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Tales from Robin Sage

Tales from Robin Sage

Robin Sage is the last phase of the Special Forces Q course. Students who have successfully completed everything up to this point are assembled into a team of 16-20 ‘SFODA’ members of varying MOS’s and placed into an unconventional warfare environment to test their planning and execution skills. Successful completion of this phase means you earned your Green Beret. Failure means likely recycle or being dropped from the course and sent to the needs of the Army.

I could probably write an entire book about my experience in Robin Sage, but let’s face it, I’m not that great of a writer.  For now, you’ll just have to stick with me while I regale you with hopefully funny tales from what happened during the field test portion of the exercise. With any luck you’ll get some laughs out of it, as well as learn something from the medical situations I encountered.

We’ll begin with Infil. Some teams are lucky enough to jump in and ruck a short distance, others  go in with barely any equipment and improvise. Not my team. My team played the fun game of ‘our rucks will NOT weigh more than 75lbs. Okay okay no more than 85…damn…95?....okay fine 105lbs.’ The 3 P’s of piss poor planning were in full effect.

On a stormy night sometime in late summer, our SFODA began rucking with our 105lb+ rucks with a basic plan for conducting our first link up with our Guerilla force (or G’s for short) after an approximately 8-mile route through heavy forest. Well that plan was fantastic, except our navigator got us lost, we missed our link up and had to go to the Alternate link up spot in our PACE plan.  4 more miles of hiking to go. Oh wait, just kidding, because we got lost again and missed that one too. On towards the Contingency spot, which is…..6 more miles away?!! Oh, and it’s still raining. At this point it may have been raining ocean water, because everyone who wasn’t navigating was as salty as they come. We get to what we think is our Contingency spot…12 hours and 18 miles later, only to find out that our now 3rd navigator actually has us 2 miles from where we are supposed to be, with the linkup happening in 15 minutes. Can we make the 2 miles in 15 minutes with 105lb rucks? *&$^#@ no we can’t. Onwards to our Emergency spot, thankfully only 2 miles away. Our Cadre at this point is furious. We are his last Robin Sage class before he goes back to a team, and in 3 years running the same lane we are the only team who has missed their Primary AND Alternate AND Contingency spots. Oops.

We finally get to the final linkup spot, approximately 14 hours and 20 miles later, completely exhausted, and do our initial meetings with the G’s. Not 2 minutes after the meeting concludes, one of the 18E’s on our team comes up to me and says that his skin is on fire, and asks if I’ll check him out. Upon closer inspection, this dude has literally 100’s of baby ticks on him, most of which had started burrowing into his skin. My ultimate nightmare. Thankfully I brought tweezers with me, and set to work removing them from his arms, legs, chest, back..well, you get the idea. Great start to our Robin Sage exercise…

Finally, we get led to our G camp and set about organizing our things. The 18B’s start fortifying the camp’s defenses, the 18C’s start surveying for stuff they can build or improve, the 18E’s start setting up their radios, and I start setting up my shanty/med clinic. Oh, forgot to mention, we had 4 18B’s, 4 18C’s, 4 18E’s and 3 Officers…and me. Our 18D class had 10 graduates, just enough to put 1 of us on each Robin Sage team. It was pretty awesome, if nothing else for the fact that you couldn’t go on a mission without a medic, so I got to do everything! I digress. As I’m setting up my hovel of a clinic, I am visited by the G-chief, who informs me that they have their own medic, and would like me to work with him. Cool, no problem, I expected this.

This new medic is named ‘Panther’ (All G-role players pick their own names) and Panther quickly broke role and informed me that he couldn’t stand the sight of blood, and knew exactly nothing about medicine. My ‘medic’ was not only not a medic, but couldn’t be counted on to help do cross-training. I did not expect that, but whatever, roll with the punches, right?  Except not 30 minutes later, one of the senior G’s ran up to our clinic and also breaks role, saying “not part of the scenario, this is real, I have a guy get hit in the head with an axe.’ Uh oh.

