Extremely rigid, if not cruel, the system of selection and training of South African special forces was formed in the second half of the 70-x - the beginning of the 80-ies of the twentieth century. During the war in Angola and Namibia, it was not without reason considered according to the requirements by several orders of magnitude higher than in the airborne troops of the Republic of South Africa or even the famous 32-m battalion "Buffalo". At the same time, the system was similar in many ways to the process of equipping and training the paratroopers of the British and Rhodesian SAS. This is quite understandable if we consider that the first reconnaissance commando team of the Republic of South Africa created in 1972, the reconnaissance commando, was the name of the special forces of the South African armed forces (abbreviated recces), specialized in airborne special operations, and it was based on officers trained in the UK and Southern Rhodesia.
Break the candidate psychologically and deprive him of his illusions
As the main principle of the selection system, South Africans, as well as their colleagues from SAS, took a multilevel principle. At the same time in South Africa, the main emphasis was placed on endurance, physical strength and collectivism. Each candidate had to go through a series of tests that were complicated from test to test. Physical activities were such that only a few could withstand them. Every year, during the war in Angola, out of thousands selected for testing, only about 120 underwent a selection course for admission to the units of the special forces of the South African army. After completing the grueling recces preparatory course, no more than… 20 people were enrolled in the special forces.
But basically the entire selection system in recces was built on the desire to break the candidate psychologically, “to destroy him morally and physically.” The constant psychological pressure of the instructors, who, according to the testimony of the special forces candidates, “simply mocked them,” were able to withstand only a few.
Initially, the special units of the South African special forces did not initially take the so-called "jocks" and "cowboys", that is, physically developed, but they have imagined too much about themselves. Brute physical strength and all the more spectacular bravado in recces were not welcomed from the very beginning. Here is an excerpt from the instructions of the fighters of the reconnaissance commando of 80 of the XX century: “A fighter of a special unit must have above-average mental abilities, strong character, a spirit of collectivism and mutual assistance in order for him to complete the task and survive in extreme conditions.”
There was an immutable rule: the selection of potential recruits began only after they passed the basic general military training. In addition, all candidates had to have perfect health and good physical development. Each year, two qualifying courses were held, during which candidates were introduced to the role and actions of various departments. In particular, they were shown educational films on the features of the program in order to “avoid false ideas about the future specialty”.
If the future commando reconnaissance fighter met all these requirements, a special selection course began for him, during which the candidate’s ability to complete the task, his motivation, degree of initiative, ability to adapt to work as part of a team, determination and discipline were finally checked. The course was usually conducted in the province of Natal on the basis of "Dooku Dooku" in conditions of high humidity, high daytime temperatures and cold nights, which was an additional stress factor. Candidates were under the constant control of commanders and psychologists.
The final part of the special qualifying course was held in three days. First - check individual physical qualities. The first challenge was an 45-kilometer march with an 40-kilogram load. No more than 15 hours were assigned to the forced march. Then immediately, without respite, the fighter had to evacuate the wounded man at a distance of 4 km with full equipment. At the next stage of the course, the future fighter reconnaissance commando had to play the role of a prisoner, experiencing all the pleasures of psychological stress during 5 hours. Then followed the 10-kilometer cross to speed.
The next stage was to overcome several 15-kilometer distances in a group of four. Here collective qualities were tested. In no more than 7,5 hours, the group needed to bring a cross welded from four 25-kilogram pieces of a rail rail to the finish. "Cross Group" went to start several times a day. In total, during the final part, the subjects covered a distance of more than 100 km with different loads and with little or no food. And only on the basis of the results of this test, it was decided whether they would be enrolled in the special forces unit.
At present, the selection process of candidates (Pre-Selection and Selection courses), as, incidentally, the training of fighters of the special forces brigade of the South African National Defense Forces is based on the established system of recces. He has not changed much since the time when reconnaissance commandos landed in the depths of Angola and performed specific tasks. The explanation for this is simple: the selection of personnel, the evaluation of their training, the tactics of actions at that time proved their efficiency and reliability.
The selection process in special units of South Africa is a multistage. In the higher stages, screening tests are combined with training. Thus, savings in time and money are achieved, and those few candidates who successfully complete the selection stage already have the necessary minimum of skills and knowledge. The candidate must successfully complete all the difficult tests and training and voluntarily agree to further service in his chosen specialized unit.
