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SASR personnel practice building-entry drills, one of the many exciting opportunities that exist within the Regiment.
Photo by Cpl Hugh Donald, SASR.

Adrenalin anyone?
The truth about SASR selection

Many people talk about applying for SASR, but few ever attempt it.
Maj Greg Smith asks what selection is all about.

Porky looked satisfied. After all, he'd just overseen an SASR selection course on which the pass rate was 39 per cent. It was an above-average result on a course that averages between 27 and 30 per cent.

As Commander of Skills Troop, Capt Porky (his nickname) is responsible for putting together the twice-yearly course, which puts potential troopers through the toughest three weeks of their lives.

"You know, it's actually only 17 days of assessment in total, if you allow for travel," quipped Porky with a knowing smile that said he'd seen them all in his 23 years with the Regiment.

Despite the high pass rate, which saw a Digger of 20 and a 37-year-old Reservist make it through, Porky was not too happy.

"We just aren't getting the numbers through, and that's a shame, because there are plenty of people out there who are missing out on the time and career of their lives," said Porky, a former RSM of the Regiment.

Continuing Coverage
Work outside the square
Training with the SASR

Maj Greg Smith follows two troopers through their reinforcement cycles

The basic SASR patrol course is one of the first modules undertaken by Reinforcement Cycle soldiers.
Photos from SASR

"When I look at it objectively, I just see that we offer the best work environment, both professionally and personally: otherwise, why would so many people stay here?

"The opportunity to be the best at what you do is there, but so are all the fringe benefits, such as the additional money you earn, the support we have and probably the best lifestyle of any capital city."

Porky is puzzled, like so many, as to why the Regiment isn't attracting enough applicants. On the most recent course there were nine officers and 19 Diggers. In years not so distant, they would arrive by the planeload.

"It is difficult, but not beyond the reach of anyone who wants to do it. Basically it's doing hard yakka while using common sense."

He cited the case of the 37-year-old reservist, who joined the Reserve just so he could attempt selection on the most recent selection course. (Interestingly, there are usually one or two Reservists that get through on each course).

"Hell, we've got an ex-Blackhawk pilot and a RAAF fighter pilot serving with us," said Porky. "I think that dispels the notion that you need an infantry background. It certainly helps, but we can actually train people, which is why we have the 18-month reinforcement phase."

From Porky's perspective, the main attributes to have are the will to succeed, aided by an above-average level of fitness and the willingness not to be afraid of failure.

In the most recent course, one group could not complete a set task within the set time. They did not fail, but merely moved on to the next activity without any rest, or food, which they hadn't had for 36 hours.

"I think a lot of people don't want to go back to their units having not made it over here, and that's the wrong attitude.

"They can always come back the following year, when they may have matured more, or have worked on any other weak areas."

Those weak areas are usually the ones people don't think of when they prepare for selection. There are other aspects of the selection course which applicants need to concentrate on, says Porky.

"We're a competitive unit, so that's what people need to be when they attempt the course. But it just seems that many people lack that competitive spirit. I'd suggest that they should enter competitions such as military skill at arms, and even orienteering.

"A lot of people just don't seem to be playing team sports. Either they're not being released, or it's not being encouraged. So they should do that, just by playing football or soccer."

Another area Porky suggests is for applicants to sharpen their problem-solving and mechanical skills.

"It's surprising how many people come unstuck when they have to build a bridge, or a raft, out of planks."

Importantly, Porky advises people not to come on the course if they are injured.

"If they have any doubts about fitness they shouldn't get on the plane," he says. "And it's no good comparing it to any other course they have done. Simply, you have to be 100 per-cent."

If you can meet all the requirements and make it through selection, then there's the 18-month reinforcement cycle, in which you're trained to basic SASR standard.

After that, the true SASR experience begins - an experience that Porky says can never be equalled.

"We offer the best work environment, both from a personal and professional viewpoint," he said.

"The work is challenging and rewarding, the pay and support conditions are tremendous and Perth is a great location. And all the time you are working with like-minded individuals who want to be, and are, the best at what they do.

"The way we work is different and it means we rely on people to take control of their actions. It can be a bit of a cultural change for most soldiers, who aren't used to having that freedom.

"We simply don't have the time to micro-manage, so we have to know everyone can think for themselves. In that regard, we're looking for someone who has common sense, logic, who can think before they act (but doesn't take too long) and is willing to learn."

The other words of wisdom relate to potential members who are married, or are in a steady relationship.

"Because we are away, and it's not much more than most units, wives and girlfriends should be independent and be able to manage things like finances," said Porky.

Armed with that advice, some sound thought, planning and training, you should be ready to take that initial entry test.

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