A WEST Cork doctor who can be seen in the latest series of RTÉ reality show, ‘Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week’ said participating in it was a ‘phenomenal education awakening’ for him.
Dr Jason van der Velde of West Cork Rapid Response (WCCR), who is well known throughout the region, was the on-site doctor during filming of the intense series.
From hypothermia to various injuries, he was the go to man for all the participants and sometimes even provided a bit of break for the contestants away from the mouthy drill sergeants (DS).
Now in its second year, the programme sees civilian recruits take part in a gruelling Special Forces selection course designed by former members of Ireland’s elite Special Forces Unit, the Army Ranger Wing (ARW). Certainly, not for the faint hearted and that’s just the viewers!
Speaking to The Southern Star, Dr Jason remained tight lipped about how he got involved in the series but said it was a mutual ask and said it was ‘phenomenal education awakening’ for him.
‘I was looking at this purely from a point of how can I take lessons in the way the military educate and transcribe these good qualities into medical education,’ said Dr Jason.
Filming of the series took place back in early November so conditions were very cold which kept Dr Jason busy. While some viewers may find the series hard to watch due to the extreme tasks as well as the coarse language, he said it’s all part of the course.
‘It’s about breaking people down and building them up again. All of these contestants signed up to it and they all knew what they were getting themselves into having watched the first series. It’s about subjecting yourself to extreme psychological and extreme physical exertion and seeing how you cope.’
He said the four drill DS’s are doing this for a reason.
‘They are building teams and building confidence and slowly and surely preparing people for the basic tasks like for example, getting a mission completed.’
He feels there are really good cross parallels with the medical care work that he is involved in.
Viewers may also be familiar with the constant emphasis on ‘admin’ by the DS’s who place this at the top of their requirements.
‘Admin impacts on everything, it impacts on our readiness and your comfort. In my case it’s very important as I know that my bag is packed and I know where everything is and I have a check list. It’s about de-cluttering and taking the stress away in the event of an emergency,’ he said.
Dr Jason – who had a heavy medical pack on his back – had to keep up with the participants throughout the gruelling exercises.
‘It was physically exhausting but very rewarding too but of course I didn’t have the same mental anguish that they had.’
He added that everybody who ‘dropped out’ literally all spoke about how positive the experience was for them and he found that particularly interesting.
His advice to readers is to take a ‘step back’ and look at the programme for what it is and to look at the parallels with other aspects of civilian life and in particular emergency medicine and pre-hospital care.
‘Put all the bad language to one side and look at the parallels, and from my point of view the educational side of it and how to survive in an extreme environment and getting your ‘admin’ or kit together and being prepared.’
He added that the DS’s are putting the ultimate fear in the contestants but they are very calculated about what they are doing. ‘There is chaos but it is calculated and there’s not a thing they do that they haven’t thought about.’
Summing up his experience on the show he said would take part in it again.
‘I think it’s extremely positive and I hope people will see the positivity of it. Just remember that this is preparing people to be part of Special Forces.’
He joked that his own fitness was put to the test too and that there was pretty fit cohort of camera operatives and sound personnel as well as him keeping up with the contestants.
• Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week is on RTÉ 2 Monday nights at 9.35pm.