What’s involved in SAS selection?

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SAS Training

The abbreviation SAS stands for Special Air Service and it’s been part of the British Army since its conception in World War II. Initially, they were formed as a secret desert fighting unit, operating behind German lines in the 1941 North African campaign.

Today there are about 500 active serving SAS soldiers at any given time. The rigorous training and schooling they must go through are so long, mind-bending tough and extreme that only 10 recruits out of every 125 hopefuls, make it through. They are said to be the best trained elite fighting squad in the world.

SAS Selection process

There are three phases in the SAS Selection process.

Endurance selection phase 1

SAS selection phase 1

The first phase of the process is known as ‘the hills’, or the endurance, fitness and navigation stage. This includes extremely difficult physical fitness, mental stamina and endurance tests, that last 3 weeks. For any candidate to pass this phase, they must have absolute and complete self-belief, rock-solid determination and be 100% self-reliant.

The endurance, fitness and navigation stage are carried out in The Brecon Beacons and Black Hills of South Wales. Hopefuls must navigate their way through different checkpoints, whilst carrying an extreme and increasingly large and heavy load. They get no help, input or criticism in any way shape or form, from the senior officers, known as SAS directing staff (DS). These serving SAS Soldiers are fully badged members of the regiment who watch over the proceedings. This would be the complete opposite to their original units, where they would have the sergeant barking orders at them night and day. In this unit, they must be able to think and be completely reliant on themselves.

In this phase, they have a 40-mile trek carrying a 55Ib bergen. They must finish this phase, in under 24 hours.

Selection Phase 2 – Jungle Training

SAS Jungle training

To get to phase 2, a candidate must pass phase 1, with no exceptions. In this stage, they train deep in the jungles of Belize. They are taught the basics, of how to survive an extremely harsh environment.

In real-life scenarios, qualified SAS soldiers sometimes must live for weeks undercover, behind enemy lines, in 4-man patrols, with very small amounts of food and water rations. This part of the training phase is geared to “weeding out”. Any recruit that does not have ‘What It Takes,’ to be able to not only survive but also keep their kit in the best possible shape under these sorts of extreme conditions. They are also tested on their physical and mental capacity, to see who can endure such relentless pressure of spending weeks under those terrible conditions, without being able to contact Home Base. This results in them being unspotted and staying undercover, enabling them to complete whatever mission in real life that has been handed to them.

Selection phase 3 – Escape, Evasion and Tactical Questioning (TQ)

SAS Escape and Evasion

Again, the only recruits that make it through to phase 3 are the very small amount of SAS hopefuls that have passed phase 1 and 2.

The attitude that is taken is, when an undercover opp. is being carried out behind enemy lines, in unpredictable circumstances and territory, there is a very good chance, things will not go to plan, and they might get captured. So, this phase of The SAS Selection Process, will teach them how to escape, evade capture and resist interrogation.

This part of the phase is called Escape and Evasion (E & E). They are taught and given instructions on appropriate techniques. Receiving real-life talks and stories from former POW’s, or SAS Special Forces personnel, that have experienced real-life (E & E) situations in the past.

Then for 3 days, they go forth into the countryside, where they must make their way through a series of waypoints, wearing world war II clothing and camouflage, all the while without being captured by soldiers or any other forces.

After this part of the SAS Selection Process, whether they are captured or not, every candidate and SAS hopeful must report for TQ.

At Tactical Questioning (TQ), they will be tested on their ability to resist interrogation. In this part of the phase, they can expect to be treated roughly, and not very good, by their pretend interrogators. They will be made to stand in stressful positions for hours, while confusing white noise is being blasted out to disorientate them. When it is finally their turn to be questioned, they can only answer with what is called the ‘BIG 4.’ Name, Rank, Serial Number and Date of Birth. Any other question must be answered with, “I am sorry, but I cannot answer that question.” Any answer apart from that is an instant failure.

To Conclude 

Any small number of soldiers that do finally manage to pass all those phases, will receive the ‘Beige Beret’ with the ‘Winged Dagger’ insignia. They are now a fully-fledged, proud, member of the SAS Special Air Service.