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SAS : Who Dares Wins | Interviews with Female Recruits

Laura

Age: 25

Profession: Police Community Support Officer

Hometown/Region: Hertfordshire

Relationship Status: In a relationship

So, you have made history. You are one of the first female recruits to ever join SAS: Who Dares Wins. How does that feel?

It was a real privilege to be chosen to be on the show. I was humbled to be amongst some incredible recruits in the experience both male and female. However, I think we all earned our place in the series. As much as it was an honour to be chosen, each of us had unique personal qualities and life experiences that I believe carved the opportunity for us in the programme.

Tell me about your experience

How an earth do I answer that in less than 5000 words?! The experience as a whole was nothing like I have ever experienced before. A meandering journey of euphoric highs of completing a task or creating a bond with someone, to soul destroying lows of questioning your ability and purpose.

Did you find it difficult? Was it more difficult than you expected?

Difficult I think is the wrong word to describe the experience. Difficult would suggest you have a problem and you are not sure of the solution. I knew that throughout SAS: Who Dares Wins, the only solution was to get your head down, dig deeper than ever and carry on in any way you physically and mentally can. I have been in that situation numerous times before in my life and always found a way through. So I would say it was testing, not difficult. And I knew that it would probably be the most physically and psychologically demanding experience of my life. Therefore, it wasn’t any more testing than I expected. I expected it to be utterly soul destroying at times.

Do you think you found it harder than the male recruits?

I don’t think I found it any harder than the male recruits, no. Every single person in there had their own personal battles to overcome. Everyone had strengths and weaknesses and everyone had good hours and bad hours. I was taking it hour by hour most days

Were you treated any differently to the men or was it more equal?

The men and women were treated completely equally. There were no discrepancies in any of the details throughout the kit, the food, the timings, the distance, the respect, the beastings, the expectations. Which is exactly how it should have been.

How did you cope with the harsh winter weather conditions?

I was fine with the cold. Everyone has been exposed to cold before and everyone will be exposed to cold again. It’s a matter of perspective, I knew I wasn’t going to be cold for the rest of my life, just for a few days. Dealing with cold is simply a matter of dealing with discomfort. We were dealing with some form of discomfort 24-7 throughout the whole experience. The cold was just something else to tolerate.

You had to share all your space with men for the whole time you were there, including sleeping and toilets. How did you find that?  Did you ever feel shy or self-conscious in front of the men?

I knew that question would come up. I hope the men were asked if they were shy and self-conscious in-front of the women too?! The men were entirely respectful of the women and the women were entirely respectful of the men. When you are surviving on three hours of sleep, in one of the harshest terrains imaginable, ploughing through the most physically and emotionally demanding experiences of your life, who you are shitting and sleeping next to pales in to insignificance really.

Do you think gender makes a difference in this environment?

Do I think gender makes a difference in this environment? Quite simply, no. Women and men can both be trained and educated to be anything they want to be, in any environment. Women and men can both physically train as hard as they like to achieve what they want to achieve.

Have you ever done anything like this before?

No, I’ve never done anything like this before.

What made you sign up?

I signed up because I love to see what I can achieve. I love to feel the sense of achievement after purposefully pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. I am also very passionate about sharing my life experiences and using them to motivate and inspire other people. Part of it was attempting to act as a role model to others as well.

Now that you have this experience, would you like to join the real Special Forces?

I have no ambitions to join the Special Forces, no. I was incredibly proud of what I achieved in the show, but I don’t think I would enjoy it as a career.

What was the best part of the series for you?

The best part of the series was being able to experience such an incredible country and environment. But also proving to myself how capable I was, how able I was, how utterly determined and committed I was, how resilient I was and that I absolutely did deserve my place there and I gave every single piece of me that I could….. Also, the beef stroganoff on day four and the chocolate protein bars on day two were particular highlights for me personally…..

What were Ant, Foxy, Ollie and Billy like? 

Ant – was the clear leader and very rarely let his guard down. He was brutal, relentless and unforgiving.

