We were fortunate enough here at SpecialOperations.com to sit down with Gary Humphrey former Royal Marine Commando and SBS over the weekend. Gary or better known as Gaz to his friends gave us some nice insight on the selection courses of the Marines and the SBS. He relayed some of his experiences as well and it makes for a fun and intriguing look back at one man’s journey.
Gaz makes his home in the states now and lives on the Florida coast, but he’s not there very often as he’s constantly on the go with film projects, and just got back from one in Panama (yes, I’m jealous) but we’ll get to more of that later.
In the first part of our interview, we talked about Humphrey’s beginnings in the military as he joined the Royal Marine Commandos, passed their selection course and was assigned to one of the units. He deployed around the world, but his service in Northern Ireland back in 1989 was perhaps the most difficult.
From there, he began Selection for the SBS (Special Boat Service), Gaz recalled that much of training consisted on needless harassment, the instructors finding the slightest provocation and then forcing the candidates to strip naked to perform many of the training scenarios.
“The SAS course was better produced, the instructors had everything mapped out on how the training day was going to be conducted and they did it. I actually went thru their course after I did ours,” he said.
Wow, I asked him, you went back thru Selection? Humphrey laughed, He replied, “They told me, ‘we’ve got a great idea, we’re going to put you back thru Selection’ we were hardened by then, we could run, we could carry weight (ruck) with the Bergen, and hey, we could swim everywhere naked…right?”
“We went into the jungle in Brunei and came out four or five weeks later, thinking, that was a nice holiday.” The SBS course that Gaz went thru started in August and lasted until May, by then we were a hardened lot,” he repeated.
“We started out with three lots of 50 guys each, pegged down to 50 men but by the time we finished the SAS course we were down to and finished with just nine of us.”
At the conclusion of his training, he was assigned to one of the SBS units that are active all over the world. He signed a confidentiality agreement, that the Brits take much more seriously than the American military does. He’s not at liberty to say publicly where, when and how long he was deployed. The official Secrets Act is something he doesn’t care to run afoul of.
But having known him for quite a few years and having seen his resume, you can be assured that he’s served in most if not all of the “garden spots” that Special Operations Forces have been operating in for the past decade.
He said, “I don’t want to be banned from camp.” He explained further, “a few of the guys, a few years back, they sold their souls, and wrote books. A few more of the guys did a television show, ‘SAS Are You Tough Enough’, which was fine. They’re allowed to do that, but we had a guy who was interviewed on television and he gave up details of different operations and such. Now he’s banned from the camp.”
What does that mean I asked him? “Well, he can’t go back to visit, for any ceremonies, graduations, matches and such. That is where you go back to see your friends. So when discussing his resume, we’ll just leave it as he was a very busy man.
“It was a good time of my life, good men but I’ve lost a lot of good mates. Two of my instructors within six months of each other,” he said. “It makes it a bit difficult, doesn’t it? But we lost as many men from training accidents as they did from ops.”
“The old adage, train hard, fight easy…but you know there comes a time when you see blokes dying, two or three a year and you think, fuck things are catching up.”
“So I did nine years, and then I needed a break and took a walk-about, hitchhiked thru Africa, ski guided and came back and did eight more years. Those were really good ones and I really enjoyed it, and that’s when you realize how much you take the job for granted. You really miss it when you’re out and you really miss the lads.”
“That was the time when the whole world changed, I came back in 1998, then 2000 and whole world fucking exploded. Then our ops changed to a strict war fighting situation. But it was good times. It was fun really, Fun times.”
He keeps up with many of his old teammates and says he tries to keep up with all the jobs they’ve been doing and occasionally get together, share a bottle of port and toast the men who are no longer there.
After his career was over he’s remained a busy man and even is the basis of a hero in a romance novel. He was approached by a female writer who was writing one of those romance, adventure novels and she wanted the female lead in the book to taken hostage and rescued by the hero and a hostage rescue team. She needed the details of how it would go down from someone who would know.
“It was good, she asked me, ‘what is your nickname?’ Gaz I told her, and she said, you’re going to be the focus of my next book!”
He talked about how he’s changed from the warrior side of his personality to a more artistic side now. He has produced an outdoor reality television show and travels to different parts of the world to set it up. It aired in the UK last April 29. Gaz says, “now I’m more of a lover!”
“It has been fun, I was a bit of a bad boy and the Special Forces life was good for me, you know, the proper soldiering, the kind of stuff that makes history.”
“Some of those things, you know… it won’t be in the paper, it won’t be in the news but when you get back, you know what you did was worthwhile.”
We had the opportunity to work together about 10 years ago, on a war film that was using Morocco as the location site for work. In fact, the streets we filmed in that was supposed to be Iraq, were the exact same streets used in the film “Black Hawk Down” but were just filmed moving in the opposite direction…ah, the beauty of Hollywood.
I was the overall security advisor and Gary provided close, discreet protection for the star of the film an “A-List” actor. We were all pulling in the same direction and the film experience was a fun one even if the weather didn’t cooperate.
The second half of the filming was done in Morocco in late October, early November and that is the rainy season there. Well, it doesn’t translate to Iraq much so there was a ton of down time. Good for the security teams, not so good for the budget, having to pay a cast and crew of 300+ people to sit around.
Photo courtesy of UK Ministry of Defense