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.