Foxy – was calmly and quietly encouraging and motivating. He was too incredibly demanding of us.  However, he clearly wanted to get the best out of us and not just berate us.

Billy – was completely hilarious. Motivating, encouraging and showed a real belief in me climbing up a mountain. He also told me (relentlessly) that I was a ‘F*cking coconut’ and probably sh*t at football, which at the time, was very warmly welcomed banter.

Ollie – was incredibly approachable and easy to talk to. He is a fantastic runner and his fitness put ours to shame. Respected him massively and appreciated his slightly gentler side at times.

Would you ever do it again?

Yes I would do it again.

 

Louise

Age: 29

Hometown: South West England

Profession: Midwife

Relationship Status: Married

So, you have made history. You are one of the first female recruits to ever join SAS: Who Dares Wins. How does that feel?

I feel incredibly proud that I have been part of the first series to include females. I hope it inspires more women to take part in the future.

Tell me about your experience

Absolutely brutal. After the first 24 hours I honestly thought about quitting. The sleep deprivation was instant following a long flight and the altitude adjustment. The wondering if I could actually do it kicked in immediately and I thought, ‘shit! What am I doing here? I’ve picked something way beyond my capability.’ Then once I ‘settled in’ and got my first couple of hours sleep and began to make some friends (something I hadn’t intended to do), I thought I’d just take each minute as it comes. Each challenge was more difficult than the last and not just because it was increasingly physically demanding but because I became progressively more mentally drained and my body was stressed.  Afterwards, people asked me if I would do it again. I immediately said no because it was so hard. Now I’ve had time to reflect and I can see how much I have gained from the experience, I would definitely do it again.

Did you find it difficult? Was it more difficult than you expected?

I honestly feel that it was one of the hardest experiences of my life – both physically and mentally. I began by telling myself to tick off each day in my head as a way of getting through, but ultimately I resorted to counting down the hours because a day was just too long and difficult in the grand scheme of things.

Do you think you found it harder than the male recruits?

No. I think as individuals we all found it extremely difficult.

Were you treated any differently to the men or was it more equal?

We were treated exactly the same.

How did you cope with the harsh winter weather conditions?

There wasn’t really a way of coping. You just had to let it be and let it happen, accepting you were wet and cold most of the time. I went to sleep most nights shivering and waking up in a sleeping bag full of condensation. At home if I’m cold I make myself comfortable by putting the heating on or putting on more clothes. We didn’t have those option, so acceptance was easier. If we moaned about it or let it get to us, the struggle would have been harder.

You had to share all your space with men for the whole time you were there, including sleeping and toilets. How did you find that?  Did you ever feel shy or self-conscious in front of the men?

It was fine. It didn’t bother me at all.

Do you think gender made a difference in that environment?

I honestly don’t think it did. We were all individually trying to get our way through this. Once, on the toilet I was asked by a male recruit to undo his trousers because his hands were so sore he physically couldn’t.  I had to finish going to the toilet first and he just stood there and waited. It was a moment of realising that male or female, we all needed each other and we were all willing to help each other. I don’t believe, other than the first recruit to leave, anyone had any gender bias. If they did I never felt it or was made aware of it.

Have you ever done anything like this before?

I have never experienced anything like this before.

What made you sign up?

I pride myself on being physically fit and mentally resilient and so wanted to test it. Also, being a midwife, there is a preconception that you wouldn’t be up for anything so brutal. I like to surprise people with what I am capable of.

Now that you have this experience, would you like to join the real Special Forces?

NO! I am under no illusion that this is a condensed ‘experience’ of the SAS and not a platform to enable me to join. I would not like to be in that sort of environment with the added potential of death. One of the lines I repeated in my head to get through was ‘they can’t kill you’.  I wouldn’t be able to use that in real life.

What was the best part of the series?

Meeting and becoming close to all the other recruits in this shared experience. Also, the sense of pride and achievement after completing a task or making it through another day. I learnt that I am tougher and more resilient than I initially thought. Being in the Andes was incredible… even if we did need reminding to look around and take it in. I have never before had a view from the toilet quite like it!

