Over the years, much has been made about how selection for the SAS is the toughest military course in the world. But is it too difficult? In percentages, less than 10 percent of those who attend actually pass the entire course and become a member of a Sabre Squadron. The course is so difficult, it is not unheard of for soldiers to pay the ultimate price in their quest to enroll in the ranks of the world’s premier special operations unit. As unfortunate as that might sound, it’s an ugly trade-off for producing the world’s best soldiers. As well as pushing candidates to the absolute limits, the course takes place in the world’s harshest environments and simulates battle conditions with as much accuracy as humanly possible.
Soldiers who volunteer to join the UKSF know of the risks they will be taking, not only in training, but should they complete the course, on operations around the globe. Recently, the deaths of three soldiers who were undertaking reserve training at the same time as selection have been mistaken for special forces casualties. It is extremely unfortunate that the fatalities occurred, but their deaths have also brought unwelcome scrutiny to SAS selection from authorities given that the soldiers died on a selection course (territorial SAS selection). TA selection, as with the signals course for 264, are held in The Hills, at the same time as selection proper for manning and admin reasons.
264, 21, and 23 show up during test week of the aptitude phase of regular selection to do a watered-down version for their own use. They are not connected to UKSF, and once they complete their week, the regular course never sees them again. 264 continues to support the Regiment by providing signals equipment advice and training from the echelons. At present, 21 and 23 do not have a dedicated role and have not had one since the end of the Cold War, when they were stay-behind troops meant to report on the frontier with the Russians. They have since been on operations, but have not been classed as SF for a considerable period. To put it how a certain senior ex-SAS RSM (who shall remain anonymous) tells it, “There is no such thing as part-time SAS. They don’t have a role or capability.”
Based on these training casualties, the media and a few punters who don’t fully understand the workings of SF properly are calling for the Regiment to lower its extremely high standards. They are saying that soldiers are not receiving the right preparation for what they are attempting to undertake. Without thought or knowledge of who is who on The Hills, they are saying that the drill sergeants have let people down while running an ill-prepared course incapable of covering everyone out there. Hacks and pen-pushers are criticizing people from the comforts of their desks, or while hidden away in their ivory towers. They call for standards to be lowered in an industry that gets tougher to operate in by the second.
Their inexperienced minds only see the bad things that have happened, and they can’t comprehend the objectives and the eventual realities the soldiers will face if they are successful. They don’t see the composition of the units and the composition of the course—they have no care for such things. They are only hungry for a meaty story surrounding SF, as this will hopefully, in their eyes, sell their papers. In this respect, people outside of the loop only see the rubbish being peddled by the press. The policy of the government to not comment on special operations matters only fuels the media fire. Spokesmen from units outside of the SAS/SBS deliberately publicize their findings in a way that they can easily be misinterpreted by the press as voices for the SF community—a community that remains silent and has nothing to say to the outside world. A community made up of people who don’t rally support on social media or hide behind a keyboard and make ludicrous suggestions.
Selection is tough because the world we live in is not made of fluffy pink wool. There are people out there who make this world an extremely dangerous place to live. Going head-to-head with these people are the world’s toughest, bravest, and hardest men. They do not need the unpleasant job they have to do wrapped up and surrounded by left-wing bullshit. They do not need to be under prepared for the heinous tasks they will be expected to undertake without question. To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail. The Regiment has been preparing people for war for a very long time.
They know what is required. The battlefield will not be forgiving and our enemies will give us no quarter should we come up wanting. If anything, I believe that selection will need to become tougher. Technology has now eliminated the cover of darkness, remote-controlled drones can attack from miles away, and weapons have frightening new capabilities. Special men will always be required to perform special tasks. It is not up to anyone from outside our world to decide how we prepare. Furthermore, every man who wears the prestigious sand-colored beret or dons his SF wings is a volunteer. Nobody was ever forced to join the SAS.
Featured image courtesy of gamebanana.com
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