The year 2008 was tough for the Doherty family. It was in 2008 when their oldest son, Private Jeff Doherty, a paratrooper with 2 PARA, was killed by enemy fire during a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan.
His brother, Fin Doherty, was only six years old at the time. And yet he made a vow: as soon as possible he would join the same elite unit as his brother.
Almost 12 years later, Fin is close to fulfilling his vow.
Fin Doherty joined the British Army in February. Last week, he donned the same Maroon beret that his brother wore. The Sergeant Major who presented him with the beret had fought alongside his brother. He has a few weeks before graduation, but he now has surpassed the toughest hurdle on his way to joining his brother’s unit.
Speaking of his older brother, Fin Doherty had said in a BBC documentary that “whenever he was home he was always making a fuss of me, there were always good times, no bad times. We were always misbehaving and messing about. He was the big brother who I loved, he loved me and I knew I was loved from a young age.”
“After he died I was ready to fight anybody at any time. You could say hello and I’d shout at you. I wasn’t just doing it outside the house, but inside the house as well. We’d be sitting in the living room and nobody would speak to me because they were worried about how I’d react.”
The Parachute Regiment is comprised of four battalions (called PARAs): 1 Para, which is assigned to the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), 2 PARA, 3 PARA and 4 PARA, which is the Territorial Army (reserves) component.
Explaining his rationale for joining the Army and trying out for the Parachute Regiment, Fin Doherty said that “I couldn’t think of a better job than doing something that I think matters, especially for something my brother laid down his life for. To wear that maroon cap, there’s no greater pride. I’d rather have what happened to him happen to me at the same age than live to 100 and never do it because that pride of being a paratrooper is everything.”
“There’s nothing more in this world that I want, and that’s the mentality you’ve got to have. I’d love more than anything in the world to wear my brother’s beret.”
To become a Para — as the Brits call their paratroopers — and don the coveted maroon beret, a soldier must pass the infamously tough P Company. A 30-week suckfest, P Company assesses aspiring Paras for suitability to join the Parachute Regiment. Week 20 of the course is called Test Week and is comprised of eight tests that must be completed in seven days. The tests include:
- 10 miles while carrying 35 lb ruck and full combat load (in 1 hour 50 minutes or less)
- Trainasium: an assault course designed to test a candidate’s tolerance for heights
- Log Race: Eight-man team carrying a 135lb log over a distance of 1.25 miles
- Two-mile march carrying a 35 lb ruck and full combat load (in 18 minutes or less)
- Steeplechase: 1.8-mile cross-country course through water obstacles and an assault course
- Milling (training exercise): Tests the recruits’ aggression and determination. Recruits fight one another in boxing gear
- Endurance march: 20-mile march made while carrying 35 lb ruck and full combat load (in four hours or less)
- Stretcher Race: 16-man teams carry a 175 lb stretcher over five miles