As always during the winter months, we get a lot of questions about Selection once the cold weather classes begin. And as per usual, the majority of questions pertain to rucking, land navigation (the Hoffman “Dagobah System”) and general preparedness.
So, to answer the questions, the best way to answer is to actually go out and do it right? The weather on Sunday morning up here was snowy, we had a winter storm come thru on Saturday night and dump about 5-6 inches of fluffy snow down. What better time to do our Sunday Morning Ruck than with a nice blanket of snow in the dark?
This was the first chance I’ve had to put my notes together from that but suffice to say, as the snow was still coming down it was a nice cool crisp morning. By the time I finished, so had the snow and the sun rose nice and bright. What crazy weather up north this winter, we had almost 6 inches of snow on Sunday, Tuesday was 70 degrees, Wednesday (today was near 80) and tomorrow’s forecast calls for a mix of rain and snow again. It makes you pack plenty of gear in your ruck that’s for sure.
I still drank nearly an entire Camelbak during the ruck, despite the cold, we worked up a good sweat. My Camelback system was courtesy of SOFREP’s Crate Club. If you’re looking for some great new gear every month, check out the Crate Club. My “go-bag” ruck is rapidly becoming filled with and I’m trying out the new stuff they send out each month. It is Special Op’s approved by the pros who work there.
The footing was very slick at all as I was breaking a fresh trail and the snow was that fluffy, powdery stuff that wasn’t too sticky and heavy walking. In fact, it was kind of like walking on a football field that has that field turf laid down. Very soft and easy on the feet. It was an easy, quick, quiet 2-hour trek. Once you get warmed up, and your rhythm is working, the pace is easy to maintain and miles glide by. Truth be told, I’d rather ruck on a cool crisp morning than a hot, sticky one.
So if a “FOG” can still go out and do it, there’s no excuse that with some practice, plenty of practice, you can’t do the same. So to the questions…ah the biggest one is, of course, the horror stories about how hard the course is. An average guy could never pass this unless you’re a cross between the Hulk and Rambo …right?
Nope, nyet, nein, … Ignore the noise! I’ve seen some of these horror stories on social media sites. And you know who makes them? The guys who didn’t prepare and showed up and got smoked. But you aren’t going to do that. You’ve read and followed the PT Program that we publish daily here at SpecialOperations.com and if you continue to follow that, you should be in good position to be selected. Most of the workouts are more distance running based rather than rucking. Why? Because running and building up your endurance on dirt and soft sand trails will ultimately help your ruck times. And everything works hand in hand. And it will build up your feet to withstand the rigors of doing this day after day. It is very important.
So to the second most frequent question, “How do I become a better rucker and get more speed down?” Remember, in the Special Operations community that you’re aspiring to get into, there is no magic formula, it is doing the basic things very well. And how do we do that? We practice, practice, and then practice it some more… again it is much like shooting. Learn to do it right and the speed will come. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Once you get your technique down, you will find that the speed will come naturally.
As you know the standard is a 15-minute mile, but that is the bare minimum and if you keep that pace during a 12-miler, it doesn’t leave you any leeway, to stop for a quick break to answer the calls of nature, or to change socks etc. In my time we aimed for and could consistently keep a 13-minute mile pace. That was one we could keep up all day long. We could shave some time off of that as well when need be, but once you get into that rhythm, it gives you just under 25 minutes to spare, which is plenty.
Remember to use your arms and keep your posture right. You won’t be told how far you’ve gone or the speed that you’re going. That’s why you must build up that muscle memory and get your body used to doing it the same way each and every time. In Selection, you keep going until someone tells you to stop. I guarantee you if you keep a 13-minute mile pace, you’ll have no problems.
Another thing to remember, you are always being evaluated. If you need to change socks halfway on a long-distance movement, the cadre aren’t going to dock you points. They may ask why you are stopping, and it doesn’t require a ton of explanation. But show them you’re on top of things and then drive on.
On to the most frequently asked question #3 Weight. If you try to go out on Day 1 of your prep carry 75-pounds and you are new to rucking, you’re setting yourself up to fail. You’re going to get hurt and frustrated and then it will psych yourself out.
Don’t try to slay the beast on Day 1. Like everything else, it will come with time. And patience. Start with a lighter weight and work up to the 45-pounds you’re supposed to carry (minimum, minus food and water) in the course. Yes, there will be times that you’ll be carrying a lot more ‘light-weight’ gear on your back in Special Operations. It is the nature of the beast. But as candidates for Selection, don’t worry about that.
Stick to what the workout programs call for, and that is a 45-pound ruck. Don’t be trying to start your prep with a 75-85 pound rucksack. You’re not ready for that yet. Once you get to where you are easily making the time limits (13-minute mile or less) with a 45-pound ruck, then you should have no problems in meeting the criteria in the course. And only then, add some weight. But for course preparation, there is no reason to go higher than a 55-pound rucksack.
As a cadre member at Selection, we’d always see candidates erring on the side of caution with a few pounds extra to ensure they made the correct weight, which is understandable and smart. We all did the same, and so should you. But there would always be one or two candidates who were out there toting 80-85 pounds when the standard called for 45. And guess who was pulling up the rear in the graded ruck marches? Remember on a 12-miler 3:00:01 is the same as five hours. There are no bonus points for being too heavy.
So, once again, Don’t be late, don’t be light, don’t be out of uniform. Rucking is the life-blood of Special Operations. It is how we invariably get from Point A to Point B and is the most reliable. Vehicles and aircraft break down or won’t be available. When everything goes to hell in a handbasket, you’ll have to strap on the ruck and go.
All the high-speed gear in the world doesn’t mean much if you can’t carry a ruck to the standard. DOL
Photo Courtesy: US Army