This is the first post of this section and I’m so excited! First of all, I have never been in the military but I respect anyone who is active duty or is separated military. I have always been awed by regular military; you know those gun-hoe GI Joe types who rush into a room filled with hostiles and blow the ever living crap out of everything? Movies like Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), Commando (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Navy SEALS (Charlie Sheen), Delta Force (Chuck Norris) and Heatbreak Ridge (Clint Eastwood) come to mind.
It was only during recent years that I have actually started reading books about Special Forces and have personally met members of some of America’s elite Special Forces units that I have gained an absolute amazing respect for these men. I say “men” because, as of yet in America, women are not allowed to enter into a Special Forces unit. See my post: “Women in the Military: Should GI Jane Become a Reality?” to get a better picture of what I mean.
In the ensuing posts, I will give a profile of Special Forces groups throughout the world, describe their history and list a bunch of mind-blowing stuff they’ve done.
If you don’t know yet, Special Forces and Special Operations Forces are military components who are specially trained, drilled and educated to carry out un-traditional operations 1. Special Forces began in the early part of the 1900s, with a large expansion during WWII. This was a time when “every major army involved in the fighting” fashioned elite units who were loyal to special operations behind enemy lines.
Varying by country, Special Forces may execute some of these wicked, bad-to-the-bone ops: airborne missions, counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism, foreign interior resistance, clandestine operations, targeted warfare, hostage recovery, high-value targets/man-hunting, surveillance/reconnaissance missions, mobility ops and untraditional combat.
Be ready to be educated and blown away by what you’re about to read…
SAS stands for “Special Air Service”. These three initials go hand-in-hand with maximum brute hardness, unrelenting resilience, calm fortitude and, on when the moment strikes, tremendous aggression 45. Also known as “The Regiment”, these guys are a Special Forces unit of the British Army. Just think of the US Navy SEALS. But instead of saying, “The only easy day was yesterday,” these blokes say, “Who dares wins!”…only in a hardcore, Captain Price from Call of Duty accent! These guys can parachute from the sky at 35,000 feet at zero dark thirty into a sub zero arctic ocean 5 miles from shore. Then they will find bad guys in their sleep and slit their throats, gather intel, interrogate insurgents and beat the ever living crap out of anyone who threatens them. Then they will silently swim away, leaving no trace.
Remember, these blokes are from the UK, where they use more refined English words. So don’t interrupt their afternoon tea before they “spring” (rescue) hostages and “slot” (kill) the bad guys as per orders from their “ruperts” (officers). The SAS is one of the most ruthless, hard-line Special Ops teams in the word, according to Marcus Lutrell, a former Navy SEAL. You might remember him from the movie “Lone Survivor” 46. Their preferred method is to slip in, do the job and slip out again 45. They are one of the first modern-day Special Ops teams and many international SF groups have fashioned their tactics, training and methods after the legionary SAS. When the Regiment establishes a plan of action, they don’t completely rely on it because if the circumstances are modified – there must be room for adaptability. They never place themselves in an environment where they don’t have an escape route. At the core of their training, they always want to be able to fight or run. If they are cornered, they have no choice but to fight 45.
The first time I heard about these guys was when I played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. As unrealistic as it is for a normal chap like me to jump from a sinking freighter onto a helo hovering over the frozen Baffin Bay, that’s just a normal day at the office for these lads.
The SAS was founded in 1941 as a company and later on, they were rebuilt as a corps in 1950 2. The Regiment takes part in several operations that encompass clandestine recon, counter-terrorism, targeted warfare, hostage recovery and human intel collecting 3, 4.
The Regiment’s intel collecting and what they call the “hearts and minds” campaign with the local natives has protected countless lives during missions that were successful without any shots fired. The SAS stretches its realm of protection by utilizing troops to audit, monitor and collect intel. When operating outside the UK, the Regiment recruits the assistance of the local native people, donating medicinal care and help with tasks that are profitable to them. In return, the locals offer guidance about native food and medicinal plants, and intelligence about the activities of enemy forces. This successful hearts and minds method is a much more prosperous and effective way of handling a hostile incident instead of going in guns blazing and instituting your will on a local population 45.
