In the past few years, a growing shortage of special operations personnel has become more and more evident. This is being seen across the board in the Naval Special Warfare community and Army Special Operations Command.

It’s no secret that the special operations communities rarely meet their designated quotas. This is mainly due to the fact that it is impossible to mass-produce special operators. There’s also the human element: No matter how physically fit and intelligent an individual is, they still stand the chance of getting hurt, quitting, or failing while in training.

Heavy Recruit
Ok, maybe not quite THAT obese, but close. AI illustration by SOFREP

It costs the Department of Defense millions of dollars to fully train a special operator, not to mention the years required before an operator is prepared to deploy overseas. Special Operations Command prides itself on the fact that its members are the tip of the spear and will not allow training standards to be lowered to increase numbers. All of these reasons explain why there is always a natural shortage of special operations personnel — but the shortage of people wanting even to try out is alarming.

But now is the time to try if you want to be a special operator. For example, Special Forces candidates are more likely to be recycled if they fail a phase in the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) rather than be dropped entirely from the pipeline, as would happen in previous years.

A similar story is being told in the Naval Special Warfare side of the house. SEAL and SWCC recruiters are also struggling to find enough of the “right” kind of people.

So, why is this happening? There are a lot of different thoughts and rationales on this subject. Some believe that the average young American has become comfortable in their daily lives. They’re doing good enough and don’t want to take an unnecessary risk by attempting to join the ranks of America’s elite. Others say it’s due to downright laziness and the lack of physical and mental aptitude.

It was reported that approximately only 30 percent of young Americans are even eligible to enter the conventional Armed Forces. It can be assumed that of that 30 percent, a very small fraction would actually want to and be capable of making it through a special operations training course.

The bigger question now is how to fix this growing problem. Time will tell if young Americans decide to answer the call and volunteer to join the ranks with the best that the U.S. military has to offer.