Salahudeen Hussain, from Sheffield, conquered the daunting SAS selection march on Pen Y Fan, in the Brecon Beacons, to raise thousands of pounds for his unit and The Special Boat Service Association (SBSA).
SAS candidates have to complete the route march on a 15-mile (25km) course up and around the 2,907ft (886m) peak carrying a 35lb (16kg) pack.
Now, Sal has set his sights on his next challenge – to do the historic nine-mile speed march in Scotland that was the test for commandos in the Second World War.
Sal said: “Our military is the best in the world. United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) set the standard others aim for.
“I wanted to do something to thank and help them. I decided to raise money for the SBSA (Special Boat Service Association) and my detachment.
“What better way than to do the Fan Dance, something every member of UKSF has done?”
Sal is a corporal cadet in the Royal Marines Cadets Sheffield detachment and did the Fan Dance with his detachment commander, Sergeant John Daley.
He described how he kept focused by singing Disney songs he hears daily from his little sister but revealed he so wanted to get everything right that he ended up carrying 48lbs (22kg) – 13lb too much – for half the route.
Sal said: “At the halfway point I was flagging a little. My rucksack was weighed and it transpired I was carrying 48lbs, not 35. I didn’t want to be underweight so ended up adding way too much.
“The staff, all ex-special forces, lightened my rucksack, laughed and told me not to be a hero.”
He said: “You’re running along rough terrain for miles only to have to turn around and run back. It’s times like this your mind says ‘what’s the point of this? Just stop. You’ve done enough. There’s no shame in quitting’.
“You have to silence your own negative thoughts or they’ll break you.
“I did this by singing songs in my head. My little sister shouts Disney songs badly out of tune when she’s tired. It’s hilarious. I just did the same to drown out the negativity and make myself laugh.
“If you can master your own mind you can achieve anything.”
Sal said he had promised his father – Sheffield barrister Gul Nawaz Hussain QC – to finish the course strongly, no matter how he felt.
“It was hard at first but then I started feeling stronger and just started to fly along,” he said.
“I finished by giving my dad a big hug. He has supported me throughout.”
Sal, who wants to study medicine at university before becoming a Royal Marines officer, has now passed his £5,000 target.
He said he is also learning about the more than a million Muslim soldiers who fought in the two world wars.
“I’ve seen VCs that they were awarded at the Imperial War Museum,” he said. “Their contribution should be taught in history at school.”
Sal said he is determined to next complete the legendary Second World War march which is from Spean Bridge railway station to the former commando training centre at Achnacarry Castle, in the Lochaber district.
He said prospective Commandos would have a 14-hour journey to the remote start point, load their kit onto trucks and then speed-march the nine miles to the training centre in full kit with their weapon, all weighing 36 pounds (16 kg). Anyone not completing the route within 60 minutes was immediately kicked out.
Sal’s fundraising page is here.