The public has always been fascinated by the training that US Special Operations Forces receive. What goes in to making an elite warrior? What skill sets are cultivated and polished in these young men?

To sum it up, we train as we fight.

At places like the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, our Special Operations personnel train for the austere environments which they will face overseas. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of the training is not secretive in nature. However, there is one closely held training secret within the Special Operations community. That secret is out now, and activist groups and politicians are now trying to prevent our soldiers from receiving this life saving training.

It is called Live Tissue Training (LTT), or more often known as the “Goat Lab.” Rumors have persisted in the public sphere about the goat lab for decades. Journalists like Jon Ronson heard bits of information about it, but had no idea what live tissue training was actually about. This led him to come up with some completely absurd conclusions about why Special Forces medics maintain a stock of live goats on Ft. Bragg.

The reality is that these goats are used by the SOCM (Special Operations Combat Medic) course to help train our Special Operations medics to work on casualties under the most realistic conditions possible in a simulated environment; training them as we fight. SOCM does not just train Special Forces medics, but also Navy SEAL and Ranger medics as well. These are the very best combat medics in the world. I’ve seen them in action myself, and have 100% confidence in the product that comes out of the SOCM course at Ft. Bragg.

I have even been able to participate in Live Tissue Training myself a few times, as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant. I found it to be some of the best training I ever had.

This is how it works: soldiers first receive classroom training of life saving medical procedures that they may have to use on their buddies in combat. These techniques range from putting a tourniquet on an amputated limb (the concept proven to the public at large in the recent bombing in Boston), to more complicated procedures like inserting a chest tube or performing a cricothyrotomy.

After the classroom sessions, a training area is set up with stretchers and live goats are brought into the room. A veterinarian supervises this entire block of training to ensure that the Live Tissue Training is conducted properly, and that the training is executed to the highest professional standard. The veterinarian injects the goats with anesthesia to put them under.

At this point, injuries that mimic those that soldiers would be confronted with in combat are induced to the animal. For example, a seasoned medic may use a scalpel to cut into the goat and sever its femoral artery. The students now have to apply the training they’ve received to save the goat’s life. The veterinarian patrols the room, while senior medics individually supervise the students. The vet will also inject the animals with more anesthesia  as needed. The animals are kept completely unconscious throughout the training to make it as humane as possible. The instructors make sure that the participating medics get as much training value out of this exercise as possible, and then afterwards the goat is euthanized.

This training may shock and horrify some of you. We live in a society that has become extremely politicized, and animal rights is one of the few issues that people of any political persuasion can get on board with. Nobody wants to promote unnecessary suffering, human or animal. It is fair to say that this includes those at the SOCM course, and those of us who participated in LTT. This training is done because it is the most realistic medical training that a SOF soldier can receive; training that will and does save lives in combat.

Today, groups like PETA are engaging in political activism to try to shut down LTT in the SOCM school house at Ft. Bragg. This can’t happen. It will literally kill our soldiers. Groups like PETA have convinced certain politicians that the same quality training can be done on mannequins or medical training dummies. This simply is not true. There is nothing more realistic than living flesh and blood. Trust me, many Special Forces medic students would rejoice if they never had to see another goat again. But the training goes on because the concept is combat proven.

If you have ever wanted to do something to support the Special Operations community and our soldiers, now is the time. Sarah McLachlan cries on TV for abused animals, but let’s be realistic about war and about the quality of training our soldiers receive. We owe American soldiers the best training possible to ensure their survival, and mission success on the battlefields to which they are deployed.

Don’t let groups like PETA kill our Special Operations troops over misplaced concern or political correctness.