The other evening, just out of idle curiosity, I looked at the Guide Entry Special Air Service Selection and Training. I then trawled through the various 'conversations' attached to it. This is some of what I read:
We don't try to fail you, we try to kill you.
Selection isn't training; it is sheer torture ....
Q: If a civvy was of average fitness and of strong mind, would this be enough?
A: Try putting in about six months of serious training beforehand. Average fitness will not do.
Most, if not all the men on active service with the SAS have a similar level of fitness to any professional athlete.
Most successful applicants have the same kind of fitness level as professional athletes, and a strong mind won't help you tabbing a dozen miles over the Brecon Beacons.
With due respect to the people who posted this stuff, none of it is true. SAS selection is a tough business, no doubt of that, but do you need to be a 'professional athlete' to pass the course? No, not even remotely. So what do you need? This Guide Entry is an attempt to answer that question, because I suspect many people misunderstand what is actually required to become an SAS soldier, and although it's 38 years since I did the regular selection course, and doubtless things have altered slightly, the fundamentals are the same and always will be. Technology changes: men don't.
This will not be a list of 'how to' tips and hints. At that level, selection is mostly common sense. Nor will it give away any secrets, mainly because there's nothing secret involved. What it will try to do is simply elucidate the underlying keys to passing SAS selection. It is in no way scientific: it's not based on statistics or detailed analysis, but on my five years of experience as a trooper in the territorial and regular SAS.
The Fascination of War
Before anyone puts the boot in by saying that's not very long, I should add that not only did I risk my neck on behalf of Her Majesty, but I also served in two foreign armies: once as an officer of irregular troops and once, as a volunteer in a guerrilla force, charged with strategic sabotage. After leaving the SAS, I tramped from one war to another, constantly for ten years and then sporadically for a further nine. I finally 'retired' from war zones in 1991, at age 45, apart from a very brief skirmish in Iraq in 2003. I've thus seen my fair share of conflict, in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Far East. Some of it was extremely bloody. For instance, in the Sahara I was involved in a savage close-quarter firefight in open desert in which 30 out of the 40 combatants died in the space of ten minutes.
If this sounds like I was a 'war junkie', perhaps I was. Strictly speaking, once I'd given up active soldiering I was a TV film-maker, but in my head I felt like a soldier on extended study leave. One of the things that drove me was a fascination with the people to be found in the front line. The closer to the killing ground that you get, the more the layers of pretence are peeled away, until all that is left is naked, raw character. The wannabees, the poseurs, the bombasts have all found an excuse and left. Those that remain are among the most admirable individuals I've ever met - quiet-spoken, friendly, and sometimes fantastically brave.
The most vivid example I can give took place in Afghanistan. It was 1979, before the Russian invasion, when the country was starting its slide into the chaos which has so tragically engulfed it to this day. A brigade of government soldiers had mutinied, killed their communist commissars, and joined the mujahideen. Of these 2,000 troops, one group of 25 volunteers, led by a colonel of artillery, climbed a 4,000-foot ridge and took up a position from which the rebel forces could dominate the valley. A terrible battle ensued.
I was with them, and over the next ten days we were attacked twice by units of 250 men, and finally by 600. At the close, 200 rotting corpses surrounded our sangars. The infantry assaults were prefaced by mortar barrages. We had no overhead cover: we just crouched in crevices as hundreds of 120mm bombs rained down, in attempts to wipe us out.
The second blitz was the worst. 300 missiles landed inside our perimeter in 15 minutes. We weren't counting: we got the figure later by listening to enemy radio chatter. The explosions were mind-shattering: an almost non-stop, deafening, thunderous roar mixed with the shriek of deadly flying shards. For the first couple of minutes I shook violently and uncontrollably, until I regained a semblance of composure. I have never been so frightened. It wasn't like fighting: we could only curl up and take it. I was certain at least half of us were going to die, and I started doing deals with the Almighty. For one man it was too much, and he became permanently deranged.
Between attacks there was 24/7 harassing fire, and occasional strafing by Mi-24 gunships. Five of this stubborn little band were killed. By the end, everyone's nerves were in shreds, but they clung on grimly, fought like demented wildcats - and won.
The colonel was a delightful man. I had met him some time earlier and had decided to follow him, wherever he went. During the actions he was always smiling, walking about, and shouting encouragement to his men over the crash of bombs and the ear-splitting racket of machine-gun fire. However, he was no match for the local politicos: the mujahideen later confiscated his men's weapons, and they marched across the border, into exile in refugee camps in Pakistan.
