In part 1 of this series, I discussed my start in the military and my transition into the Special Forces, as well as the meaning of mastering the basics. In part 2, I’ll delve deeper into what being Special Operations is all about and how selection is, in part, used to select the right kind of follower — an individual capable of not only surviving but thriving in the SOF community. A community of warriors.

So what is Special Forces selection all about? To me, selection is about finding the soldiers that have the physical stamina to get the job done and the unwavering drive to win, no matter the cost to their selves. Selection is about finding the soldiers with the mental capacity and cognitive prowess to function at a high level in high stress and high-threat environments. Selection is about finding those that can work as part of a small, tightly knit, highly functioning and autonomous team. In a nutshell, selection is about finding soldiers who can follow the type of leader found in the SOF community.

The type of leader you will find in SOF, if you ever have the privilege of working with them, requires a specific type of follower. Without this very specific type of follower, the leader cannot lead, the team cannot function, and the mission is bound to fail. Without this very specific leader and follower, the SOF community would not exist as we have come to know it.

Initiative: A good SOF soldier knows how to take initiative, at the right time, and knows when to wait for orders, do as told, and play it by the book. The operations undertaken by these warriors require that they be able to do this naturally and consistently.

Interpretation of orders/reading between the lines: They also need to be able to effectively read between the lines. When orders come down from up on high, they are quickly redirected back up through bottom-up planning. The SOF soldier cannot be held by the hand. Most of the time, due to time constraints and operational tempo, orders, timing, and tasks need to be quick and to the point. It is up to the SOF soldier to read between the lines and determine what tasks, equipment, and readiness are required of them, to complete the orders, without having it all spelled out.

Attention to detail: The SOF soldier may be asked to conduct high-angle shooting, hostage rescue, rooftop fast-roping and/or rappelling, maritime counter-terrorism, beach assaults, sniper operations, explosive breaching, and strategic reconnaissance, among other tasks. Attention to detail is paramount. It is the not-so-sexy training, kit preparation, and rehearsal drills that make the oh-so-sexy Special Ops missions appear so seamless. Also, missions that do get derailed get back on track quickly because we are masters of the basics and regain control by following drilled-down standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Clear and concise communication: In high-threat environments, or when working with foreign government agencies, the SOF soldier cannot afford to communicate in kindas and maybes and muddied, mouth-breathing banter. The environment requires clear, concise, and confident communication between members. It is required from an operator’s fire team partner, their team leader, their subordinates, and is expected of them from all outside organizations that they come into contact with.

Aggressive physicality: A SOF soldier is first and foremost a warrior. Only a fit body can support a fit mind in this environment. The SOF soldier needs to portray a presence. They need to be physically able to handle anything the world can throw at them, from ruck marching and mountain climbing to swimming and fighting. They need to be able to exert their will upon the enemy, even if that means close hand-to-hand combat.