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SAS Operations. Weapons and Equipment of the SAS. In Harm's Way. The Americans styled their special forces elite, Delta Force, on the British regiment, right down to the selection process. It is that selection process that underpins the excellence of the SAS. It lasts for five months and has a 90 per cent fail rate. It is also the basic course that volunteers for the Special Boat Service must pass.
There are two courses a year for those who dare to volunteer — a summer course and a winter course. There is great debate among armchair SAS watchers over which is hardest. The truth is that they are both about the same. Neither are for the faint-hearted and both are potentially lethal. Lance Corporal Craig Roberts, one of the two soldiers who died in the Brecon Beacons on Saturday in military exercises in extreme heat.
The last winter course claimed the life of a young captain who died in freezing temperatures. At the weekend came the tragic news that two aspiring SAS troopers died in the blistering heat, and another is fighting for his life after collapsing. Proof, if any were needed, that the course is conducted at the edge of human endurance. The first phase, which has been unchanged since the Fifties, is a series of timed marches — an individual effort over demanding terrain in the Brecon Beacons carrying a 45lb rucksack with a rifle and water bottle.
A file picture of SAS recruits taking part in the incredibly arduous 'selection' training course over the Brecon Beacons in Wales. Next comes a three-week map-reading tour of the hills and then Test Week, during which the most gruelling marches are undertaken. This is 40 miles long and has to be completed without stopping, within a certain time and while carrying a 60lb rucksack, a rifle and a full water bottle.
By the end the selection process will have discovered those who have what it takes to wear the winged dagger of the SAS. By the end, the whole process will have discovered those who have what it takes to wear the winged dagger of the SAS. On my test, in , a summer selection beginning in August, we started with 24 officers and men.
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By the end of Test Week, we were down to 12 officers and 50 soldiers. By the end, just three officers and 21 men of the original received the coveted sandy coloured beret and winged dagger badge. That was a remarkably high score rate — particularly for officers. On the previous Test, only one passed. On the next two, there were no officers selected. Ginge would set off at a hell of a pace followed by the men. As we walked, I would see guys keeping pace with Ginge — sadly no longer with us, he died as a result of complications from an old injury — but as we turned at the half-way point, his followers would be fewer.
It was my task at the back of the group to keep the pace at which a candidate would pass and also to keep an eye out for the tell-tale signs of heat exhaustion. All Languages.
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