The SAS also pioneered the techniques of modern-day advanced VIP protection 45. They are equivalent to the US Army DELTA force, Israel’s Yamam and Sayeret Matkal or the French GIGN.
“One of the reasons why SAS men are so effective in so many different situations is that we apply the lessons learned in training not just in combat but to our entire lives. Continuous self-criticism is a way of life in the Regiment. We’re always looking for ways to improve our performance, and in planning for any mission we attempt to cover every conceivable eventuality. It’s meticulous, exhaustive and often unconventional, but gives us the best possible chance to second-guess our opponents. Many of the lessons SAS soldiers learn in training are lessons that can be applied outside the military environment, particularly awareness. The SAS soldier is always aware of his surroundings. He is constantly switched on, paying attention to what’s going on around him and what the likely dangers are 45.”
- Pete “The Joker” Scholey – 20 year SAS veteran
Today, the SAS is made up of three components:
- The 22nd Special Air Service Regiment
- The active duty gents
- Under the functional command of United Kingdom Special Forces
- The 21st (Artist Rifles) Special Air Service Regiment
- These are the reserve SAS chaps
- The 23rd Special Air Service Regiment
- Also a reserve unit
- Unlike the first 2 SAS units, this regiment accepts regular men without any prior military experience
- The two reserve units fall under the operational command of 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade 5.
History – WWII through the Malayan Emergency
The SAS Regiment can trace its roots to early WWII when a 6′ 6″ Scotsman named David Stirling created a special service team named the “L Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade”. This name was intentionally selected to be deceptive so the Axis forces (the bad guys in Europe) would think they were actually a paratrooper unit in North Africa. The groundwork of this element began on July 1, 1941 and is believed to be the establishment for the original SAS Regiment (even though it dissolved at the war’s end) 6.
The L Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade was formed as a special military
detachment that functioned behind the Axis military lines in North Africa. The SAS’s first mission was Operation Crusader late in 1941 in Egypt and Libya. However, about one third of the first unit was killed or apprehended by the Germans. Several months later, they tried for their second mission, which was a total success. With the supportive strength of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG – formed to carry out deep penetration and long range recon missions), both units completed an assault on Axis airfields in Libya where many German airplanes were wiped out. Stirling and his SAS daredevils and Bagnold with his far reaching LRDG renegades fought the Nazis in this battle without losing a single life 6.
In September 1942, the L Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade was renamed as the 1st SAS Regiment which was also made up of the Special Boat Section (SBS). The SBS practiced in different areas than the regular SAS and possessed special equipment to conduct ops in the sea-going, amphibious and riverine habitats. The 1st SAS Regiment was also made up of two foreign squadrons: one Greek squadron ( Ιερός Λόχος – The Sacred Band or Sacred Squadron) and one Free French squadron (a division of free French soldiers who fought along-side the SAS).
The newly formed SAS extended their maneuvers in North Africa but also executed a number of operations in Greece. In January 1943, the creator and leader of the SAS, David Stirling was taken prisoner by the Germans in Libya. Even though he managed to escape, he was again re-captured by the Italians, who took great pleasure in the humiliation this caused to their German comrades. Four additional escape efforts were made before Stirling was finally sent to Colditz Castle in Germany. He ended up staying in captivity for the remainder of WWII in Germany.
In the 15 months from the founding of the SAS, they had eliminated over 250 grounded enemy aircraft, hundreds of vehicles and a large number of stored provisions. Robert Blair “Paddy” Mayne was then chosen as the new leader for the 1st SAS. Mayne was an Irish rugby player who’s sporting career was cut short with the beginning of WWII. William Stirling, David Stirling’s brother, was put in command of the 2nd SAS Regiment in Algeria 7.
