SAS 'facing a recruitment crisis'
The SAS is facing a recruitment crisis because soldiers are too over-stretched to apply to join the elite regiment, a senior Army commander has warned.
In a leaked letter seen by The Daily Telegraph, the head of the infantry Brigadier Richard Dennis said the "unrelentingly demanding" operations in Afghanistan were combining to "mitigate against Special Forces recruitment".
He added that the SAS was also losing its unique status within the armed forces as "interesting operations are no longer seen as the preserve of Special Forces".
The paper said it understood that the SAS - which has planned a key role in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as in anti-terrorist operation - had a one third shortage of its front line strength.
Although details of SAS wounded statistics are secret, it is said to have suffered similarly high casualty rates to some other Army units - including an incident last year in Afghanistan when eight soldiers were badly injured in a single attack.
Writing to the head of the Army General Sir Peter Wall, Brig Dennis said he had deep concerns over the "challenge of fully manning the SAS" and that urgent action was needed to improve the "depth and quality" of potential recruits.
He quoted the commander of 22 Special Air Service Regiment as saying that there was an "understandable need for more youthful, quality volunteers".
Brig Dennis added: "I am content, notwithstanding the need to avoid any complacency, that the infantry community delivers sufficient officer and soldier volunteers to Selection. I am less confident about how we guarantee better depth of quality to increase selection pass rates. Indeed, for any measure to be successful you might consider that Army action is essential if we are to increase selection success and the enduring quality of our SF (Special Forces) community."
Brig Dennis added that many soldiers were apprehensive about applying to join the SAS as "fear of failure remains acute" and suggested commanders should "talent spot and nurture" potential recruits.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We do not normally comment on SF matters and we can see no reason to change that policy on this occasion."