All those wishing to join UKSF (SBS or SAS) must pass a joint selection process. Depending on their chosen career path, on passing joint selection they will move on to further selection and training with their chosen unit. Candidates only get 2 shots at passing selection. Failure is common, and results in a return to unit (RTU). UKSF selection has a 90% failure rate.
To be eligible for selection, a candidate must be male, and must have have served in the military for at least 18 months and have 3 years left to serve.
Stage 1 – Special Forces Briefing Course (2 days)
Candidates are shown what to expect as a special forces soldier with a series of lectures and tests. Basic skills such as swimming, map reading and basic fitness are tested.
Stage 2 – Endurance (4 weeks)
Kicking off endurance is a Battle Fitness Test which weeds out anyone without a basic level of fitness.
Designed to test fitness and determination, the first 3 weeks of selection take place amongst the barren hills of the Brecon Beacons in Wales. A series of timed marches is undertaken. Wearing heavy bergens, candidates must navigate themselves over the steep hills along a series of way points. Endurance not only tests stamina, but also the ability to keep going whilst suffering inevitable blisters, cramps and the tender affections of the frequently harsh climate. Over the 3 weeks, the marches get progressively longer, and the bergens get heavier. THe climax of this phase is known as ‘the long drag’ – a 40 km march that must be completed in less that 20 hours.
Stage 3 – Initial Continuation Training (4 weeks)
Basic SF skills of weapon handling, patrolling and demolitions are taught. Candidates who can’t absorb and apply these skills are RTU’d.
Stage 4 – Jungle Training
In the heart of thick rainforests in Belize, UKSF jungle training pushes the candidates to their limits of endurance. The particular skills needed to meet the demands of navigating, patrolling, fighting and surviving in dense jungle are taught and practiced. A series of exercises tests the student’s ability to apply what they have learned.
Stage 5 – Combat Survival (4 weeks)
Combat survival features a series of lectures on escape and evasion techniques, followed by exercises in which the candidates are hunted down and captured by other troops (often Royal Marines or Paras). Once captured, students are subjected to intense interrogation. Whilst waiting for tactical questioning (TQ), candidates are placed in stress positions, deprived of food and water and sleep and subjected to white noise. They are then interrogated and must only give their name, serial number, date of birth and rank. All other questions must be answered with a stock reply : ‘I cannot answer that question’.
After Joint Selection
The few that make it through the 1st 5 stages of selection SAS candidates are given their beige beret and then assigned a squadron and troop. SBS candidates go onto more selection which tests their ability in the water.
Swimmer canoeist (SC3) training course
The SC3 course involves training in diving in all conditions, canoeing (often over long distances), underwater demolitions, beach reconnaissance and surveying techniques. Any man that has reached this stage of selection is technically in the SBS but is considered under probation and subject to being RTU’d if he fails to measure up.
Even though the SBS is now tri-service, it is still manned by a majority of Royal Marines. Joining the Royal Marines is probably the best 1st step towards joining the Special Boat Service. If you are considering a career in the Marines, you can get invaluable advice and information on passing the selection process by purchasing an affordable CD-ROM by clicking the banner below.