With a new book out – and a successful year on our TV screens behind him, things are looking very rosy for SAS Who Dares Wins star Jason Fox.
But it is with humility and the measured, classic understatement of a man who does not have to try to impress, that Jason spoke with MM.
His career speaks for itself: ten years in the Royal Marines and a further ten years in the Special Boat Service (SBS).
Now a TV celebrity, through his roles in SAS: Who Dares Wins and Meet the Drugs Lords: Inside the Real Narcos, Jason has become known to the nation as ‘Foxy.’
Of course, when chatting with him for the first time it’s best to establish conventions: how do you prefer to be addressed?
Jason was comfortable with either but, having resolved to stick with ‘Jason’, within a couple of minutes I had lapsed and was using ‘Foxy.’ What can I say……it’s infectious!
Having spent much of his life operating in secret, it must be quite strange for him to be having so much exposure now. “Yeah”, he said. “I’m slowly getting used to it.”
Over recent years, ever since the Iranian embassy siege in 1980, people have come to know of a few SAS (Special Air Service) soldiers who have chosen to go public.
But it is rare for SBS men to have done the same. Perhaps Paddy Ashdown is the only one that most people could name until recently.
Foxy doesn’t think this is down to any variation in the cultures of the two organisations. Quite to the contrary, he thinks they are almost identical nowadays.
He explains: “I spent probably more time in Hereford than I did in Poole.” Hereford being the home of the SAS, with Poole being the base for the SBS.
The two names are historical, with both units having been set up in the Second World War, and the names ‘they’ve just stuck.’
The structure of the two is identical and they are heavily interlinked. They are very similar now with the SBS jumping out of planes and the SAS using boats.
“You’ll get the old and bold who will say ‘oh, no we’re completely different.’” But Foxy predicts: “They will inevitably become the same unit. It makes financial sense.”
He acknowledges this will hurt some people’s pride, with the loss of tradition. But it’s happened with a lot of army regiments. “As everyone’s so worried about cash it makes sense to co-locate.”
For Foxy, the mental strength possessed by special-forces soldiers is probably even more important than their extraordinary physical prowess.
He said: “Physically you’ll be at your wit’s end most of the time; it’s about pushing through that mentally when you’re absolutely rinsed physically.”
The fearsome selection process for these units is very effective. Foxy said of all those he knew in the service: “They’re solid stand-up people. They deliver when the chips are down.”
Given the Ministry of Defence has recently opened up all frontline roles to females, I asked Jason if he thought women had the potential to pass special forces selection.
“Of course women can do it. It’s whether men can work with women and women can work with men in that environment. Jason felt this was the real question to be asked.”
“I don’t know what the answer is, but time will tell.”
Battle Scars is Jason’s new book. The writing of it was driven by his desire to open up the discussion about mental health. An issue that Jason has talked about in recent times and with which he has had his own struggles.
He hopes it will “break a bit of the stigma down that still remains” and get people to open up and talk.
He spoke with genuine sincerity about his wish that it would help those who are having difficulties to “open up and find their way out of their dark place.”
Written in collaboration with Matt Allan, a long-standing mate of Foxy, the book begins with a description of the emotional impact of going to war.
It takes the reader through the myriad of terrifying situations he’s found himself in, and to the depression with which he wrestled after leaving the military.
It is a very compelling read that leaves the mere mortal in awe of a life lived so near to the edge. It certainly puts a bad day at the office into context.
Despite his now very public persona, Jason does try to maintain a degree of privacy. He has children, but chooses to say little else about his family life.
He has previously told audiences that following his military career he actually became a bit of a hippy.
He laughed as I mentioned this to him and clarified things in saying: “I’m a bit more mindful and in the moment, as opposed to what’s coming up in the future or what happened five minutes ago.”
Still laughing, he joked: “I don’t sit down meditating and smoke loads of weed……sounds alright though.”
Foxy recently took on a transition into investigative journalism, in his TV show Meet the Drugs Lords: Inside the Real Narcos.
The show sees him taken into the confidence of major drugs dealers in Latin America.
During the show, as an unarmed civilian, he finds himself in a number of high-risk situations with only his interpersonal skills to keep him on good terms with his hosts.
Jason spoke positively of his initial foray into journalism. He enjoyed meeting new people and finding out about them and why they do what they do.
He said: “I love it and I want to do more of it.”
There’s a scene in the show in which Foxy visits a police station. The officers there are engaged in fighting the drugs cartels.
At one point he’s watching the officers training on the firing range, when the commander asks Jason to have a go.
The expression on Foxy’s face suggests that he’s not enthusiastic about it, but he goes along with it anyway.
I asked him about this and, laughing again, he confirmed: “To begin with I couldn’t be bothered. I didn’t want to engage in this sort of like pissing contest where we try and see who’s better.
“But it was actually quite good fun to do it. It was a bit of a blast from the past and I still had it.”
In terms of what comes next for Foxy, he as some TV work in development that he’s looking to do early next year.
He’s just filmed two more series of SAS: Who Dares Wins. Season four will come out in January and there’s a celebrity edition to follow.
For those wanting to catch a glimpse of Jason, he’ll be visiting Manchester on 12 November to promote Battle Scars.
It is well worth fans getting down to the Arndale to meet him.
Jason has lots of fascinating stories to tell and to engage in conversation with him leaves one feeling overwhelming gratitude for his service.