In the minds of many, America’s Special Operations war fighters could already be seen as a type of super-soldier.  Armed with the best equipment on the planet and having undergone the most rigorous and well-developed training in the history of warfare, SOCOM provides the United States with a ready supply of personnel capable of doing the sorts of things most of us only see in movies, but that doesn’t mean there still isn’t room for improvement.

Just imagine if Captain America had started out as Chris Kyle instead of spindly-armed Steve Rogers.

SOCOM, or the U.S. Special Operations Command, is always faced with the need to modernize, update, or replace gear as new iterations make it onto the market.  It isn’t enough to have the latest gear, in order to ensure we maintain superiority over our nation’s enemies, the search for advancements and updates must be continuous and ongoing. The same can be said for the performance of the operator as well.  Over the years, study after study has been conducted about the limits of human performance with an eye toward the special operations soldier on the battle field.

How many calories does the human body need to perform at its best? What kinds of nutrients are integral to combat proficiency? How much sleep do we need to function in high stress situations? These and many more important questions have been approached by the world’s best and brightest scientists and researchers, each seeking to learn how to make our war fighters more capable, and if possible, looking for ways to cheat the system to improve efficiency where we can.  As SOFREP editor-in-chief Jack Murphy has pointed out, there is a dark side to this pursuit, and illegal or dangerous drugs have become an undeniable part of the special operations culture as a result.

According to a BAA (Broad Agency Announcement) updated by SOCOM in April, the command is soliciting information from industry experts and scientists about the latest in performance enhancing drugs and treatments, in hopes of improving the efficiency, stamina, or survivability of our war fighters in harm’s way.

According to their release, SOCOM is specifically on the market for “innovative solutions that will optimize human performance, reduce recovery time, and increase peak performance sustainability, including increased endurance, strength, energy, agility, enhanced senses, provide restorative effects of sleep, and enhance tolerance to environmental extremes.”

The Conventionalization of US Special Operations

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Their interest makes a great deal of sense.  There are entire industries devoted to helping the world’s professional athletes improve their performance, and although this movement has brought with it a fair amount of pseudoscience (like magnets to wrap around your knees), it has also resulted in a generation of athletes repeatedly crushing the records of yesteryear through improved nutrition, medications designed to aid in recovery and muscle development, and adjusted body dynamics (through training or gear).  If there ever was a war-fighting equivalent to the world’s elite professional athletes, it could certainly be argued that they’d be America’s Special Operations personnel.

According to SOCOM, their intent is to “conduct research, design, development and demonstration of capabilities that enhance physiological, physical, psychological, and intellectual performance, and improve resistance to disease, stress, or injury caused by the demands of sustained operations in extreme environments.”  Broken down into the most simplistic language possible, SOCOM is in the market for some super-soldier serum (or serums) they can use on our best and most capable warriors.

Of course, this announcement is merely a request for submissions, and we likely won’t know what suggestions they receive or how (and if) they’ve been implemented for years to come, if ever at all.  By it’s very nature, SOCOM is a secretive organization that deals in leveraging any advantage they can find in their pursuit of our nation’s enemies, and advertising their methods doesn’t aid in that endeavor.

As long as SOCOM is able to find ways to assist our troops in combat without risking their long-term health, such pursuits are logical and even admirable.  They may even be able to find things that could replace the dangerous drugs some operators are issued by their medical staff in order to keep their edge in the fight, improving the long-term health and survivability of America’s most highly trained soldiers.

Of course, the opposite of that outcome is also possible – as we’ve seen in the past.  Here’s hoping SOCOM gets this one right.

 

Composite image courtesy of Infinity Ward/USADA