Inside the mind of a Commando: Interview with Francis Wanrooy, Director of Spec Ops Paintball, by Charli Nesbitt

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paintball combatant in full gear

It’s hard to avoid attention from the press, especially when one of them is your niece. Spec Ops boss, Francis Wanrooy, finally gave in to media scrutiny and gave one tell-all interview…to his niece, 15-year-old Charli Nesbitt, who may have also had a school assignment to do. Not even a former Commando can duck the questions of a determined journalist when they’re accompanied by an angelic smile, so Charli managed to get some real gems out of Francis. If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to become a Commando, read on…


PLP: Interview (Part A)

Charli Nesbitt
Year 10, Semester 2, 2018

The person chosen for this interview was my uncle Francis Wanrooy. Francis was born in 1981 and completed his schooling at the age of 18 at Camp Hill State High School, Brisbane. His first employment was in the Army working his way up to become the Commander of first line. Francis Joined the Army in July 2000, straight after he finished school. He enlisted into the Australian infantry and after basic training and AIT (Army infantry training) he was posted to 4 RAR.

In 2001, he deployed to East Timor under the United Nations as part of a rifle platoon as the team gunner. This meant that he carried the machine gun for the section. Fran was then deployed there for 6 months. During his deployment in East Timor, Osama Bin Laden orchestrated an attack on the Twin towers. The Australian government then rerolled his battalion into a Special Forces unit, the 4RAR Commandos.

On returning back to Australia, he conducted Special Forces Selection at the age of 19. Out of the 300 people that attempted selection, only 10% of the group made it. He was then posted to the tactical assault team, det East (TAG-E). This is the counter terrorist team for Australia. He spent 3 years their deploying to the 2004 Melbourne Commonwealth games. Francis deployed 3 times to Afghanistan where he commanded his team through ambushes from the Taliban, fire fights and more. He spent 3 years at the Special Forces Training command where he selected and trained Special Forces recruits for the Commandos.

In 2014, Fran got a posting to 8/9RAR in Brisbane where he finally discharged from the Australian Defence Force. Fran then joined the 1st Commando Reserves in 2016 and made his final departure out of the Defence force in 2017. He now owns a tactical paintball field in Brisbane.

When given the list of capabilities and asked which one he uses the most in his current job, he said he uses social capability and creative thinking. However, when asked about the capabilities he needed for the army, he responded with creative thinking. Francis also replied with over 200 courses that he’s done during his time in the defence force. Some of these capabilities are:

  • close quarter fighting
  • hand to hand and weapons
  • tactical fast driving
  • demolitions expert
  • repelling/roping supervisor
  • HELO
  • parachuting
  • amphibious operations
  • forward observer.

The skills that Francis had to acquire mentally and physically were; mentally – you need to be mentally strong and see a lot of things black and white (good or wrong).  You need to be able to approach every problem as if it’s the first time, no matter the situation. During combat, if you get shot at and the person that is shooting at you shoots one of your team members and puts his gun down, you need to take away all emotions and carry on with task. Physically – you need to train like an athlete. Twice a day, five days a week. You need to be fit but strong.

Francis served the Special Forces commandos for 14 years, the regular army for 2 years and spent 1 year in the Special Forces commando reserves. Francis has quoted, “It was awesome. I got to do more things in 17 years than people get to do in their lifetime. I commanded people in combat against the Taliban. There are a lot of Taliban families that would not be happy with me. Getting shot at is fun until someone gets hit. You run off adrenalin for most of the time, but you do get a little too comfortable and that’s when things go wrong. I’ve lost friends, carried friends out of battle on stretchers and arrested a lot of Taliban. But I loved every moment of it.”

“Nothing is impossible. It doesn’t matter how much you’re outnumbered and what odds are against you, you can achieve anything if you stay calm, analyse the situation, assess the situation and adapt.” – Francis Wanrooy