by Major General Mike Hindmarsh AO, DSC, CSC
Commander Presidential Guard
UAE Armed Forces
“I managed to squeeze in two near court martials, two children and two mountaineering expeditions” – Truscott summing up in a typically frank and succinct fashion his two-year posting as the commander of one of Australia’s Special Forces units.
That pretty much says it all about Jim Truscott – provocateur, family man and avid adventurer.
I am not sure
when Jim became a diarist. I suspect he always had the inclination. As you will
see, his mother was prolific in recording virtually everything of her life, no
matter how mundane. It was in his DNA perhaps. The diaries of Jim’s that I have
occasionally been privy to are more vignettes of his particular experiences than
actual diaries. He frequently shares them with his friends. I was never really
sure of the reason for this – early feedback for his endlessly gestating
autobiography perhaps. Certainly ‘Snakes in the Jungle’ is in large part an
amalgam of these vignettes. More likely it was to share his irritations and
successes, his exhilarations and his frustrations with those he trusted.
Outwardly he is not the type to seek sympathy or accolades but Jim is more
introspective, philosophic and sensitive than his gruff persona would lead you
to believe. This comes through plainly in the book.
Jim Truscott is a unique character. I do not think I have known a more driven and self-motivated person. He is intelligent, with the logical and disciplined mind of an engineer, which was his initial trade. He is tough and incredibly energetic, with a natural bias for adventure – you can never just stroll along with Jim, that is wasting precious time in getting to where you need to be. I am sure he must get incredibly frustrated waiting at traffic lights. In Jim’s view life is meant not just to be lived but to be dragged along in your wake, struggling to keep up. The frenetic pace he sets and his innocent expectation that others should keep up, often isolates him. Certainly as the book reveals, a number of his previous military commanders struggled to cope with his enthusiasm and passion to move things along quickly and forcefully; in their mind it was, rightly or wrongly, at the expense of their own command authority and credibility and they resented it. In reality, Jim is indeed a tenacious and demanding person with a natural instinct for change, but endearingly he is also free of guile. There is no vanity, excessive ego or a desire for personal self-aggrandisement in his makeup - he is simply propelled by the thrill of the challenge and a sheer determination to succeed against the odds, whether it be in the jungles of the military or business worlds or on the cliffs and slopes of his beloved mountains.
I have known Jim for virtually his entire adult life and have witnessed or been aware of most of his life’s hectic path. He has changed little over this time; although a loving and supportive wife and family have softened some of the rougher edges of his youth. Jim in “Snakes in the Jungle” takes us on a fascinating and turbulent journey along this path, firstly into the military world where his instinct for dissent and for pushing the boundaries set him on a natural trajectory towards Special Forces. It is a reflection of his eccentric and extraordinarily creative and energetic mind that even within a very unconventional unit such as the SAS, which is renowned for its lateral thinkers, he was regarded somewhat enigmatically as a bit of maverick and right ‘out there’, an achievement indeed. Sir Peter Cosgrove, whom he served under in East Timor, likened him to modern day Order Wingate of Chindwin fame. Jim would have enjoyed the comparison, particularly the irony of Winston Churchill’s assessment that Wingate ‘was a man of genius… but too mad for higher command’. In many respects Jim was the man who tried harder than most to keep the SAS honest to its roots of unconventionality. He saw Counter Terrorism for example as an unsophisticated, almost barbaric distraction which poisoned the heart and soul of true special operators. There must have been a supreme sense of fulfilment and justification when he finally had the opportunity to practise what he regarded as ‘the true art’ when he worked alone amongst the Falantil guerrillas in the mountains of Timor Leste in 1999.
Being not as
familiar with the second part of Jim’s life to date as the first, I was
fascinated with the descriptions of his confrontation with the murky world of
business, or the ‘second battlefield’ as he calls it. Jim is at his core a man
of honour with a deeply rooted sense of integrity, loyalty and honesty. To
discover that in the cutthroat business world ‘…loyalty to oneself was the rule”
and that “…trust only existed within the confines of a contract” was at first
difficult for him to accept. He was forced to come to terms with the cultural
differences between business and the military.
second part of ‘Snakes in the Jungle’ is an absorbing and educational account of
his journey into the business world to eventually become what he calls a ‘crisis
master’. Jim learnt very quickly, and in typical special operations fashion grew
to know ‘his business quarry’s’ techniques better than they knew them
themselves, adjusted and refined them, drawing on his special warfare experience
and then harnessed them to telling effect. Along the way he also came to the
realisation that working for someone else was generally not beneficial for
either party and he decided to venture onto the battlefield alone, his own
master at last. Success was assured from that point – his intellect, keen
foresight and relentless energy and stubbornness saw to that. His was not quite
a ‘one-man band’, but near enough. Indeed, in a moment of introspection well
after his crisis management consultancy company had become a regional and global
success he came to the conclusion without a hint of vanity that the greatest
strength of the company was himself.
