Opinion: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say to me or comment in my presence about what they “think” it takes to become a Navy SEAL or Green Beret. Most often, these people are unaware of my profession and it is always with a sense of amusement that I hear their perceptions. Now, the vast majority of these people never were Navy SEALs or Green Beret which makes it always more amusing.
The way some people think a SEAL would have swim underwater across the width of San Diego while towing a boat anchor for a battleship while Green Beret have to bench press small Toyota pickups while running 10-20 miles at a pace that would make an Ethiopian marathon runner green with envy.
The truth is actually none of the above. If that was the case I don’t think anyone in my class would have been there when the smoke cleared and we walked across the stage in the JFK Auditorium to graduate the SFQC.
The fact is, and as we’ve stated here many times, it is all about getting your mind right. I have received a lot of messages from the SpecialOperations.com pages from prospective candidates and several have posed the same questions, just couched a bit differently asking about the physical standards. And as soon as I do, the first thing I like to tell them is to put all of that out of their minds immediately. That is planting the seed of doubt in your mind and that more than anything will sink you. Get right in your head guys. It is as simple as that.
Those of you who have read thru my pages here will know that I have frequently said and I believe wholeheartedly that any of the Special Operations Forces courses are 70 percent mental and only 30 percent physical. Don’t misunderstand me here, you still have to be in top physical condition and yes, the courses especially Selection will smoke your ass six ways to Tuesday. But they aren’t designed to make the courses unattainable.
That doesn’t mean that you can just show up at Selection looking like the Michelin man and that by refusing to quit you can gut your way thru it….that isn’t happening. But the mental mind f**k is real. And that, more than anything else with possibly the exception of Land Navigation will spell the end of the road for many of the prospective candidates.
When explaining this to the people I mentioned above who have never been in the military or had never been in Special Operations, you should see the looks you get. Some believe that it just a disinformation program, oh Gawd! Not that word again! While others believe that you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes for some arcane reason. But more than anything else you usually get a look like this:
“Okay you old bastard, so how do you ‘get your mind right’, is this some Jedi BS?”
I’m so glad you asked, no it isn’t “Men Who Stare at Goats” kind of psychic powers stuff but simple really. Remember the time I told you that the answer was so simple that it was hard for some people to understand? Getting your mind right is simple. Kinda. So here goes:
Repetition Thru Constant Training:
SOF commandos may rehearse a raid for a large target, hundreds of times before they actually conduct the operation. Why? Because Murphy is alive and well and is always on the objective. A million things can go wrong from the moment of infiltration until the guys are getting out of Dodge.
SOF doesn’t want any distractions or events that may pop up from influencing the mission. So they rehearse and train to work out all of the bugs so that when something does go wrong, and they will, no one panics make mistakes or deviates unnecessarily from the plan.
Panic will always lead to bad decisions. So the constant repetition and addressing the things that could go wrong leads to a feeling of control where the operator isn’t worried about anything to could go awry.
Controlling Your Breathing:
Believe it or not, this is a prime example of keeping a level head or your mind right. The Navy SEALs teach their men this technique and I believe that NEWSREP’s founder and owner (as well as SpecialOperations.com) Brandon Webb may have written about this in one of his books. It is called the 4 x 4 For 4.
- Breathe in for 4 seconds
- Breathe out for 4 seconds
- Repeat for 4 minutes
This will help you relax and be able to think clearly before any stressful event. It is a subtle form of meditation that works.
Having a Clear Set of Goals And Visualising Them:
This is from an earlier post and while it sounds rather simplistic yet for many candidates they don’t really know what they want in life. Of course, they want to pass the course, meet the standards and get selected. But after that, what do they want or envision themselves years down the road? Surprising, many have no clue.
When serving as a cadre member at SFAS, one of the tasks that the candidates were given in those late night classroom sessions was to sometimes draw where they saw themselves in five years if their careers were successful in passing the course. And many of the candidates really didn’t have a plan or thought other than getting selected. (Other than the one former commercial graphic artist who sketched the most badass “Rambo” type of picture that I’d ever seen….which ended up in the cadre office on the wall)
But have a long-term plan, set long-term clear-cut goals and have a detailed plan on how you plan on achieving them. Then visualize those coming to fruition. So what if those have to be tweaked as time goes on? The better the plan you have, the easier you’ll find it is to find your way to the finish. But use the KISS Principle, Keep it Simple, Stupid.
And of course, there is the best for last…
Embracing the Suck:
We’ve also hit upon this several times but in a nutshell, we’ll explain what it means. Embracing the Suck is the conscious act of taking the best shot from whatever obstacle is in front of you. And continuing to drive on and not letting it deter you from your goal. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get knocked down, you will. Especially in Selection, that is what the course is designed to do.
The Selection course, in reality, has very little training value in it. There are a bunch of training events that are designed to simply see if the candidates have the physical and mental toughness to carry on and be worthy of the training that is to come. The course is designed to separate the weak (both physically and mentally) from the strong.
The cadre will watch and evaluate the candidates almost like sharks circling in the water to detect any weakness. It doesn’t mean that they don’t expect candidates to get tired and worn down. They’ve all been there and done that. But they’re looking for the successful ones. The candidate that will continue to drive on and not accept failure.
That is Embracing the Suck. The actual training will come after that and there will still those days when the candidates will get tired and worn down from months of constant testing and evaluating. That’s why only the best need apply.
That’s getting your mind right. Are you ready for this? Both physically and mentally? Because they both go hand-in-hand. Make sure you pay attention to the whiteboard. Be on the street in the correct uniform in 20 minutes with rucksacks packed and be ready to be tested. How far are we rucking today, you ask? “Do the best you can.”
Photo: US Army, YouTube- David Guin