Sure enough, here comes a dude holding his head being supported by two people as he stumbles over to my clinic. He had been chopping firewood, didn’t see an overhead 550 chord line above him and hit the chord with the axe handle, spinning the axe out of his hands and into his head. Oops. Blood is absolutely pouring down his face, and his shirt is already covered. I quickly put on gloves and grab some Kerlex from my aid bag. I’m thinking worse-case scenario here, and running through every possible outcome in my head. I look back to tell Panther to grab some Ace bandages and more Kerlex, only to see a look of sheer terror in his eyes as he sees the blood on this guy’s head and clothes. I watch in slow motion as Panthers face goes blank and he promptly passes out. Thankfully he passes out on the soft dirt floor, so I immediately concentrate on the bloody guy.

I make a small ball of kerlex with one end of the Kerlex roll and ask them to remove their hands from his head. I see an approximately 3-4” gash directly down the center of his head, from which there are two primary heavy bleeders. I immediately push the Kerlex onto the heavier of the two bleeders and use my free hand to place manual pressure with a finger on the second. That takes care of about 95% of the bleeding from the head. I get another G to put on gloves and hold pressure on the spots I identified, while I rig up an IV line.  The IV is not to give him fluids, but to push saline onto the wound to expose how deep it goes and further assess the injury. Thankfully the wound didn't reach the skull and no brains were showing, so it wasn't a grave concern.  Besides being a heavy bleeder and scaring the crap out of everyone, it could be fixed with staples. I bandaged up his head and was consulting with my captains as to our options for him when I was informed it was so early in the Robin Sage scenario that instead the Cadre would handle it, and they quickly whisked him away to a civilian hospital and got him stapled up. Thankfully I stayed completely calm during the entire episode (at least outwardly), Panther came around eventually and was uninjured, and all the G’ role players were super excited to learn emergency medicine after that!

And that was just the first 24hrs of Robin Sage. If you want to hear more, let us know in the comments!

TCCC in 5 minutes or less

TCCC in 5 minutes or less

If you’ve read the previous blog posts, we’ve taken you through the TCCC stages of care: Care Under Fire (CUF), Tactical Field Care (TFC), and Tactical Evacuation (TACEVAC). We won’t rehash the exact steps to what each of these phases are, but we encourage you to go back and refresh on them. Our goal in this post is to really sum up these phases of care into a broad view of what is happening during these phases, and hope that by seeing the big picture, you will be interested in diving into each topic more thoroughly. This applies equally well to both military and civilian scenarios.

Care Under Fire: This is directly after or during an active incident, whether it’s a shooting, crime scene or car accident, etc. The purpose of this phase of care is to prevent additional injuries and only then provide immediate and life-saving treatment to a casualty in a safe environment. The S in SMARCH is applied heavily here (Security/Scene Safe).

1) Take a tactical pause and assess the situation.

2) Figure out what actions need to be taken to render the scene safe, and THEN move towards the casualty.

3) Extricate the patient BEFORE providing treatment if the situation dictates.

4) Apply Tourniquet or instruct patient to place it on themselves.

Tactical Field Care: This is when there is not an immediate danger present, but you can’t rule out needing to move you or the casualty. You have more time to apply MARCH.

1) Reassess any treatments provided (tighten tourniquets if necessary).

2) Go through MARCH and ensure all treatments are done in the correct order.

MARCH is designed as an algorithm of treatment that ensures the injuries that have the potential to kill you the quickest are addressed first. Please, please, please memorize the order!

Massive Hemorrhage: (Arterial bleeding/heavy venous bleeds) Tourniquets or Wound Packing.

Airway: Open patients airway via head/tilt chin/lift or removing debris from mouth/nose.

Respirations: Seal penetrating injuries to the circumference of the chest and torso.

Circulation: Bandage minor bleeds, fluid resuscitation (IV) if qualified to give.

Hypothermia/Head Injury: Keep patient warm. Comfort patient, monitor cognitive status/deterioration over time.

There are additional steps within each of the MARCH categories, so get educated!!

