The British Special Forces - Special Air Service – or SAS – was first activated during World War II in July of 1941. They are a branch of the British Army and part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and are comprised of one regular unit and two reserve Territorial Army units.
Recruit and Training for the Regular Unit
Any member of the UKs armed forces can request consideration for Special Forces selection, but most of the applicants have airborne forces background. The selection process lasts five weeks and takes place twice a year. Potential recruits must first pass both a personal and combat fitness test. Next they must march cross country in a specified time. Each day the distance for this march increases. The final full equipment march is a grueling 40 miles that includes scaling and descending. Once this phase is completed, an additional 4 mile run and two mile swim (in 90 minutes) is required.
The next phase they undergo is known as the “jungle phase”. This phase takes place outside of the UK either in Belize, Brunei or Malaysia. This phase includes courses on navigating and patrol formation and movement. Recruits are also taught jungle survival skills during this phase. Once they are finished with this portion, candidates return to the UK and complete their training in battle plans and foreign weapons. They also participate in combat survival exercises.
At the end of this phase are escape and evasion exercises that will last for one week. Those still in the program at this point, are dressed in WWII uniforms, given only a tin can filled with survival supplies along and the coordinate for their goal. But the most intense part of the final phase is what is called the “resistance to interrogation”. During this phase, candidates will undergo 36 hours of grueling interrogation.
At the end of the escape and evasion phase, only about 15 – 20% of the recruits left in the program will survive, though the majority of the initial candidates drop out much earlier. In the end, only 30 or so of the original 200 will successfully complete every phase. As a reward, they are then transferred to an operational squadron.
Recruit and Training for the Reserve Regiments
The two Territorial Army reserve selection differs from that of the Regular Unit. Theirs is a part-time program which takes place over a longer period of time. Volunteers with certain qualities are selected and are required to be physically fit to even begin the course. Along with both physical and mental stamina, they must also exude self-confidence and self-discipline. They must be able to work alone and easily assimilate information and new skills.
After this portion of the program is completed, the individuals receive training on Special Operations Procedures. They are schooled in tactics, techniques and procedures. As the class progresses, an emphasis is placed on the individual’s ability to assimilate the skills being taught even when physically and mentally exhausted.
Once the course is completed, their group is considered operationally deployable and enter into a trial period, during which time they must complete two final training programs – the Basic Parachute Course and the Communications Course. After successful completion, they are now considered to be fit for mobilization.
Those who successfully complete either of these training courses and become a member of the British Special Forces – Special Air Service (SAS), will live by the motto – “Who Dares Wins!”