Anti Terrorist training and operations from the mid 1970s to the mid 1990s.

Seventy next year.

In a local café here in New York, I’m like any other older man sitting having my breakfast of porridge (oat meal), sliced bananas and a decaf latte. But sit down and talk with me and you’ll notice some differences. I shake from head to fingers from time to time, especially when the talk may turn on the negative side. My head will lean to the right slightly, and I’ll quieten down within the conversation, more often when there’s more than just two of us around the table. I’ll wander away mentally from what’s being said and go into my own wee world. My tinnitus will be screaming at me, and if the café is busy with chatter, it all becomes nothing more than white noise. If I’m talking, occasionally I’ll lose my way and stop mid sentence, or I’ll forget a simple word which will agitate me and bring on other symptoms.

Thankfully not too many take any notice, other old people have other symptoms and even similar symptoms too…we’re all ageing together. But I know! I know my own deterioration…and it frustrates me terribly.

The symptoms began years ago one at a time. I ignored them, perhaps as I was still working as a civilian security adviser in conflict areas around the world. Anger became an issue firstly, followed by nausea and the odd headache.

Over a period of time it mounted up, more and more symptoms, all becoming worse. But hey, I’ve now spent almost 40 years in and out of war zones, what do I expect?

However, turn the clock back…way back to the mid 1970s. The early days of 22 SAS Regiment undergoing anti terrorist training as part of the Special Projects Team…or SP Team as it was referred to by members of the Regiment. The Close Quarter Battle House or Killing House as it was better known as, was but a simple brick one story building in the corner of a second world war army camp on the edge of Hereford City in England. Bradbury Lines was a base of mainly old wooden buildings with the odd brick building, originally put there for military logistical purposes, and taken over by 22 SAS in the early 60s after moving from Malvern, Worcestershire.

We would spend hours and hours each working day perfecting our shooting skills and room combat tactics, using 9mm pistols and submachineguns. We’d throw in stun grenades (flashbangs) containing gas to distract those who we were going in to attack and kill or capture.

After a couple of hours we’d go outside and take a brew break, a paper cup of Army tea from a tea urn waiting for us on a table outside the main door. Inside the building was a concentrated build up of lead in the still air from the amount of bullets fired. In those early years the lead had nowhere to go as the building had no extraction facility. Opening the back door and a single window was the best we could do.

While drinking my brew of hot sweet tea, I’d be coughing up black phlegm and the same would be running from my nose. I’d go home to my family in the evening and I’d still taste the lead in my system. I was in my early to mid 20s at the time. Lead bullets can kill you!

(Eventually with the rebuild of the old camp a new CQB (Killing House) facility with great extractors leading to a cleaner air quality was put in place.) The modern camp replaced on the same site as Bradbury Lines would now have a name change to Stirling Lines after the founder of the SAS.

On top of that, a small group of us would continuously attempt to use basic explosives such as PE4 plastic explosives, det cord (that burns at 22000ft per second) and detonators to explode our way into buildings via windows and doorways at our training area to the south of Hereford. In order to get into the building as quickly after the explosion as possible we would have to be extremely close to the charge that was placed on a thin wooden frame the size of the door/window.

It wouldn’t be the first time that I would be temporarily knocked out by the over pressure from the explosion…coming to with my mates saying “are you OK Bob?” I was smaller than most on the team, and ideal for first man in through the breached hole made by the frame charge. Of course, in those early days it would happen to others too.

It wasn’t until after the Iranian Embassy Siege in London in May 1980, our first major anti terrorist operation with the world watching as it was live on TV, that the Regt was able to obtain funding for better equipment if we’re to progress and remain as one of the best anti terrorist teams globally.

Needless to say, ammunition, explosives and equipment for the SP Team became more refined and fit for purpose. Ballistic helmets would eventually become standard too. And over the coming years and decades, tactics, weapons, ammunition, explosives and equipment continued to change with the times.

However, for me and for a good few others the damage had already been done.

The last time I was back in Hereford catching up with my adult kids, I was having a pint one evening with a couple of mates who had been through exactly the same training and operations as myself. We were recounting the days of craziness in order to make operations successful…fully committed yes, yet fully vulnerable too.