Tactical Evacuation Care: The patient is ready to be transported. You should be constantly upgrading care, checking interventions and making sure you document care.

1) Reassess all interventions consistently and especially before and after moving patient.

2) Ensure documentation goes with patient, even if it’s as simple as the time the tourniquet was placed.

3) Give a good handoff to transport. Tell them what happened, what you saw during treatment, and what interventions you have done.

4) Constantly work to upgrade patient’s condition before handoff.

While this is a very brief summary of the steps in a scenario, we also know it can be overwhelming to try and learn all of these steps in a short amount of time. When the situation seems hectic and people need help, it can be overwhelming. When this happens, panicking or furiously beginning treatment can get you killed or harm the patient.

Take a second and assess the situation. Focus on the basics. Start treating in an organized manner. Repeat M. A. R. C. H. as you work through the situation.

We highly encourage you to read the previous blog posts for a more in-depth discussion and understanding

Care Under Fire 

Tactical Field Care 

Tactical Evacuation Care 


For Civilians who want to help, but don’t have training, we have a brand-new guide that can help guide you through the crucial steps to help you keep patient’s alive until EMS arrives! Don’t just be a bystander, do something!  Check it out HERE.


For military medics, we have a guide that can help you focus on the basics and more-check it out HERE!


Ready Warrior FAQ for August 2018

Ready Warrior FAQ for August 2018

Every day we receive numerous emails, DMs and messages with questions about Selection (SFAS), the 18D course and more! We love hearing from our Ready Warriors but it is impossible to respond to every question directly, so we've taken  these great questions and now do a weekly FAQ Friday story series on IG and a monthly blog post highlighting the most common questions we were asked during the previous month.

So here are the most common questions we were asked in August about Selection and the 18D course.

FAQ about Selection (SFAS)

Best way to get an 18x contract?

Talk to a recruiter. Don’t think that you HAVE to do your time in the regular army if your only goal is to get to SF anyway. Everyone is at different stages of their life, maturity level, and career goals. If you aren’t sure…spend some time in the military first and then go talk to an SF recruiter.

Boots for selection and training?

Everyone has their own favorites. There was something called the SOPC soles that we put on our boots that were softer and were supposed to help with the ruck distances. They also burned up on the rope climbs. You don’t need some fancy pair. The standard Bellevilles will be just fine. I didn’t use any other pair of boots (except in Garrison) throughout the entirety of my SF career. Just spend enough time in them that they are thoroughly broken in before going to selection. Don’t be the guy in the selection class who busted out a brand-new pair of boots on the first day and then had to tough out some of the most incredible blisters I’ve ever witnessed.

Does my age have any bearing on me getting selected? What is too old?

I’d be lying if I said age was not a factor in selection. It is. Regiment has to consider how many years you will be able to give them for the $ they spend on you and the time it takes to get you to a team. Consider too that most people take from 18 months to nearly 30 months (18D’s and 18A’s) to pass the Q from the time they go to selection to the time they graduate, and that’s just to get you to the bare minimum to join a team.

That being said, I don’t know you…or your ability level. If you are late 20’s..you’re fine. No question. If you are early 30’s, I’d say make a decision quickly, but that it’s entirely possible if you perform well and have something they are looking for. I’m not a selection cadre, so don’t ask me what that is! Mid-late 30’s……eh……you’re pushing it. I had a 38-ish guy in my selection class that made it all the way to the end, and was a non-select. I also had some early 30’s guys who did get selected.  

I’m never going to tell you NOT to go to selection if you’re older. You just need to honestly ask yourself if you truly want to endure what it takes to get to SF for up to 30 months, and where you see your life during that time. If you think you’re physically and mentally ready, then you don’t need me to tell you that you should go for it.

Getting Ready for Selection. Any tips?

