Last Updated: 18 August, 2015
The SASC is a valuable element of the Army providing the safe delivery of demanding, battle-winning training. A SASC career offers individuals a wide employment opportunity and provides a breadth of training experience that very few infantry Warrant Officers or Late Entry officers could match. Additionally, the depth of specialist knowledge required in a SASC post can rarely be found from outside the SASC. There are no unimportant jobs in the SASC, and very few that can be gapped without impact.
2.1 What is SASC?
The SASC is an elite instructional body which implements and assures the Safe System of Training for infantry weapon systems. As a corporate body, with knowledge representing hundreds of years of collective experience, the SASC is acknowledged and accepted across all three Services, the MOD Police, Civilian Police Forces (including the Civil Nuclear Constabulary) and by the Health and Safety Executive, as true Subject Matter Experts (SME) for ensuring that the lethal risk associated with live firing training is kept to as low as reasonably practicable.
2.2 Mission Statement
“To Advise and Instruct Infantry Weapon Trainers and Manage Lethal Risk in order to Enhance Operational Effectiveness” (SASC Journal, 2012, p.1)
2.3 SASC Specialists
The specialist expertise of the SASC has enabled the development of realistic and demanding, yet carefully risk managed training, in particular live firing training, to enhance operational effectiveness. No other army in the world conducts live firing tactical training (LFTT) to the same level of complexity or realism as the British Army does, and it is no coincidence that they do not have an equivalent to the SASC. The specialist SASC soldier or officer cannot be replicated by their generalist servicemen counterparts as others lack the depth of knowledge or experience to ensure training is conducted to as close to real life as is possible within safety boundaries that have been managed to as low as reasonably practicable.
3.0 Small Arms School Corps
The School was established by Lord Hardinge who, as Master General Ordnance, was determined to ensure that the best possible use was made of the greatly improved rifle musket then coming into service. From its inception, a section of the School was responsible for user testing of infantry weapons and the exemplary collection of weapons in the Infantry and SASC Weapons Collection bears witness to this work.
The Corps Headquarters was then renamed the Small Arms School Corps in 1929 and a Vickers Machine Gun was incorporated into the cap badge. This reflected the change in name adapted for the School at Hythe in 1919 and for the expanding School – which now included Netheravon – that took on responsibility for the Vickers Machine Gun.
With the move of the Small Arms Wing from Hythe to Warminster in 1969 the Headquarters of the Corps was part of the School of Infantry and renamed Depot SASC. In 1996 under ‘Options for Change’ Headquarters SASC was formed as an integral part of the newly formed Headquarters Infantry.
3.1 Commandant SASC
The Commandant SASC is a Direct Entry Colonel (OF-5) and is also the Assistant Director Dismounted Close Combat (AD DCC), part of the Capability Directorate Combat (CD Cbt).
In 2012, the CD Cbt (encompassing Mounted Close Combat and Dismounted Close Combat) brought together non-personnel elements of HQ Infantry, HQ Armour and Capability Ground Manoeuvre in one central authority, tasked with developing a coherent approach to land capability in the UK.
3.2 Commanding Officer SASC
The Commanding Officer of SASC is a Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4), Late Entry commission.
3.3 Other Key Personalities
- SO2/3 Training Safety, a Major (OF-3)/Captain (OF-2).
- Corps Adjutant (G1 responsibilities), a Captain (OF-2).
- Corps SM (Corps Sergeant Major), formerly known as the Corps RSM, also Regimental Secretary.
- SASC Training Warrant Officer, a Warrant Officer Class 2 (OR-8).
4.0 SASC Selection and Training Course
SASC is non-direct entry, meaning soldiers must join another regiment or corps and then apply to transfer, subject to eligibility criteria. Soldiers who wish to join the SASC have to be a serving soldier with Skill at Arms qualifications.
Soldiers who elect to attempt to transfer to the SASC, are “Badged”, if successful, following a six month intensive candidate selection course, which demands a specialist level of instructional ability. There are typically two selection courses per year.