Had they been SAS or a unit of the US 101st Airborne, there would have been medals all round, books would have been penned, and films made. As it was, no one even said thank you. Such film as there was - mine - nearly didn't get shown because the union had been on strike for three months during my five-month absence. The stewards insisted I should have downed tools too, though they never revealed how I was expected to know.
So, back to the beginning. My military career started when a flatmate chucked a magazine into my lap and said, 'I think this is for you.' It was an article about the 21st SAS. I was studying medicine, but I loathed it and developed instead a keen interest in revolutionary guerrilla warfare. It was the 1960s. Revolt was in the air.
The article listed the skills of the strangely-named Special Air Service. They were exactly what an aspiring guerrilla needed to know. Next morning I went round and signed on for the territorial selection course. I passed it shortly after my 21st birthday, and served in the regiment for a year. I then gave up my studies to join 22nd SAS. The rule allowing territorials to try for the regulars had just been introduced and I was the second man to take advantage of it. This was in 1968. I was 22.
Insolent, Undisciplined Trash
In those days the SAS was not the world-famous outfit it is today. That came about thanks to the 1980 rescue of the hostages in the Iranian embassy, which was broadcast on TV as it happened. (It interrupted the snooker and several people complained!) In the 60s, few people outside the army had heard of us. Within the army, we were regarded by many as insolent, undisciplined trash. For an officer, to join the SAS then was to kiss his career goodbye. This seems hard to believe now: my patrol commander on selection's final exercise retired as a lieutenant-general, and many officers from that era reached the highest ranks. They were lucky, because the world changed while they were on their way up. Now, it's almost obligatory to have served in the SAS to climb the ladder. But in the 1960s the name of the Regiment in many quarters was mud, and we were the dirt.
Our pay reflected this. As a new trooper I got just ten pounds a week. Allowing for inflation, that's equivalent to less than £8,000 a year today. After a year in the Regiment, troopers received corporal's wages, which was our only extra compensation for an average nine months spent overseas each year, half of which was on active service. I remember a pay clerk muttering about this paltry allowance when I put in my claim. He didn't think we were worth it.
Even after I'd left the Regiment, I rarely admitted to having served in it. This wasn't for security reasons but simply because in many circles it was socially unacceptable. Britain in the 1970s suffered from deep political divisions, and to some we were hooded, psychopathic killers. John le Carré, despite earning a fortune writing novels about our spies, said as much in an article in the Observer newspaper the weekend after the Iranian hostage rescue. Before this, I once told an attractive TV news journalist, when we were having lunch together, that I was ex-SAS. She nearly choked on her fish.
The reason for giving these details is to make it clear that none of us joined for the glamour, the money or the glory, because in the 60s there wasn't any. We simply knew that the SAS meant real soldiering, and we were all prepared to pay a heavy price in order to do that, and only that.
The Desire to Join the SAS
In an indirect way, this brings me to the first and absolutely crucial point. Being super fit is not the issue. Success hinges critically on the depth of your desire to join the SAS. It's difficult to find impersonal words to illustrate this properly so I will continue to quote my own experience.
It was during the 'escape and evasion' and interrogation phase. We'd been out on the moors for several days, and so were pretty tired and hungry. On the last morning, having walked all night, daylight found me just short of the final RV. I was seen by some infantry, and they chased up the hill after me. I tried to outrun them but I was knackered. Finally, like a bayed animal, I turned to face them. They all stopped and stood in a semicircle but they didn't approach. It's curious how the mystique of the SAS protects you - trash, but dangerous trash - even though I was still doing selection. We stared at each other and then, in a totally futile gesture, I flung myself at the nearest man. We tumbled down the hillside together but I didn't have the strength to fight. I rolled off him, grinned and said, 'Sorry, mate. I surrender.' It was in that feeble state that I was hauled off to the interrogation centre.
To resist interrogation in training, all that's needed, in essence, is to shut your mind against it. They're not allowed to hurt you, and it only lasts 24 hours. However it's not a doddle. The 'white noise' room and the other little frolics are fairly childish, but being spread-eagled at an angle against a wall for 18 hours and more is not. Every muscle in your body starts to scream, and some people get internal bruising from the spasms. You get very, very tired, and also confused and disoriented thanks to the black bag over your head. Some of what they did to us in 1968 was condemned as 'torture' when it was used against the IRA in the 1970s, so the rules may have changed somewhat now.
