The title is a metaphor for when I made the bold decision so young to take on SAS Selection back in the early 70s.
Even in the toughest of situations, anyone can be uncomfortable. A ten day hard routine patrol on belt kit only, limited food, ammunition and sleep. But a small umbrella in a jungle environment at the right times can help keep off the heavy constant rain, and therefore keep up the body temperature…saving much needed energy. Collecting rain water from my umbrella at around 3am.
I’ve mentioned in past blog posts that seeing the SAS fighting up in the jebel (mountains) of Dhofar Province, Oman in the early 1970s from my defensive position some 3-4 miles away, immediately spurred me into wanting to join them. The only problem at that time…I was just 17!
I understood that after a slap around the head from an NCO for even suggesting it, that I needed to mature in nature, skills set and experience first.
After my second Dhofar trip at 19 years old I made the decision to put in for SAS Selection. My OC amazingly agreed, and just after my 20th birthday I turned up in Hereford ready to roar.
At no time did I fear stepping through that doorway to seek what I saw was the ultimate skills that I craved from so young.
At no time did I require validation from others…either from the officers, NCOs or any of my close mates. I told them that I was going…most gave me their blessings, some gave me great advice and helped me with the training, but I knew some were smirking quietly that I’ll be back pretty quickly.
In short though, I was ultimately helped by the NCO who slapped my head when I was keen to go with next to no skills or experience at the age of 17. Therefore, when you step through the doorway, you have to be comfortable within yourself that you have the skills and experience to take the step through. Then once through, you pick up the next set of skills and experience before stepping through the next doorway etc etc…
In short, luck was on my side. I injured myself down town in Hereford trying to help a policeman who was receiving a kicking from a group of lads that had a bit too much to drink. They ran, and as I was bent over him trying to place him in the recovery position as he was vomiting, I received a swift kick from one of his colleagues that had run to his aid. Broken ribs just before Test Week, and I’d only gone down town for a Guinness and Fish and Chips to load up with carbs for the longer “tabs” in the Beacons.
No pain no gain they say…but I don’t think that my scenario was in the saying! Test week hurt, but I wanted the skills, I craved the skills, I stepped through the doorway, so nothing…not even broken ribs was going to stop me.
Having passed Selection, gone to the jungle, and passed combat survival and interrogation…I was in and off to B Squadron 22 SAS Regiment.
But that was me through the first doorway. There were many other doorways to go through over the next 20 years.
The next major doorway that everyone today knows about was the doorways of the Iranian Embassy in Prince’s Gate, London. Although the vast majority of us never fired a shot in anger that day (speed, CONTROLLED aggression, surprise), I still had many doorways to step through before clearing and securing my floor with my team members. As it turned out and to be expected, there were no terrorists on our floor, they were all on the floor below. But again, at no time did I fear stepping through those door ways. Lot’s was leant from that operation by everyone in the Regt, and skills, kit and experiences changed very quickly to continue to evolve the anti terrorist team for future operations.
Two years later I’d be stepping through the door (actually over the tailgate) of a C130 transport aircraft doing my first operational parachute jump…into the icy South Atlantic to join the Falklands War along with 7 other mates. At no point did I fear stepping through that door.
And so it went on…the door ways of many operations in many theatres around the world. Other doorways being the metaphor for stepping into danger…at sea, in the desert, in an urban setting, in the jungle…indeed anywhere. At no time did I ever fear stepping through, because I was comfortable in having the current skills and experience to do so.
After my military life I continued to step through door ways for the next 17 years in places that I would mark as hostile. This time I would often have no wing men, no buddies to my left or right, and no cavalry coming to my rescue from just over the hill. As I was now working as a single entity in the shape of a security advisor with a small media team outside of any security bubble. Yet I still continued to step through the doorways…without fear, this time relying on great proactive skills gained through almost two decades in the Regt.
It all happened because from the first doorway to the last…I was listening, learning and behaving within the skills set that I held at that time. And at no time would I step through the doorway if I feared what was on the other side…if I feared the skills set that I craved was no longer within my grasp.
It doesn’t take a big macho man to do this…it just takes a quiet confidence to have total faith in oneself.
That goes for any individual, in any industry that you might be representing…and in any situation anywhere, and at any time.
No matter where you’ve landed in life, read the title…and believe!