Editor’s Note: This SOFREP reader’s submission was sent to us from Cole Black. Black is currently a Sophomore at Yale University. It is presented here unedited for content. The views expressed are those of the author. We thank him for his submission.

Talent Left on the Table: Entering the NSW Pipeline

Special operations forces attract a special breed of soldier. The true SOF hopeful is precisely focused, tirelessly motivated, and fully committed to their goal. Whether trying to secure Navy SEAL Hell Week, make it through Army Q Course, or push through the lengthy Air Force “Superman School,” the SOF candidate is defined by an urge to join the ranks of America’s most elite fighting forces. The relatively small number of officer billets in these communities makes the pool of applicants vying for them all the more competitive. Especially for special operations communities that can be directly entered without years of military service, like the Navy SEALS, the melee for an officer spot is fierce.

This accessibility makes their selection all the more ruthless and raises concerns as to which qualified SEAL candidates get the nod for a slot at BUD/s. Excluding the unicorn lateral transfer, SEAL officer candidates come from three main pools: the US Naval Academy, Officer Candidate School (OCS), and Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs at conventional colleges. The Academy is expectedly a powerhouse for producing qualified candidates. It’s no secret that a majority of the Navy water polo team has their sights set on becoming SEALS, or that they very often reach that goal. At an institution organized around creating model naval officers, it’s not a surprise that the students (especially the student-athletes) at the Academy are strong contenders for limited SEAL officer spots at BUDS. USNA gives them all the support they can, from SEAL-specific workout groups to special warfare-specific mentorship. When the Academy guys show up at SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection (SOAS), the final two-week “boot-camp” filter before officially entering the SEAL training program, they often excel among their peers from other commissioning pathways.