Read Part One HERE
So, you’ve volunteered to be in Special Forces and you’re getting ready to go to SFAS. This is the time to prepare yourself for the grind that is to come. There are certain tips, such as the PT program which will help you attain the level of physical fitness that you’ll need to not just pass the course but to excel where the course isn’t as tough as you’ll see other people struggling.
In the last segment, we talked about getting your boots fitted correctly, ensuring your socks are placed properly and toughening up your feet for the many miles which are to come to prevent blisters.
Well, now we deal with the unfortunate and very case of what happens despite your best intentions. Everyone at one time or another is going to get either hotspots or blisters and probably both. During your train-up prior to selection is the best time to get those and learn how to prevent them in the future.
Hotspots: As you progress in the rucking during your training, you are going to feel contact points on your feet that will begin to burn or ache….these are hotspots. These are the first onset of blisters forming on your feet.
Stop immediately and remove your boots and socks. A good rule of rucking during your train-up phase should be to stop every hour. And not just catch your breath. Take off your boots and socks and examine your feet. If everything is good to go, then you can change your socks if need be and re-powder your feet and drive on.
However, if your feet are developing hotspots, they have to be treated asap. If you need moleskin, this is the time to put it on. Dry and powder your feet and then put your socks and boots back on and continue. If you choose to ignore the hotspots then you’ll end up with something more painful.
Blisters: The bane of any light infantryman and especially to those who are going thru SFAS. Blisters are pockets of fluid between the layers of the skin where a lot of friction occurs. Everyone invariably gets them at one time or another. If they happen in the train-up to selection, all the better since the feet will toughen up after some time under the ruck.
What to do when a blister occurs? If it hasn’t popped, then leave it be, place moleskin over the blister, ensuring that you leave some room around the blister to properly cushion it. Those are the easiest to care for. However, if it is too big and painful or the skin is already torn around it, then further action must be taken.
If the blister is large and not broken, you can drain it by gently sticking it with a needle Be sure the needle is sterilized and don’t get too aggressive with it. Once the fluid is drained out of the blister, apply moleskin and cushion it the best that you can.
If the skin is torn badly, cut it away carefully, clean the wound as best you can and cushion it with moleskin. If the skin flap isn’t cut too badly, an old trick I learned from an EMT is to apply some Superglue to the cut and it will bond it right back together. And be prepared for it to burn like hell. Superglue works wonders if you have a clean slice of a cut elsewhere on your body. Again, it will burn like all creation but it will seal up the cut and allow you to drive on.
During my time out at selection, the medics used to treat the candidates’ feet with tincture of benzoin. And it was some stinky, painful stuff there. Trust me you don’t want to go through that treatment.
Treat blisters immediately. If blisters are not taken care of properly and quickly, you’ll automatically compensate for the pain in your feet and it will change your gait. And once you change the way you walk, it opens up an entirely different can of worms. Other injuries can occur, including shin splints, stress fractures, tendinitis in your Achilles and hip and back pain.
It is much easier to just treat the blisters as they occur and let your feet toughen up gradually. A properly treated blister will allow you to continue your training without missing any time. Let it linger and you will lose days possibly weeks of valuable prep time.
After that, it is simply strapping on your boots and ruck and ruck and ruck some more. Once you get into a rhythm with it, it gets easier and the miles will get eaten up like a bowl of ice cream on a warm summer day.
Proper fitting boots and socks and the correct preventative maintenance of your feet will allow you to ruck on for miles with no worries. Back during my time in Panama, we had back-to-back long rucks during our certification. One night we moved 20 miles and after training all the next day, we moved 16 more miles that night. We stopped occasionally to change socks because even at 2 a.m. in Panama it is hot. We’d dry out our feet, and even changed uniforms as they were soaked.
After approximately 40 miles between the rucks and training during the day, no one on the team had a blister. Were our feet sore? You bet. But no one was any worse for wear.
In our next segment for SFAS, we’ll hit the big elephant in the room….Land Navigation.
Photo courtesy of USAF