Without meaning to, I’m sure we offended quite a few people with the title, but the simple fact of the matter is, it is true. Rest assured it is not using any kind of racist or biased slant in any way, although someone will no doubt take it that way.
When it comes to Special Operations Forces, although anyone is open to volunteering, few will even opt to, very few will even make the cut to try to go to Selection and then the very, very few will survive the entire training scenario that begins with Selection and finally ends with the various qualification courses that each of the services run.
And let there be no doubt, they don’t grade on a curve. There are the standards that have to be met and there are the failures.. The number of candidates in the latter always, always outweigh the numbers of the former. If a class has 140 candidates to try out and just two make it, then there are just two graduates. If another class has 25 graduates, it doesn’t mean the standards are different. It just means the candidates in those particular classes are. That is what the bean counters in the government and the military don’t ever understand. You can’t always graduate a certain percentage of candidates.
And that is just the beginning. Once you are trained and a member of one of the units is when the learning and training really begin. And just like Selection, you are always being evaluated. By your peers, by your commander and the units.
I remember something that one of the best team sergeants I served with told me once. Retired SGM Bob Hand (RIP) said, “getting a fancy Green Beret on your graduation day is kinda like getting your learner’s permit,” he said. “You’re allowed to drive the family car with adult supervision until you finally pass the driving test and we (meaning the rest of the team) will grade you on that.”
Bob took it upon himself to ensure that every NCO on the team was trained to take his job someday. But the unwritten rule is this. Special Forces, or in the broader sense, Special Operations isn’t for everyone. Some people won’t have the physical tools to go thru the physical exertion and grind that is Selection and the Qualification Courses. Others won’t have the mental acuity to pass the tests to even get in to try.
Getting enough people to fully staff the Special Operations community is a major chore. The commands are having a heck of a time, just trying to keep up with troops retiring, getting out of the service, and of course, there are the never-ending wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that continue to take a toll on the force structure thru troops killed or wounded in action.
Part of the issue is that the pool of available candidates is shrinking. The military as a whole is having a very tough time meeting recruiting standards. Of the young people that are traditionally recruited by the military services, almost a third are not eligible because they are overweight or obese. Almost 25 percent more can’t meet the education requirements of having at least a high school diploma or GED and about 10 percent have a criminal history that will prevent them from serving.
Now although the obesity issue is a national problem and needs to be addressed, the sky isn’t falling, like some simpletons would have you believe. I’ve seen some articles where someone took those numbers and said 71 percent of our youth is unfit for military service. Well, that isn’t quite true. Why? Because many of those young people who are disqualified for one factor are also disqualified in others as well. However, recruiting numbers are down in the services and the biggest issue is our nationally obese problem.
When the services are short people, they naturally try to keep them all close to their vest. They’ll try to discourage or dissuade their best and brightest from volunteering for Special Operations. It isn’t necessarily a bias against SOF, although there was plenty of that in the 1980s and 1990s, even after SOCOM became a command.
The recruiting for SOF is even more selective than for the conventional services, much more so and with good reason. As we mentioned above, even a very solid, good troop in the conventional military isn’t necessarily a good fit in the Special Operations community.
Many don’t have the desire to serve there as well as the physical and mental attributes to make the grade and the desire is the biggest factor. In order to be successful, a candidate has to put everything else in second place. There have been candidates who weren’t the greatest students, but they studied and crammed and put the hours in until they mastered the tasks that they must.
I know several guys who were initially weak ruckers and really struggled with it. To prepare for SF, they’d ruck home a couple of nights a week from the base to their home, one guy lived 10 miles from the base.
Are you willing to put the time in to become one of the best Warriors on the planet? The desire to be in the unit above all else? Most people aren’t willing to make that kind of sacrifice. But that won’t quit, can do attitude is exactly what is required if that is the career path you want to forge. The doors are always open, but they don’t take just anybody.
Are you ready for the challenge?