A few years ago, the Australian military sanctioned a study of which character traits were more likely to make a candidate successful during the grueling six-week Commando Selection and Training Course (CSTC).

The Australian Commandos are a unit similar to the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment. It specializes in direct action, special reconnaissance, and counter-terrorism, among other tasks.

The Character Strengths and Hardiness of Australian Army Special Forces Applicants study was conducted by Captain Scott D. Gayton of the Australian Army Psychology Corps (AAPSYCH), and Dr. James Kehoe of the University of New South Wales.

The study followed 95 Australian servicemen undergoing Commando selection. Before the selection process began, respondents ranked themselves on 24 character traits. Capt. Gayton found the highest-ranked character traits were:

  • Integrity (45 percent)
  • Teamwork (41 percent)
  • Persistence (36 percent)
  • Love of Learning (25 percent)

Interestingly, the four lowest-ranked attributes were Loving, Forgiveness, Prudence, and Appreciation of Beauty.

What’s Left After the Smoke Clears

Commandos Character Traits
Candidates assigned to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School carry a telephone pole during a morning ruck march as part of Special Forces Assessment and Selection at Camp Mackall, North Carolina March 12, 2020. Candidates who attended the three-week assessment and selection were evaluated on their ability to work individually and as a team. (Photo by K. Kassens/U.S. Army)

When the smoke cleared after about 44 brutal days, during which the CSTC aspirants were pushed to their physical, mental, and emotional limits, the authors asked the successful candidates to re-evaluate their character traits with the hindsight of their experience.

Those who succeeded ranked teamwork first — and the difference in teamwork ranking between successful and unsuccessful applicants was 65 percent versus 32 percent.

The study thus concluded that individuals who valued teamwork more — and consequently were team players themselves — were more likely to pass the selection course.

As the authors stated, “much has been written about the fundamental importance of teamwork in high-risk occupations, in which the consequences of error may be fatal. Teamwork depends on each team member to consistently and accurately anticipate the needs of others, adjust to each other’s actions, and have a shared understanding of how procedures should be executed.”

It’s important to note that in the final stages of the selection process, candidates are asked to evaluate the performance of their teammates. This isn’t restricted to Australian Commandos. The U.S. Special Forces do a similar thing during the Special Forces Assessment and Selection, as does the Australian Special Air Service (SASR) and the New Zealand Special Air Service.

Most SOF units are designed to operate in small numbers. Consequently, candidates must be able to work well in teams featuring just a few members.

Additionally, the study indicated these results were in compliance with similar studies done previously in the SASR.


This article was originally published in January 2019. It has been edited for republication.