Under new command, the SAS was re-structured into the Special Raiding Squadron. Mayne’s unit usually operated in Sicily and mainland Italy along-side the 2nd SAS with William Stirling. The Special Boat Squadron (SBS) was used for operations in Dodecanese (a group of Greek islands) and the Aegean Islands. In 1944, the 1st and 2nd SAS, the Belgian 5th SAS and the French 3rd and 4th SAS were joined into the British SAS Brigade which conducted operations behind Axis lines in France and executed supportive missions during the Allied press into Germany 6.
At the end of WWII, the British Government had no further need for the SAS. It was formally dissolved on October 8, 1945 8. In 1946, the British leadership realized there was a need for a permanent extensive long-reaching Special Forces division. A new SAS regiment was then formed as part of the Territorial Army 8. Eventually, the Artists Rifles, a light reserve voluntary unit that was founded in 1860, adopted the SAS role as 21st SAS Regiment (V) on January 1, 1947 8.
In 1950, a 21st SAS squadron was activated to take part in the Korean War. After they trained in England for three months, they were informed they were no longer needed in Korea. Any normal person would have given up and gone home but not these guys! They heard about the Malayan Emergency and went to fight over there instead 9. The Malayan Emergency was a Civil war fought in modern day Malaysia with the British supported Malaysian government against the Malaysian Communist Party from 1948-1960. Upon arrival in Malaya, Mike Calvert assumed command of the 21st. Calvert was busy gathering a new team called the Malayan Scouts (SAS) 9. He was successful in organizing one squadron from 100 volunteers in the Far East who became “A Squadron”. The 21st SAS squadron subsequently became the “B Squadron”. After a visit to Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe, Africa), Calvert created a “C Squadron” from 1,000 Rhodesian volunteers 8. The Rhodesian squadron served for three years before they returned home. The “C Squadron” was then replaced by a New Zealand squadron 8.
At this time, the 22nd SAS Regiment was formally included in the army list in 1952 after the British government recognized a need for a regular army Special Forces unit. It has been headquartered in Hereford since 1960 8. In 1959 the 23rd SAS Regiment was created by renaming a Reserve Recon Unit, which had replaced the MI-9 division and were specialists in escape and evasion 8.
Famous Modern-Day SAS Missions
As with most Special Forces groups across the globe, the SAS is very secretive about their missions. The following is an account of some of their well-known operations throughout the world. I’m positive that these are only a fraction of the operations they’ve been involved in and there are most likely many others that will never be heard of and many heroes who will never be recognized.
Since the Malayan Emergency, operatives from the 22nd SAS Regiment have been involved in secretive recon and surveillance missions as small units and even some extensive assault operations. Their first call to arms was in Borneo, an island in Southeast Asia 10. The 22nd was mainly sent to provide a defensive effort for the Malayans. A second operation the SAS took part in was against resistance fighters in the Battle of Mirbat in the Oman 10. SAS commandos were sent to strengthen the counterinsurgency operation after a coup took place. They have also been called up for operations in the Aden Emergency in Yemen, the uprising in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s and in Gambia, Africa 10. Their Special projects team was on standby during the West German counter-terrorism group GSG 9 during operation Feuerzauber when Lufthansa Flight 181 was hijacked by Islamist terrorists in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1977 10.
One of the most well-known operations was the when the SAS assisted in a hostage rescue mission during the Iranian Embassy Siege in London in 1980 10. SAS teams Red and Blue started synchronized operations under the name Operation Nimrod. In the aftermath, the terrorists murdered one hostage and wounded two others. However, the SAS was successful in killing all but one terrorist 14.
During the Falklands War in the south Atlantic near South America in 1982, the SAS geared
up for Operation Mikado 10. They were successful in taking part in nighttime operations against the Argentine Army and destroying many aircraft and vehicles. At one time, Argentina launched a man-hunt mission to look for an SAS recon team who had penetrated deep into their country to prepare for a mobile marine invasion. Once the commandos heard about the pursuit, they made it across to the Chilean border and were able to secure a civilian flight back to the UK. The war resulted in England winning back the Falklands Islands 15.