The selection cycle consists of several phases. The first stage consists in interviews and simple tests. It is called Pre-Selection Interviews and Tests. It usually drops out up to 70 percent of candidates. The rest receive the status of "entering the special purpose units." In order to achieve the status of a “recruit of a special purpose unit”, and then “a special purpose unit operator,” that is, a full-fledged special forces soldier (Qualified operator), they will have to go through a multi-stage pre-selection process, the main selection (Selection course), and then no less difficult 44-week special training course (Basic Operators Training Cycle). According to official data, since the founding of recces from 1972 to 1988 the year when the South African army ended the main fighting in Angola, several tens of thousands of military personnel were admitted to the Pre-Selection Interviews and Tests phase. However, the Basic Operators Training Cycle phase successfully completed only 480 of them.
Typically, officials responsible for selecting candidates for the special forces brigade go round the troops twice a year and select potential candidates. The general requirements for those who wish to enlist in a brigade are as follows: personal desire and desire to become a fighter of special forces; South African citizenship (an exception may be made for particularly valuable “cadres”, but in this case, after successfully passing tests, they obtain South African citizenship); age from 18 to 28 years; impeccable health indicators, physical development is above average; complete secondary education (civil or military (infantry, aviation school, naval school)); service (at least one year) in the army, air force and navy (police, reserve units) with positive certification; non-involvement in criminal offenses.
The military rank of the candidate, as a rule, does not matter. At the positions of private and non-commissioned officers are selected people of corresponding ranks. The only restriction exists for applicants for brigade officer positions. A candidate can be an officer who has a rank not higher than the captain.
Of great importance in the selection of a potential candidate is knowledge of foreign languages.
Skin color no longer matters
As for color, there are no official restrictions on this criterion. At the end of the 90 of the 20th century, in connection with the beginning integration of members of the combat wing of the African National Congress Umkhonto ve Sizwe (MK) and the African People’s Liberation Army (APLA) into the armed forces of the South African Republic, the green light was officially given the entry into military schools and schools of South Africa of former fighters of these "rebel" armies. However, recruiters have certain problems in this regard. So, for example, at the end of the 20th century 90, out of 460, blacks who had tended to join the brigade successfully tested only ten people for the title of special forces operator. On average, up to the middle of the 90 of the twentieth century, up to a year were considered before the 1000 candidates, of whom 700 – 800 were admitted to the primary selection phase.
Those who applied for admission to the Special Forces Brigade of the South African Armed Forces, without even having the status of “entering the special purpose units”, are divided into groups and sent to various training units (bases) of special forces. There they get acquainted in practice with the work of special forces, can learn more about the organization of training and operational tasks. As before, those who wish to enlist in special forces begin with the fact that they meet with veterans. And many of the "masters" appear for a greater psychological effect in masks that hide their faces. At this point, the candidates take a subscription of non-disclosure of information and documents. The potential recruits of South African Special Forces publicly, in the presence of their comrades, give the officer a verbal oath that "they will never, under any circumstances, disclose to others what they saw or heard in the brigade's location."
“This contributes to the sobering up, liberation from illusions and misconceptions about the special forces service,” this is how the command of the special forces of the South African armed forces describes this stage. Finally, “potential contingent” demonstrates films in which a rigorous process of selecting and training special forces groups is colorfully and as close as possible to reality. Before 1994, films about real operations by reconnaissance groups and commando squads in Angola and Namibia were shown, but this method has now been abandoned due to ethical considerations. The psychological impact of films is too great for an unprepared viewer. Those candidates who are not scared off by reality are moving to physical and psychological tests. Those who survived successfully pass the final interview. Past Pre-Selection Interviews and Tests receive the status of "entering the special purpose units." And for them, the pre-selection stage begins.
"The candidate should not be all right with the head"
According to generally accepted ideas, the selection course for South African Special Forces is one of the most difficult among similar formations in the world. One of the retired commandos called this course "survival in the truest sense of the word." Therefore, the words of the special forces brigade commander of the South African Armed Forces, Boris Bornman, that “the candidate must not be all right with his head to complete the entire selection course,” are not far from the truth.
