22 Smoking Aces
We can't tell you his real name, but this warrior goes under the alias of 22 Smoking Aces.
A former British Para and 22SAS member turned Private Security Consultant.
I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to interview this guy and get some tips from someones who strives to reach the top in everything he does.
First up, tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Hi Rory, ok where do I start. In high school I was in the army cadets. As I moved to college I shifted into the Royal Marine Reserves when i was 18/19, after this I went to university. When i was 22 I made the decision to join the military, I decided to join the Royal Marines again, as I had done very well when I was in the RMR.
I passed all the entrance tests with flying colors and I was set to go in. At the last minute I saw a friend who was in the Parachute regiment, and he asked if I had considered the Paras? At this time I knew very little about the paras, other then they were a very tough unit and jumped from planes. Lol. I decided to go on an insight weekend and see what they were all about.
On the weekend, where I was thrashed and tested and exposed to the Para's I realized they were for me, and I needed to make the decision to head in that direction. I passed the weekend, and the D.S. (Directing Staff) wanted me on board. I was fit and strong from my marine preparation and blasted all of their tests.
So it was set, I was going to the paras instead of the marines. I had to tell the Marine Color Sgt about this choice, which he hated and threw me out of his office.
It's was my career and I had to go where my head and heart told me to go.
August 2001 I went to para depot and joined the parachute Regiment. I served with the paras from 2001 till 2007. At this point i wanted to move on, and the evolution would be to join UKSF (United Kingdom Special Forces). I passed selection in 2007 and joined 22 Special Air Service ( 22SAS).
I served with an amazing group of operators till summer 2012 where I left the regiment and moved back into the civilian world, since summer 2012 I have been working as a security consultant and have also been working on special projects and Marsec on the high seas.
It's been a busy time since 2001.
What was your inspiration to join the military?
I was drawn to the military as a young boy, and was fascinated by it. I knew I had to do it, so I pushed to join the marines and I did. I then pushed to join the paras and be a part of such a tough elite unit of paratroopers. Finally I wanted to prove to myself that I had what it takes to be a part of one of the best special forces in the world.
I achieved all to a high standard. And along the way, key figures in my life helped me focus and drive on to achieve and respect their memories.
"I did it for them also, they inspired me from day one joining the paras, and I did what they always wanted to but were taken away from us before they had the chance to."
How did you prepare for Special forces physically and mentally?
Within the paras, we had a good fitness regime. Myself and the guys would always push each other and we were mentally and physically tough. We never took the easy route and we always aimed to be a tough team of conditioned paratroopers and nothing would stop us.
I pushed myself for my SF selection, used my personal experiences and fitness to do what I needed to do and created a well balanced progressive training programme. It made me a very well rounded tactical athlete. I still have this programme today.
I mentally programmed myself to be ready and not to buckle under pressure. You need a positive mental attitude to get it done, no matter what.
Work on being self motivated.
Would you have done anything different?
I wouldn't change anything, I nailed it to a high standard, and did very well.
If you had limited time and equipment, what 5 exercises would you choose to perform?
I'd use a TRX, sandbag, chin up bar / or the rings and do as much functional work as possible. I've done this many times down range or on ship.
I wouldn't focus on 5 exercises, as the human body works in many ways. So i'd mix it up and make adjustments that fit best to the situation and job/task at hand.
If I had to use a programme, I would chose one that focusses on a push pull programme and includes lots of flexibility and mobility training to condition myself.
What was the hardest part of selection for you?
I had a problem with a heart illness and nearly killed myself pushing so hard on selection, it nearly took my life.
A severe heat illness can stay with your for life and takes a long time to recover from. Hammering through the jungle with this was a nightmare, and very tough. I knuckled down and never gave up.
Our team was strong and we all helped each other. So that was the hardest bit for me.
What was your first experience of high stress like?
A good friend died in my hands on his birthday, that was very intense.
I had to be strong for everyone and control the situation.
That was very stressful. Other then that most things rolled off me easily. I've always been steady and calm.
What is one tip that you would give a candidate wanting to go for selection?
Educate yourself on what is needed and prepare using short, medium and long term goals, with progressive smart training. Be mentally and physically fit, and do not rely on anyone else. This is up to you to achieve, so achieve it for you and never fail yourself.
Keep going no matter what, till the directing staff tell you to stop. Never give up.
How did it feel marching out and knowing what you had achieved?
It was the proudest day of my life.
A massive sense of achievement, but that's also because of the rank I achieved it at. I passed selection as a private solider and blew the staff away with my professionalism and soldiering skills.
Usually all successful candidates were full corporals or Sgts and officers. Not a low rank. So I was very proud of myself.
What values/lessons of life have you learned from your experiences in the military?
Integrity. Honor. Humility and an unrelenting pursuit for excellence.
Strength of character to stand your ground and be true to yourself.
Team work and how to help others.
Do you have any regrets in your career that you wish you could go back and change?
Yes, leaving SF was the worst choice of my life. I regret it everyday.
Since leaving the army, life has not been easy. It's taught me a lot, shown me a lot and I know I've grown from it. I fell from a high elite place to a very low point, I've been fighting hard since then to reestablish myself.
After many years of gaining respect helping others, and guiding others. Teaching, instructing and working on OP's.
Life is improving. Still a long way to go yet in the pursuit of excellence.
Any final words?
Never fail yourself
Don't be reactive in life, take control of it and own it.
You make life what you want it to be. It won't just fall into your lap. Get it done. Stay true to yourself and those who you hold close and trust.
Help others and remember honor, humility and integrity. These strengths of character go a long way. Earn your respect and respect others who are worthy of it.
In the darkest of times, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Even when the darkness is all around you and the light is very dim, just keep driving on, one step at a time and you will punch out into the light. Just keep going.
Don't let anyone stand in your way, you can do anything you set your mind to, where there is a will there is a way.
If you want to know more about 22 Smoking Aces then check out what hes been doing lately at his Instagram site here https://www.instagram.com/22smokinaces/