Saturday, February 14, 2009

Inside S.A.S: Great Britain’s Elite Special Air Service

Men of the Special Air Services

When David Stirling formed the Special Air Services (SAS) in the Western Dessert during World War II, he knew he was creating a unique military unit – unique in both mission and composition. The SAS would assume all sorts off behind the lines mission such as airfield raids : Destroying more than two Luftwaffe geschwader ( 100 planes) during WWII in north Africa, Insurgence mission : infiltrated to enemy territories and worked with French resistance towards D-day preparation. As the war progressed Stirling’s concept evolved .Through selections the unit demand sheer individual quality but could still function as a member of a team. Men with the versatility to accomplish mission assigned to them.

Units mission
Through the half century since the formation of the SAS, the regiment mission has expanded to include counterterrorism , counter insurgency , deep penetration raids and intelligence gathering , bodyguard head of the state,acting as trainers for foreign special forces , designating targets for smart weapons and providing the “teeth” for British intelligence operations.

To be SAS operator ?

Psychological requirements

The SAS selection course does not rely on a battery of psychological tests or high tech computer profiles but on a procedure that has been used with slight modification for decades . Brecon beacons and Black Mountains of Wales are the site of this selection procedure. The location was choosen because they tested skills necessarily for SAS operations in the jungles of Asia , Hostile desserts and mountaneous terrain. Brecon beacons required a combination of outstanding land navigation skill and stamina to traverse. In virtually every conflict in which they’ve been enganged the SAS has had to survive in a hostile environment. By overcome Brecon beacon will select psychological profile of those who successfully complete the selection process . They will normally be intelligent, assertive , self sufficient , emotionally stable , forthright and alert. They will neither be excessively introverted nor extroverted and will not be dependant on orders to know what to do ( individual sustainable).

SAS Candidates

For 22nd SAS Regiment may apply from any regiment of the British army in cluding T.A territorial army. Royal Air forces and Royal Navy for the 21st and 23rd SAS regiment may apply directly from civilian lives .For officers must be between ages 22 to 34, while non commissioned officers between 19 to 34. Either must have a 3 years minimum experience in the regular troops. Before enduring selection course ,candidates will be briefed in the “Stirling Line” home of the 22nd regiment on what expected from them during the selection process.

Selection course : Who Dares wins
Selection courses will be held for four weeks long. Candidate will have the chance to take the course either in winter or summer season each year.They must undergo a physical examination and Army Physical Fitness test (APFT). Officers do their test on the third week while other ranks do their test on the fourth week. As officer candidate must undergo additional test for officers (usually called officer’s week) would be run by experience Non commissioned officers from the SAS training wing.

Leadups period

This period would stress on map reading and navigation using watches and compasses. Members from non infantry will have to put extra effort in this period in order to gain the speed rapidly. During this period candidates are well fed, with diets rich in high protein food to give them extra stamina for what they will face. Training is progressive :distance and load carrier. Needs for the individual to get tougher as the weeks progress to move from one RV ( rendezvous point )to another. NCO trainers would wait for them in each RV. By the end of leadup period , remaining candidates will be doing 15 hours march per day. At this point there is a humor saying that SAS stands for “Savage and sadistic”

Physical examination phase

In the third week for officers and fourth for the NCO candidates will face the famous “Long Drag” covering 60 km , carrying 25 kg rucksack and 5 kg more for the riffle and their belts. No matter what the weather, however the selection course go on. RV to RV. The SAS attitude is that war isn’t postponed for rain or snow, and neither is the selection course.

Officer’s week

During this week , officers who have already successfully completed the long drag must demonstrate their leadership , tactical planning ability , and briefing skills. They must plan an SAS style raid and brief experienced Nco on it, then take their question based on the NCO’s experience of such operation. The regular SAS NCO will test an officers poise and self confidence as well as planning ability.So tough the process so that only six percent of the officers candidate remain to pass the test. Not only this system ensure good officers, but the fact that the officers can normally take the lead in the basic selection course, having even already completed the tougher, gains the respect of those they will command.

Continuation trainining

Once they have successfully completed the selection course , candidates will move on a continuation training, where they will learn the basic of a special forces soldier and continue to be evaluated. As they leave the basic training wing, members of the regiment will see a sign reading “Death is nature’s way of telling you that you have failed the selection”
The continuation training lasted for fourteen weeks , added six week of jungle training and for those not already parachute qualified , four weeks of parachute training. Only after successful completion of these 24 weeks does the soldier become fully “badged” as a member of SAS and entitled to wear the sand colored beret and winged dagger badge.

SAS training is a tried and successful combinations of theory , practical demonstration and hand to hand practice.
Four man patrol concept. Are one of the first and critical learned in the standard SAS patrol. This concept is battle proven and has been practically used in Falkland , Northern Ireland and Iraq.

Weapons expertise starts with individual weapons such as the Browning or Sig pistols, H&K mp5 submachine gun , L1a1, Steyr aug and armalite. Note that the SAS has avoided being saddled with the SA-80 “bullpup” riffles that proved so disappointing when issued to the rest of the British army.

Secrecy and the mystique of SAS

As within many special operation unit, the secrecy among the SAS has created a myth about the men who wear the sand colored beret. Untill the hostage rescue in the prince gate in London on a few military community recognized it existence. So shrouded with mystery was the SAS that when the first American carried out exchange training , upon their return many assumed SAS with the better known Scandinavian Air Services.
In some cases truth are more truth is more incredible than myth but the SAS style is definitely not the one court to publicity. The pride in the regiment is that headlines such as : “Yesterday, a team reported as SAS member carried out a successful raids behind enemy lines…..” That is as far as they could get them self publicized. The appreciation and pride will only be shared inside their small special forces community. Inside ,their accomplishment are far more important and appreciated than people who doesnt understand the pride and professionalism which motivates them to undergo selection and training process to serve in the SAS.
“-Who dares wins-”

Source: “S.A.S: Great Britain’s Elite Special Air Service By Leroy Thompson”

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