Note: JW Wade speaks French as a first language so please consider this as you read his work. Thank you -Brandon
There is a huge debate now about how unit commanders are denying their soldiers application to the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, mostly known as CANSOFCOM. We all know that they are drawing their members from volunteers who are seeking a bigger challenge. Unfortunately, unit commanders reasons to deny the applications are quite simple, they don’t want to lose their best officers and NCOs
Recently, CANSOFCOM recruiting cells were having major problems finding volunteers who knew what the SOF life would involve. The rigorous training and the time spent away from family is making the volunteer pool a bit scarce.
With the combat mission done in Afghanistan, a lot of younger guys are looking into the units of CANSOFCOM to fulfill their desire to see combat. What they don’t understand is that they lack serious experience and maturity needed to be ready for such a role. Of course, there are always exceptions. I have a very good friend who has been in for four years now, but didn’t have the chance to deploy to Kandahar. He is a combat diver with one of the engineer regiments, and also just finished the recon course, in which he kicked ass. That type of young soldier could fit in a SOF element, but is rare and mostly very humble about what they can do. It is one of the main qualities any SOF soldier should have.
What about their mental toughness? What past experience can they relate to when things get out of hand? Like a lot of people say: it is 10% muscle and 90% brain. Mental toughness can be taught by exposing younger recruits to harsh conditions under close supervision while increasing the length slowly. Resilience is something really important, especially in the combat arms trades. It is the unit’s responsibility to teach and maintain a great amount of mental toughness within the ranks to be able to push the soldiers to their limits. By doing so, you learn a lot about them, and it is easier afterwards to boost their performance through specific rigorous training. But it is not CANSOFCOM’s responsibility to teach it, and they don’t have the time for that, anyway.
Another big issue is the lack of physical fitness: our current PT programs aren’t designed to put our soldiers in their best possible physical conditions. Here in CFB Valcartier, there is a physical preparation camp for all SOF-aspiring soldiers. This camp will prepare them physically through a rigorous process developed specifically to be able to pass the selection phase. To my knowledge, it is the only base that offers that type of camp. The other soldiers can use a physical fitness guide to get them ready, but without any type of supervision. The problem is that a lot of these guys will not be able to pass selection, thus taking positions someone more ready than them could’ve have.
CANSOFCOM have been doing a great job flying under the radar however, there is little known about their selection process.
In conclusion, the younger generation of soldiers who have no combat experience whatsoever are less likely able to become a member of CANSFCOM than those who have the experience needed. What they need to do is learn as much as possible from the “older” guys, keep their motivation levels through the roof, train as hard as possible and stop pretending they know everything.
There is also a reason why most of the SOF soldiers are a bit older here in Canada: it gives them time to get ready for such a task!
(Featured Image Courtesy: Forums.Army.ca)