I had the pleasure to host SOFREP’s Question and Answer session on Sunday afternoon where our readers posted in the “Team Room” and I was their sounding board. I just want to thank everyone for the fun back and forth session and hope that we can do it again sometime soon.
We got some good overall questions about Selection which followed after the session was over with some good email and social media questions about the Selection course and some of what I’ve written about it.
First, let me be the first to say, I am just one former cadre member from there. I don’t claim to be the all-knowing expert on all matters of the course, nor to know the “only” way to do things. Frequently my opinions will differ vastly from what other cadre members will say about a given subject. That’s fine, we are all shaped by our own experiences and what worked well for me may not work for you or vice versa.
I encourage all of our readers who are aspiring Special Operations members to read everything that is out there and then YOU decide what is best for you. After all, when all is said and done, it will be you in the arena facing the music. Our time is done. As much as we wish we could turn back the clock and do it all over again, we can’t. Be as prepared as you possibly can be and then go all in. Don’t hold back anything. And then, even if you fail, you do so knowing that you emptied the tank in your attempt. The alternative is too bitter to contemplate.
So with that in mind, here are some email questions I’ve gotten and will attempt to answer them for everyone.
Why is the Special Operations Forces PT Preparation articles preparing candidates for the UBRR (Upper Body Round Robin) Test when we’re still taking the 3-Event PT Test?
This is an excellent question and I’ll answer it the best way that I can. First, the military, even the conventional units have come to realize that the old 3-Event PT Test is a joke. And it is far from a true barometer of functional physical fitness that Special Operations Forces require doing the job.
SOF is going to switch to the UBRR sometime soon and there is no sliding scale for age. Which is a good thing. You don’t get an alibi for age in Special Ops. You can either still do the job or you can’t. That’s why when I was at Selection, our commander graded us all regardless of age at the 17-21 bracket for the PT test.
The UBRR is a much harder event because SOF units are much harder to get into. These tests are much better barometers of a troop’s fitness level. And if you prepare yourself for Selection by prepping to do the UBRR and are prepared to pass it, then the old 3-Event PT Test will be a comparable breeze for you. By preparing for the UBRR, you’ll be in much better shape, ready to take on the challenges of Selection and beyond if you’re able to pass it. The better shape that you’re in physically will make everything else that you’ll encounter easier to handle.
Remember, you’re not in this to be 270 point guy (which is passing with a 90 percent on all three events). That is why they call them “Special Operations”. If you can pass the UBRR with no problems, you’ll smoke the 3-Event test and be ready for more.
Somebody else emailed me about the rumor mongering that is always rampant in Selection. How Should I Handle all of the rumors that go on about the course?
To go back to an earlier post and to quote my favorite NFL coach, “Ignore the Noise.” Tune out the senseless chatter and rumors that abound with the course. Pay no attention to any of what these guys, who “heard from a guy in the last course” yada, yada. All of those are invariably wrong.
What you need to pay attention to and the ONLY thing you need to pay attention to is what is posted on the Whiteboard for the candidates to know, what is happening, at what time, where it will take place and the correct uniform that the candidates need to be in. Save all the energy that you’ll waste trying to figure out what the instructors are planning on doing next. There is no master plan to mess with the candidate’s heads by the cadre. The course and the candidates themselves will do just that for them.
What was one thing that as a Cadre member would piss you off? This was another message I got asked. It was another very good question and the answer without question was: Negativity. If you signed up for Selection and want to be in Special Operations, then when you are in the course, you should be in your element, right where you want to be and beginning a new important phase in your life. You should be a happy camper.
But frequently some candidates are not. They act and their body language shows that they’d rather be just about any other place in the world right now than here doing what they volunteered for. Now we understand that during the course, candidates will be tired, both physically and mentally, and that is what the course is designed to do. No one expects the candidates to belt out a Broadway show tune at the end of conducting the downed pilot scenario.
You’ve heard everyone say (including here) many times that Selection and the qualification course is mostly a mental exercise. Some guys approach Selection like the sword of Damocles is hanging over their heads. The only way to approach it is by being positive. You’re taking part in the first step in your Special Operations career, it is hard of course. It is supposed to be. That is what makes it worth it at the end. To quote Tom Hanks, “the hard is what makes it great.” So act like you want to be there.
I always believed, and the results will play that out, that the most successful candidates were always the most positive ones. The guys who are miserable going thru Selection, what are they going to be like on a deployment when things go to hell in a handbasket?
One anecdote to show what I mean here, (yes I always put an anecdote in these) took place during the candidate’s final Land Navigation in the Hoffman area. You’ll get intimately familiar with that place. My point was in the area that the candidates in recent years have nicknamed the “Dagobar” from Star Wars fame. Apt description.
And this point would have almost 20 candidates finishing there when the time limit ran out. It was cold and damp and I had a small campfire and a book to pass the night away in my chair. Just before dawn, a good 4+ hours before the deadline I heard a candidate crashing thru the brush coming to my position. Assuming it was one candidate that was hitting a secondary point, I grabbed my clipboard to check him in and send him on his way.
The candidate, despite the cold air, was sweating, as per the norm and was catching his breath as he raced up to my cozy spot by the fire. “Roster #?” I asked him. Scanning the list, I saw that he was already done, having completed the course in excellent time. He could see me scanning the clipboard and I my gaze was going down the list, he was assuming he was finished. I could see it in his eyes although he was trying his best to remain non-committal. Holy crap I thought, this was unexpected. Now he’s going to hanging out for at least 5 more hours while the rest of the group straggles in and he’s supposed to stay awake until everyone is done. How do I keep this guy awake for that long after he kicked the course in the butt? Easy start by messing with his head.
“Prepare to copy candidate,” I said. I gave him the exact coordinates of where we were standing. “When you’re finished plotting your point and are ready to move out, let me know and I’ll log your time out.” He quickly went off to the side and I watched him plot and replot his point twice. Gathering his gear, he ambled over. “Ready to move out?” I asked him. He answered, “I plotted this point twice and both times I have it right here.” I looked at him and asked, “Are you sure?” He nodded, “absolutely.” I gave him a wink, which we weren’t supposed to do, “Then I guess that means you are done.”
He gave me a quick look like, you are such an a**hole, and then he got a look on his face, like “I’ve got this.” Exactly the right response. Later he finished the course and is a friend today, despite the smart a$$ cadre member who messed with him (he didn’t hold a grudge) and is a very respected member of both the Ranger and Special Forces Regiments as well as an outstanding NCO. A tip of the Beret to Scotty C. Hope all is well with you brother.
So remember Selection is just the tip of the iceberg but a very important step. Because it is the first in your Special Operations career. It is what you make of it. Stay positive and give it all you have. Act like you’ve been there and belong without being cocky. Most of all, act like you want to be here. Now roster # —, “your next point is….
Photo courtesy: US Army