United Kingdom Special Forces Selection
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United Kingdom Special Forces Selection is the selection and training process for members of the United Kingdom's three Special Forces formations: 22 Special Air Service, Special Boat Service, and Special Reconnaissance Regiment. Members of the SAS and SBS undergo common selection up to the award of a sand-coloured beret to SAS Troopers whereupon SBS candidates undergo further selection to qualify as Swimmer Canoeists and SAS personnel undergo further specialist training.
Until the late 1990s candidates for the SAS and SBS underwent selection under the auspices of the prospective unit, the merger created efficiencies and encouraged a greater degree of interoperability between the units.
Selection is reported to be one of the most demanding military training courses in the world with a reported pass rate of less than 10%. In 2013 three soldiers died during a selection exercise. It is a test of strength, endurance, and resolve over the Brecon Beacons and Elan Valley in Wales, and in the jungle of Brunei, taking around 6 months to complete.
Selection is held twice a year regardless of conditions. Personnel must have a level of prior regular or reserve military experience and for regulars must have at least 39 months of service remaining on completion of selection as well as not exceeding 32 years of age. Candidates are limited to a maximum of two attempts with personnel failing being Returned to Unit.
Selection is broken down into a number of phases, beginning with a Briefing Course several weeks in advance of commencement.
- 1 Special Forces Briefing Course (1 week)
- 2 Fitness and navigation (4 weeks)
- 3 Initial continuation training (14 weeks)
- 4 Jungle training (6 weeks)
- 5 Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract (4 weeks)
- 6 Completion of selection
- 7 Special Boat Service Selection
- 8 Special Reconnaissance Regiment Selection
- 9 Special Forces Communicator Selection
- 10 Specialist training
- 11 See also
- 12 References
Special Forces Briefing Course (1 week)
Over the week, potential candidates are briefed in detail on Special Forces employment and on the activities during selection. Candidates undertake a map and compass test, a swimming test, a first aid test and a combat fitness test. There are also numerous "DS walkabouts" and runs in the hills. Candidates will be notified of the likelihood of failure on selection and provided with a training programme to prepare for the process.
Based at Sennybridge Training Camp in Wales personnel are exposed to the Brecon Beacons and the Elan Valley, Wales where weather conditions are demanding, and unpredictable.
Initial tests are common to the rest of the British Armed Forces with the Combat Fitness Test (CFT), a 2.4 kilometres (1.5 mi) run in under 9 minutes 30 seconds preceded by a minimum of 45 pressups and 55 situps in two minutes each.
The first week of selection consists of runs in the Brecon Beacons, up and down hills with a loaded bergen. These exercises, such as the "Fan Dance", are further complicated by navigation and map reading exercises. Navigation runs in small groups in woodland areas and night tabs follow shortly, steadily increasing both the physical and mental load on the prospective operator. Loads increase over the period, while the individual's personal weapon has to be carried unsupported; candidates are required to keep the rifle in their hands as they climb slopes and jog down again.
In the third week individuals navigate from a grid reference to other points on the map, in an exercise called "Point to Point". Directing staff at each rendezvous ("RV") require the candidate to indicate location before instructing the next reference point.
The final stage of the "hills" phase of selection is known as "Test Week" which consists of six marches on consecutive days with ever increasing bergen weights and distances. The second to last day involves covering 35 kilometres (22 mi) with a hand-drawn sketch map rather than a printed map. Test week concludes with "Endurance", a 64 km (40miles) march across the Brecon Beacons, completed in less than 20 hours loaded in excess of fifty five pounds plus water, food and rifle.
Initial continuation training (14 weeks)
Jungle training (6 weeks)
Jungle training is usually carried out in the thick rainforest of Borneo with candidates allocated to four man patrols, each patrol supervised by a member of the Directing Staff (DS). Damp and rain are persistent, potentially demoralising the candidate, and skin contusions, insect bites, cuts and blisters must be cared for due to the risk of infection.
Training includes jungle survival, patrol techniques, navigation, boat handling, camp and observation post techniques, contact drills and medicine.
The final test encompasses these skills, where all things that have been learned must be applied correctly in a tactical environment.
Personnel undertake Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract training. The test stage for this training phase requires the candidates to undergo an evasion exercise, dressed in greatcoats to restrict movement and operating in small groups. A Hunter Force from the Special Forces Support Group provides a capture threat.
All personnel are required to undergo a Tactical Questioning stage; should a candidate reach the objective without capture he will still be subjected to this element.
Completion of selection
Soldiers revert to the rank of trooper, however, the original rank at entry to selection is held in records as a shadow rank and the Trooper remains a member of their original unit. The first 12 months of service in the Regiment is probationary and a candidate could still be Returned to (their previous) Unit (RTUd) should the need arise. Personnel normally serve at least one 36 month tour with the Regiment and may be RTUd, or choose to RTU, on completion. Personnel who serve for more than two tours with the Regiment are formally transferred to the permanent Cadre and become eligible for promotion as Senior NCOs.
Personnel who elect to RTU, or are involuntarily RTUd will regain their previous rank, plus appropriate seniority.
Officer candidates are required to hold at least the rank of Lieutenant (Royal Navy), Captain (Army and Royal Marines) or Flight Lieutenant (RAF) and do not revert, they are however required to return to the parent unit on completion of their first three year tour. Officers are permitted to return to the Regiment and may become permanent cadre after a second tour.
After completing selection SBS candidates transfer to the SBS headquarters at Royal Marines Poole to undergo further selection.
Special Boat Service Selection
SBS Candidates do not wear the sand-coloured beret, instead retaining the green beret of a Commando. Further selection activities are undertaken at Poole, including diving, small boat operations, beach and shallow water reconnaissance.
Special Reconnaissance Regiment Selection
The hill phase of selection is the same for SRR personnel except the test ends after the first two weeks of the 4 week selection process. A further two weeks SRR aptitude is conducted (NFDK). On completion of the selection aptitude there is a considerable amount of training geared towards undercover operations both within the UK and abroad.
Special Forces Communicator Selection
Personnel from any arm of the services (primarily Royal Corps of Signals and Royal Marines) who volunteer for 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment are employed alongside other Special Forces soldiers and are required to undergo a selection process.
Following selection personnel will undertake training according to operational need and their specific area of employment:
- First Aid, to a high level, including attachment to busy hospitals, including a week in a mortuary.
- Signals and communications
- Sniping - Special Forces snipers are trained by the Royal Marines at CTCRM (Commando Training Centre Royal Marines)
- Vehicle Operating Skills - off-road, for cross-country insertion and patrolling, and also on-road evasive or pursuit driving as part of the close protection role
- Counter Revolutionary Warfare Training
- Explosive Method of Entry (EMOE)
- Close protection techniques
- Forward air control (FAC)
- British Army
- Royal Navy
- Australian Army
- New Zealand Army
- "JOINT WARFARE PUBLICATION 3-66 JOINT PERSONNEL RECOVERY.". "Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Extraction. SERE is an inclusive term (of US origin) that has recently superseded phrases previously used such as Escape and Evasion and Conduct After Capture. It encompasses all practical and theoretical measures required to prepare personnel for isolation, captivity and recovery."