What is particularly fascinating to observe is Jim’s philosophic transformation into a true business jungle warrior – shrewd, calculating and ruthless, a snake in the business jungle perhaps? I found myself pondering this question as I read. Had Jim compromised his morals in his relentless push for success? A pragmatic adjustment to suit the environment perhaps, but no compromise was my conclusion. Nevertheless, it is an intriguing question for the reader to consider and there are enough contradictions to leave it difficult to answer. The following excerpt for example adds to the quandary but there is also a subtlety evident that explains a lot about Jim and his motivations.
“Hey, I am in
this business to succeed and making money is the sure sign of that success –
it’s all about the bottom line, shareholder returns and buckets of money, in no
particular order... it was only trapping the king or queen who held the cash
Jim has always
been motivated by a desire to succeed. Whether it be amongst guerrillas in the
mountains of Timor Leste on the slopes of Everest or in the company boardrooms,
success is not negotiable. In his so-called ‘second battlefield’, making money
is a useful benefit but it is not his central motivation; he simply does not
like to lose and successfully selling his wares and winning the contract in what
is an immensely competitive and ruthless environment is what truly motivates him
– the money – and he has made lots of it – is to him just a reassuring proof of
his success, nothing else.
Jim Truscott is
one of those persons who will always leave a lasting impression on those he
meets. Certainly not everyone warms to him – he tends to make some people
uncomfortable just by virtue of his absolutely irrepressible and relentless
approach. But to many others myself included, he is an inspiration who reminds
us constantly that paradigms are there to be smashed and mountains exist to be
climbed. I wish him well with ‘the next big thing’ in his life but one thing is
certain, he will remain a special operator to the end.
Jim Truscott was
born in 1956 in Brisbane, Australia. From an early age all he wanted was to be a
soldier, nothing else, and he got what he wanted by graduating from the Royal
Military College, Duntroon as a lieutenant with a civil engineering degree. His
drive to be a ‘soldier’ took him first into the Engineers, and then into the
fast-paced, ever dangerous world of special operations, as a ‘sapper’ serving in
the Australian Special Air Service Regiment based in Perth.
‘careering’ life with the army was unconventional, mainly special operations,
and highly dangerous as you would expect in that secretive world. He was a
Commonwealth Monitoring Force peace-keeper, disarming rebels at the end of the
Rhodesian War, has formed a capable regional force that included Aboriginals in
Australia’s desert North-west, and once ran a commando company out of Melbourne.
He was at Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait in 1998 to rescue downed pilots
from the no-fly zone surrounding Baghdad, and controlled the SAS
counter-terrorism response at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. When the Australian Army
was committed to prevent further bloodshed in East Timor, he quickly gained
rapport with East Timorese guerrilla leaders, and was known by the spec-ops
His SAS Special
Operations were not enough to satisfy an incredible personal drive and thirst
for adventure, and thus military service was shared from the beginning with a
love for high-altitude mountaineering, kayaking, and other dangerous outdoor
sports. These enticed him to the most diverse places on earth including the
jungles of Borneo, the ski and mountain slopes of most continents, and to kayak
the perilous sea trails that small boat commandos took in WWII when raiding
Singapore. Jim was a driving force behind the successful Australian Bicentennial
Everest Expedition in 1988, for which he received the Order of Australia, and he
has climbed in remote locations like Broad Peak (Karakoram), Nanda Devi (India),
Ball’s Pyramid (Tasman Sea), Aconcagua (Andes), Carstensz Pyramid (Papua New
Guinea), and on the highest peak, Everest, in Nepal.
When the army no
longer paid for his adventurous pursuits he took his specialist knowledge into
the very different world of business, and after various collaborations with
other companies, even a stint in anti-piracy, he set up the now highly
successful Truscott Crisis Leaders. Selling in business is harder than being in
the SAS and Jim Truscott’s persistence and relentlessness has led to the
implementation of his crisis management and business continuity philosophies
throughout the world. It is used in places as varied as goldmines in Mongolia
and Australia, oil & gas platforms in the South-China Sea and Kazakhstan, in
government emergency response planning, reputation assurance, and during rapid
response with a trusted team when a business faces human-made or natural
His decade and a half in sea-level business has been
like climbing mountains ‘of another kind’ every day. Some days it has been just
as lonely and almost as ‘cold’, and often is just like stepping up slowly up a
perilous knife-edge ridge. There have been lots of sometimes sickening failures,
experienced everyday and everywhere.
