Pathfinder’s new health, fitness and lifestyle supplement, Military Muscle, features the new DS from Channel 4’s hit TV series – SAS: Who Dares Wins on the front cover of it’s current issue.

Read the exclusive in depth interview on Jay, his time in the military. climbing Everest, launching new clothing label ThruDark and of course his involvement in the TV show below…

Tell us a little about your military career…

“I joined up in 2004 went straight into 3 Para so I was 20 years old when I went into the Battalion and literally just as we joined up it was the end of the Telic tours so 2005 I deployed on Telic, can’t quite remember which one it was, that was a 3-month tour, really quiet, not much action at all and it was on that tour that they were talking about going over to Afghanistan so not long after we were back from Telic we deployed on that Herrick tour to Afghanistan.

It was one of the earliest tours the British Army did out there and at the time that was kind of before all of the IEDs, it was pretty much just bullet for bullet for six months, kind of a high kinetic tour, I was A Company at the time and we got stationed out in Sangin for pretty much half of the tour, which was kind of the bad spot, it was literally going out each day and getting into scraps but I look back on that tour and see it as one of the best tours I ever did, we got back from there and then pretty much every two years from that until I left the forces I was back out there again.

My next tour in Afghan was in 2008 and it was during that tour when we were stationed at Kandahar this time, this tour it had its moments so we were going up and getting into scraps in certain areas but it wasn’t kinetic as the 2006 tour and it was around this time the IED’s started, the Taliban started using them more, and it was the SBS at the time who were stationed out in Kandahar and we used to see them going out on jobs and it was that kind of next step thinking, what do you do next?
The 2008 operation wasn’t as good at the 2006 operation and there was a big group of us that concluded that we had to step it up a little bit and what’s the next level kind of thing. You saw the SBS going out on jobs and you just wanted a piece of that. They had all the good kit, they were going out most night, they were having maximum success on the targets they were going on and making a bigger impact in the grand scheme of things and we all wanted a piece of that.

So, the year after there were 9 of us who went on the summer selection from 3 Para and I was the only one that got through from 3 Para at the time.

I joined A Squadron 22 SAS in January 2009 and I was 26 years old; I can’t really go into much for obvious reasons, but I did a further four Afghan tours on top of the ones I’d done. I went into Mountain Troop, so obviously you get your four troops and I went into Mountain Troop.

I had never been into climbing and in fact when I turned up, I had picked to go into the Mobility Troop or Air Troop, Air Troop obviously because of my Parachute Regiment background. The one Troop I didn’t want to get was Mountain Troop, I just had no interest in the mountains, I had no interest in any of that kind of stuff, I was just a kid from Preston, but actually I really found a passion for it (mountaineering and climbing), really enjoyed it, I developed really quickly in it and that led to me going away and doing what’s called the HBF course which is a guide’s course in Germany.

So you go over to Germany for 2 years they train you up to be a military mountain guide, so really high level climbing covering all disciplines, skiing in all disciplines and then I came back from that with a different outlook.

I went on the course and I was very career driven, I knew where I wanted to go, I wanted to be Team Leader (TL) of a Troop, I wanted to be Sergeant Major of a Squadron and I went away and I skied and climbed for two years and I came back and I was thinking there’s more to this world kind of thing.

It was being exposed to something else and I kind of knew in the back of my head that when I came back off that course, well I hadn’t made that decision already that I wanted to get out, but I knew that there was more stuff out there that I wanted to explore and Afghan was dying off and something was eating away in my head and I got the opportunity to go and climb K2 at that time, which was a Regiment sponsored expedition. It was a guide, John, who had been blown up, he was ex-Hereford and he’d left and he wanted to climb K2 and there were two of us who got picked to develop his training programme leading up to the K2 climb.

At the time the Squadron were out doing Squadron stuff and I was going off for 2 weeks climbing and this led to me climbing an 8,000 metre mountain called Manaslu which we failed on for a number of reasons and then we ended up scrapping the K2 climb and we went and climbed Everest instead. John and I summited Everest in 2017 and it was this that was the decider to leave the military. I just thought I am going to get out and put my energy and focus into what I wanted to do, and I got out.”
And so, was climbing Everest the final trigger in the decision to leave the military?

“I remember coming back and I was on a team exercise down in Poole and I knew the other ThruDark lads – Staz and Louie – and we always used to chat and they pulled me aside and gave me the download on ThruDark and I was in from the start and pretty much we started developing the ThruDark stuff and it was only a matter of time before I signed off and went into that full time.

Tell us a little about ThruDark and the thinking behind this…

“So obviously in the Special Forces we get all the best kit and you get your hands on everything and we are always mega critical of what we get and for us we thought and we still think we can do a lot better and for us it’s about making high performance outerwear that we can hand on heart say that we’d use in any situation.

In the Special Forces all three of us have this vast knowledge and skill set of what we can bring to the table, with myself and the climbing, the other two lads were Mobility plus all the other experiences of being in different areas of the globe from operating in all these high stress environments it was like we can put all this together and put all that energy into making this clothing brand.

We want to go on and build a community to inspire others to get outdoors, this was supposed to launch this year, but with the current situation (COVID19) it might be put back.

You learn all these skills in the military that you don’t think you have got, and I think people really undersell themselves in all walks of life. We are all highly qualified, we just apply things in a military sense.

We had to learn about social media, building a website, building a product and how do we make clothes, where do we go? We put a lot of energy into the Special Forces world, now we have to apply this energy to the business world.”

And how did you get into SAS Who Dares Wins?

“ThruDark was in communication with Channel 4 and their production team for certain reasons and the lads were really good mates with Foxy (Jason Fox – fellow DS from the TV show) and I’d met Foxy a few times and had chats with him about the show so I kind of knew how it was good for him. At the time they were looking for a new DS and the production staff asked us at ThruDark if we were interested and we all applied and I got shortlisted after a lot of long and deep thoughts and conversations with myself and Foxy and others. You know its not a natural thing for us to come out and progress into television work for obvious reasons. Its quite frowned upon in the military and the special forces community so it took a while for me to get comfortable with that and that decision to do the show came overnight.”

And what of the show itself?

“At the end of the day the TV show isn’t about the SAS it is about putting civilians under similar stressful scenarios that special forces guys go under an bringing the narrative out in that. I think the show has inspired people to get out of their comfort zone and get outdoors.

One of the biggest things I took away from the show was even that the characters, the recruits who came on the show, how much it changed and inspired their lives even those who didn’t make it to the end. It is a positive show and you look at TV now and some of the stuff on, stuff like Love Island, I don’t watch much TV but TV in itself isn’t inspirational, where this show it teaches discipline, fitness and health – all good qualities.

Behind the scenes, the only time you really notice the camera is the master interview where you are literally sat in front of the camera with someone staring at you, but I don’t mind it to be honest. When we go live on the show when we start filming you don’t notice them. We are just left to run the show as we would a course and gets the reality of it coming through.”

Read the entire May issue of Pathfinder International & Military Muscle by clicking here. 

Jay Morton was talking to Mal Robinson.

Image credits: Matt Hardy/ThruDark