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SAS : Who Dares Wins | Interview with Chief Instructor – Ant Middleton

AS: Who Dares Wins is back for a fourth series. We’ve had the UK wilderness, the jungle and the desert – where’s this one happening?

This one is high in the Chilean Andes.  It’s going to be a winter warfare/arctic warfare course. It’s going to be extreme and the recruits will be operating in freezing conditions – cold, wet and miserable.

That’s not the only difference in this series, is it?

No, we’ve got women in this series as well.

Before filming, how did you feel about having women on the show?

I don’t really take gender into play. It’s a case of “Come on my course, there’s no gender, everyone’s the same.” Everyone’s just a number to me. They’re not a name, just a number, and it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, you need to prove yourself to me. You come on my course and enter my world, I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, you’re a number until you prove yourself otherwise.

What was the reality of having women on the show like?

I really just chose to ignore the gender thing. I think after the first 36 hours everyone realised they needed each other. We weren’t going to treat them any differently, it was more a question for the recruits, as to how it affected the dynamic within the group. But after the shock of being on the course and realising that this was real, they turned to each other very quickly and relied on each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It was a very interesting dynamic.

There was no segregation, they all roomed together. Why was that important?

They were one unit, it should work as one impenetrable unit. So you work, live, shit, play together. That’s how you form a trust, that’s how you form a bond, and that’s what matters on the battlefield, being there for each other and knowing each other inside out, down to your smallest fault and your greatest strength. You want that bond on the battlefield.

It’s not just cold. This all took place in the Andes. I presume the altitude was a factor in how these guys coped?

The altitude wasn’t that bad. We were at 3000m – the guys needed to acclimatise a bit, but it’s not going to wipe you out. We weren’t at serious altitude.

Says the bloke who climbed Everest! Was this series before or after you’d climbed the highest mountain in the world?

[Laughs] This was after.

So do you think you found it a lot easier than most people would have done?

No, you still have to acclimatise. It only takes three weeks for your body to go back to normal after something like that, so then you have to acclimatise to altitude all over again. Don’t get me wrong, you could definitely feel the difference on your chest in the Andes. With the element of it being cold and with the altitude, it does all come in to play, you have to acknowledge that you are at altitude. The moment you don’t acknowledge that you’re at altitude, you think you’re dying, because you’re struggling for breath that much more. So you have to keep that in mind and recognise what’s going on. You just have to deal with it.

When you’re away filming something like this, while it’s total torture for the recruits, can you relax a bit, knock off and have a beer in the evenings, or are you working as hard as the recruits?

I wish!! No, we work harder than the recruits. When they’re in bed, we’re up having meetings, making sure the course is one smooth operating machine. We’re splitting the team up, two of the DS’s are getting up early to go and set stuff up, and two of us are looking after the recruits. We are definitely up more than the recruits, we get less sleep than them. They’re our responsibility, we’ve got to make sure we’re there for them 24/7. They are my responsibility, I will be there to make sure everything runs as smoothly and safely as possible.

What home comforts do you miss when you’re off doing stuff like this?

None. I don’t really miss anything, I’m so focussed on what I have to do, I’m so focussed on my work, that I don’t miss any creature comforts. I’m away, I’ve got a job to do, I’ve got responsibility, so I throw myself 100 per cent into what I do. Especially on something like this, I don’t want to be comfortable at night. I’m grabbing two or three hours’ sleep here and there, I want to be uncomfortable as well, I want to be able to get into their mind set. I want to know how they’re feeling, what buttons to push, what buttons not to push at certain times of the course. We sleep on the same beds as they sleep on, in similar accommodation. We very much rough it like they do. It’s important that we do that. That gives us justification to go out and do what we do to these guys, because we’re living it with them. That’s how you judge the course, you can judge how tired they feel, how tired we feel. It’s a good combat indicator for us.

Do you ever feel any sympathy for the recruits?

No. I never had any sympathy felt for me when I was going through selection. It’s not about sympathy. The moment you start feeling that, you’re going to put yourself and other people at risk. It’s not an organisation where you can show sympathy. You’re either good enough or you’re not, it’s black or white.

If I was a recruit, what advice would you give me to stay on your good side?

All I want from you is your 100 per cent. But I don’t want it in an “I’m going to give 100 per cent and sweat blood and tears” way, I want you to think about it. I want you to be a smart-thinking individual that gives me their 100 per cent. It doesn’t have to be physical all the time. Think about it. Pace yourself. Give yourself a fighting chance to sustain yourself. I want to see you use your brain. Get the job done efficiently. I want to see an intelligent operator at work. And apart from that, to stay on my good side, just do as you’re told. If you’re given an instruction, take it in, acknowledge it. If you get it wrong, admit that you got it wrong. If you start to pass blame or responsibility on to others, that’s when I’m going to start to get really angry.

Lastly, are you good at picking out the recruits that are going to do well? Do you tend to get that right?

This show is full of surprises, and that’s one of the things I love about it. One minute, you can be on top of the world, the next minute you can be down in the pits of hell. One minute you’re a success, the next you’re a failure. We try not to judge a book by its cover. But generally speaking, if someone is in good shape, and has prepared mentally, they’re likely to be there at the end.