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SNAKES IN THE JUNGLE - Special Operations in War and Business

SNAKES IN THE JUNGLE COVER

This book contains the memoirs of a special operative in war and business. Operations in war time are all about crisis management. It is akin to a sales manual for merchant adventurers at the juxtaposition of military and economic warfare. Written in the same vein as ‘Sun Tzu Was a Sissy, The Real Art of War’ by Stanley Bing, it will be enjoyed by readers interested in autobiography, SAS, war, adventure and business. People like reading about human foibles in barracks and boardrooms. The first part is historical and biographical and the second part is philosophical. There are few books written by former SAS officers on history, war, adventure, family and business. 

In the Judeo-Christian tradition the snake is an evil idea, a sneak, a liar, one hundred percent bad but in China a Taipan is literally top class or big shot used for a senior business executive or entrepreneur. In my case Taipan was my clandestine guerrilla warfare name. Up until now few people knew this.

When I first started writing about 15 years ago the memoirs were called Feral Major. The Military Secretary called me this when I was exiled in the Pilbara, and he wanted to know whether I still wore shoes to work. After some introspection I changed the title to Pushing the Boundaries based upon my ability to extend the rule books. Then for a long while it was called Instinct for Dissent, largely due to my ability to disobey lawful commands and survive the prospects of courts martials. Then came a light bulb moment, while prospering after 15 years in the bastardry of business and Screw-You University! 

In Store Price: $31.95 
Online Price:   $30.95

 

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ISBN: 978-1-922229-96-0       
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 302
Genre: Non Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins

 

Author - Jim Truscott
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published:  2015
Language: English


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Foreword

 

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.  

Accordingly, the 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 that mattered.” 

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.

Preface

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. 

This soldier’s ‘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 codename ‘Taipan’. 

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 disasters.  

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!

 

FIRST BATTLEFIELD:

WHO DARES, WINS

 

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 information.  

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:

1:

Learning of Ropes, Roles & Life

 

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.  

We 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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