The British SAS (Special Air Service) selection is one of the hardest, and most grueling in the world. It consists of three basic phases. The first phase, Fitness and navigation, being the hardest, with the largest drop out. The second phase, Jungle Training in Brunei, and finally combat survival, including escape tactics and interrogation.
The selection course begins with a week long BFT, (Battle Fitness Course), 3 mile run, the first mile and a half must be completed in 12 and a half minutes, the rest in your own time. The next 5-6 days consist of basic map revision, orienteering, gym work and 5 mile runs. 8 Mile cross country runs are also done, with candidates required to finish in 1 hour. At the end of the first week the candidates face their first real test: The Fan dance.
The Fan Dance
The fan dance consists of: carrying a 32 Pound bergen over a route of 24km. Easy?well think about this then: Your day starts at 4am, and ends at 10.30pm, and marches range from 15-64km, which means going up, and then all the way down, and then all the way up again and so on, carrying bergens weighing 40-60 pounds! This also includes a few night marches.
To add to the problem, you are never told when the cut off time is and just have to keep up with the DS, or get RTU’d, (return to unit). However, if a candidate who has been doing well suddenly has a bad day, he may receive a ‘gypsy’s warning’, one more bad day and they are told to report to platform 4, basically you’ve been RTU’d. Still think this is easy?
This is what all the hard work leads to: a series of 24-64km marches, all over the Brecon Beacons, followed by the hand drawn map march, and finally the endurance march, which takes twenty hours to complete!
After this the candidates are gathered together and told if they have passed this phase or not.
The survivors are then sent for continuation training, where they are trained on the Special Air Service weapons, as well as eastern block weapons. The physical hasn’t ended with test week as they are expected to keep fit and do gym work, and are tested for their mental abilities, language aptitude as well as mensa tests. this is all done to see if a candidate can adjust to the SAS way of doing things.
“Its nice of you all to come along, I don’t suppose most of you will be with us for more than a few days.” These are the first words soldiers hear at the beginning of their SAS selection attempt.
This phase takes place in Brunei, at the British army jungle training school. Imagine six weeks without a shower? Imagine six weeks without a shower or a shave in the middle of a tropical jungle? Thats what the jungle phase is all about! The candidates are split into patrols of four and are taught all the jungle tactics they would need, from how to build a basha, (a lean-to), navigation, jungle and contact drills, explosives, clearing landing zone and so on…
Often more than half of the men fail the jungle phase!
One month of training, living off the land, whilst using evasion and escape techniques. Lessons in how to evade and escape, interrogation techniques from people who have been tortured, or other experiences. The final weak is simply a survival week. Easy, survive for a week off the land! Easy? Well, try surviving in a Greatcoat while being hunted down by Gurkhas and Para’s, when you know that when you are caught you are going to be interrogated!
When you are caught,you are blind folded kept in awkward positions and interrogated for 48 hours.A candidate can only say 4 things: name, rank, number and date of birth. The only other thing a candidate can say is, “I cannot answer that question”
If you pass every stage, you then get your SAS beret, and are put on a one year probation.
Specialized training after selection
Once selection is completed the training does not stop there. The soldiers are then sent to their respective troops, Montain troop, Mobility troop or Boat troop, this is is simply done by which ever troop has openings. They then under go Special training which includes, Parachuting, (all SAS soldiers have to do this), medical training, advanced weapons training etc…
HALO, (High Altitude, Low Opening) parachuting is the main technique taught. Over six weeks they will jump about 40 times over Britain and France, from about 12000 Feet, advancing up to 25000 feet. Sounds simple enough? Well try this then, during the first 12 seconds of the jump you will drop 1480 Feet, reaching terminal velocity of 120mph!
As Peter Radcliffe explains in his book, “Eye of the storm” it is extremely difficult to remain in the Starfish shape, thus being stable enough to deploy your parachute. Imagine driving your car at 120mph, (192Kmh), and putting your hand out your window! Now imagine the effect that has on your whole body, where even the slightest movement will throw your body all over the place!
Boat Troop do a lot of night navigation 25 miles out to sea, on rubber Gemini’s. This to sounds easy enough, but spending up to 5 or 6 hours a night in the freezing sea water is definitely not my idea of fun! It is however essential that the SAS are able to operate in any area, climate and situation, whether it is in the dessert or the freezing ocean.
And so this is why boat troop spend hours upon hours training in night navigation at sea, diving, underwater explosives, possible the most dangerous for of explosives, medical care, insertions into hostile territory from sea, the list goes on..
Then of course there is Medical training at hospitals in and around Britain. It is essential that every soldier knows medical procedures, for obvious reasons. The SAS spend a month in a ER, learning and practicing the necessary skills, like gunshot wounds, burns etc..
They will also get the opportunity to spend about a week in a morgue, doing post-mortom examination and examinations of the human body. The other obvious skill that the SAS require, is to hostage rescue.