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Terry Schappert on Asia's Special Forces

By Freddy  /  19 Jan 2017 (Thursday)

Image credit: HISTORY Asia

For two successful seasons of Special Forces, History Asia brought viewers into the core of the world's toughest military units. Now, in a newly enhanced 4-part special, the toughest training segments from the original series are given a new life by bringing in ex-Warriors host, and former U.S Special Forces legend, Terry Schappert.

We talk to Terry about the main takeaways of the show, his past experience as a Green Beret, and how tough Asia’s Special Forces are to the Special Force he served 23 years in.

Catch Asia's Special Forces With Terry Schappert on HISTORY (StarHub TV Ch. 401), premiering on 22 January 2017 at 8.00pm & 8.30pm

InCinemas: Terry, could you tell us more about why people should watch Special Forces special?
Terry: Sure. So what this show is based on was an analysis and kind of a viewpoint from an American Green Beret on a series on Asian Special Forces, 6 different Special Operations Forces in Southeast Asia. Umm, I think what people are gonna take away from it is not just me talking about it.

First of all, you need to see the series, which is gonna give everybody from those countries a sense of pride that there are men volunteering for this mission and would really give it all. I think also people will be enlightened on what we really have to go through. It’s pretty serious business, you know. It’s pretty painful. It can be really really really bad. But the end result is always great. You forge a group of people that are really tough, really resilient, and you know, dangerous when they need to be dangerous.

Watching the series, and I’m gonna be hosting here for the 4.5-hour episodes, is gonna give you a different perspective, you know, from someone who has spent an entire career in US army, green berets, Multiple Combat Force and things like that.

I think what I’ll try to do is find mostly a lot of commonality, because there is a lot of commonality. There’s some differences, but really, the same kind of guy who volunteered to be a Thai Special Operations guy is really the same kind of guy who does what I do in America. So I think the commonality of it is gonna be very interesting to people.

And more importantly, too, I think is the human story. Seeing these guys step up to the plate, give it their all. Some succeed; some don’t. It’s emotional. It’s pretty damn riveting.

Image credit: HISTORY Asia

InCinemas: How does the Special Forces training in Southeast Asia differ from other parts of the world?
Terry: Other parts of the world? I think the training here… I think what we’re talking about here is selection process: how we really pick the guys to be in these units. And then they get further training and further experience.

I think it’s really not that much different. All over the world, putting a heavy rucksack full of equipment on top of a guy’s back and having him walk a distance with little food, little sleep, you know, under really awful conditions, is pretty much almost the gold standard to figure out who can take and who can’t take it.

So I don’t think there’s really that much difference, actually. The missions are different. That’s the biggest thing. Ultimately, those missions that those guys are gonna do are geared towards that government, towards that country, you know, in kind of what their interests are, if they have to go another country or if they are defending their borders or anything like internal problems. The missions that they are gonna be dealing with are as varied as the countries. But the selection process is really really similar.

InCinemas: Could you share some interesting facts about training in Southeast Asia and the Special Forces here?
Terry: Some interesting facts. First of all, I think it’s interesting that the guys are so young. These are really young men. A lot of these dudes are just like, you know, 19, 20, 21, 22. I think the average for lots of them are early twenties. That’s interesting.

Umm, for someone who’s not in this part of the world, I think what they’re gonna find out is how brutal it is here. Every part of the world has its difficulties, right? In northern part of Europe it’s the cold. It’s miserable. Here, the heat, humidity, and a lot of the terrain and the jungle will break any man. So I think that’s gonna be very illuminating to people.

And it’s funny as people who even live here, maybe they live in Singapore, they live in Thailand, they know the area, they live there. But they really never thought about how it would have to operate in a very high-risk, very physically challenging mission in that area. So I think people might even learn a bit more about, “Wow, so that’s how it’s like to do this here!” and they never thought of that.

Terry Schappert in 'Warriors'. Image credit: HISTORY Asia

InCinemas: Which country do you think has the toughest training and why?
Terry: Everybody asks that. And when I did the History channel series, called ‘Warriors’, I got asked all the time, “Who’s the toughest?” And I always said, with complete honesty, everybody’s tough. They’re all tough. ‘Warriors’ was about different warrior cultures throughout time. So I said, at that place in that time, there was nobody tougher than the Vikings, there was nobody tougher than the Zulus when they were there.

In this thing, among the Asian Special Forces, nobody’s, I think, technically tougher, you know. All those guys in the selection get put through the ringer. They’re all pretty really tough guys.
How have the trainings in the different countries been different compared to what you’ve seen as a Green Beret yourself?

So the selection process that I saw, that you’ll see in this series that you’ll hopefully see in these 6 episodes, is really not that different from what I went through. It really isn’t. Like I said, it’s a lot of navigation, it’s a lot of individual physically crushing things they do to you. And also if you look at the series, and I talk about this a lot in my bit, are the team-building events. There aren’t any Special Forces guys who go take down a building by themselves. There’s not one dude who’s on that rescue mission. It’s a team. And so that, to me, is the takeaway, of not just the series but also my stand on this for someone who’s been part of a team for so long, it’s always about the team.

The selection process figures out who can be on that team, who’s a good candidate for that. The training and the actual military life, that’s where you plug that in. But the selection? We are always looking for the same kind of guy. Physically tough, mentally tough, emotionally stable, and also adaptive to the circumstance.

InCinemas: What are some of the key learning points you’ve gained from your own Special Forces training over the years?
Terry:Key learning points. I think that first of all, I think the biggest thing is you never know too much. So humility was something that… if you don’t have it, you’re gonna have it in our world, because you’re gonna run up against something you’re not prepared for, that you’ve never seen. And that is a good thing that will humble you. Hopefully then, do what you have been trained to do, what you are able to adapt to and take care of that problem.

So I think the learning point I learned as a Green Beret medic, I learned to do a lot of things most people probably didn’t get to do, you know. I’ve learn to perform lifesaving steps on trauma victims, you know, I’ve put tourniquets on guys with legs blow off, I’ve delivered babies, did a dental clinic, worked on farm animals. This is the kind of stuff Green Beret medics do. Also, small things, too, like how to build a good sanitation plan for a village that was not a good spot. So I think I’ve learnt a lot of medical skills.

Obviously, with what I did as an infantry guy, a ranger school guy, Green Beret, all the combat stuff, but I also really learned how important and how meaningful it is to be a part of something bigger than you. You’ll see that in this series. These guys, more than anything, want to wear either that badge or that pin or that beret. Because the beret, the pin, or the badge, you can buy those from the surplus store, but they mean nothing. But the symbol when you have gone through that training, that’s what it is.
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