In the mid-1990s, the 22nd SAS guided NATO war-planes onto Serbian locations and pursued war criminals in Bosnia 11, 12. They also took part in the Kosovo War, assisting Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerillas behind Serbian lines. According to Albanian sources one SAS sergeant was killed by Serbian Special Forces 13.
During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, SAS squadrons A, B and D were activated. This was the largest SAS deployment since WWII. The most notable mission during this time involved Bravo Two Zero, the call-sign for an 8 man SAS team 10. There is a movie by the same name starring Sean Bean about this mission that you should totally check out! Bravo Two Zero was tasked with collecting intel, locating a lying-up position (LUP) and preparing an observation post (OP) in north-western Iraq 16. Although, another source states that Bravo Two Zero was to locate and destroy Iraqi Scud missile launchers 17. Their mission was compromised when they encountered several Iraqi civilians. This scenario was very similar to Navy SEAL Operation Redwing that took place in Afghanistan in June 2007. A four man SEAL recon team was ambushed and only one made it out alive. “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Lutrell is a book about the event and a movie by the same name starring Mark
Wahlberg was released a few years ago. Thank God, Bravo Two Zero ended on a different note than Operation Redwing did. After they were discovered, the SAS operators attempted to escape but they were overrun by Iraqi military. In the aftermath, 2 died of hypothermia, 1 was killed during a fire-fight, 4 were captured and later released and 1 (Corporal Chris Ryan) evaded capture and escaped to Syria. Ryan became an SAS legend with the “longest escape and evasion by an SAS trooper or any other soldier”, to make it to Syria. He made it through 180 miles of harsh Iraqi desert wasteland. This beat the previous record set by SAS trooper Jack Sillito, where he took a 140 mile jaunt through in the Sahara in 1942 16.
In Sierra Leone, the SAS participated in Operation Barras, a hostage retrieval mission, to rescue members of the Royal Irish Regiment 10. In recent years during the Iraq War, the SAS built a division of Task Force Black and Task Force Knight. Squadron A of the 22nd SAS was recommended for extraordinary acts of service by General Stanley McChrystal, the American commander of NATO forces. In a span of six months, SAS operators completed 175 combat missions 18.
In 2006, the SAS took part in a mission to free 3 peace activists who were hostages in Iraq for 118 days during the Christian Peacemaker hostage crisis 19. The SAS 21st and 23rd Regiments also deployed to Afghanistan for missions to take out Taliban fighters 20, 21.
Some British newspapers have theorized that the SAS participated in Operation Ellamy and the Libyan civil war in 2011 where Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and later killed. The Daily Telegraph revealed that “defense sources have confirmed that the SAS has been in Libya for several weeks and played a key role in coordinating the fall of Tripoli.” 22 While the Guardian reports “They have been acting as forward air controllers – directing pilots to targets – and communicating with NATO operational commanders. T hey have also been advising rebels on tactics.” 23
Operators from the SAS were activated to Northern Iraq in late August 2014 and (claimed
by former MI-6 chief Richard Barrett) are also responsible for hunting down the ISIS terrorists 24, 25, 26, 27. In October 2014, the SAS carried out operations that targeted ISIS supply routes in western Iraq. They also used helicopters to carry light vehicles that took sniper squads on various operations. It is possible that the SAS has taken out almost eight ISIS fighters every day since the operations started 28.
Inside the SAS
As with most Special Forces, the SAS is shrouded in secrecy and when it comes to inside information, there is no viable data. It is however known how they are organized:
- Amphibious troop– formerly known as the “Boat Troop”, they are specialists in maritime insertion techniques. This encompasses using SCUBA gear and even surf-boards to swim ashore. The Amphibious Troop also uses kayaks (canoes) and rigid-hulled inflatable boats. In recent years, they have trained with the Special Boat Service (SBS), the UK’s equivalent to the US Navy SEALs and have even participated in joint-missions 29, 45.
