Monday, 16 November 2009
Many of you will have heard of the Special Air Service, probably from your television screens in 1981, when units of the Regiment freed hostages from the Iranian Embassy in London.
The event was televised worldwide, much to the chagrin of the Regiment.
This unit, never comprising more than 500 men, has since it's inception wished to remain in the shadows.
Founded in North Africa by Major David Stirling, it has a history of causing significant damage wherever it operates, using the minimum number of men to cause the maximum carnage.
It works to eliminate problems that conventional military operations struggle to do.
Typically working in teams of four these men will be tasked with surveillance, sabotage, hostage recovery, counter insurgency and assassination.
SAS selection is one of the hardest processes that a member of the British Armed Forces can go through, since you have to be a member of an existing unit even to apply.
Unlike American Special Forces, where upper body strength is important, with the Regiment, the focus is on endurance.
The SAS is also looking for intelligence, an ability to learn languages and initiative.
Conventional military skills are an expected given, but you will also learn how to withstand torture, live off the land and work with native peoples.
The Regiment as it is commonly called in the British Army, has seen action in North Africa, France, Italy, Germany, Borneo, Malaya, Oman, Northern Ireland, Falklands, Colombia, Iraq, Afghanistan and places the Ministry of Defence do not want us to know about.
During a coup in the West African Republic of The Gambia, in the 1980's, the deposed President asked for British help.
He was sent a Major and Sergeant from 22 SAS, who with the aid of Senegalise Paratroopers, ousted the insurgents within a week.
Today this unit operates in Afghanistan, often behind enemy lines, in a surveillance role, calling in strikes on targets manned by the Taliban.
At least one man in each unit will be fluent in the local language and another will be a medic who will help local people.
Tonight, when you lie in bed, think about these highly trained soldiers who risk their lives while we sleep, they are discreet in what they do and their deeds are invariably not publicised for many years after the event.
Their Regimental motto is ' Who Dares Wins '.