The United Kingdom Special Operations Forces selection is pretty much the same for all the three SOF units – 22 SAS, SBS & SRR.
Selection takes place in the Brecon Beacons, twice a year. Volunteers can come from any section of the British Military provided they have completed 3 years of service, should not be older than 32 years (though I have read the SBS allows those with 2 years experience to volunteer for the unit).
Before actual selection begins, all volunteers must be able to complete the British Army PFT.
The initial phase of selection is of 4 weeks and this is where the majority of the candidates fail especially in winter selection where it snows like hell in the Elan Valley, people have actually died in SAS selection due to the harsh terrain.
After the PFT there is a 1 week Special Operations Forces briefing course where candidates are briefed about SOF activities, they are tested on the map and compass for navigation skills, combat runs take place.
After this begins the hardest part of the 4-week selection process which is compulsory for all volunteers regardless of them opting for the 22 SAS, SBS, SRR. In this phase volunteers have to march on the hills of the Brecon Beacons, Elan Valley with loads up to 70 pounds including a rifle, for distances ranging from 20-64 kilometers. The marches are of various types, some of the famous ones are:
The Fan Dance: These marches have candidates go up and down the hills with combat loads.
Point-to-Point: Candidates are rigorously tested on their endurance, map reading and navigation skills. In these marches candidates are supposed to go from one point to the other, where upon reaching a particular point the candidate is supposed to show the DS(Directing Staff) his next point on the map. All marches are timed.
The last week of selection is known as “Test Week” where candidates undergo continuous marches every day for the entire week with ever increasing loads and distances. The two killer marches where even excellent candidates fail are:
The Sketch Map: Candidates are supposed to march 35 kilometers with a hand-drawn map rather than a printed one which is normally used in selection.
Endurance March: The final and ultimate killer, candidates are supposed to complete a 64-kilometer march with a 70-pound bergen in 20 hours.
Upon completing these 4 weeks successful candidates who opted for the SBS and SRR move on to complete different phases taken by their own units, Those opting for the 22 SAS now move on to a 4 week initial continuation training course where they are taught to fire weapons used by the regiment and other foreign weapons, demolitions etc.
The next phase is another 6-week killer phase known as “Jungle Phase” where they are taught operational and tactical skills to operate and survive in a jungle. This training takes place in the “British Army Jungle Warfare Training School” located in Seria, Brunei. Candidates are taught combat, LRRP(Long Range Recon Patrols), survival skills for a jungle environment. Candidates are known to lose up to 10-14 pounds of bodyweight in this phase.
The last phase is “Combat Survival”. In this phase, the final test includes candidates to evade a hunter force composed of men from the SFSG(Special Forces Support Group) and undergo interrogation. If they fail then they have to repeat Selection right from the beginning in their 2nd and last tryout to be part of the SAS. The successful completion is indicated by a DS with a white band around his arm and the words “your war is over”.
Once the combat survival phase is passed, candidates move on to their respective squadrons(A, B, D, G) and earn the sand colored beret with the flying dagger symbols, with the legendary words “Who Dares Wins”. Within the squadrons are different troops like Air, Mobility, Boat and Mountain troop.
Enlisted personnel revert to the rank of troopers. Officers are demoted to their previous rank and they serve an initial 3-year tour with the SAS and may return for another tour. Newly badged members must complete counter-terrorism training to be part of the Red and Blue CT Teams of the SAS that are stationed in the UK, other skills include communications, demolitions, language, sniper, HAHO, HALO etc.
British SAS selection is reputed to be among the toughest in the world with an average pass rate of 10% to as low as 3-4% in the 90’s, in some cases in the late 60’s no one passed SAS selection. My respect to the British for creating what is possibly the most lethal feared and innovative Special Forces unit in the world that become an example for other SF units to follow.
* SBS refers to Special Boat Service, SAS refers to Special Air Service while SRR refers to Special Reconnaissance Regiment
Portuguese Army new Assault Rifle: SCAR-L in 5,56x45mm
On the 20th February 2019, FN Herstal was awarded a major contract for thousands of assault rifles, by NATO’s Support & Procurement Agency (NSPA) on behalf of the Portuguese Army. The contract is for the 5.56x45mm caliber FN SCAR L assault rifles. Included in this contrat, FN will also supply other guns, namely the FN40GL grenade launchers, MINIMI 5.56 and 7.62 Mk3 light and medium machine guns respectively, and the designated Marksman Rifle SCAR-H in 7,62x51mm.
The NSPA, is the main logistics and procurement agency of NATO and is able to handle and support procurement for member nations. NSPA described the contract as a ‘major milestone’ for the agency. The contract was signed by FN’s sales director and NSPA General Manager.
NSPA made a short statement:
“NSPA awarded today a contract to Belgium-based FN Herstal, one of the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of small caliber weapons. This is for the Agency a major contract to produce FN SCAR® assault rifles and FN MINIMI® machine guns as new standard issue weapons for the Portuguese Army’s.
The contract includes the manufacture and supply of 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO caliber FN SCAR® assault rifles, FN40GL grenade launchers, MINIMI® 5.56 and 7.62 Mk3 Tactical light machine guns, and all related accessories.
The Portuguese Army’s standard issue service rifle is currently a Portuguese license produced variant of the Heckler & Koch G3, while the MG3 and HK21 are used in the General Purpose and Light Machine Gun purpose. The exact size of this new contract and its worth have not yet been announced, but In 2017, when the program was released, the acquisition called for 11 000 assault rifles in 5.56x45mm. The value of this weapons package procurement would be €42.8 million ($50.3 million).
This is a major acquisition for the Portuguese Army as the old G3 Battle Rifles are outdated, even in its class, and are obvious not adequate for the assault role. This purchase does not only manage to replace the G3 Battle rifle with one of the best current assault rifles, if not the best, but it will allow that the Portuguese Army to change the fire dynamics of it´s small units, increasing firepower and combat capabilities and being able to have more Hit probability on the enemy.
The Murph Challenge Workout
Special operations operators are well beyond professional athletes. SFO’s are in extreme physical conditions. they are prepared to react instantly, in defense of our county. One SFO stands out to me. Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, Navy Seal. No, I never had the supreme honor of meeting the man, but I have read and followed every piece of information I could find on him. “Lt Murphy” became a Navy Seal in July 2002. After several if not numerous mission combating terrorism, Lt. Micheal P. Murphy was surrounded by Taliban soldiers, along with his three other Navy Seals.
“Murphy was killed on 28 June 2005 after he left his cover position and went to a clearing away from the mountains, exposing himself to a hail of gunfire in order to get a clear signal to contact headquarters for relaying the dire situation and requesting immediate support for his team. He dropped the satellite phone after being shot multiple times but picked the phone back up and finished the call. While being shot, he signed off saying- “Thank You”, then continued fighting from his exposed position until he died from his wounds.” Michael P. Murphy – Wikipedia
Lt. Murphy left behind a legacy of honor and fitness and preparedness that many strive to archive. Lt. Murphy called this workout Body Armour, after his death, the workout was renamed The Murph Challenge.
- A 1-mile run.
- Then 100 pull-ups.
- Then 200 pushups.
- Then 300 squats.
- And ANOTHER 1-mile run.
I’m not saying professional athletes couldn’t do it, but Lt Murphy did this for fun.
That being said, I once met an SFO, in Hampton, VA. He was in his late fifties and ran alongside our platoon one morning during pt. , We finished a five-mile run, and he turned to us, and said… that’s it? cmon let’s do it again. The Master Chief was about 6′1 looked like he weighed about 220. It wasn’t until afterward, When I asked him, what was his weight, and almost fell out learning he was 185.