The six-week prequalification stage begins for all candidates by having their physical training evaluated again. To begin with, candidates must meet within a six-hour period to cover the 30-kilometer distance with full payoff: a rifle with standard ammunition, a regular camouflage suit and an 30-kilogram backpack, usually filled with sand. Thus endurance of candidates is tested. The next test is running speed. It is to cover the 8-kilometer distance in at least 45 minutes with a full-time rifle. In addition, each candidate is obliged to demonstrate their physical qualities in other ways: at least 40 once wrung out from the floor with his fists, 8 just pull up on the bar, do at least 75 squats without a break. The end point of this physical test is an acceleration test. Candidates must run a short section in both directions at a time. Checking the ability to swim at this stage is limited to a distance of 50 meters without measuring time. As a rule, the majority of candidates successfully cope with these simple tests, by the standards of special forces.
Strength plus intelligence
Although physical development, actual fitness and endurance of candidates, the leadership of the special forces of South Africa continues to give priority attention and considers this criterion to be the prevailing element of selection, but compared to the end of the 20th century, special forces of the South African armed forces have increased their attention to other parameters. Along with physical strength, health and stamina, a high level of mental development and psychological compatibility of candidates is appreciated. Instructors, doctors, psychologists seek out among the candidates in the first place those who would not only be physically healthy, but also have good mental development, patience, dedication, ability to adapt to rapidly changing environment and stamina.
In order to determine the psychological readiness of a candidate to serve in special forces, as well as his mental abilities, psychological and intellectual tests are widely used. During the course of the pre-selection, a candidate is cross-examined by several people at once. Moreover, since in South Africa, the issue of relationships between people with different skin colors has historically been very painful, the psychological compatibility of white, color and black is emphasized.
Candidates who have received positive results of general physical testing and psychological testing, proceed to the next stage of preliminary selection. This phase, which lasts two to three weeks, is more likely not even a trial, but preparation for it. It consists of intensive physical training, which lasts eight to ten or more hours a day. They are designed to ensure that candidates enter the appropriate physical form before starting the main course of selection. However, even this stage of intense daily physical exertion is not maintained by many of the candidates. Sometimes screening comes to 20 percent. The rest continue their course of selection on the ground in the harsh conditions of Zululand (Natal province).
Do not act without regard to comrades
COURSE of the main selection (Selection course) begins with exhausting tests on the ground. The main type of such tests are 8-kilometer crosses “with burdening”, during which candidates unite in pairs (triples, fours, fives). Each group should bring heavy objects to the finish line within a certain time. The essence of this test is that more people are objectively required to deliver an object to a target. All this time, the candidates are closely watched by the instructors, who evaluate coherence, initiative and leadership abilities.
As a burden, various items are used. Popular sets of three or four heavy weights, chained. Each of the weights weighing in 22 kg can easily be carried by one person. But three or four people take part in the test, and the chain is not so long that the participants of the “race” could act without regard to their comrades. Weights are absolutely round, and they have no pens. In the case of the fall of one of them from the hands of the subject, all of his comrades may be on the ground. And then it all starts over again. To cope with this challenge is not easy. Often for the same purpose a heavy wooden log is used. He, like weights, the subjects have no right to drop to the ground. For each fall penalty points are awarded.
Instructors seek to find out not only the physical abilities of candidates, but also their ability to agree, coordinate their actions. At the same time, there is a process of identifying potential and clear leaders.
Often the group is increased to 5 – 6 people. Three or four of the subjects should bring a heavy load to a certain point in a strictly allotted time. Usually, for this purpose, something like a large stretcher is constructed of two heavy wooden poles and a cloak-tent or a piece of tarpaulin. In improvised stretchers - 200-liter barrel filled with sand, or wooden snag of the same weight. The remaining members of the group play the role of combat escort. But at the same time they carry a heavy pole (one for each).
In the course of such a test, the transfer of the wounded (prisoners), captured documents, models of weapons, equipment, etc. is simulated. In addition to considerable physical exertion, subjects receive the task of attentiveness. They should monitor the surrounding terrain and, if they detect an “enemy,” signal the rest. "Carriers" and "guarding" perform their functions alternately.
Gradually, the test conditions become even more stringent. First of all, it affects nutrition: candidates noticeably reduce their daily diet. The stage of assessing their ability to adapt, ability to measure efforts, physical endurance, exposure to claustrophobia, tolerance to cold, ability to work in extreme conditions begins. Many candidates do not stand the test and leave the special forces camp.