Initial training takes place at Land Warfare Centre, Warminster and lasts for 11 weeks. Candidates are assessed on their ability and capacity to instruct Skill at Arms to the standard required by the SASC. This training consists of how to train the trainer in the instruction of Small Arms, Defence Instructional Techniques (Trainer) (DIT(T)), Command, Leadership and Management (CLM) training and Small Arms design principles. Candidates are also trained to assess instruction and conduct de-briefs. Their suitability to undertake the role of an SASC Instructor at a Phase 3 Training Centre is also assessed. Candidates also conduct the Live Firing Tactical Training (LFTT) course at the Infantry Battle School (IBS) at Brecon which is an additional 5 weeks in duration.
The next phase of training usually takes place at IBS where probationers will instruct, under the guidance and supervision of a SASC Staff Instructor, on the Section Commanders Battle Course (Junior Brecon) or the All Arms Skill at Arms (AA SAA) Course. Probationers normally wear the SASC cap badge and rifle Green Beret, but no other regimental insignia. On completion of Phase 2, successful candidates will be transferred to the SASC and awarded their stable belts and regimental shoulder flash.
At this point individuals will serve a four year apprenticeship at IBS, Support Weapons School (SWS) or Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) Gunnery School; or a mixture thereof. Exceptional individuals are selected to complete their apprenticeship as Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs) in Operational and Training Advisory Group (OPTAG).
Soldiers are initially promoted to the rank of Sergeant Instructor (SI) and typically promoted to Staff Sergeant Instructor (SSI) after two years. Following successful completion of their four year apprenticeship, SASC soldiers may be promoted to Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2); the working rank of a fully trained SASC soldier. SASC Terms and Conditions of Service (TACOS) do not include timed promotion however the practice of promoting to SSI and then WO2 in two year increments had become common place. However, reductions in manning, due to Army 2020, suggest this practice may now be at an end.
As holders of the specialist qualification ‘SASC Instructor’, SASC soldiers are employed throughout the Army where, as they move from job to job they build on their experience and subject matter expert (SME) status until they either commission as Late Entry (LE) officers or leave the Service.
5.0 Late Entry Officers
All Officers in the SASC are commissioned from the ranks and LE Officers are awarded the title ‘Advisor Infantry Weapons’ (AIW) and, with an average of 12 years service with the SASC, not to mention previous service, they know their trade.
SASC officers will have, on average, 19 years of SASC experience when they promote to Major (OF-3) and a career in SASC provides the opportunity for promotion to up to Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4).
It is little surprise given that depth of specialist knowledge and experience that they are recognised and accepted as the guardians of excellence and the initial point of contact for advice and guidance for Infantry weapon training.
6.0 E1 and E2 Posts
SASC fill (or man) approximately 157 posts (January 2014), being a mixture of E1 and E2. A SASC E1 post is a post to which the Corps have a direct responsibility or liability to man; it is a post tied to the SASC only. An E2 post is a post which the Corps is manning however it is not directly linked to the SASC. An E2 post can be manned by other cap badges and is not tied directly to the Corps.
Posts for SASC soldiers, depending on rank and experience, include:
- Operational and Training Advisory Group (OPTAG)
- Infantry Battle School, Brecon:
- Skill at Arms Wing (part of Infantry Weapons Division)
- Live Firing Tactical Training (LFTT) Wing
- Platoon Commanders Division
- Army Training Centre, Pirbright
- Army Training Regiment, Winchester
- Infantry Training Centre, Catterick
- Infantry Trials and Development Unit, Warminster
- Armoured Trials and Development Unit, Bovington
- Export Support Team, Bovington
- Live Fire Group, Catterick
- Support Weapons School (SWS), Warminster
- 16 Air Assault Brigade, Colchester
- British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS), Canada
- Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM), Lympstone
- AFV Gunnery School, Dorset
- Operational Shooting Training Team (OSTT)
- Skills at Arms Wing, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
- Reinforcements Training and Mobilisation Centre (RTMC), Chilwell
- Recruit Training Squadrons, RAF Honington
7.0 Cost of Training
The cost per soldier for Phase 2 training for the Small Arms School Corps is currently unknown.