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21 December 2023, 7:30am
Media Release

Elite science: How the AFP uses science to enhance its Specialist Operations Teams

Editor’s note: Vision and video grabs available via Hightail

The AFP’s Specialist Operations Teams are using the latest sporting and exercise science to support operational capability, ensuring members are in peak physical condition before deployment or responding to a critical incident.

The capabilities within Specialist Operations are supported by the wide range of services offered by SHIELD to track and monitor their physical and mental fitness along with the overall wellbeing of members.

The Specialist Operations Teams across all the capabilities respond to high-risk, emergency situations in the most challenging environments and conditions across Australia and offshore. Team members are on standby to deploy both domestically and internationally in support of the wider policing environment as well as the most serious and high-risk investigations and emergency responses.

In 2023, Specialist Operations capabilities have experienced a high operational tempo, with the teams deploying in support of AFP and partner agency operations across Australia and overseas.

The majority of this work involved specialist operational support to search warrants, high-risk apprehensions and a variety of response tasks including maritime interdiction, rural surveillance, high-value escorts and counter terrorism operations.

The teams operate in a relentless environment and undergo constant training and assessments to identify the progress of individuals, with the AFP monitoring members via an app to gain valuable data.

The app allows the team to be assessed on their biomechanics and allows the AFP to identify potential issues or weaknesses in performance that can be addressed through targeted exercise, rehabilitation and training.

AFP Commander Geoff Turner said Specialist Operations, were a human capability that was prepared to protect Australians both domestically and offshore, all at a moment’s notice.

“The AFP ensures that our teams are at the top of their game. We rely on science and our panel of specialists and experts to do that,” Commander Turner said.

“Our engagement with the University of Canberra has further enhanced our knowledge on how to prepare, monitor and sustain the effort required to obtain peak performance for our teams and ensuring our capabilities have the specialist equipment required for this work.”

Commander Turner said different capabilities have worked with high performance sporting teams to compare notes on their training and preparation to remain in peak physical and mental form.

“The demands on our members to perform at the highest levels have shown there are some similarities with high performance sporting teams. They undergo a rigorous selection process, while also undertaking ongoing assessments to ensure they remain ready to respond to any critical incident requiring the support of the AFP,” Commander Turner said.

“The demands for Specialist Operations capabilities can be relentless at times and it is incredibly important that we support and deliver the best capability we can to keep Australian’s safe. Whether you are in the bomb response team, tactical response team or search and rescue, our people are required to wear and carry heavy loads for long periods of time so we must be able to prepare them for this and ensure that we minimize the risks through a modern approach to training and exercise.”

Head of Physical Performance for the AFP’s Specialist Operations Ben Norcott said his role was to modernise the way the capabilities trained and to treat them more like elite athletes.

“All our teams are an important asset to the AFP. Game day is every day for these teams, so the members must be powerful, strong and fit, while being able to sustain that over a long period of time,” Mr Norcott said.

“We need to be strategic with their training. We can’t push them quite as hard as you would an athlete as the members need to be ready to go and perform operationally at any moment.”

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