Upon arrival to my first unit, an SF Group, I was worried how I would be treated because I was an X-ray. X-ray’s are “off the street,” so to speak. It challenges what many believe to be a traditional model to join Special Forces. That model is going to the infantry, maybe and probably the 82nd, or spend time in Ranger Regiment, and then – come to SF. As X-ray’s, part of our problem is missing out on the experiences of the traditional model. Contrarily, it’s our value.

It wasn’t easy for me, or anyone else, judging by the number of folks who I didn’t see on the other end of the qualification course – donning the Green Beret. Over years past, the rate for X-rays, just to get through selection was around 1/4 of the guys. Today, it has roughly doubled, a significant increase. I can’t imagine the heartbreak of not making the cut – there just wasn’t an option in my mind. Even then, after I was selected – it wasn’t enough. I knew I was a peon, and this was just the beginning. I was right, the rest of the course proved to be a kick in the nuts, too. But, I grew up a lot.

The point is, though, I wasn’t fully-formed and ready to jump on a team. The thing is some teams are undermanned, and you could show up and need to lead. That sounds like a challenge, but if you’re young and new – you don’t know what you don’t know. Again, on the contrary, whether or not someone is an X-ray is no guarantor of maturity. However, an X-ray is guaranteed not to have combat experience. X -rays don’t have it, they can’t. I’ll never feel guilty for making a great decision of trying to go directly into Special Forces from my original 11B Infantry contract in basic training.

I have never felt like I’ve done enough – in anything. That feeling rang true through my entire time on a team. I became seasoned and was able to take part in exciting projects. Those projects broadened my exposure and experience. Now, I have a taste for the work – and the sense that the war on terror and strategic contingency work is more meaningful than much else I could imagine. Leaving the work, directly, has been tough. Half of me is ashamed for leaving the military. For now, I guess. It’s only now after a decent chunk of time in the military that I feel like I’m not a peon and, a big part of that was because I was an X-ray. It’s like admitting something embarrassing on a first date. Sorry, I’m an X-ray, you might not want this.

X-rays have always been a part of Special Forces and can bring many diverse skills to the team room. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of the actual spirit of the O.S.S. But alas, the average X-ray is not John Ford. My question is that if more are making it through does that change the force over time? What does that look like in the future and are combat veterans sticking around?

 

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