Becoming a Special Forces Soldier – What it Takes
The soldiers who make up the United States Special Forces are a special breed. Those who are not in the service however rarely realize just what a long and arduous process becoming a member of the United States Special Forces – aka The Green Berets – really is.
The first step in becoming a member of the Special Forces is attendance and completion of the grueling Special Forces Qualification Course – or the Q course as it is informally known within the army. It was created as a way to select men suitable for the unique requirements for Special Forces soldier in the 1980s by Brigadier General James Guest, who was at the time the Commanding General of the John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
There are some very basic requirements for an individual to meet, whether they have prior military experience or not, before they will be considered for Special Forces training:
- Be a male, age 20-30 (Special Forces positions are not open to women)
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Have a high school diploma
- Achieve a General Technical score of 110 or higher and a combat operation score of 98 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.
- Qualify for a secret level security clearance.
- Qualify and volunteer for Airborne training
- Take Defense Language Aptitude Battery or Defense Language Proficiency Test
- Achieve an overall minimum score of 229 on the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT)
Many Special Forces soldiers are college educated but it is not necessarily a bar to becoming a Special Forces member if a candidate is not but can demonstrate excellent aptitude in areas vital to becoming an effective member of a Special Forces team.
The SFQS – The Basics
Once they are accepted for the SFQS candidates are currently sent to Camp Mackall, a sub installation of Fort Bragg in the town of Southern Pines, NC. There they are put through 24 days of physical and aptitude tests that are some of the toughest set by the United States Armed Forces in General.
Not all of the candidates move beyond this stage. Some choose to leave the program voluntarily while others are not selected for advancement.
Stage II of the SFQS introduces candidates to the four Special Forces Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) that will be open to them, the five Active Duty groups they could be assigned to an the languages that are required to be spoken by each individual group. Language training can take between 18 and 24 weeks, depending on whether or not the candidate has prior knowledge of the languages being taught and is considered to as vital a part of Special Forces training as any other.
The third stage of the SFQS focuses on small tactical operations and provides candidates with their first opportunity to begin planning and executing missions using some of their own initiative. This training takes place in the areas of North Carolina that serve as the location of the final test – a 4 week long unconventional war exercise known as Operation ROBIN SAGE. The exercise turns around 1/3 of North Carolina into “The People’s Republic of Pineland” for the duration of the exercise.
As you can now see the process is a difficult one and training never really stops, even once a new Special Forces soldier has joined their new unit. Understanding just how different the role of a Special Forces soldier is it should now be easy to understand why these men – both retired and active duty – choose to band together and participate in the Special Forces Association.