At the formation of the Regiment personnel earned their place through service on operations. In 1952 Major Woodhouse introduced what has come to be known as ‘Selection’ or the ‘Selection Course’.
It is alleged that selection is one of the most demanding military training courses in the world, with a reported pass rate of less than 10%. Selection is a test of strength, endurance, and determination over a six month period.
Selections are held twice a year regardless of weather conditions. A candidate must be male, not to have exceeded the age of 32 years. He must have been a regular member of the Armed Forces for at least a three year period. Candidates are allowed only two attempts at selection
Candidates are allowed only two attempts at selection, after which they may never reapply and some are not even allowed a second chance.
The selection phase has three main sections:
● Physical endurance
● Survival and evading capture.
The physical endurance phase is the phase with the most difficult tests. It is also the phase in which most candidates are eliminated due to the complicatedness of the tests. The Brecon Beacons in Whales is used by the SAS to carry out this physical endurance test. Over the period of four weeks, candidates will perform long runs and hikes that progressively get longer. Weights are carried in the process to make it more difficult. The final stage of this phase of selection is known as “Test Week.” It concludes with an “Endurance” test of a forty mile march across the Brecon Beacons that must be completed in less than twenty hours with a load in excess of fifty-five pounds plus water, food and rifle.
The combat phase is held in the jungles of Brunei or Malaysia. This is where the successful candidates will learn to use weapons and tactics to outsmart and outfox enemy forces. The SAS, unlike most regiments, uses live ammunition on their combat phase. This is because they are trained to fight while considering friendly positions from the start, so that they can carry this straight on to the battlefield: ‘You only get one chance’.
If candidates have managed to pass through the combat phase, they then go through survival, escape and evasion training. In this phase candidates undergo a survival trial in the jungle, in which they only have a small ‘survival kit’. They must survive for a week while evading a hunter force. This is a particularly hard phase because the hunter force is accustomed to the ground and are given rewards, such as increased leave, if they capture a candidate. After this week, the candidates must give themselves up at an agreed meeting point. They will then be taken back to the enemy HQ and interrogated. This interrogation phase will make or break their career as they must undergo physical and mental torture as well as aggressive interrogation. The SAS will accept roughly 2-7% of the soldiers who started selection.
Personnel completing selection are placed on probation for 12 months and undergo specialist and continuation training appropriate to their employing Troop or more general training such as languages or first aid. This training will include mountain, jungle, desert, urban and counter-terrorism specialist courses.