What were Ant, Foxy, Ollie and Billy like? 

Brutal. I didn’t expect them to be quite so ‘full on’. Some had more likeability about them than the others but it was good to experience them in their role. I would have been disappointed if it was just for ‘show’ or an act in front of the cameras. They were like you saw them being the whole time and it gave me a sense of authenticity.

Would you ever do it again?

Yes.

 

Lou

Age: 40

Profession: Surgeon

Hometown/Region: Scotland

Relationship Status: Married

So, you have made history. You are one of the first female recruits to ever join SAS: Who Dares Wins. How does that feel?

It has been an immense privilege to have had the opportunity to be involved in the series.

Tell me about your experience

Without a doubt one of the most mentally and physically demanding things I have ever done. That being said, it was also one of the most rewarding, I have met friends for life amongst the inspirational recruits who were involved.

Did you find it difficult? Was it more difficult than you expected?

Yes, it was difficult, the worst thing being constantly on edge, not knowing who was going to come barging through the door, shouting to be on the parade square in five mins for a beasting in the middle of the night. I’m not sure I can say it was more difficult than I expected, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

Do you think you found it harder than the male recruits?

I don’t think I found it tougher than the male recruits, I think we all found it equally difficult!! And to be honest that’s one of the things that drives you when you’re struggling, that everyone is in the same boat, struggling with aches and pains!!

Were you treated any differently to the men or was it more equal?

Everyone was treated equally, there were definitely no favouritism being female.

How did you cope with the harsh winter weather conditions?

The weather and the altitude were tough to deal with.

The altitude particularly, we had less than 24 hours acclimatisation and it’s very humbling when what is normally a simple exercise becomes a struggle with shortness of breath and a feeling of drowning!!

I had to do 20 burpees in front of everyone one of the first mornings, normally this would be easy, I got to 10 and thought I was going to drown!!

You had to share all your space with men for the whole time you were there, including sleeping and toilets. How did you find that?  Did you ever feel shy or self-conscious in front of the men?

Sharing accommodation and toilet facilities was initially quite intimidating but that was soon forgotten, we became a team and all inhibitions were discarded as we bonded as a group.

Do you think gender makes a difference in this environment?

In this environment I don’t feel gender was an issue. We were all treated equally and the environment and situation was unfamiliar and daunting for all of us.

Have you ever done anything like this before?

I have never had the opportunity to do anything similar before.

What made you sign up?

The reason I signed up was as a challenge to myself, did I have the mental and physical resilience to cope with all that would be thrown at us??

Now that you have this experience, would you like to join the real Special Forces?

While I loved the experience, I love my own job and what I do on a day to day basis and couldn’t give that up.

What was the best part of the series for you?

The absolutely best part was the amazing group of people I had the privilege to meet and become friends with. As a group we were pushed to our limits and no one outwith that group can really comprehend what we achieved. I’m sure what will be shown in the series is only a small percentage of all we did.  I learnt a lot about myself, how I can improve as a person and develop transferrable skills that I improve on in my working life.

What were Ant, Foxy, Ollie and Billy like? 

I didn’t have the opportunity to interact on a personal level with any of the DS or Ant so can’t really comment.  They are all very insightful and excellent at identifying individual weaknesses and strengths.

Would you ever do it again?

It would be an absolute privilege to do something like this again.

 

Nadine

Age: 34

Profession: Aviation Firefighter

Hometown/Region: Scotland

Relationship: Single

So, you have made history. You are one of the first female recruits to ever join SAS: Who Dares Wins. How does that feel?

Optimistic. Not for my future, but certainly for the future of others.

Did you find it difficult? Was it more difficult than you expected?

I knew I was going in sick. But there were times that I was almost summoning up Gods I hadn’t prayed to before, just to let me through. I knew what to expect, the show delivered.

Do you think you found it harder than the male recruits?

It’s not about men versus women. Everyone, albeit male or female, went in there with their own goal. Everyone had their own battles to face. It’s hard for anyone.

Were you treated any differently to the men or was it more equal?

Did the men get tampons too?