He is driven with purpose, relentless in
alignment with excellence, and pays no attention to the disimpassioned, impotent
haters. While seen as confronting and challenging by some in both military and
business, he is admired and trusted to deliver by many others – those he sells
risk management doctrine to, and the friends and family that have climbed,
soldiered, or endured the highs and lows of pursuing the successes of Crisis
Leaders with him. Married to Colette for 30 years with four children, his life
reads like a ‘boys’ own’ adventure; pushing the boundaries.
Now, with more frequent flyer points than George Clooney, he shares them with his wife, Colette, as he edges closer to that next quantum leap, from business at the highest level, into the ‘next big thing’. Only the warriors’ heaven knows whatever that may be!
Once smitten by adventure there is no getting away from
it. This thirst for excitement dominates my story through the corporate
battlefields of the world to the extreme sports that just seemed to tag along.
My battles still continue, now in the boardrooms of civilian executives, who
little skilled in protecting their valuable resources, eat at me for
Soldiering, especially in the SAS, gave me the acumen to
see into potential crises, and to organise responses to myriad disasters that
are plastered across mainstream media – burning oil wells, piracy on the high
seas, boardroom intrigues, terrorism at major sports events, or furnishing
advice to Middle East sheiks and oil tycoons, as examples.
The present finds me with an annual
income greater than that of the Australian prime minister, but also with a far
more exciting life. In short I examine crises, local and worldwide, and provide
answers, and have to sell my hardest, and more often than not make those cold
calls alone in some foreign boardrooms. But all tales of soldiering, adventuring
and business success have to start somewhere…
Read a sample of Chapter One:
Asked once by a keen cadet, “Sir, how do I get on an expedition?” He [Bill Tilman] replied curtly, “Put on your boots and go.”
If you want the answer as to ‘why you are, what you are’,
then take a careful gaze at your DNA precursors – great grand-fathers,
grand-mothers and your own parents, as examples – to gauge the truth of the
‘chip-off-the-old-block’ hereditary theory that your parentage will indicate
salient traits of your older character.
all come from somewhere
When aged in his thirties, my Cornish paternal great
grandfather arrived in New South Wales, Australia, in the 1870s. With him were
my great grandmother, and grandfather, who was then a very small child. Such was
the generation gap, I barely even recall my Protestant, shopkeeper grandfather
who shocked his family by marrying a Catholic. My father, Allan Truscott, was
born in 1903 at Billy Goat Flat near Emmaville, a tin mining town in northern
New South Wales. In this lonely, isolated place, he didn’t even see an
automobile until he was ten years old. In his teens, pig-tailed Chinese miners,
who had come out for the 19th century gold rushes, and the mother of notorious
bushranger Ned Kelly (who was hung in 1880) were still living in the region.
When I was born in 1956, my father Allan was aged 53, and
by then had sailed around the world as a ship’s wireless operator, seen dead
‘kulak’ peasants floating in the Black Sea at the time of the Russian
Revolution, and witnessed the aftermath of the great Kanto earthquake of 1923,
when in port in Yokohama, Japan. It was probably by looking through his old
black and white photographs of his adventures that I developed a belief that my
place on earth was to explore and conquer the ‘known world’. Later, I realised
there wasn’t much exploration left to do, as the likes of Livingstone, Mungo
Park, Bill Tilman, Eric Shipton, Ed Hillary and Amundsen had beaten me to it, so
I looked toward a military career as being the next best thing.
During the Second World War my father initially enlisted
in the 2nd/25th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force. However, following a
transfer to the air force, he had been kept in Australia because of his valuable
skill of being able to teach telegraphic Morse to aircrew. His brother, Bill
Truscott, never returned from the first ‘1000-bomber’ raid over Cologne in
Germany; my uncle Bryan Hurley had fixed air force radars on Bougainville in the
southwest Pacific; while yet another uncle, Kevin Hurley, went absent without
leave from an infantry battalion in Darwin, allegedly due to boredom as it had
been three years since the Japanese had bombed the town.
Our next-door neighbour, Kevin Gurney, was a lieutenant
colonel in the regular army and he proudly showed me his uncle’s Victoria Cross
medal that had been won at Tel el-Eisa during the WWII North African campaign.
Kevin later brought my father the papers so that I could apply for scholarship
entry to the Royal Military College at Duntroon in Canberra.
Strangely, at that time, my father would not sign the application, as I was under eighteen years of age and he deemed that there were better careers to follow in life. By then my older brother was in a monastery studying to become a Catholic priest, probably the first in our family since the Reformation. Maybe my father thought that the Indochina War would continue, as I recall him displaying mixed emotions as he farewelled one of my cousins before he left our street for Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam. So I went to university instead and I joined its Citizen’s Military Force regiment. At least he allowed me to do this, but by then Australia had withdrawn from South Vietnam...........
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