The selection of Special Air Service - SAS is about the same as the other Tier 1 unit of UK Special Operations Forces. In fact, the selection is roughly the same for all three Tier 1 Special Operations units, including the 22nd Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Service (SBS), and Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR). ).
Selection takes place in the Brecon Beacons twice a year. Volunteers can be from any section of the British Army provided they have completed 3 years of service, and must not be over 32 (although I have read that the SBS allows those who have 2 years experience of volunteering for the unit).
British Army PFT and Initial Phase
Before starting the actual selection, all volunteers must be able to complete the British Army PFT. The initial selection phase is 4 weeks and this is where the majority of applicants fail, especially in the winter selection where it snows like hell in the Elan Valley, people even died during the SAS selection due to rough terrain.
After the PFT, there is a week-long special operations forces briefing course where candidates are briefed on special operations forces activities, they are tested on map reading and compass for skills navigation, and combat courses also take place.
4 week selection process
Then begins the most difficult part of the 4-week selection process which is mandatory for all volunteers, whether or not they have chosen the 22 SAS, SBS, SRR. In this phase, the volunteers have to walk on the hills of the Brecon Beacons, Elan Valley, with loads of up to 35 kg, including their rifle, for distances ranging from 20 to 64 kilometers.
The steps are of different types, some of which are famous:
The Fan Dance: These marches take the contestants up and down the hills with combat charges.
Point-to-point: Candidates are rigorously tested on their endurance, ability to read maps and navigate. In these walks, candidates are supposed to go from point to point, then reach a particular point and show the DS (Directing Staff) their next point on the map. All walks are timed.
The final week of selection is known as "test week" where candidates are subjected to continuous marches each day for the entire week with ever-increasing loads and distances. The two deadliest steps where even excellent candidates fail are:
The sketch map: Candidates are expected to walk 35 kilometers with a hand-drawn map rather than a printed map which is normally used for selection.
Endurance Walk: The final and final walk where candidates are expected to complete a 64 kilometer walk with a 35 kg bag in 20 hours.
Initial training course of 4 weeks
At the end of these 4 weeks, the candidates who have opted for the SBS and the SRR move on to different phases followed by their own units. Those who have opted for the 22 SAS now move on to a 4-week continuous initial training course where they are taught to fire weapons used by the regiment and other foreign weapons, demolitions, etc.
The next phase is another knockout phase for many 6 weeks known as the "jungle phase" where they are taught the operational and tactical skills to operate and survive in the jungle. This training takes place at the British Army School for Jungle Warfare, located in Seria, Brunei. Candidates learn combat, long range reconnaissance patrols (LRRP), and jungle survival skills. Candidates are known to lose up to 5-8 kg of body weight in this phase.
The last phase is "Combat Survival". In this phase, the final test puts the candidates in a situation to escape a force of hunters made up of men from the SFSG (Special Forces Support Group) and undergo an interrogation. If they fail, they must start the selection all over again on their second and final attempt to be part of the SAS. Success is indicated by a DS with a white band around the arm and the words "your war is over".
Once the combat survival phase is over, the candidates move on to their respective squadrons (A, B, D, G) and earn the sand-colored beret with the symbols of the flying dagger, with the legendary words "Who Dares wins" . Within the squadrons are different troops like air troop, mobility troop, boat troop and mountain troop.
Enlisted personnel revert to private rank. Officers are demoted to their old rank and serve an initial 3-year assignment with the SAS and may return for another assignment. New members must undergo counter-terrorism training to be part of the SAS red and blue CT teams which are stationed in the UK. Other skills include communication, demolition, language, sniper, HAHO, HALO, etc.
Selection and death of SAS operational personnel
The British Special Air Service (SAS) selection is reputed to be one of the most difficult in the world, with an average pass rate of 10%, even 3-4% in the 1990s. In some cases, at the end of the 1960s, no one passed the SAS selection. I respect the British for creating what is perhaps the most feared and innovative special forces unit in the world, which is becoming an example for other special forces units to follow.
The SAS selection program is so grueling and rigorous that there have been a few years where no candidate passed the selection. SAS operators are expected to be the best of the best and as such the training must be as rigorous as they are.
There have been a few times in history that deaths have occurred during the selection process. In 2013, three SAS reservists died during the selection course and 25km march in the Brecon Beacons. The problem in this specific case was the weather: no wind, high temperatures and high humidity, with troops who were not acclimatized to these conditions and had to pass a "maximum effort" test.
So basically, the SAS selection course pushes you to the limits. Special Forces training is designed to approximate the reality of their mission as closely as possible, and the reality of the SAS mission is very risky.