New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces generally use the same uniforms as those common throughout the New Zealand Army, particularly the field uniform (Multi-terrain Camouflage Uniform or MCU) and the variations of service dress for formal and ceremonial occasions.
New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces are distinguished in their dress by certain specific embellishments. Much of the value of the accoutrements comes from their exclusivity and the knowledge that if an individual is wearing them then they are ‘current’ and qualified to do so.
As a norm, New Zealand Special Air Service personnel do not wear rank when in the unit environment, unless it is required for a ceremonial occasion. This underscores the tenets of being all of one class and of self-discipline. This does not mean that there is no rank in the NZSAS, or that the chain of command is less important than it is in other units. The absence of worn rank requires members of the NZSAS to lead and be led by professionalism instead of leaning on rank to coerce obedience. Unit members normally wear rank when outside of the unit environment as a courtesy to the structures of the wider New Zealand Defence Force.
The insignia of the SOC, 1 NZSAS Regt, D Squadron (Commando) and E Squadron (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) have already been mentioned. In most cases they are used on belt buckles, headdress badges and collar dogs (lapel pins) to associate an individual with their unit or sub-unit.
The sand or ‘ecru’ coloured beret is the distinctive mark of personnel posted to New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces units, including Support personnel who have served a qualifying period with those units. It indicates what an individual who wears that beret does (i.e. Special Operations). Unit and sub-unit postings are identified by the individual cap badges that are worn.
The stable belt (with its distinctive badges) indicates what part of New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces an individual belongs to (i.e. NZSAS, D Squadron, E Squadron).
The Special Operations Command does not have a specific stable belt to be worn by military personnel. Instead, individuals adopt the belt most appropriate to their role and affiliations within the organisation.
Members of the New Zealand Special Air Service wear a regimental stable belt of distinctive blue. The colour is derived from an integration of the traditional Oxford and Cambridge blues in line with David Stirling’s original concept for the Special Air Service.
Commandos wear a black stable belt with a distinctive Commando buckle in recognition of their counter-terrorist role (colloquially known in military circles as the ‘black role’).
Members of E Squadron (EOD) wear a black stable belt with a distinctive Explosive Ordnance Disposal buckle.
In keeping with the tenet of humility, the NZSAS retains only one corps embellishment, the SAS Parachute Wings, which doubles as a badge of qualification for those members who have completed the basic cycle of NZSAS courses (including basic and advanced static line parachuting). It is worn on the upper right uniform sleeve. The wings were originally designed in late 1941 and are based on the stylised Sacred Ibis wings of Isis, a revered figure in Egyptian iconography. The Egyptian design recalls the World War II origins of the Special Air Service.
New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces are trained to be able to use many different types and variations of weapons, depending on what the requirements of a specific mission may be, or the availability of arms in their operating environment. Many of the core weapons used by NZSOF have numerous modifications that have been trialled and adopted over time. Two of the most commonly used NZSOF weapons are the Sig Sauer and the M4 carbine.
Sig Sauer P226 9 mm Pistol
The Sig Sauer has been in service with the New Zealand Defence Force since 1992. It is predominantly a self-defence weapon, although it does have specific offensive utility. It can be used in tight urban spaces. The pistol, with a Picatinny rail built into the main frame, gives the user the ability to attach a torch and laser to the pistol if required.
Dimensions and Key Characteristics
- Length – 196 mm
- Height – 139 mm
- Width – 37 mm
- Weight – 845 grams
- Magazine capacity – 15 rounds
M4 5.56 mm Carbine
The M4 5.56 mm carbine is a light-weight, gas-operated, air-cooled, magazine-fed, selective rate, shoulder-fired weapon. Equipped with a short barrel, collapsible stock and accessory rails, it provides soldiers operating in close quarters with improved handling and the capability to rapidly and accurately engage targets. Fitted with Picatinny rails, the M4 can be used with various optics and weapon lights, giving it significant additional operational capabilities.
Dimensions and Key Characteristics
- Overall Length (stock retracted) – 75.69 cm
- Overall Length (stock extended) – 83.82 cm
- Rate of Fire – 700 to 950 RPM
- Effective Range – 600 m
- Weight – 3.175 kg
- Calibre – 5.56 x 45 NATO (.223 Rem.)