The so-called optimization of the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) has left instructors, operators, and operational leadership in high doubts about the quality of the soldier being produced. The optimization would make the course take roughly six months to train a student after he has been selected. And unfortunately, Selection is really the only gate the soldier must pass. If you ever wanted to be Special Forces, now is the time to join! But don’t worry, folks, they won’t lower the standards; they will simply modify them.
Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) is reportedly unchanged, and standards have not been altered. Instead of calling it the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), they now call it a physical fitness assessment. Lengths of the road marches and other criteria remain the same. While SFAS focuses heavily on physical fitness, all candidates must demonstrate proficiency in Land Navigation, an essential skill for a Special Forces soldier. To date, a woman has yet to don the coveted Green Beret… but they are close, with several in the course currently.
The Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) has changed roughly 30 times over the last 50 years to adapt to an ever-changing warfare environment. The new optimization is reducing the total training time to just 24 weeks to receive their Green Beret and then an additional 24 weeks of language training.
One Robin Sage Instructor wonders why they even do the exercise stating, “we cannot drop a student, only recycle them.” Robin Sage is the culmination exercise before the student receives their Green Beret. It is a two weeks exercise in the fictitious country of Pineland. During this exercise, the students conduct training missions such as controlled assaults and key leader engagements. They also live, eat and sleep with their Partner Force, just as SF has done time and time again all over the world.
After the successful completion of Robin Sage, the Special Forces trainees will don the coveted Green Beret and Special Forces tab for the first time. While still technically students, they move to language and cultural immersion to finetune their skills in the language in which they have been assigned. Pass or fail your language training, it doesn’t matter: you’re going to your team. Ten years ago, if you didn’t pass your language test, you were dropped from the entire course completely. Many outstanding potential operators had to pack it up.
So, welcome to your team, where you are already behind the curve due to lack of training, and operations are at an all-time high. However, with pressure from the Pentagon, every soldier is required to have two nights at home for every one day gone. While this sounds great, it’s leaving teams undermanned because some schooling is four months long. Effectively now, that soldier must stay home for eight months.
SF command is tracking every single person, bringing back Special Forces soldiers in combat zones, leaving their teams once again undermanned. And there’s no point in trying to get a waiver; it absolutely won’t be signed anyway by the 1st Special Forces Command.
Many believe this optimization isn’t because of changing warfare but because of a lack of recruiting. Graduations are nearly six per year, much less than previous years. With the current seemingly toxic leadership in almost every group, why would anyone want to join? Take the court-martial trial of MSG Hasenbein, for example. A decorated poster boy for Special Forces that was effectively thrown under the bus by his command and may face jail time.
Optimization? The Regiment stands firm: YOU CAN KEEP IT!