Big Phil – one of the few British soldiers to pass selection for the Royal Marines Commando, Parachute Regiment, and SAS – explained the mindset going into war-zones.
The SAS hero called his comrades his “brothers” and said you cease to become an individual as you work perfectly as one.
Despite fighting in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, he said you just have to shut that out and remain single minded on completing the mission.
He was part of operations in Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland and Bosnia before retiring from the forces to become a security contractor, speaker, author and TV personality.
The veteran was speaking to Daily Star Online for today’s Armed Forces Day, a celebration of the British military past, present and future.
“I left school with my cycling proficiency and that was it, but the military didn’t judge”
Big Phil Campion
Big Phil told Daily Star Online: “Obviously on every operation there are repercussions if something goes wrong – they are dangerous.
“But that just isn’t at the forefront of your mind, the one thing on your mind is completing the mission.
“You are like brothers, they are your family. You are a unit – that word describes it perfectly.
“You are not there as an individual, you are not a scattering, a crowd, a gathering, you are a unit. A collective as one.”
Big Phil highlighted Operation Barras as one of his most dangerous missions, the rescue of five British soldiers from militia group the West Side Boys in Sierra Leone.
Barras saw the SAS storm the village of Gberi Bana – a stronghold of the fighters – by rappelling in from chinook helicopters.
The commandos managed to find the British soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment, and their Sierra Leonean liaison officer Musa Bangura.
Bangura has been held in a toilet pit, starved, and beaten – but the SAS men carried him to the helicopter.
SAS commandos also managed to rescue 22 civilians who had been used as servants and sex slaves by the West Side Boys.
SAS troops are know for the intense training – or “selection” – which they undergo that steels them for operations like Barras.
It has a 90% fail rate and pushes candidates to their physical limits over the course of five months.
Challenges include a 40 mile long non-stop endurance march carrying a 60lb rucksack and rifle.
British special forces training methods have been picked up by the US for their own Delta Force commando unit, to ensure the best of the best.
Big Phil told Daily Star Online: “I remember the first four weeks were pretty hideous, and even after that it was still very dificult.
“I actually enjoyed the training, it was physically and mentally demanding – but I would be quite willing to do it all again.”
He joked the hardest part of selection for was actually being picked out to go on – saying it took him near “two years to be released from my unit”.
He said: “It was painstakingly difficult to get them to let me go.”
Big Phil explained he left school without an qualifications, but credits life in the military as keeping him on the straight and narrow.
“I left school with my cycling proficiency and that was it. I didn’t have many prospects and I was pretty mischievous,” he said.
“But the military didn’t judge, the military didn’t characterize me, they let me in and that was that.”
He also told Daily Star Online he believes British veterans should be put at the front of the queue for services when they return home.