No matter the operation, no matter the theatre, no matter the number of enemy (usually many times greater than our number)…we were always aware that we could go from predator to prey in a heart beat.
Every operation had a process, the before, during and after phases. We would prepare, practice and then put in the effort. Every part had to be immaculate, otherwise at some stage it could come back and bite us.
I remember years after leaving the Regiment I was invited onto a radio programme (mainly due to having a non fiction book currently trending in the top ten of the Sunday Times bestsellers listing). The subject was on litter in the UK. The programme had 2 lovely old ladies, and a well known male American author who had lived in the UK for years and was attempting to champion the subject. They all had their theories of just why litter happens, and what could be done about it. Well, here we are in 2022 and litter is still a huge problem…worldwide!
So, as I was the one soul unknown to the listeners of the radio station, it eventually came to my turn to speak. I mentioned that when I was in the SAS operating as a small long range reconnaissance patrol behind enemy lines in the jungle, we could become prey just by relaxing for a moment and making the smallest of mistakes. An example of that small mistake would be to drop litter. My version of litter perhaps wasn’t quite the norm for those listening to the radio programme, or indeed for the others taking part in the debate. I told them if I was to leave behind something as tiny as a clear rolled up sweetie paper, that had been wrapped around the boiled sweet that I’m now sucking to give me some sugar energy…I could be tracked up and killed by the enemy after they found it lying on the ground where we had taken a few minutes to rest up. Predator to prey in a heartbeat. So given that simple fact, perhaps the answer is to have individuals who can become tracker trained, follow up on those dropping litter around the UK…catch them up…and kill them. The air waves immediately became the sound of silence, the people around me at the radio station all had their mouths wide open staring at me. I smiled, then said tongue in cheek, “well that’s what I would do…word would get around quickly, and littering would virtually be eradicated within a week or so.”
An experience of an ex special forces soldier in a “normal world” who knows full well what it takes to remain a predator and not become prey, having a light hearted moment with very decent people who were taking their time to make the world a better place.
But in my world, that’s all it would take to get hunted down and perhaps killed or captured.
No matter the type of insertion, by air, sea or land. Into jungle, desert, arctic or otherwise, I always personally seen my task as all play and no work. In my wee brain I imagined that if it was all play then there would be less stress…especially as I was moving up the ranks and taking on more responsibility…for me that train of thought would work out well as the years moved forward.
But all along, I knew that something as simple as a splash on the surface of the water, a low gear change on a Pink Panther Land Rover in the desert plains, a HALO landing off target, a kick down of a small rock from a mountain side, a cough or sneeze at the wrong time while out patrolling…or even just that simply seen rolled up sweetie paper would be the difference between predator or prey!