- Air troop– formerly known as the “Free-fall Troop”, every SAS trooper must be
parachute trained. The Air Troop are specialists who move beyond normal parachuting and are experts in free fall parachuting, High Altitude-Low Opening (HALO) and High Altitude-High Opening (HAHO) methods 29, 45. In a HAHO jump, a soldier can coast nearly 20 miles to their targeted landing spot. The Air Troop also
uses non-conventional methods like micro-light aircraft (kind of like a motorized hand-glider) and power-kites (a parachute shaped kite that pulls the user along on skiis or water crafts at a fast pace). The Air Troops attached to every squadron are known as the “Prima Donnas”. Being an Air Trooper is usually a solo mission. They will parachute ahead of the main SAS troops to secure a safe landing zone (LZ) 45.
Mobility troop– these troopers are usually called the “Land Rover Troop”. They function using a number of vehicles, the best known being the SAS “Pink Panther” or “Pinkie”. During WWII, the desert sand would settle on vehicles, turning them a light pink color. The other Land Rovers were then painted in similar color in order to camouflage them. Other vehicles the Mobility Troops utilize are the KTM 350 and Honda 250 dirt bikes. However, the Honda 250 is the much more preferred because of it’s quite motor. Training for the Mobility Troop takes several weeks with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Mobility troopers learn fundamental skills in mechanics and cross country conditions 45.
- Mountain troop– specially trained in Arctic combat and survival, using unique equipment such as skis, snowshoes and mountain climbing methods 29. Most Mountain troopers are educated in Europe, mostly the German Alpine Guides course in Bavaria. The SAS usually chooses two Mountain Troop operators to attend a 12 month training course – six months on skiing and six months on alpinism. One of the squadrons also attend the annual NATO winter exercise in Norway 45.
Special Projects Team
The Special Projects Team is the formal title for the Special Air Service anti–hijacking counter–terrorism team 30. These hardcore blokes are experienced in Close Quarter Battle (CQB) and sniper methods and are experts in hostage rescue in buildings or on public transport 29. The Special Projects Team was founded in the early 1970s after Prime Minister Edward Heath solicited the Ministry of Defense to get ready for a potential terrorist attack. Many countries were on high alert after the slaughter of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics. Soon afterwards, the SAS Counter Revolutionary Warfare (CRW) was started 31.
Once the unit was initiated, every SAS squadron circulated on regular intervals in counter–terrorist training that encompassed hostage rescue, blockade assault and live firing training. One source has stated that in the course of CRW exercises, each SAS operator expends as many as 100,000 rounds of ammo! Typically SAS squadrons are required to update their skills every 16 months.
The CRW was first tested during the Balcombe Street Siege in Ireland. In December 1975, members of the Provincial Irish Republican Army (IRA) took hostages into an apartment building. The standoff lasted for six hours and the Metro Police had the IRA trapped. As soon as the terrorists heard the SAS was going to be sent in, they immediately surrendered and released of all hostages unharmed 31! Smart move, I’d say!
The CRW also helped out with the West German counter-terrorism group GSG 9 in Mogadishu, Somalia 10 and the 1980 hostage crisis at the Iranian Embassy in London 30.
How do I Join?
The selection, recruitment and training process for the British SAS is intensely difficult and only the best survive. SAS selection doesn’t only involve pushing the physical barriers but also challenging one’s capacity between the ears. It is a 5 month long training process with a 92% drop-out rate.
The gents who are a part of the 22nd SAS Regiment are chosen from the UK military so you can’t be a civilian if you want to join these blokes. However, you can join the 21st or the 23rd SAS Regiments directly as a civilian. You must be a healthy gent (a member of the male gender) from ages 18-32. Although women are allowed into the regular British armed forces, they are exempt from applying to the British Special Air Service or other Special Forces units. However, this might be changing in the near future 32.
