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SAS: Who Dares Wins S5: Interview with Pavandeep

Getting my daily scripture reading done was also difficult.  I wasn’t able to stick to the set times but would just abou...

Profession: Trainee Ophthalmic Surgeon

Hometown: Slough

Background

Pavandeep wanted to join the RAF (Royal Air Force) but felt this was just a Top Gun fantasy so pursued a career medicine instead.

He has a pampered life in Slough, often spoilt by his traditional Indian family but this lifestyle has left him lacking a sense of fulfilment. He was determined to prove himself on SAS: Who Dares Wins and wanting to break out of the comfort zone he had been brought up in, he applied for the series. He also taught himself to swim in preparation for the course.

Note: SAS stands for 'Special Air Service' an elite military special force said to have the most difficult recruitment testing in the world. 

Tell me about your experience on SAS: Who Dares Wins

It was the best experience of my life.  It was incredibly difficult and horrendous but also life-changing.  The suffering is what made it so good as it allowed me to get a visceral feel of what Special Forces selection is actually like and what SF operators have to go through to become the best of the best.  Furthermore, it allowed me to put myself to the test in really extreme conditions and to me, this was the opportunity of a lifetime.  The whole experience was a gift – a chance to practice courage and bravery, and to take myself to breaking point and see what happens.  I feel incredibly grateful and privileged to have had this chance.

I found a sense of belonging amongst a group who were, at first, strangers, but then became like a second family.  Everyone was raw and there was no pretence and so I really had the chance to bond and make lifelong friendships. I found my band of brothers (and sisters!).

I felt a huge sense of purpose.  Everything I did was devoted to survival and getting through the day and although I didn’t have any control over what we did, when we slept, when we ate etc…I could control small things about myself.  When I left the course, I had a massive sense of fulfilment and felt that a hole in my life had been filled. A hole that I never even knew was there.  It taught me self-reliance and I truly feel now that I can overcome anything in my life.  We experienced ‘their world’ and I got to ‘face the dragon’ multiple times.  This is more than I could have gained from any number of books or movies.

I feel like the DS (Directing Staff) have actually imparted tangible gifts to me, in terms of the unique tools and skills I gained from them.  The special forces are a unique collection of people and nothing else comes close to what they do.  I learnt, practically, how to push my limits beyond anything I knew before and how to tap into huge reserves of power through the techniques of controlled aggression, positivity and limitless belief and self-confidence.

I have also become much more aware and humbled by what Special Forces soldiers go through when they serve and the incredibly difficult conditions under which they operate.  They deserve a lot of gratitude and respect and I feel more should be done in society to honour our armed forces.

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

It was very difficult and much more so than I expected.  I’ve seen previous series of the show but when you are on the course, you are living it 24/7 and it’s an entirely different monster.  The first few days were a massive shock to the system but then I realised I was surviving and that I could just grind through and so adopted the ‘grinding mentality’ day by day...

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What training did you do in preparation for this course?

I had a good strength base from powerlifting, but toned that down a bit and focussed more on running and hill walking with weight.  I didn’t have anyone prepared to let me carry them around on my shoulders unfortunately, as that would have helped!  I also had to reduce some of my ‘land-based’ training to take up intensive swimming lessons which took up a lot of time.  I was booking two hour slots at a time and the instructors were surprised and thought I was mad as it was so tiring. 

I also memorised as many of my daily Sikh scriptures as I could and practiced tying a turban without a mirror (and beard care without a mirror!).  I prepared a number of different types of head covering for different situations so that I could be prepared – small things, but things I had to take into account.   I was having fully cold baths and showers every day just in case we had to deal with cold water.  This was a good call.

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

It’s something I have considered. I would not be able to join the regulars. But maybe the reserves at some point…but it’s a big decision and something I will consider over the coming months...

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What was the hardest part of the series for you?

All the self-administration, simply because it took up so much time.  Drying clothes and shoes took ages.  The lack of sleep was also difficult. Lack of food wasn’t great but was expected and obviously all the challenges were hard but you just suck it up and grind through.  Also, glaringly obviously – swimming!  Even though I had a flotation vest, I was pretty useless in the water although managed to learn to stay calm and once even made it to shore on my own.

Being a vegetarian had its downside – the only protein source was occasional cheese, occasional milk, and dry chick peas and kidney beans.   The night before the log carry, most of the team feasted on fresh meat whilst I had to make do with a few apples. But it was my choice and so I told myself to ‘suck it up’.  Plus some of the other recruits were vegans and one was gluten intolerant.

Getting my daily scripture reading done was also difficult.  I wasn’t able to stick to the set times but would just about manage to get it done throughout the day and night whenever there was a spare moment, and if I managed to stay awake whilst sat down…

I think the overall worst was the constant anxiety and not knowing what would happen next and the night time shock beastings.  I was once sleeping so deeply, that when the DS came in shouting, I woke and for a few moments and had absolutely no idea where I was.  My entire body was shaking whilst I scrambled to put on my boots. It was incredibly disorientating.

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