”
His time with the Australians was a rare run in the jungle, as he and fellow SEALs normally conducted riverine inserts for ambushes, intel gathering, and enemy observation.