If you haven’t heard already, as an experiment, eight women entered the US Ranger Indoctrination School in 2015. After 6 dropped out, Captain Kristen Griest and 1st Lieutenant Shaye Haver actually passed! Although they weren’t allowed to actually enter a combat unit, they proudly possessed the coveted Ranger Tab 33.
SAS selection occurs two times annually in the summer and winter in Sennybridge in Brecon Beacons. Strange names, I know. Just think what the British think of what we call some of our towns: Natchitoches and Waxahachie! Anyways, around 200 applicants endure a five-week recruitment time period that entails Personal Fitness Test, Combat Fitness Test and Hill Phase. This is capped off with the “Exercise High Walk” or better known as the famous “Fan Dance”.
The Fan Dance is a 24K (14.9 mile) trek with full gear straight up the 886 meter (2,907 foot) “Pen Y Fan” (the highest peak in South Wales and it holds the record for the strangest name for a hill in all of the UK!). They don’t stop there though. After the Fan Dance, SAS candidates have to run 4 miles in 30 minutes and swim two miles in 90 minutes then complete the jungle phase, combat survival exercises including escape and evasion and resistance to interrogation that lasts for 36 hours.
“As a professional soldier, going on to Continuation Training with the Regiment was, for me, a huge opportunity to improve my skills and learn many more new ones. It was equivalent of attending the finest university, with the additional bonus of studying in North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Arctic, Africa and the Middle and Far East. Along the way I acquired a variety of specialist skills. We constantly trained for war, but as well as learning how to take life, the SAS also trained me to preserve it. I learned to work as a paramedic, capable of treating my own or my comrades’ wounds – gunshots, blast injuries and fractures – and acquired a working knowledge of disease and tropical medicine 45.”
- Pete “The Joker” Scholey – 20 year SAS veteran
The selection process for the 21st and 23rd SAS regiments is far less severe, however, the candidates have to meet rigorous demands to wear one of the two reserve badges.
The following is a list of famous SAS gents who, despite overwhelming odds and experiencing immense danger, still accomplished some amazing feats. Some surprisingly made it out alive but others paid the ultimate price for their country and their mates. Let’s also take some time here to honor the unknown SAS operators who didn’t make it and whose stories will never be written…
“To understand the SAS, you first have to separate the realities of the Regiment from the myths. SAS soldiers are not supermen, they are not all budding James Bonds or Rambos and they are not infallible. So much nonsense has been generated around the SAS name in books, on TV and even in computer games, that it is worth remembering that SAS soldiers are just that – soldiers. But these are no ordinary soldiers. Whatever the myths and legends, one fact is not in dispute: the SAS is certainly the foremost military unit in the world, the elite of the elite, respected and feared in equal measure 45.”
- Pete “The Joker”Scholey
Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba (1942-1972) – The Battle of Mirbat, Oman
Born in 1942 as a native of Fiji, Labalaba served in the Royal Irish Rangers and was in the B Squadron of the 22nd SAS unit during the Battle of Mirbat in July 19, 1972. Sgt. Labalaba’s heroic act occurred when he continued to hold his position and fire his 25 pounder gun at rebel forces, although he was seriously injured from a bullet wound in the jaw. Cpt. Mike Kealy and other SAS troops arrived to assist, however they were soon killed. Labalaba’s brave actions kept the insurgents occupied so Strikemaster fighter jets could drop their ordinance and reinforcements from the SOAF (Sultan of Oman Air Force) could arrive. If it wasn’t for Labalaba’s valor, the battle would have certainly been lost. Sgt. Labalaba lost his life at the end of the battle and was posthumously “mentioned in dispatches”. This means that his name was placed in an official report written by a superior officer and was sent to the high command. In the dispatch, it described Sgt. Labalaba’s courageous or estimable action in the face of the enemy. Now if I was a witness to this battle, this “mentioned in dispatches” would be a great dishonor to this brave Fijian SAS operator. Although his mates pushed for him to receive the Victoria Cross (the UK’s equivalent to the Medal of Honor), it was denied 37.