The interrogators claim they can defeat anyone, given time. That may be true in general, though I have my doubts when it comes to the SAS. I've seen a man crack under the hood and it's not a pretty sight, but the knowledge that you can take it is useful training. Some of it is slightly sadistic, but it has a serious and worthwhile purpose. Indeed I believe there's a case for saying that an officer who can't resist for 24 hours shouldn't be a soldier at all, because the mental stresses of warfare are much worse.
Near the end of my 24 hours, after several brief interrogation sessions (which are mostly a welcome relief from that frightful wall), I landed up in front of 'nice cop, nasty cop'. We went through the brainless routine of name, rank, number, etc., and 'Sorry, sir, I can't answer that question', and nice cop said, 'Doesn't it make you feel a berk to keep saying that?' He was right. It did, and I laughed, which was exactly what they wanted: a tiny chink in the armour of blank indifference. Nasty cop was in there like a vicious rat down a hole. 'So,' he said, 'you think this is amusing? You probably also think that we can only keep you here for 24 hours. Well, you're misinformed. You'll stay for just as long as we want you to. Until you break!'
That, believe me, was bad news. 24 hours is one thing; unlimited time is quite another. He was lying, of course, but I hadn't slept or eaten for two days, on top of all their other nasty tricks; I was almost shaking with fatigue; and I was no longer thinking straight. They then shoved the bag over my head and left me to stew, against the wall. This was extremely lucky because for a moment I panicked. I couldn't conceive of lasting out indefinitely. I was almost in despair. If they'd seen my face in those few seconds, events might have taken a different course. As it was, in the privacy of the bag I got a grip of myself and thought, 'You ********! To you this is an exercise. To me it's my whole life. I gave up medicine to be here. If I fail, I've had it. For ever. So **** all of you!'
Suddenly it was no longer a game: these people intended to crush me, to destroy me even, whether they realised it or not, and they became my mortal enemies, in a very real sense. I was wildly angry with them, and so determined to join the Regiment - I wanted it with every fibre of my young being - that if they'd then started pulling out my fingernails one by one it wouldn't have mattered.
To get into the SAS you must have a similar burning and all-consuming desire to wear that winged dagger on your beret. Somewhere there will come a moment when your reserves have almost gone, and then all that will sustain you is the thought: I MUST PASS! I WILL NEVER GIVE IN! If you don't have this fierce longing, don't even bother to apply.
As it happens, a few minutes later the bag was pulled from my head to reveal a friendly face. It was over. For some reason things often seem to work out like that.
Above all else, selection is a test of your will. What the Regiment needs to know is whether you can hack it on your own, without any support. The particular circumstance that brings an individual to his personal epiphany varies, but somewhere it is almost bound to happen: inside the bag, lost in the dark, when you feel you can't walk another step. If you are what they want, this will likely occur near the end of whatever test it is, and all it takes to get over the hump is one last, bloody-minded effort.
It was during interrogation that the fittest man on the course, by miles, threw in the towel. He really did have the stamina of a professional athlete, but in the end it counted for naught. Which brings me to my own physical prowess. Please try not to laugh.
Although I am no couch potato and enjoy marching across country for a purpose, I utterly detest fitness training. However, as the date for selection approached I decided that I should maybe make a bit of effort, so I drove down to the Brecon Beacons with the intention of tabbing over the hills for a week. After three days I got so fed up with my own company that I packed my bags and went home. Without even an iota of exaggeration, that was the sum total of my preparation for the feared 22nd SAS selection course. Come now, anyone can manage that!
In my defence, because I'm not proud of this indolence, I ought to add that I didn't do any training at all for 21st SAS selection and had found it relatively easy. Or at least, I hadn't been taken even close to my limits. (And for what it's worth, at the end of that course I was awarded the 'Best Recruit' tankard. No one was more startled than me.)
Perhaps I'm well-muscled and generally gymnastic? 'Fraid not. I'm your original 10½-stone weakling. A xylophone player could produce a tune if he trilled his hammers up and down my ribcage, and in those days I had the upper-body strength of a sick parrot. Also, since I was a teenager I've smoked like a kipper factory on overtime.
