If one day, for some reason, you were asked by a complete stranger to name one special forces group, we can bet a large amount of money that you’d name the SAS (Special Air Service) almost instinctively. It is a group that is well-known and rightly-feared throughout most of the world for not only being equipped with some of the best military technology that ever existed, but also for the tendency of each of their members to be nothing less than indestructible, cunning, unrelenting killing machines with the tenacity of a cruise missile and the sniping abilities of, well, the SAS. In short, they’re all Iron Man.
For the purposes of comparison, the rest us are the Iron Giant
However, as much it might pain us to say, some of these traits may have something to do with the insane training regime that each potential inductee to this group must go through, and aren’t results of each man being a mortal incarnation of the most badass Viking Gods. One such technique known as SERE, or ‘Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Extract’, is used for the purposes of providing recruits with the real-life experience of surviving unassisted in an outdoor environment with no food, weapons, and only the basic supplies of a compass and a sketched map, whilst simultaneously being tracked by a ‘hostile’ hunter force armed with modern equipment and attack dogs.
Firstly, they make each man do this entire exercise in clothes that even the most determined homeless man would turn down, including a Victorian-style greatcoat held together by a piece of string, a pair of oversized clown-esque trousers, and a pair of boots tied together only with string.
Rejected SAS SERE Training Uniform #259
Also, remember how we said about this being an exercise in survival and evasion? Well, that’s a massive oversimplification of the situation because, as well as eluding the hunting party for a period of a week, the recruits also have to make their way towards a specific location (or objective) within that timeframe. Here’s the kicker though: even if, miraculously, they somehow manage to survive this ordeal and manage to get to the objective, they still get taken away to the next aspect of the exercise: resisting interrogation. If you don’t think that could possibly get any worse, consider this: the earlier they get captured during this exercise, the longer they have to endure that for.
The key to this whole thing is realism: the process is meant to simulate what would potentially happen to an SAS man after being captured by a very pissed off group of enemies who may have just had their arms caches and headquarters blown up by you and your pals. So, after being captured, the prisoners are handcuffed, have a bag placed over their head, and are thrown in the back of a lorry which will take them to a simulated detention centre. Upon arriving here, the men are strung up from the ceiling, have buckets of cold water thrown over them, and are left there for a couple of hours with nothing to entertain them but endless piped-in white noise.
Alongside the relatively tame methods of food and sleep deprivation, being British, the SAS have also devised some quintessentially…how do we put this…bastardish methods of harassing each soldier. It isn’t unknown for recruits to be locked inside a claustrophobia-inducing dog kennel with a roof made of corrugated iron, and made to endure the resulting noise from the guards beating it with chains. Oh, and then there’s the old method of making someone listen in on a colleague being beaten viciously during the course of an ‘interrogation’ (complete with faux vomiting noises), whilst in actual fact, it’s only really a mattress being kicked around by a couple of instructors making gagging noises.
During a separate period of this course presumably named the ‘Shits and Giggles’ stage, the instructors will also handcuff a recruit to a set of railway lines and (unbeknownst to the recruit) send a train running down the same line. On hearing the train, the unfortunate guy will then start to panic; some men handle it quite well by positioning themselves so that the train will (hypothetically) cut the handcuffs, whilst some accidentally assume a position which would have resulted in their deaths should a train have actually come down the tracks. Which it didn’t, thanks a series of points a couple of meters up the tracks from the unfortunate’s head. They aren’t that evil.
To make matters much worse, the poor bastards can’t even alleviate the pressure during this process by calling the guys doing this a variety of rude names either, seeing as doing this in a real-life POW situation would most likely result in their deaths.