I just watched the last in a 3-part series last night called “Hunting Chris Ryan”. Ryan was the member of the infamous Bravo Two Zero SAS squad that was compromised behind enemy lines in the 1991 Gulf War. He was the one who evaded capture and walked 200 miles into Syria, and he’s one tough son-of-a-bitch. The premise of the program was that he’d be dropped somewhere and given a mission. There would be a hunter force of other ex-special forces soldiers on his tail trying to capture him and prevent him carrying out the mission. It was run like a military exercise so the normal rules applied.
The first week saw Chris dropped in the jungle with a mission of picking up some information from a cache and escape on a boat pick-up at a certain point. Despite the fact that the hunter force got close to him (they included two US Navy SEALs, a Royal Marine and a Pathfinder) they never managed to actually capture him. It was easy to see on a map the clever diversions and deception trails he put in to throw the trackers off but when you saw what it was like on the ground you wonder how he managed to see the bigger picture and keep a clear head. He booby trapped the cache by putting a small satchel on it connected to a grenade. But knowing he had military people after him trained to leave that sort of thing alone he put in a secondary trap with a trip wire, hoping they’d be too busy looking at the bag to notice it. And so it proved, if it were for real he’d have killed the hunter force in one fell swoop. The end was tense as Chris was holed up in some trees as the hunter force patrolled to within metres of him. When his rescue boat came in he sprinted and managed to escape – quality viewing.
What was fascinating was that in all the video footage Chris took of himself he was constantly out of breath. When you watch these jungle SAS-style programmes you see how incredibly hard it is and the fact that Chris was able to push himself to the limit all the time is what separates these guys from normal people. He also spent 4 days in the jungle, his feet cut to ribbons, unsupported, dehydrated and being chased all the way. The hunter force had the option of being helicoptered out, had plenty of supplies and the directing staff giving them hints of information when they lost Chris. One of the ex-SEALs had to be put on a drip thanks to a touch of heat stroke and they were completely knackered by the end. Never mind that Chris was having a far harder time, but was able to put in a sprint at the end to escape. Very impressive.
Week two was set in Siberia where the temperatures dropped to -42C and Chris very nearly died of hypothermia. Due to the conditions he had to abandon the original mission of destroying a crashed satellite but had to escape instead. Once again deception tracks threw the hunter force off as they tried to track him through the snow and were it not for the directing staff telling them one of Chris’s RV’s they’d never have gotten close to him. As it was Chris managed to escape by the skin of his teeth and right from under the hunter force’s nose. Once again, Chris was pushing himself to the limit all the way and barely caught his breath over the 3 days he was out there.
Last night’s episode saw him trying to rescue a downed pilot in Botswana. It was clear from the start that the hunter force would be lucky to catch him so the Botswana Defence Force were called in to assist in the chase. The hunters had quad bikes, land rovers, fast boats and a helicopter to catch Chris – surely they’d get their man. Chris started by jumping out of a plane and landing in the bush. He then proceeded to a cache containing some water, a rifle and some clothes, but no food. He went down river and started going across country to the hills where the pilot was, with the hunter force hot on his heels. As they tried to skip ahead of him using quad bikes Chris stole a horse during the night and moved ahead of them (a nice touch). After much sneaking around and the hunter force trying in vain to follow his tracks (losing them on several occasions) Chris made it to the hills and climbed up high to watch the hunter force coming in. This was when he realised he had the whole BDF on his case.
As he climbed towards where the pilot was he realised that the hunter force had set up an ambush as the directing staff had told them where the pilot was (which I thought was particularly unfair on Chris). So he decided to can the mission and try to escape instead, realising that the rescue was impossible. On the next morning before sunrise he made his way to a hidden micro light to make his escape. However the hunter force were wise to it and managed to find it from the helicopter as Chris was about to take off. Just as he did one of the soldiers got right in front of him and had it been real he’d have been dead. So I guess you could call that one for the bad guys. Although I think the odds were ridiculously against Chris on this one, they wanted him to fail on TV!
It was an interesting series and showed me how these SAS guys aren’t just tough (which they are) but they can think clearly when under pressure. They can look at their situation from the outside and take decisions on what they need to do. It all comes down to good soldiering and that’s what really separates them from the rest. I hear there’s another series in the pipeline so it’ll be interesting to see what else they can throw at him.