I agree that this doesn't quite fit with the Hollywood vision of the SAS, but I regret to inform you that I was not entirely alone. My selection course was stuffed full of huge, beefy Para NCOs and the like. I'm sure they'd all done whatever energetic, distasteful things it is the Paras do to preserve their self-image, but some of them lasted barely a week. There was nothing very special about the physical attributes of those who passed my course, nor indeed is there within the SAS as a whole. Most are medium-sized, very average-looking blokes. Some, it is true, are massive, and one corporal was the strongest man I have ever met, but such men were the exception rather than the rule.
The SAS 'Personality'
In that case, what distinguishes all SAS soldiers from everyone else? People have made lists of rather nebulous qualities, but they don't help. It's much too subtle.
At the start of selection you are interviewed. There's an officer, some instructors, and a psychologist (at least, there was in 1968). The latter is about the most useless individual you could invite to any SAS function, but such 'experts' are probably still around, because they've managed to con society into believing they know what they're on about. They don't.
Some time ago I attended a symposium at the Royal United Services Institute. The panel was composed of four distinguished psychologists, and the subject under discussion was 'The Selection of the Warrior'. They all had their say and then they asked for comments. I got up and said that the only people who had the faintest clue how to select fighting soldiers, or 'warriors', were other fighting soldiers, and that multi-choice questionnaires or whatever nonsense they were proposing was all guff. This, predictably, went down like a lead balloon. However, my remarks were based on observations made over many years, in many wars.
Back to the SAS. All I remember of my 'selection interview' is that the psychologist asked me several surprisingly insulting questions to which I responded rather sharply. After I'd left the room he gave his opinion, which was that I would fail the course because I would get bored by it. Bored! However, one of the instructors, a sergeant known as Doc (and also as Donkey Dick for reasons we needn't go into here) disagreed. He said he was sure I would make it. (I was told all this months later, long after the course was over.) Now, it's one thing to say a man will fail: there's a minimum 94% chance of being correct. It's altogether different to assert that someone will pass when the odds that you're right can be less than 2%.
The point is, how did Doc know? There were 120 men of all shapes and sizes on the course. It was a short interview, and he'd never seen me before in his life. Indeed he'd never seen anything vaguely akin to me. I wasn't your usual 1960s squaddie. I was a civvy, and a skinny little, public-school-educated ex-student to boot, and at 22 I was younger than is recommended for SAS recruits. From all outward appearances there was nothing in my favour, but apparently Doc was adamant.
Is this weird or unusual? Not in the slightest. A Russian dissident called Vladimir Bukovsky, who spent years in the Soviet gulag camps, once told me that when a new consignment of prisoners arrived they would all watch from the huts and pick out, from 50 yards away, the ones who were going to make it. Former inmates of the Nazi concentration camps that I've talked to said exactly the same thing. They could tell instantly, at first meeting, whether or not a man had it in him to survive. I found, as I went from one war to another, that I could detect the fighting men (as distinct from men who just wear uniform), even when I didn't speak the language and barely knew the local culture. It was an important trick because my safety often relied on being with the best available soldiers.
How is it done? I have absolutely no idea, and nor has anyone else I've discussed it with. I can't begin to tell you what a fighting soldier is like. I just know one the second I meet him. I'm sure Doc couldn't have explained whatever it was he discerned in me. I'm also sure military psychologists will happily hand you a personality profile of a 'typical' SAS soldier. It's not worth the paper it's printed on. Sling it in the bin.
Along the same lines, I saw something else. I probably wouldn't have noticed it but for the fact that I did two SAS selection courses - one for the 21st and one for the 22nd. It was that the men who passed, all made friends within the first 48 to 72 hours. Just like Doc, we all perceived something in each other, but unlike Doc we didn't know what it meant: we simply became friends because of it. How, from that amorphous mass of uniformed men, did we pick out the mere handful of others who were also destined to make it? Search me, but it happened, both times.
On the first day in Hereford I met a Coldstream guardsman called Joe. We were the two youngest on the course, and we became instant and inseparable mates. Shortly afterwards, we were joined by another youngster called Pete, a REME mechanic, and we remained a close-knit little trio for the next four months (Pete and I were together for much longer because we ended up in the Land Rover troop of D squadron). However, in our own eyes, we didn't seem even likely candidates.
I remember Joe sitting on the grass, looking at all these big men, all of them older than us, many of them NCOs, from good regiments, and him saying, 'I dunno, Nick. If only half-a-dozen blokes is gonna pass this thing, I don't see as how we've got a cat-in-hell's chance of being up there with 'em.' Nor did I, but we laughed and got on with it. And four months later Joe, Pete and I, and five other friends, were still there, grinning like Cheshire cats. All the rest had gone.
