An undesirable flood of fame has fallen on the lone British Special Air Service (SAS) operator who reacted to last Tuesday’s terrorist attack in downtown Nairobi, Kenya. World headlines and various news outlets have speculated about his identity and outfit. At first, he was “identified” as a Navy SEAL from SEAL Team 3 because he wore a Velcro patch that ST3 SEALs have been seen wearing. But then – more accurately – he became an active-duty SAS operator. According to a source related to the NEWSREP, however, the SAS operator is, in fact, part of the British Territorial Army SAS – that is original, the reserve component of the famed Special Operations unit.
The 21 SAS and 23 SAS Regiments are garrisoned by civilian volunteers who have undergone SAS selection and training. They are independent units with senior officers and non-commissioned officers coming from the active-duty 22 SAS Regiment. Traditionally, the territorial SAS have conducted Special Reconnaissance (SR) and Foreign Internal Defense (FID) missions. Sometimes, however, individual territorial SAS operators have augmented their active-duty counterparts. These are part of L Detachment SAS, previously known as R Squadron, which is directly attached to 22 SAS Regiment.
The two special operation units had been part of the United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) since its inception in the late 1980s. However, a recent organizational restructure of the British Army brought them under the wing of the 1st Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Brigade in 2014. Still a SOF unit, they now focus more on SR and Human Environment Reconnaissance and Analysis (HERA) operations. Alongside these skill sets, they also conduct FID and advice and training missions.
The SAS operator who single-handedly stormed the DusitD2 hotel was in Kenya with the task of advising and training the local police and military counter-terrorist units. On a side note, during the terrorist attack, he was off-duty, but despite that, he assisted Kenyan special forces during the rescue operation.
The Territorial SAS Regiments have been mobilized for all the major conflicts in recent British history, including Falklands, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, the Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Moreover, the unnamed operator has been nominated for the George’s Cross, the second-highest award for valor in the British honors system and second only to the Victoria Cross, which is the British equivalent of the Medal of Honor.
The attack on the luxury hotel by the Somali militant group al-Shabaab, which is affiliated with notorious al-Qaeda, left 21 people dead, including an American citizen, and dozens wounded.
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