8 SAS Operators (2016) – War on ISIS, Syria
This is an example of extreme awesomeness and just pure, gutsy courage. In early 2016, an eight man elite SAS team dressed up in burkas and eliminated multiple ISIS terrorists right inside their home town. The SAS gents disguised themselves as wives of ISIS leaders, fully covered in a traditional Muslim black robe (called a “burka” or a “burqa”) worn by many female Muslims. They were delivered through town in a black Toyota pick-up by local Syrians who were working for the British Secret Service. The SAS operators even hid their rifles and some grenades inside their burkas in case they encountered any resistance. Upon arrival to the ISIS leader’s house, they relayed their position to a US AWACs spy-plane that was circling high above, unseen from the ground. The AWACs then informed the pilot of a US Reaper drone of the location. Moments later, a Hellfire missile was launched towards the unsuspecting ISIS hideout which was instantly obliterated, killing all ISIS leaders and fighters inside.
Several nearby ISIS terrorists were alerted when the explosion went off. They turned a corner, expecting a full-on fight. However, they were met by eight burka wearing women who instantly threw up their robes and became fierce hard-core SAS gents. Needless to say, none of those ISIS terrorists survived. A deadly gunfight continued and the SAS troopers made their way back to the vehicles they had arrived in. Later on, in local news, it was stated that the “infidels” sent women to fight for them. That’s just the type of thing they are best at. Twisting the truth to cover up the fact that they got their butts kicked by hardcore, burka wearing SAS chaps 38!
Staff Sergeant John Thomas “Mac” McAleese (1949-2011) – Iranian Embassy Siege, London, England
John McAleese was born on April 25, 1949 in Scotland 38. He is best known as the SAS trooper who was the first on the balcony during the Iranian Embassy crisis in London in May 1980 during Operation Nimrod 40, 41. Later, he recounted the mission in the TV series “SAS: Are You Tough Enough?”.
In 1969 at 20 years old, McAleese enlisted in the 59th Independent Commando, Royal Engineers. He then relocated to Hereford, England in 1975 after completing SAS training and being accepted into the program. By 1980, he was a Lance Corporal, serving in Pagoda Troop, B Squadron, 22nd SAS Regiment. As a member of “Blue Team”, his skills were put to the test during Operation Nimrod. On live TV, McAleese planted explosives on the first floor balcony of the Iranian Embassy just before the SAS stormed in and put an end to the siege.
Later, McAleese was called up to assist in the Falklands War in 1982 and received the Military Medal in 1988 for his exemplary service in Northern Ireland. During the later part of his career in the SAS, he served as a bodyguard for three British Prime Ministers 42. He retired from the British Army on February 8, 1992 with an honorable discharge at the rank of Staff Sergeant 38, 41. During his post-retirement years, McAleese was employed as a security advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan and was an airsoft instructor (a fancy name for paintball).
In 2009, his oldest son, 29 year old Sergeant Paul McAleese of The Rifles, 2nd Battalion, was killed in action in Helmand Provence, Afghanistan as a result of a roadside bomb 41. In 2011, John McAleese had a heart attack and died in Thessaloniki, Greece where he had lived with his wife. His funeral was at Hereford Cathedral 43. He is survived by his second wife, a daughter by his first marriage and two children from his second marriage.
Rusty Firmin, a friend and fellow SAS soldier who followed McAleese into the Iranian Embassy stated, “He was a very funny professional soldier. He wasn’t the smartest soldier I have ever met, but actually he was one of the most effective soldiers I have ever met. Mac was brave and fearless, a leader of men who myself and others would follow,” 44
“Who Dares Wins”
Every hardcore Special Forces unit needs to have some battle cry or slogan they yell out just before bludgeoning the ever living crap out of unsuspecting bad-guys who are usually sleeping or are totally unaware. The US Army Rangers have “Rangers Lead the Way!”, the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command uses “We Will Find a Way!”, the Finnish Rapid Deployment Force uses “Look Good, Do Good!” and the German Special Operations Division says “Einsatzbereit, jederzeit, weltweit!” That means “Ready for Action, Anytime, Worldwide!” Just in case you failed your German class in high school!