Maybe we helped each other? Not possible. The course is designed so you're entirely on your own. We compared notes at day's end, but that was all. The only exception was the endurance march (or what now seems to be known as 'The Long Drag'). For that we were allowed to join up with our mates. It would have been difficult to stop us anyway, because unlike the other tabs, where we were dropped off one by one, for this hellish exercise we all started from the same place.
The Physical Aspect
Before I say more about the endurance march, let me put the physical side of things in perspective. Despite my marked lack of pre-course self-training, I don't remember feeling tested at any stage, either in the 10-day pre-selection build-up (it's now 21 days) or during the selection week itself. This is not to say it was easy - you had to flog over those hills at some speed - but it wasn't crippling. To be fair, a lot of people might not agree with me. We began losing men almost from the first day of the build-up, and by the time we'd reached the start of the endurance march I recollect that two-thirds of the original 120 had dropped out. Half of those who set out on endurance didn't make it either.
It's safe to say that of those 100 men a great many had trained hard (some really do grunt and run about for six months) but in the end it didn't do any of them any good. Why not? Because physical fitness is only a very small part of it. By the time of endurance I was probably at the peak of my attainable fitness, although not peak strength because I was only 22. No amount of further training would have improved my performance: you have it in you to be an 'athlete' or you don't. I don't, Joe and Pete didn't, and nor did most of those who passed.
What we did all have, I think, was an innate ability to march. Within the Regiment I was no more than average at tabbing. Outside it, until my mid-thirties, I could grind anyone into the dust - desert Bedouin, Kurdish guerrillas, Afghan mujahideen, Filipino communist fighters, US Special Forces officers (easy!), whoever. The accent is on the word 'innate'. Like so much else to do with the SAS, you have it in you or you don't - hard and unfair of fate perhaps, but a fact none the less.
Anyway, to return to the dreaded endurance march, or 'Long Drag'.
Joe, Pete and I stuck together until Joe decided we were going too slowly for his liking, and struck out on his own. He later admitted it was a bad mistake: he found himself all alone in the middle of the night, exhausted, sitting on his Bergen, praying to God for strength. Pete and I plodded on, and saved each other. Near the end I keeled over and fell fast asleep on the track. Pete kicked me awake. Half-an-hour later, as we fought our way through a bog, I heard a plaintive cry from behind: 'Wait for me!' I stopped. Pete was on his last legs, but together we made it to the final RV within the allotted time.
As an aside it is perhaps worth noting that at no point did it ever occur to any of those who passed the course to jack it in voluntarily. However knackered, frightened, wet, cold, lost or whatever, we always battled on. The thought of saying, 'To hell with this,' never crossed our minds once, even for an instant. 95% of those who fail, though, have exactly that thought, and then they act on it, and then they're gone.
Is the endurance march tough? Yes, very. Since that day, I've tramped over countless high mountains, across searing deserts, through jungles, all in wartime, sometimes day in day out, for weeks on end, and offhand I can think of only two occasions when I was more shattered than that far-off night on the Brecon Beacons. One was in 1984 (I was 38 then; old by SAS standards) with a group of tough UNITA guerrillas in Angola. 500 men and I marched fast, night and day, for well over 48 hours, except for one hour's sleep. It was the prelude to a battle involving several thousand troops. At the end I was literally on my knees.
I said that the fittest man on my course pulled out during interrogation. In fact he was incredibly fit. I seem to remember that he completed the endurance march in 12 hours, and I believe it may have been farther in those days. At all events, it was 45 miles as measured on the map - more over the ground. To cover that distance in 12 hours means he was running a large part of the way. But what good did it do him? Nothing. The second fastest man, only a couple of hours behind, also dropped out during continuation training. I forget why.
The salutary and inescapable truth is that strength, stamina and the rest are not the answer. (Though there's no harm in any of it.) If they were, all anyone would have to do is run up and down mountains for a month, et voilà: Hereford would be swamped with sand-coloured berets. But SAS men are unique, and remarkably rare. They are born and not made. If you have what they have within you, you will make it. If you don't, nothing, no one, and no amount of training can help you.
Right at the beginning, I quoted the following: We don't try to fail you, we try to kill you. This is tripe.
SAS men generally are humorous, laid-back, and not at all aggressive. It's inadvisable to hit them, but otherwise they leave people alone unless they are designated enemies of the Queen. If you are one of those and the Regiment is unleashed in your direction, you might as well give your backside a loving peck on the cheek because you're unlikely to own it for much longer.
