As a member of a Special Operations unit, you can be tasked with damned near anything and probably will. The best indicator of having a skill is the fact that you can teach it to others.
As we wrote here some time ago, “Teaching is An Art in Special Forces”, and some of the best SF NCOs also happen to be the best instructors you’ll find anywhere. As a prospective Special Operations candidate, know that if you graduate, you’ll have to be prepared to teach almost anything to anyone while you’re deployed overseas.
And much of it can be MOS immaterial. Just because you are a Heavy Weapons man on a team, doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t be assigned to teach about anything under the sun.
In Special Forces, we can and frequently do conduct operations that might not have much to do with your current operation but help United States government assets in fostering goodwill of the host nation thru a variety of subtasks that often center around civic action projects.
While teaching a 6-month counter-narcotics course in a jungle camp in Bolivia, our team was supposed to get a two-week break at Christmas, as the host nation forces would be given block leave to celebrate the holiday in the middle of our course. We were slotted to go back to Panama, enjoy some beach time and head back.
But the Ambassador came calling, he got roped into rebuilding a school that taught elementary students early in the morning, high school in the afternoon and adult education at night. It was completely falling in and the bathrooms were broken with raw sewage on the floors.
The US government thru USAID had about a quarter of the funds to rebuild. We were asked to help. No Christmas leave on the beach after all. The only way we could make it work was to get a ton of labor from the citizens who would volunteer their time. And each of the team guys became a construction foreman, teaching the locals how to do their own small piece of the pie. It got finished under the time limit and under budget. Most had no experience doing it but it got done and done well.
Another time, my partner and I got tasked with teaching basic combat shooting to the wives of the MILGP personnel. There were threats to U.S. personnel in-country and the women had asked for classes to teach them how to defend themselves in the event they were forced to use a weapon to defend themselves or their children.
The only two stipulations from the women were that we treat them like anyone other troops we’d train and that their husbands stay away. We borrowed the combat pistol range in the city and took them for a few days with a ton of range time. The ladies all that telltale callous on their right thumb from loading so many pistol magazines.
Despite their stipulation, we taught them quite differently than we would have our normal host nation troops but the women caught on extremely fast and their shot groups got tighter and tighter. We even had time to teach them double-tapping their targets. At the end of our training, the husbands from the MILGP and the Military Attache’s Offices came out to see the women show off a bit. They took great delight in double-tapping their targets. Thankfully, no one, in our time there, ever had to utilize the training we conducted.
One of the most fun (for us) of our pop-up training activities was teaching a door gunner course for the helicopter machine gunners. Most of them weren’t trained that well and they had little to no refresher training until the operations called for them to do it for real.
We were asked if we were familiar with this, and answered: “of course we are.” We studied up and got a bird and a couple of M-60s for our own train up prior to the class.
We practiced it and had a blast burning up copious amounts of ammo on our own until it came time to teach the class. It lasted all of one day when the host nation shut it down (temporarily) because they needed all hands on deck for a live operation. We’re still waiting for them to kick back in for the training class but we had a blast at least.
One of the most challenging was an all-classroom course. Our Bolivian counterparts had staff officers assigned to all of the top positions, but in reality, never functioned as a staff would in the United States. Our counterpart, a Major in the Bolivian military asked for our assistance in teaching a staff course.
The Army Attache stated (and correctly so) that they needed a CGSC (Command and General Staff Officers’ Course) graduate to teach it. We were firmly in agreement with him there. But the problem was, not many SF NCOs or Warrant Officers have been to CGSC. And of course, with just the two of us there, we were stuck. Would he like to teach it? Of course not.
So we got as much material from the old School of the Americas that we could and taught a senior staff course. They were even surprised at who was teaching it. So while I never attended CGSC…I can say I taught it…kind of.
Anyway, old anecdotes aside, you’ll find your career in Special Operations a very different type of experience from anything you’ll ever encounter anywhere else. Your duties and responsibilities will far outdistance your rank in the U.S. military. It is par for the course.
When hit with a subject that you don’t have much experience with, do the research, study and get it done. Your biggest asset is the ability to sell your expertise to our host nation forces and get them to trust that you’ll get it done.
Every day on nearly every mission can be a very different set of circumstances that can be a rewarding and challenging experience. So, back to the title, “Can Special Forces Teach Everything?”… The short answer is, ABSOLUTELY.
Photo: US Army