If you’ve played the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on-line streaming and have been placed in an SAS unit, you’ll hear the famous phrase “Who Dares Wins!” by some gun-wielding SAS bloke with muttonchops. Where did this phrase come from? Well, hold on to your bootstraps and I’ll tell ya.
“Who Dares Wins” is a slogan that was popularized by the British Special Air Service 34. The guy who is usually credited with first using it was none other than its founder, Sir David Stirling 35.
Imagine a bunch of bearded SAS blokes lounging in the Mayflower Pub on Rotherhithe Street in London after a deployment to Afghanistan. Sergeant Jenkins jabs Lance Corporal Jeeves in the ribs spilling some of his Scrumpy, “Hey! Who cares who wins! We all made it out with at least four limbs!” This is phrase sometimes joked about among tight-knit SAS operators. Remember, it can only be said among SAS mates though. Don’t go shouting this out to any former or current SAS gent or you might be drop kicked, called a “brass neck” or “daft as a brush” or given a punch in your gob.
This famous motto has also been utilized by twelve other Special Forces teams throughout the globe who have distant connections with the British SAS: the Australian SAS Regiment, the New Zealand SAS, the Hong Kong Special Duties Unit, the Tunisian Garde Nationale, the French 1st Marine Parachute Regiment, the Rhodesian SAS, the Greek 1st Raider/Paratrooper Brigade and Mountain Raider Companies, the Cyprus LOK, the Israeli Sayeret Matkal and the Belgium 1st Parachutist Battalion.
An early expression for the origin is “τοῖς τολμῶσιν ἡ τύχη ξύμφορος” or “Fortune Favors the Bold” from the Ancient Greek soldier and historian Thucydides.
Little Known SAS Facts
The following is a list of humorous SAS facts that were taken from a member of the British Royal Marines. Some are actually real, some are made up and some are just downright hilarious 36!
- All UK pubs are required by law to have one alcoholic regular who used to be a member of the SAS and was 2nd man on the balcony at the Iranian Embassy
- During selection, potential SAS recruits are required to bite the head off a live ferret – except in Dog Soldiers where they have to shoot a live dog
- All SAS men must now sign a contract agreeing never to disclose anything about their service, never to call any officer ‘Sir’ and never to trim their moustaches
- All serving SAS soldiers are discreet, witty, down-to-earth, good blokes; none of them are Waltish, swollen-headed, egotistical, prima donnas with a hotline to the Daily Mirror’s Defence Correspondent
- Since Dog Soldiers came out, all SAS weapons are loaded with silver bullets in case they meet real werewolves
- David Stirling, the SAS founder, had a pet hamster called Bismark
- During the Malayan Emergency the SAS were known by the Communist guerrillas as “The Moustaches from Hell”
- The SAS spelt backwards is SAS
- The real Iranian Embassy siege only lasted two minutes. The TV footage was a dramatized re-enactment for the cameras
- During the Falklands Conflict the SAS pioneered the use of specially trained exploding penguins
- SAS soldiers carry a tampon with them in their first aid pack; it has many uses including stopping bloody noses
- It is claimed that the SAS are so well-trained in covert operations, that a single soldier can steal a 24 pack of Wifebeater from Netto, drink it, and put the empty box back before anyone notices it’s gone
Thanks for reading my blog post on the legendary British SAS! In writing this, I have learned so much about these gents and have gained more respect for these heroes. Of course, if you ask one of these clandestine operators who the real heroes are, they’ll say, “Hey mate. The only real ones out there are the ones who didn’t make it. I’ll drink to that!”
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