The most brutal special forces training methods were often tied to the Eastern countries, former members of SSSR. But, today things are not quite different than then. Still, the leaders in the most brutal training methods are Russians and their Spetsnaz, but the Western counterparts have also their own rigorous training and selection methods.
The Russians over the years from the Cold War period till the late 90s have known to be hard-boiled with an “iron gut” and whatever but they surely have the most brutal training (not most toughest).
Spetsnaz: Pain management
Crawling on sharp rocks. Pshaw! Lying in freezing cold water? Child’s play. Cold is just a state of mind. Ah, breaking the burning slump block on your back with a sledgehammer. Yes! No problem. It’s only a part of Spetsnaz SERE training.
Hey, knowing how to deal out pain is important in wartime, but it’s just as important to be able to take it. The Spetsnaz undergo “pain management” drills where they swim through pools lined with barbed wire, get tied to chairs and beaten with baseball bats, and are dragged behind trucks. The point of this is to make it so they can ignore injuries in combat and strike back hard.
Just to get into a Spetznaz unit to start the training, you have to stand in the middle of a ring of 5 experienced Spetznaz soldiers who then attack you with fists, feet, and bats – sometimes 2 at a time. You must keep getting up and fighting back until you quit (and don’t get in), or they quit or you’re knocked unconscious.
Navy SEALs: Drown Proofing
The U.S Navy Seals are notorious for what they call, “Drown Proofing”. Drown Proofing is when one’s hands and feet are bound, and the participant is forced to bounce from the bottom of a deep pool and back to the surface for air.
The SAS has also been noted for its grueling training, with some trials making men march nearly 40 miles in a timed exercise, with full military gear equipped.
Greek Underwater Demolitions Squad
It is rumored that Greek Underwater Demolitions squads (DYK) are put through a regime designed to eliminate the fear of drowning. Recruits are drowned in a swimming pool to experience the panic, gag reflex, and then the serenity of drowning and to understand the importance of fighting the panic and to keep a clear head when in the situation. Then they are removed from the pool and resuscitated. Once in a while, someone does not make it back.
Supposedly Sayeret Matkal (IDF special forces) has some pretty hard methods. They kidnap their recruits, shuffles them into a hut in the middle of the desert, and proceeds to torture them.
US Marines stationed in Thailand took part in a practice that included beheading chickens with their teeth and drinking snake blood.
Chinese paramilitary police crawl under fire obstacles. In Belarus, the red berets head butt flaming concrete blocks. The Taiwanese SF practice of crawling on rocks is pretty badass!
In fact, every special ops soldier has starved, been sleep-deprived, made long-distance movements with heavyweight (whether on land or water). It’s needed in order to understand we are capable of much more than we think we are. There are guys who say Ranger School was harder than combat, but I disagree with that because Ranger School is a controlled environment; combat is chaos.
I don’t think training should be brutal. It should be tough with extremely high standards. To all those who are going through SOF training, I hope you survive! And don’t forget, all special operations forces training programs in the world are the toughest military training in the world. Period.