So, you’ve volunteered to be in Special Forces and you’re getting ready to go to Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS). This is the time to prepare yourself for the grind that is to come. There are certain tips that will help you attain the level of physical fitness that you’ll need to not just pass the course but to excel.

You’ve passed the Land Navigation course, and while it wasn’t easy, you learned that you are pretty good at navigating after all. And if you can navigate in Hoffman, you should be able to do it anywhere.

But now we’re here at Team Week. You’ve no doubt heard the nightmarish stories about it and what a smoker it is. Well, it is true that you are going to be thoroughly tested. The tasks are difficult and you’re going to be worn down and smoked like a cheap cigar with some of them, especially if the weather doesn’t cooperate and the trails get muddy and slow. But again, as with Land Navigation, thousands of guys have passed it and so can you.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

What Is Team Week Anyway?

Well, the school’s response is that Team Week is a series of tasks that the candidates must accomplish within a set amount of time. Sounds fairly innocuous, right? No one is better than the military at making something sound bland.

The Special Forces cadre members will watch and evaluate the candidates on their ability to solve problems, work as a member of a team, and lead a group of peers while under physical and mental stress. All of these traits are extremely important in your Special Forces career.

And nothing will get you to be non-selected quicker than lacking the ability to work in a team.

You can be a physical stud and smoke every ruck, run and PT smoker in the pit. You can find all of your points on Land Nav with ease. But if you’re a non-team player, you’re done. Sayonara, adios, auf wiedersehen, ciao. SF can’t use you.

Team Work Is Essential Throughout SFAS

And trust me, the cadre is ALWAYS watching! During team week as an SFAS cadre member, I not only watched the candidate who was put in the leadership position of the event, but also his teammates. Are they supporting him to the best of their ability? Or are they just doing the rucksack flop during a break?

If you are really good at lashing, be prepared to be busy during Team Week. Normally the successful teams identify the team members that are good at that skill right away. You must build some funky conveyances during Team Week. The better that they are lashed together and engineered, the quicker you’ll get to your finish point for that event.

When it is your time in the barrel as a leader on an event, be a good one. Remember you’re not going to be the smartest guy in the room. Between yourself and your teammates, there is a wealth of knowledge and experience. Use it. Listen to their ideas, because you are all going to have to cross the finish line together. Get everyone involved and pulling together.

Candidates during SFAS
Candidates assigned to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School push a jeep through a sandy firebreak during Special Forces Assessment and Selection at Camp Mackall, North Carolina March 14, 2020. Candidates who attended the three-week assessment and selection were evaluated on their ability to work individually and as a team.

Always Be a Leader

In Special Forces, you’ll be expected to perform well above your pay grade in everyday work, so you must, must, must always be a leader in your attitude. It doesn’t matter if you are the Team Leader or the last guy in line. Always support the guy in charge to the best of your ability. Because that guy may be supporting you next. And this is reflected and tested in SFAS.

Selection never ends, by the way. You’ll move on to the Q-course, get your Long Tab and wear the Green Beret but you’ll forge your reputation every day and on an A-Team, everyone must pull together and put absolute trust in each other. You’re starting an entirely new career field here, get off on the right foot and never stop.

Cool Wins in SFAS

Always remain calm. Trust me there will be times when you will be ready to explode because you’ll be tired, worn down, and physically exhausted. But a person who is out of control will make mistakes. Stay cool, calm, and collected. I believe it was Kipling who said,

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;”

Special Operations Forces Selection PT Preparation Week 6, Day 1

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The Gray Man

I didn’t know whether to write something on this subject because there are so many takes on it and they all differ. And this is one of those topics that I feel strongly about, so my take on it is a bit biased.

You’ll hear many people tell you to be the “Gray Man” in SFAS, and if that means to you, just keeping a low profile while doing the best that you can, then that is fine. But to others it means trying to purposely fly under the radar, to hide behind the masses. You know who those types are, and you’ll find some in your class.

Everybody’s different. Certain guys (many SF guys) are Type-A personalities and are demonstrative, take-charge guys. Others are more low-key and lead-by-example types. Be yourself. The cadre will know by then which type you are.

You came to Special Operations to be part of the top one percent in the military. That doesn’t mean beating your chest every time you accomplish something, but if you’re looking to slide under the radar in training, then you’ll do it on a team. As a cadre member, I didn’t evaluate too kindly on those trying that.

Final Thoughts

Team Week will test you, push you, and will be a big gut check. Take it seriously, but always keep a positive mental attitude and you’ll be fine.

Don’t be afraid to inject some humor in there. Sometimes humor can be a stress reliever and will lighten the load a bit. But do it in moderation as in all things.

Team Week failures usually were because of lack of endurance, lack of tactical troop leading procedures, lack of being a team player, and a lack of leadership by example. Those are easily preventable. Part of the reason you must be in such good physical condition is to not only pass the events of the course but because physical fitness grants you a much better stress-coping mechanism. And Team Week will be stressful.

Don’t be late; don’t be light; don’t be last. And above all else… good luck!


This article was originally published in May 2020. It has been edited for republication.