Recruits are not designated enemies. Not only that but the instructors have all been through it. They know exactly what you're suffering. Not even the men who pull out on day two get shouted at. OK, it's not your thing; so goodbye, and good luck elsewhere. There are no boot-camp Hitlers. I've met plenty of bullies in other army units and in civilian life, but not a single one in the Regiment.
Those volunteers that show promise even get encouragement. It's very low-key: a quiet smile here, a wink there, but your spirits soar when it happens. I was TA and as a result had shabby, ill-fitting uniform, but one evening I got back to barracks to find a pair of correctly-sized SAS-type trousers lying on my bed. They were a present from Doc. It was a simple kindness, but it spoke volumes and meant the world.
Nor do they try to fail you. They actively want you to pass, and they know precisely what is humanly possible. If you do make it, one day you and they may well end up in the same four-man patrol, fighting for your lives side by side. That is no place for bad blood left over from pointless harassment during training on the Brecon Beacons.
There are, I admit, horror stories about selection. They come from those who failed: some of them need an excuse. If you want the truth, talk to someone who passed.
Does His Face Fit?
The SAS rarely throw people off the course unless they miss a time limit (most jack it in of their own accord), but there are exceptions. One poor devil was actually chucked out on the last day. The rest of us had been expecting him to quit but he didn't, and he never put a foot wrong. We and the instructors knew he wasn't right for the Regiment, but he gave them no excuse. In the end they had no choice, even though he'd passed all the tests. It was very cruel but the SAS is not a charity. The question that's always asked is, 'Does his face fit? Can we trust him to be there when the chips are down?' If there's doubt, then it's goodbye.
Of the eight of us from that course who were badged, two made RSM of the Regiment, Pete became a very successful businessman, Joe did time in a military prison (not for anything nasty; he was a lovely bloke), and I trudged off to more wars. Of the other three, two I'm not sure about, but one got thrown out after jungle training (in those days jungle training was separate from the course and often took place much later).
Again, it was a case of the face not fitting. He was a nice guy but he made the quite stunning mistake of rubbing up the RSM the wrong way. The RSM was Tanky Smith - a wonderful man; a legend in the Regiment; sadly, now dead - and he ran our jungle course. Tanky had two modes: on, and off parade. Off parade he would chat like your oldest mate and tell war stories, all of them instructive. You could call him Tanky and say whatever you liked. On parade, he was the RSM and he expected, and got, the respect he was due. But this man couldn't tell when the two modes had switched and he would call out, 'Hey, Tanky!' regardless, and we would all wince.
The process is not infallible. Some slip through the filter. I knew two who felt wrong, but they weren't found out until we went into action. Then they were swiftly RTU'ed. 'Returned to Unit': those three words, to SAS men, are like a death sentence. Even now they make me shiver.
Does any of this help? If you think the Regiment is for you, then have a hard look in the mirror and try to see what's deep beneath the surface, because that's where it comes from. Doc could tell you if you've got it. So can many SAS men. But anyone's allowed to try, and it's the only possible way you can truly find out for yourself. If the idea of being in the SAS merely seems 'cool', then my advice is not to waste your time, but if that badge is the most important thing in your life, then go get it! And good luck.
I said there were going to be no hints or tips, but here are a couple:
Learn how to use a prismatic compass (not those bits of Silva plastic), and how to read a map till it's like a photograph to you. That skill is vital. A wrong turn may cost you precious hours, and blundering about in the mist wondering if you're going the right way will badly sap your morale. Find out how not to get blisters, and how to deal with them if you do. And yes, it does help to train a bit. I'm just bone idle.
Three more things. Professionally, my time in the SAS was the happiest of my life, by far. We never stopped laughing. Even when we had our faces pressed hard into the dirt as bullets tore through the air overhead or slammed into the ground around us, some joker would somehow see the funny side and we'd crack up. It was worth every second of the pain of the endurance march to be greeted as an equal by men like that.
Also, clever, sophisticated airheads may sneer at the Regiment's motto, but for real people Who Dares Wins is a brilliant and inspiring dictum. It's given me hope and determination in some very difficult situations long after I left the SAS, and it still does.
As to what can happen to clapped-out SAS men when they finally retire, have a look at:
It's about a 10,000-mile horseback journey. It's not a matter of choice: I'm poor and homeless, and I've got nothing else to do.