The Special Forces Small Unit Tactics portion of the SFQC (Special Forces Qualification Course) is a 13-week program that will provide SF candidates in the SFQC the basic-level tactical combat skills required to successfully operate on a Special Forces A-Team (ODA).
The candidates will learn advanced marksmanship, small-unit tactics; mounted operations, Special Forces common tasks, urban operations, mission analysis; advanced special operations techniques level 1, sensitive site exploitation, and the military decision-making process. They also do more shooting than what was used prior in the SFQC. At the end of the SUT (Small Unit Tactics) Phase, the candidates will attend SERE Level-C training.
Soldiers who came from a Light Infantry/Ranger background won’t find a ton of new material in the first phases of the training. But it will be particularly difficult for those candidates coming from either different combat arms or non-combat arms career fields.
Earlier we mentioned above that candidates would do more shooting than ever before in the SFQC. And it is true, other than the Weapons Sergeants training, most candidates didn’t fire any live rounds. With many candidates coming from non-combat MOS backgrounds, that had to change. The candidates go thru a six-day shooting cycle where they’ll qualify with M-4 rifles and M-9 pistols. Combined, between the two weapon systems, candidates will put over 1000 rounds down range.
The first phase trains candidates to perform SF detachment-level battle or immediate action drills (contact, break contact, perform a hasty team attack), tactical standard operating procedures, linear danger areas, patrol bases, halts, etc.), movement formations and techniques and hand and arm signals. In this phase, the student A-Teams learn to conduct reconnaissance and ambush operations. The candidates also will practice their land navigation skills learned during selection and complete the “Star” Course in Hoffman.
During the next phase, the student A-Teams add to their expertise and take their knowledge to the next level including troop-leading-procedures. The cadre will lead them through various exercises, and the students learn to plan and execute reconnaissance and ambush patrols.
In the next phase potential, SF candidates must apply the principles of patrolling commensurate with their rank and experience, and they’ll be tasked to plan and execute a portion of a combat or reconnaissance patrol while in a leadership position. So, senior NCOs and officers will be expected to and be graded on a higher scale than the junior enlisted and the 18X candidates, many of whom may be doing this for the first time. Younger guys should seek out graduates of Ranger School to help them with their plans, OPORDs (operations orders), and FRAGOs (fragmentary orders). It is here when SF students begin their first SF-type missions while a member of the Student A-team. They’ll infiltrate into the combat area using a static line parachute for the first time. Once on the ground, they’ll conduct a series of direct action, special reconnaissance, and recovery of personnel missions in a time constrained environment.
It is here when SF students begin their first SF-type missions while a member of the Student A-team. They’ll infiltrate into the combat area using a static line parachute for the first time. Once on the ground, they’ll conduct a series of direct action, special reconnaissance, and recovery of personnel missions in a time constrained environment.
They’ll purposely not be given all of the assets that they’ll need and be forced to think on their feet. This is the first tactical test in identifying, analyzing, and solving problems at the detachment level. Cadre members are there to give immediate feedback, and teach the candidates not only what they did wrong and how to correct their mistakes but point out what went right and use those examples as teaching points. There will be mistakes made. Candidates are doing SF missions for the first time and it isn’t designed nor expected to be easy. Here is where keeping a cool head and using their brain to analyze and find solutions to very difficult problems come into play.
Moving as an SF team member in an urban environment and conducting urban operations is learned at the very basic level during SUT. The training is done at the SF-detachment level: single-team, single-room clearing; movement through streets and intersections; hallway and stair movement; and using buildings as strong points.
The students get their first taste as operating as an A-Team during this phase of the training. It better prepares them for what is to follow later in the course during the Robin Sage UW (Unconventional Warfare) exercise as well as when they get to the operational groups upon graduation. The student candidate will already have qualified with his weapons and have the rudiments of operating on an A-Team down pat.
This helps as each time a new member is assigned, the teams must conduct training to fully integrate the new members into the team. With the operational tempo of the Special Operations units during the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, as well as the Philippines and numerous other hotspots around the globe, this helps.
The cadre members assigned to each student A-Team can do a much more effective job of identifying weak spots and help mentor the student candidates which create a better overall A-Team member ….ah yes operator in today’s environment.
For the candidates, officers and senior NCOs will be held to a higher standard but will be expected to provide the necessary leadership for the student detachments. It won’t change upon graduation but become an even steeper learning curve. Back in the day, during the old patrolling phase, the NCOs from the Ranger Regiment or the School were always heavily tasked as sounding boards from the less experienced candidates.
Expect it and rise to the occasion, the cadre are always watching and the other candidates will someday be fellow team members. And for the less experienced soldiers? Study your Ranger handbook and any other manuals at your disposal. The Small Unit Tactics Smartbook is another good one. Learn about Troop Leading Procedures and METT-TC if you’re not already familiar with them.
And lastly, read any after-action reports that you can from units coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Chances are, you’ll be visiting there as well. Becoming part of the Regiment is the goal and get used to doing the homework of finding out any and all information that is required on your own. That is a given in the operational groups.
Photos Courtesy DOD