A military diving accident without a lack of air for a period of time, and only a really switched on supervisor there to save my life has also added to the TBI I have no doubt. Life or death, I’ll take the TBI in my ageing years every time.

So, with the aforementioned, and explosions coming in and out of our locations over the years in all the small wars that we would be involved in, plus being inside of the over pressure of a massive suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, has all contributed to the damage done, and what I have to put up with today.

My wife has put up with a lot from me. Anger issues, breaking down crying, periods of not training physically, anxiety and bad panic attacks, and then 3 serious episodes of seizures…the last leading her to give me the ultimatum of seeing a doctor or paying the consequence of living alone (I’m sure she didn’t mean it but I couldn’t take the chance…I love her to bits, and she’s my best friend too).

The doctor was awesome, she sent me for tests with specialists, and the results were towards the fact that I have TBI. Like diving illnesses, there still isn’t enough known about TBI to give absolute definitions…yet.

For almost a year now, I’ve been on medication (a simple but strong drug where I take only 1mg per day), it’s working fine in that I’ve not had a seizure since. With constant physical training I’m pretty chilled ha ha, but there are still effects that will never be eradicated…I still shake, I still have raging tinnitus, I still cry easily (although I’ve always been a cry baby!), I get the odd stage of mental confusion, and the odd stage of dizziness too.

When I die, if they can find my wee brain, I’ll definitely give it up to science. Apparently, one of the things they do is to slice it up thinly and observe the dead areas.

However, if I had my life all over again, given the military era of the early to mid 70s when I both joined the military initially, then the SAS, and went on through the remaining 70s, into the 80s and through to the mid 90s…I’d do it just the very same…all over again, because for the vast majority of that time it was simply awesome!

After all, we were the early pioneers of anti terrorist teams, and when I look at what they can do now, I’m proud to have been at the humble beginnings of it all, and to pass it on to those younger and junior who could take it forward to another level during their careers…and so forth.

I blame no-one for my ills, it was just the era that I grew up in as a special forces soldier, it was the very early days of anti terrorism along with all the other soldiering that an SF unit undertakes, and then continuing with a civilian career that required my former SF skills.

Today, I’m reading up on what psilocybin can do to help my issues of TBI. It sounded crazy to begin with…what…me…taking magic mushrooms!? But scientific case studies have proven that they can reset the scrambled brain waves from what it has become today to what it was.

Just maybe that’s the answer to somewhat stabilizing TBI.

Meanwhile, the meds are good, yes my computer (brain) has glitches, but given my body’s wear and tear and my age today, I’m fit physically, still able to run and tab, do my weight training sessions and row until my hearts content…no complaints there, just highlighting what I’m going through to maybe help those who are carrying on silently. I’m not looking for tea and sympathy, but simply explaining how we progressed in the much simpler old days. I’ve looked in the mirror, but had to be dragged to that mirror by the long haired general. Just maybe after reading this, for some it may be a reminder to look in that mirror…it’s a great thing to do from time to time the older we get.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit www.bobshepherdauthor.com

Categories Uncategorized5 Comments


  1. Nice one Bob, thank you for your service. I’m sure we met in Germany on a Harrier exercise where 22 played enemy? We did catch a couple of you (possibly a set up) so we could do some prisoner handling and interrogation, after which we shared a brew and listened to your debrief.

  2. Hey Bob, a pleasant read on a Sunday morning.
    Always A Little Further!.
    If anyone can get through it you can Buddy, I know age – time – injuries are against us, stay strong mate, you taught me that at the age of 21, I’m 55 now and the obvious starting to kick in.
    Unfortunately hung my felt running trainers up a good wee few years back, and the boots are a must these days support mechanism paramount.
    Best wishes to you and family, no doubt cross paths sooner rather than later.
    Andre Steele ( H )

  3. Hi Bob,was not expecting a profound reading,l had to stop once and re engage later to calm down,but The main thing is your stagging on.
    When l left The Forces l came under,War Pensions,Blackpool and they looked after me really well,injuries related to work,Accumilated injuries from Army to RAF Regt.
    Só as we get older The drugs cabinet gets fuller,há,há.

  4. Hi Bob
    Very intresting to read your story. Hope you can get more help, with your problems. Thanks for sharing your life.Best wishes to you.
    Best regards

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