AIRDATE: Monday 19th October at 9pm on Channel 4
Episode 1 of 5
Selection for the SAS is the world’s toughest job interview – and the truth about what it takes might surprise you. Physical fitness is no more than a basic requirement; what’s really being tested is psychological resilience and character, through sleep deprivation, interrogation and a series of ever more complex mind games. Coming first in the race isn’t always the way to win – and Alpha Males are definitely not welcome.
The MoD has said it will never allow Selection to be filmed. But in SAS: Who Dares Wins, a group of ex-Special Forces soldiers recreate the selection process they themselves passed and put 30 civilian men through it. The criteria for entry are the same as the SAS’ own, every test is taken from real selection, and it’s shot using fixed-rig technology for minimal interference and maximum authenticity. At root, it’s a series about what men are made of when stripped back to their essential core: extreme analysis, SAS style.
In the first episode the 30 recruits arrive at the isolated barracks in Wales and are introduced to the directing staff (DS) Foxy, Ollie and Colin, all operating under the watchful eye of Chief Instructor Ant. This is an elite team: four ex-Special Forces men with years of military and Special Forces experience, including dozens of tours of Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Sierra Leone. They have all experienced, at first hand, the strength, mental resilience and raw determination needed to pass Selection.
The first task is an unexpected one: the recruits are told to write an essay about themselves. Once they’ve done it, they’re immediately off on an 8 mile combat fitness test. One hour in and paramedics have to be called for 19 year old recruit Callam who is struggling with the pace and the agony of the weighted rucksacks. Callam is on the course with his father Phil. Much to Phil’s disappointment, who saw this as a chance to bond with his son, Callam is quickly pulled off the course when Chief Instructor Ant realises he is simply not up to it.
With the men out on test, their essays are dissected back at the barracks by Colin and Foxy. They’ve done some digging of their own by going through open source information on the recruits from the net, unearthing some embarrassing and revealing truths. As the Special Forces team start to scrutinise their character, the recruits are hauled in for further interrogation. By starting to put together a picture of the psychological make-up of their recruits, they can start to answer the all-important question of selection: “Would I want this man alongside me in a crisis?”
Day 2 of the course sees the recruits tackle a 21.5km circuit of Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons. The recruits are only allowed to turn around and go back if they make it to the halfway mark in good time. Every move they make is under the constant judgement of the DS who already think they have a good idea of who won’t be able to hack the pace, whose ego is going to get in the way of their success and who might have the mental grit required to carry on.
At the end of the day, the men are offered the opportunity to withdraw from the course. After just 48 hours, how many will hit their breaking point, hand back their armbands and leave the barracks for good?
A Minnow Films production for Channel 4
Narrated by Shaun Dooley
Executive Producer– Colin Barr
Series PD – Dominique Foster
Senior PD – Alex Kiehl