Crosses are usually interspersed with other tests. In particular, in one of the inland waters, candidates show the ability to navigate in water. Pre-experienced instructors give the first lessons in the use of swimming facilities: canoeing, kayaks, kayaks, rubber motorboats. During the water training, instructors check how free the cadets feel on the water, including at night. Here, the instructors "take on the pencil" of those who, in their opinion, could be used in naval special forces. The task of identifying those who have the slightest potential of a future swimmer-saboteur, is set at this early stage. After all, maritime sabotage is one of the most difficult types of special operations, where a person needs a confident orientation on the water and under water, and often blind actions. “Amphibious” training alternates with orientation on the terrain in the forests of swampy jungle.
Survive means escape
THIS the next stage of selection is a serious test of survival in the field. He essentially combines the elements of testing the qualities of candidates with training. At this stage, those who successfully crossed the crosses with a burden and are actually applying for a place in the first team are allowed. The stage is held in a special zone allocated for the training and training of personnel of the brigade of special forces. It usually takes place in the Duku Dooku special forces camp, where in the 80-ies of the 20th century a special spetsnaz training camp was set up, spread over several hundreds of hectares.
In the first week of this stage, experienced instructors who have already studied their charges sufficiently teach candidates orientation in savannah area (bush), that is, South African bush forests (so-called “bushcraft”). Since many of the candidates have no such experience, the wards explain which animals they can meet, which ones represent danger, which plants in the bush can be eaten, how to kill a buffalo, an antelope, which insects are edible. Instructors explain and show how, for example, to catch and cook a poisonous snake on a fire, how to determine the proximity of a water source, get fire by rubbing wooden sticks and much more. The cadets during this test feed not only on “pasture”. Their diet, though poor, is sufficiently high in calories: galetes, concentrates, condensed milk, and sugar.
But before being sent to the zone for survival, instructors thoroughly search all subjects to find out if those food items that could help them pass the test (chocolate, sweets, stimulating physical activity, drinks, pills, etc.) are not hidden. ). Take with you to the test is prohibited toiletries, folding knives, fishing hooks, folding hatchets and, of course, mobile phones and devices that can help in orienteering. It is allowed to take with you only a small individual first-aid kit.
After being transferred to an area intended for passing a survival test, candidates are given the first task: to build a shelter (hut) from improvised materials: sticks, branches, sod and leaves. Its design is estimated by instructors not only in terms of convenience and practicality (protection from rain, wind), but also external masking. Following this, after a while, the daily diet is reduced again: for breakfast, candidates receive only one biscuit with water. Water consumption, by the way, is also sharply limited: everyone gets no more than 5 liters per day (do not forget that the test takes place in the harsh conditions of the province of Natal, where there are hot days and cold nights).
"We were saved by locusts"
ONE of the veterans of the South African Special Forces, a black African, said that his group passed this test at the end of the 80 of the twentieth century only thanks to ... a locust invasion. Locust was considered a delicacy in his native tribe, and he knew several ways to make it. His comrades, among whom were a lot of white refined Anglo-Saxons and the Boers, with disgust ate this living creature, which suddenly appeared in countless quantities in the test area, but thanks to it they retained their strength.
After passing the test of survival, candidates move to a stage that allows instructors to determine how well the observers have developed observation and whether it has been dulled after previous difficult tests. A group of candidates is sent along a route in which about ten (sometimes more) subjects are disguised, which the cadets must find and correctly identify. The following is a short rest and the next test.
It consists of overcoming an obstacle course that must be passed three times. Twice lightly, and the third time with a burden, which is usually the 35-kilogram box from under mortar shells, filled with cement. But that is not all. Having coped with this task, the cadets make a 5-kilometer cross on a ravine littered with loose stones. At the end of the race, candidates must pick up a log and bring it to his camp, never dropping it to the ground. Instructors are closely monitoring all of their actions.
And finally comes a break. Those who successfully cope with this stage of selection, get marks for all elements of the tests passed in the last week. Separately, marks are given for the art of navigating the terrain and water, the possession of floating craft, the ability to overcome heights, to extract information in the bush. Individual scale is assessed on a special scale. weapons. Each subject is given points, which characterize their leadership abilities and the ability to cooperate with others while in a stressful situation.
Shooting from ambush
FOR ANNOUNCEMENT grades and points for passed tests of a group of future special forces are usually collected on the ground outside the training areas. This action marks the next selection stage. Commanders and instructors behave deliberately with a view of the “accomplished mission”, thus showing, as it were, that you can relax, demonstrating with all your actions the fact that most of the tests were left behind. But this is a hoax. The one who bought him falls into a psychological trap: most of the candidates do not even suspect that another extremely cruel test will now begin.
