One of the catchphrases that most, if not all Special Operators use and that the candidates aspiring to be in the units perhaps don’t fully understand is Positive Mental Attitude.
Most candidates for SOF hear that and will take it to mean “Don’t Quit.” And while yes, that is certainly a big part of having a positive mental outlook, there is much more to it. But yes, don’t quit, should be the first thing to come to mind. Don’t ever quit at anything should be a mantra for the successful candidate to live by.
In an earlier post, we wrote about “Embracing the Suck” factor of meeting the standards of being selected for Special Operations units. And as we have mentioned earlier as well, with the colder months here, the Selection courses are in full swing and our emails and Twitter messages are always asking about the physical challenges of the courses and how best to prepare for them.
Here, we feel one of the best ways to prepare yourself mentally is having an extremely strong base of physical fitness and toughness. The two are, in our humble opinion, inexorably linked. Have you ever heard the old saying, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all” or something similar? It is very true.
Fatigue will lead to making mistakes, getting sloppy results and trying to cut corners at times that would normally never happen with an individual. Selection courses are designed to bring those situations to the forefront and the successful candidate will be able to push thru the obstacles in front of him or her.
Embracing the suck factor and never quitting is the first, and important step. And having a strong physical makeup is a big factor in combating the fatigue issue. You’ll get tired, hungry, cold, and wet. And frequently all of those will occur at the same time. Having that strong physical base will obviously be the first tool to stave off any creeping doubts in your own mind. So what are the other factors in getting your head screwed on straight and tight for the rigors of Selection?
Have a Clear Set of Goals: This sounds rather simplistic and yet for many candidates they don’t really know what they want in life. Of course, they want to pass the course, meet the standards and get selected. But beyond that, many of the candidates didn’t have long-term goals and were unprepared for what was to come after.
When serving as a cadre member at SFAS, one of the tasks that the candidates were given in those late night classroom sessions was to either write or sometimes draw where they saw themselves in five years if their careers were successful in passing the course. And surprisingly, many of the candidates really didn’t have a plan after getting selected. (Other than the one former graphic artist who sketched the most badass “Rambo” type of picture that I’d ever seen….which ended up in the cadre office on the wall)
But have a long-term plan, set long-term clear-cut goals and have a detailed plan on how you plan on achieving them. So what if those have to be tweaked as time goes on? The better the plan you have, the easier you’ll find it is to find your way to the finish. But use the KISS Principle, Keep it Simple, Stupid.
Build Up Emotional Intelligence/Toughness: Special Operations Forces have one of the most difficult and rewarding careers in the military. And what makes them so good at what they do is their versatility. One day a SOF trooper can be taking down a target in a high-risk, high-stress combat Direct Action mission. The next day it could mean being part of a humanitarian assistance mission or dealing with foreign forces and diplomats.
The SOF trooper continually operates in a high-stress, high-risk, competitive environment. And sustained stress can lead to damaging the troopers minds as well as their bodies. This involves training the mind and body together to condition oneself to endure the long haul.
Having the proper self-control will allow SOF troops to adapt to changes on the very diverse battlefield, relate to other troops or allies, solve problems and cope with the daily demands of the job. Does it mean that you’ll never get pissed off at someone or something? Not likely. But the more self-aware you are, the better decisions you’ll make.
Situational Awareness/Stress Tests: These two go hand in hand. The good SOF troops have to be always aware of not only where they’re at and what’s going on around them but what will invariably occur next. This prevents the unexpected or problems from arising.
Being situationally aware will bring a sense of calmness, awareness and gives the SOF trooper the ability to think through any problems and quickly find solutions. Stress is one of those things that either people can handle or they can’t.
One of the hallmarks of Special Operations training is that candidates are placed in highly stressful situations and they’re required to think up solutions and operate while fully under control. These situations are designed to see who can think on their feet and logically, coolly and quickly solve problems. The more one is subjected to working through stressful situations, the easier it will become to deal with.
Small Wins Scenarios: Part of a proper positive mental attitude in Selection sometimes may consist of what many call the “Small Wins Scenario” during the course. About a year ago, an interview I did with a Navy guy who passed BUDs highlighted this. And sometimes, a small win scenario can be as simple as noting, that your goal for that day can be just surviving the morning until lunchtime.
In SFAS, many know about the smoker Log PT session which is a prime example of that. Don’t worry about the entire course, your focus is, remain standing until that session and the run afterward is over. Mission accomplished. You’ll be amazed what a positive mental attitude win a small scenario like that can lead to.
Set those small wins when needed and it will do wonders for reaching the long-term goals that you’ve set for yourself. Sometimes just way you carry yourself physically after a big event can be a win.
Stay strong, no days off. DOL
Photo: US Army