17 Apr 19
The Irish Sun
A NEW telly show is giving viewers an amazing glimpse inside the ‘Hell’ of the Army’s secretive special forces unit.
The Irish Army Ranger Wing is one of the toughest, best-trained units in the world.
Ger, Ray, Alan and Robert are ready to put recruits through their paces
Specific tests include cold-water endurance
They are on standby 24 hours a day, ready to deploy overseas or react to any serious domestic criminal or terrorist threat.
Their training and skills are benchmarked against other elite Special Forces units across the world, including the SAS and the Navy Seals.
Getting into the unit is not for the faint-hearted.
Just ten per cent of recruits make it through the gruelling training week and, to date, no female recruit has made the cut.
But now a new TV show is giving 24 civilians the chance to put themselves through the challenges to see if they have what it takes.
With four ARW veterans who have over 50 years experience between them in command, the superfit recruits will be put through their paces to see if they have what it takes to make it in this elite army unit.
Ray Goggins, who spent 14 years with the ARW — officially designated Sciathan Fianoglach an Airm — is a specialist in counter terrorism, is the Drill Sergeant in charge.
He said: “We’re simulating selection as best as possible. It needs to be absolutely relentless and ruthless.
“The first introduction has to be an attack on their senses. You have to be offensive.
“You have to get them out of their comfort zone. That makes them think this is serious.
THE RECRUITS ARE FORCED TO LIVE AND BREATHE LIKE REAL ARMY RECRUITS
“You have to scare the s***e out of them basically.”
During eight days of intensive training, the recruits are forced to live and breathe like real army recruits.
They must wear ballistics helmets that weigh 1.5 kilos and carry a heavy bar (instead of a real weapon) at all times.
Ray said: “The whole idea behind the admin, and harping on the admin is training people to be effective.
“Wearing a ballistic helmet — which is 1.5 kilos in weight — all the time would absolutely drive you mad.
“The bar which is a representation of a weapon which you have to have at arm’s length at all times is almost part of your body because if you’re not maintaining and protecting it, you’re going to be in trouble.”
Ray is joined on the recruitment team by fellow veterans Alan O’Brien, Ger Reidy and Robert Stafford.
The four lads will watch the recruits progress and weed out those who don’t have what it takes to make it in real life combat.
Robert explained: “I have to know I’m going out with six guys who I know are standing beside me when the bullets start flying.
“This is strange for us as we’re used to staying in the shadows and not coming out and saying what we do.
‘EVERY ROLE THAT THE UNIT DOES IS LIFE AND DEATH’
“Every role that the unit does is life and death. There’s no point in being in East Timor and one fella puts his hand up and says, ‘Not today, I wanna go home’.”
The Hell Week course that the recruits are put through is based on the actual exercises and tests currently used on the ARW course.
All the tasks are designed to test recruits’ physical, emotional and psychological resilience.
Specific tests include cold-water endurance, height tests and claustrophobic challenges as well as various trials of strength, stamina and determination.
As well as being physically strong, the tests all require mental resilience from the participants, as well as teamwork in many cases.
Precision and attention to detail is tested at all times.
The first challenge is an eight-mile uphill trek, which the recruits are expected to do while carrying their 70lb kit.
Ray said: “I decided I wanted to do that event. I picked that route because it’ll run them point-to-point uphills and they do that twice. That hurts your head to go up again and again and again.
“A lot of those people are super-fit. They can run hard but they can’t run with a kit. A lot of the guys, a lot of the girls, were really struggling.”
Rob added: “It would be a good indication of people’s abilities and determination.
“You have to be at that level where it doesn’t matter what happens, what injury you have, that you’ll keep going until you physically can’t complete the mission.”
And Ray told how many people see the work that elite units do on television or in movies and think they can do it. However, they don’t know that the training is often harder than the tasks themselves.
‘IT’S AN ABSOLUTE BALL-BREAKER’
He said: “It’s an absolute ball-breaker because you want to push them hard.
“Some say, ‘I’d love to do that and I want to be this and I’d love to be hanging off a rope on a helicopter’ . . . but they don’t realise you have to go through all this first.”
He added: “If you haven’t got the self-discipline to go out and train properly, you don’t deserve to be here.
“You get one chance and that’s it.”
Over the eight days, recruits get on average about two to three hours of sleep a night, with many of the challenges happening at night.
In tense challenges, the recruits are forced to strip in the rain, they’re blindfolded and bound and thrown into water.
They’re also put through the infamous ‘Scratch’ challenge, an extreme obstacle resistance course in The Curragh in Kildare.
Among those taking part are Shane Flynn, a fitness fanatic and personal trainer from Mullingar, Co Westmeath.
He said: “I’m the type of leader that thrives on pressure.
“If someone with a weaker personality says that Shane Flynn is very cocky, I can’t do anything about that.
“I’ve got to keep driving on who I am.”
Another hardcore recruit, Aidan Brennan, also reckons he has what it takes to impress the veteran ARW leaders.
‘PUT ME IN A ROOM WITH 23 STRANGERS, I’M AN ALPHA’
He said: “I’ve been through enough that I don’t think a couple of lads who have done a couple of years in the Army are going to be able to break me.
“I’ll either make a show of myself or I’ll be a f***ing legend. I’m a bullsh***er. I’m definitely an a**hole but I’m an a**hole they can trust.
“Put in a room with 23 strangers, I’m an alpha.
“They’ll soon learn to step into line.”
When starting the challenge, the recruits are told that they can leave or drop out at any time if they’re struggling.
However, those who are there for the week in Ultimate Hell say they’re prepared to go the distance — no matter what is thrown at them.
Recruit Lewis Gwei declared: “No way am I going to quit.
“Even if I have to leave in a bodybag, I’ll leave in a bodybag.”
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Another, Melissa Walsh, told how she hopes to become the first woman to make it through the intense challenges.
She said: “Hopefully I’ll prove people wrong. I definitely think of myself as an underdog. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was torture but I’m stubborn.”
Special Forces — Ultimate Hell Week airs on RTÉ2 tonight at 9.30pm.
Just ten per cent of recruits make it through the gruelling training week
A female recruit has yet to make the cut
Brave recruit pushes himself to the maximum
Recruits are faced with freezing conditions
The Hell Week course is based on the actual exercises and tests currently used on the ARW course
Over the eight days, recruits get an average of about two to three hours of sleep a night