Psychologically, everything is built very true. Candidates have learned their grades, reflect on what fate they can expect in the future, make plans for the future. At that moment, the instructors disappear imperceptibly, and suddenly, on the treetops and on the flanks of the group, intense real fire is opened from large-caliber machine guns or automatic rapid-fire guns captured during the fighting in Angola). In accordance with the combat schedule, candidates are obliged to take up defense when an enemy attack. The difficulty is that there are no instructors, everything needs to be done independently, and many candidates from different groups do not know each other and do not know who you can count on in this situation.
This test is designed to once again check the reflexes and the reaction rate of applicants to special forces. Usually, the whole picture is taken by instructors on the video with hidden cameras. Subsequently, the video is carefully studied by instructors and experts of the training center, who analyze the actions of each of the candidates and give them the appropriate ratings. Those who withstand this test are waiting for the final and ... most difficult and exhausting test.
"The Fifth Circle of Hell"
BEFORE the last stage of the selection of applicants, and by that time there are no more than 20 – 25 percent, they are put together, equipped “in full”. The future spetsnaz operators are given the task of making a forced march at a distance of 100 – 120 km in a strictly fixed time. For orientation on the terrain, candidates are given only the corresponding azimuth along the compass. Conditions are tough: all subjects must meet at the gathering point at a certain time. The task is given no more than five days. This test combines all the previous steps: a test of speed and endurance; ability to survive in harsh terrain; the ability to properly navigate and overcome water and other obstacles. In addition, applicants waiting for this savanna with its dangers. But that's not all. Candidates are told that "they will have to spend at least five days in the bush, having only a can of condensed milk with them, half of the daily dry ration, and even that spoiled."
Indeed, the dry ration of the future Special Forces troops is intentionally rendered unusable. As a rule, this is done using either gasoline or another odorous substance that makes it practically inedible up to 70 percent of their diet. If you want, chew the biscuits soaked in gasoline, or look for the food itself. The terrain for the march is chosen as the most difficult. For five days, candidates will face many challenges. They expect difficult to navigate the wild savanna, heaps of trees, rivers inhabited by crocodiles.
The task is complicated by the fact that as they approach the gathering place, the subjects must find several intermediate control points and register for them. There they are waiting for instructors. But not to help. Here, over tortured aspirants to the special forces are “specially mocked”: they allow you to do only a sip of water, while instructors defiantly drink all sorts of drinks from sweaty cans. At the same time, many experienced commandos publicly express their opinions on the capabilities of a particular candidate. In most cases, this is “sarcastic ridicule or simply verbal bullying.” But these are the rules of the game. Therefore, many tested Special Forces soldiers call this stage the “fifth circle of hell”.
When the subjects, as it seems to them, were on their way to the designated place, the instructors who meet them could suddenly “make a joke”. They declare to the candidates that, it turns out, a small error has occurred, and they need to overcome to the end point another 30 or more kilometers. It is in this place that some candidates break down and send everything to the devil, thereby refusing to fight for a place in the special forces unit. This, in general, and seek inspectors who do not need a "weak contingent" in the special forces.
However, this test does not end the candidates. Many who consider themselves “five minutes to be operators” will have one more serious test. It is based on pure psychology. After more than 100-kilometer-long march of exhausted people in the gathering place, instead of a friendly meeting, only a pitiful dry ration, full of food and drink, is waiting, not spoiled by anything. While the tortured test subject chews a dry biscuit, instructors in his eyes feast at tables full of great food and beer. Candidates who have passed many tests and have already decided several times that the finish is near are in confusion.
And then from one of the instructors should be invited to the table. However, everyone is warned that only those who “thought carefully and decided ... not to claim the title of special forces operator” can share the meal with the special forces. Exhausted people are warned that this will not entail any negative consequences for them. But they will get plenty of excellent food, drink, shower, linen change, sleep in a good bed. Those who refused will be paid the appropriate amount of money and will be delivered by helicopter to the nearest town where they can “relax”.
Some people come to this temptation, especially not imagining whether this is the last test.
The one who decides to stay and is credited to the special forces brigade as a recruit. At this Pre-Selection and Selection courses are considered completed, but the tests themselves do not end. Enrolled in special forces waiting for the standard course of training reconnaissance commandos, which successfully pass, not all.