How did you cope with the harsh winter weather conditions?

I’m Scottish. That wasn’t winter.

You had to share all your space with men for the whole time you were there, including sleeping and toilets. How did you find that?  Did you ever feel shy or self-conscious in front of the men?

I work entirely with men. Any time I ask for privacy I just tell them to look away. All the recruits were very civil and respectful. Knowing the cameras were there was the main issue.

Do you think gender makes a difference in this environment?

No.

Have you ever done anything like this before?

No.

What made you sign up?

I always seek adventure. Whenever I feel stressed out, I look for a distraction. It doesn’t mean climbing mountains or diving to the deepest depths. A distraction is me putting myself through a new challenge and seeing how strong I come out at the end of it.

Now that you have this experience, would you like to join the real Special Forces?

No. I’m too busy looking out for my lads in Project RV.

What were Ant, Foxy, Ollie and Billy like?

Ant: Aye, ok.

Foxy: Smells lovely and carries himself well.

Ollie: My number one.

Billy: I never got to meet him properly, but I heard he’s the real deal.

Would you ever do it again?

Count me in.

 

Tracey

Age: 34

Profession: Security guard

Hometown/Region: North West England

Relationship Status: Single

So, you have made history. You are one of the first female recruits to ever join SAS: Who Dares Wins. How does that feel?

It’s still kind of surreal that I’ve even been on the show and done that to myself.  It feels great and I’m so proud to have cemented my name in history.

Tell me about your experience

I found it very difficult, much more difficult than I expected. The altitude and sleep deprivation made it so much harder to do the tasks in hand.

Do you think you found it harder than the male recruits?

I wouldn’t say I found it more difficult than the male recruits.  We were all equal with our own strengths and weaknesses.  Gender didn’t play a role.

Were you treated any differently to the men or was it more equal?

We were treated as equals and they was definitely no easy treatment for being a woman. We had to be one of the men, if anything.

How did you cope with the harsh winter weather conditions?

The weather conditions were horrible.  I honestly don’t know how I coped. In the end I had to shape up or ship out.

You had to share all your space with men for the whole time you were there, including sleeping and toilets. How did you find that?  Did you ever feel shy or self-conscious in front of the men?

I’m used to being one of the lads, so sharing with them made no difference to me. I never felt shy or self-conscious in front of them.  We were all there for a reason and had a job to do, so getting through the whole experience was all I had in mind.

Do you think gender makes a difference in this environment?

I wouldn’t say it made a big difference. Yes, men are naturally stronger… and they don’t have to worry about shaving and brushing their hair (laughs).  Apart from that we were all struggling in our own way – male or female.

Have you ever done anything like this before?

I have never done anything like this before. I haven’t even climbed a mountain before in normal conditions, let alone SAS: Who Dares Wins.

What made you sign up?

It came about very strangely. I would say destiny.  I’ve watched the programme for the last two series and have been a big fan of the show.

Now that you have this experience, would you like to join the real Special Forces?

I’ll stick to my boxing training – it’s easier.  Maybe in my younger years but as it is now, definitely not.  I can’t lie, it’s very tough to be Special Forces and I have the utmost respect for them.

What was the best part of the series for you?

Best part of the series was meeting people just as tough and determined as you, as well as such inspiration people, learning from the best (DS staff)and just gaining the most unreal best experience of my life. I also believe it’s helping and going to help me in my everyday life. It was a life changing opportunity I’ll never forget.

What were Ant, Foxy, Ollie and Billy like? 

The DS were amazing. I’ve never met men like them – they are great people and inspirational role models. So tough and strong. I’m honoured to have been able to learn from them.  Ant’s the quiet deep thinking one who watches, Billy’s the joker, Ollie’s a big softie deep down but is firm and Foxy’s just a hard man waiting for action. They play their roles really well.  What a great unit for the show.

Would you ever do it again?

I don’t think I would do it again. Once was enough!

