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Craftsman : Craftsman 2012
RAEME CRAFTSMAN 2012 28 Special Operations Logistics Squadron (SOLS) was originally established as the Special Operations Combat Service Support Company (SOCSSC) in July 2003, as part of Special Operations Command (SOCOMD). The unit was re-named as the Special Operations Logistic Squadron in 2007 and provides specialist CSS to support and enable SOCOMD capability in order to achieve Australia's strategic, operational, and tactical objectives. SOLS is a Squadron sized element of Logisticians, responsible for providing diverse logistic support to SOCOMD in all theatres of operations, around the world. SOLS is the only independent logistic Squadron within SOCOMD and the only independent logistic Squadron within the Australian Army. Recent operational lessons identified the need to provide rapid maintenance engineering support to SOCOMD at a rate faster than was conventionally available. Standing arrangements did not generate sufficient tempo to design, accept and deliver a product suitable and relevant to the user. In response to this identified capability gap, SOLS was able to leverage off relationships developed with, and lessons learnt by, United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to develop the Special Operations Rapid Fabrication Cell (SO RFC). The SO RFC, resident within the SOLS Technical Support Troop (TST) provides SOCOMD a unique capability within Army to design, manufacture and fit modifications to Military-off-the-Shelf (MOTS) and Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) items. Moreover, the SO RFC provides SOCOMD the capability to design bespoke items based on an initial proposal, managing the process through to manufacture and ultimately issue to units. Prior to the establishment of the SO RFC the TST was fortunate to be already well equipped with advanced machinery and tooling at the time of the SO RFC implementation, however procurement of several specialist items of machinery and tooling the TST can now provide enhanced levels of support to SOCOMD that is not replicated elsewhere within Army. Notable among this tooling is a Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) Profile Water Cutter and Computer Aided Design (CAD) Laptops, Software supported by professional training from SolidWorks. These two capabilities alone have enabled the production of several unique projects which have enhanced the performance of Special Operations Forces in Australia and overseas. Future capability projects include a 3D Prototyping Printer and CNC Machining Centres enabling production of project prototypes in a rapid and cost efficient manner, for analysis by the user prior to final production -- resulting in the further reduction in man hours and delivery times. These capabilities can only be enabled through judicious management of technical compliance. The SO RFC maintains TRF compliance for modifications and new articles by building and centralising SOCOMD ECP expertise within SOLS to provide quality control, installation, documentation inspection and CMMS updates ensuring first time success. The SOLS TST is led by a Technical Authority (TA) Level 5 RAEME Engineer Captain, supported by an ECN006 Art Mech ASM, who both act as design signatories. The SO RFC itself is led by a TST GE Sergeant and comprised of Fitters, Metalsmiths and Tech Electronics Tradesman. All design acceptance is completed by Special Operations Head Quarters (SOHQ) where a Level 6 TA is employed allowing projects to be completely handled (from design acceptance, manufacture and distribution) from within SOCOMD. This capability is of critical importance as it not only enhances project delivery speed but also ensures security restrictions can be maintained with ease. In line with SOCOMD's continued pursuit of excellence, the SO RFC will continue to exploit technology and seek opportunities to develop its Tradesmen. The SO RFC has been tasked to research and acquire reverse engineering technology which, on possession of portable 3D Laser Scanning equipment, will allow the SO RFC to scan a surface or component directly into the CAD software as a basis for future. Once scanned, the part will be able to be recreated identically or modified to suit the mission or task designs -- again saving significant time, effort and cost. Hand in hand with these future developments, the foundations of inter-service relationships are being constructed for cross pollination of equipment and skills whilst key personnel are forging international partnerships with affiliated SOF support units as SOCOMD and SOLS seek to develop the SO RFC. Tradesman employed within the SO RFC are able to utilise trade skills learnt in their initial trade training and during on the job training at SOLS to produce articles varying from moulded and cast plastic items to laser sintered steel alloys. Examples of some items developed and manufactured include weapon accessory rails, NFE helmet mounts and explosive ordnance handling tools. The boundaries and scope from within which the SO RFC enables SOLS Tradesman to employ their skills is vast, leading to a near constant desire to push the limitations of their base trades. This has resulted in some exciting, new initiatives and excellent professional development opportunities not only within their trade, but also within SOCOMD and on exchange with coalition special operations forces. In all cases, the SO RFC has contributed a measureable advantage to SOCOMD and, of equal importance, to the Tradesman employed within. Tradesmen within SOLS and the other Technical Support Troops of SOCOMD require a higher level of maturity and be capable of working in ambiguous environments with minimal supervision. Special Operations Rapid Fabrication Cell