The Special Operations community is always under the spotlight even though they themselves would rather remain in the shadows as the “Quiet Professionals” but because of their nature, the public and the government are fascinated by them.

As a result, too many times, people in government with no operational experience, nor any idea what it takes to operate in a Special Operations environment, read up a bit and become instant experts. They then try to get involved with the training and assessment with Special Operations troops. This usually doesn’t end well.

Recently there was a story out of the UK that some in the government wanted to abolish the reserve SAS regiments, the 21st and 23rd as their training standards were different from the active component (22nd SAS) and that their role was ill-defined. Two candidates died of heat-related injuries on a ruck march in the Brecon Beacons. Don’t think for a minute that this wasn’t a talking point in Washington also. One thing in the favor of the US is that all training for SOF units be it, active or reserve component is done to the same standard in the same schools.

This week a report was issued that the Special Operations Forces (SOF) “The Role of Special Operations Forces in Global Competition,” where the focus of the SOF should be in preparing for the next conflict rather than just fighting in the current ones on-going. In it, the SOF community may have to be expanded to meet future requirements.

Both developments ultimately lead to one question, “Should the standards for SOF be lowered to meet the new challenges?” And the answer to that is a resounding No.

By their very nature, the mission of SOF is extremely challenging and the job gets tougher, not easier when the individual troops find themselves in the operational SOF environment. The individual units must identify, develop, and provide the necessary training to produce troops that can operate in their environments.

Although their standards are generally similar throughout in looking for troops that have an extreme sense of self-reliance and the ability to function with or without supervision, there are differences in each. The US Army Special Forces Selection course is one conducted with both officers and enlisted candidates together. The focus is on the mental aspect as well as the physical.

The Rangers conduct a different assessment process and the officers and senior NCOs go thru a different course than the junior enlisted troops. Because in their environment, the roles will be very different from say as a member of an A-team.