 

Esmee

Age: 27

Profession: Fitness Instructor and motivational speaker

Hometown/Region: Essex

Relationship Status: In a relationship

Weeks away from attending dance school, aged 18, Esmee was left paralysed from the waist down due to complications in surgery. Determined and focused, she learned to walk again. In fact, she managed to run a marathon and become a gym instructor.

On her experience: “It’s the weirdest thing ever because it was so hard but literally the moment I left I wanted to go back and if I got called now I would be straight there. Life outside the course isn’t the same, skills you learnt in there and tactics you learnt just aren’t required in your normal life. Bonds you formed with people aren’t as thick. In there you genuinely patted yourself on the back for things you did and got through and it’s hard to replicate that feeling outside the course.”

 

Hannah

Age: 26

Profession: Shepherd/Farmer

Hometown/Region: Cumbria

Relationship Status: In a relationship

Five years ago, Hannah swapped her urban life to become a farmer.  She was met with scepticism and general negativity when she first entered into male dominated agricultural community, but has proved her capability.

On sharing her experience with men: “I decided to enter a male dominated industry, when I decided to farm, having not come from a farming background. I’ve worked incredibly hard to prove myself, and prove I can do anything a male can do in this industry. I work with men everyday and I have always been very comfortable and can ‘hold my own’ around them. Therefore living/sleeping/toilets really didn’t bother me too much. In the end it was quite funny, everyone had their own ‘toilet routine’ so every morning I’d always be pooing with the same people. Some of the conversations recorded must be hilarious!

 

Julie

Age: 33

Profession: Police Officer

Hometown: Hampshire

Relationship Status: Single

From a young age, Julie dreamt of following in her grandfather’s footsteps and becoming a Royal Marine, only to find out at 18 that women weren’t allowed to apply.

On her experience: “It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, I had no idea what to expect as you could never fully prepare for it. It was also one of the best things I have done in my life and taught me so much about myself, it was invaluable.”

 

Katherine (Kat)

Age: 31

Profession: Communications for the Civil Service

Hometown/Region: Hampshire

Relationship Status: In a relationship

Kat has always harboured ambitions of joining the armed forces, but instead focused on combat training and competing in MMA

On the women who took part this series: “there were some bloody strong ladies in there who showed up most of the guys and definitely would give the average man a run for their money. It was a privilege to be amongst such amazing strong women, despite not really feeling on their same level!”

 

Saranya

Age: 19

Profession: Student

Hometown: Hertfordshire

Relationship Status: Single

Saranya is the youngest recruit this series.  She wants to one day be the first female Royal Marine Commando and sees this as a great starting point.

On her experience with male and female recruits: “I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to be a part of this amazing experience… I personally believe that each gender brings something different to the team. Females and males definitely have different ways of thinking and in this generation we shouldn’t still be stopping or segregating genders, especially in the military. Even though men usually feel like they need to protect females, from being a part of this experience I found that we care for each other equally.  Females feel just as responsible for helping the guys as they do for us.”

 

Sharissa

Age: 26

Profession: Personal Trainer

Hometown: Wiltshire

Relationship: Single

Health and fitness is Sharissa’ life. She works as a PT, is in peak physical condition and competes in body building competitions.

On being one of the first female recruits to take part in SAS: Who Dares Wins: “I have made history!!! Wow! I’m very happy about this, its quite something isn’t it? It only gives me a feeling of being very self proud that I was part of such a brutal yet successful experience.”

 

Vicki

Age: 40

Profession: Business Owner and Fitness Instructor

Hometown/Region: South East England

Relationship Status: Separated.

This year has been very significant for Victoria. She’s recently turned 40 and is also getting divorced.   She wasn’t active before discovering a form of ballet based strength work 12 years ago. This helped her transform her body. She lost five stone and built up her strength.

On her experience: “It feels like a huge privilege. To have spent time amongst the most elite-trained special forces commanders is something I will never forget or take for granted. We had access to some of the most remote parts of the planet and the whole experience was incredibly gritty and real. There were no off-camera safety mats or barriers. We were pushed to our own physical and mental limits. To have survived that and completed every task has taught me more about myself in such a short time, than I could have discovered in a lifetime.”