Get ready for the suck!!! We have all heard the horror stories about how bad selection sucks and blah blah blah. There is no way to sugarcoat it. It does. But it’s also a defined period of time that ends. To make the most out of your experience, I’d suggest the following:

1) Don’t pace yourself too much. Lots of guys don’t give 100% on the individual portions of selection because they want to make sure they have energy left for team week. Guess what? Cadre notice when you aren’t giving it everything you have. Remember, selection is a tryout. If you’re not giving everything you have, what are you even there for? You’d be surprised at the kind of physical and mental reserves you can access when you get closer to the end. There will be times where you can pace yourself, and those times will be obvious. For every other time, give it 100% of your effort.

2) Try and be the gray man. If you can excel at the individual events, do it. Excel at the PT test, excel during the runs or rucks. Don’t stick out for the wrong reasons though. Don’t be the guy who spotlights himself by being overly loud during team week. Don’t be last, don’t even be second to last in any event.

3) Shake it off. If you have a bad event, or spotlight yourself for the wrong reason, don’t take yourself out of the game. Too many people self-select out because they feel like there is no way they will ever pass after “x” happened. Not true. I had a former selection cadre on my team in group, and he used to say that guys who were very likely to get selected would quit all the time because they failed an event and spotlighted themselves in a negative once.

4) Don’t quit. I know what you’re thinking. I’ll never quit! Well I’ll let you in on a little secret. Everyone thinks of quitting. I sure as hell did. Selection sucks! Have your little pity party, take a deep breath, and find a reason to keep going. For me, I felt sick as a dog during the Star Course. I was dizzy, nauseated, felt like I couldn’t concentrate, etc. In my delirium I went to the side of the road and convinced myself that If the cadre just took me back to get checked out, I’d be fine and could rejoin selection afterwards. Part of me must have known that it meant quitting, because as I sat on my ruck on the side of the road waiting to be picked up, I snapped out of it just as a cadre’s truck came around the corner, and sprinted back into the woods with my ruck. I came THAAAAT close to wiping out my dreams because I let misery and mild illness distract me.

5) Be a team player. There was a physically small guy on our team in team week. Our event was pushing a contraption that needed someone to steer it from the top. Because he was the smallest guy, he was asked to do it. He saw it as him not getting to participate and us trying to make him look bad, and threw a fit about it. Unfortunately for him, the cadre aren’t assessing your strength at that point. It’s called team week for a reason.  Find a way to be helpful. If it makes the most sense for you to be in a certain spot for a certain amount of time, accept that role.

What is life like during the SOPC course before selection?

I can only speak to what I went through. We woke up each day super early, worked out, spent the day learning about various topics pertinent to bringing us up to speed on soldiering, such as land navigation techniques, had an afternoon session of working out, and everyone pretty much passed out from sheer exhaustion after dinner. Repeat daily. It was an incredible course and taught you a ton of great skills, as well as getting you in incredible shape for selection.


FAQ about the 18D MOS/course

I’m a civilian paramedic, do I stand a better chance of passing the 18D course?

Mixed. Civilian paramedics either perform extremely well in the 18D course, or they can’t unlearn some of the stages of care they learned as paramedics that are different from the military, and subsequently fail. The only civilian paramedic certified classmate I had in the SOCM course failed out because he couldn’t unlearn some of the ingrained steps of medicine he had been taught, and reconcile them with TCCC.

How do I prep for the 18D course? Any reading material you recommend?

The 18D course is self-contained, which means you can be like me and have had exactly 0 days of formal medical training on your first day of class and still do fine. If you really want to get a jump on the material though, I’d highly recommend getting to know Anatomy and Physiology. This firehose of information is a wrecking ball to poor students without really good study habits. I’d recommend picking up literally any basic book on A&P and get to know the PRIMARY muscles, nerves, arteries, veins, bones, etc. No matter how much you learn, prepare to study at least 2-3hrs per night during that phase to make sure you get it all.

How do I prep for the 18D course?  Any hands on training you recommend?

Memorize and practice the steps of TCCC and the MARCH algorithm of care. Getting that ingrained in your memory and practicing it will help.

What was the hardest topic to grasp in the SOCM/18D course?

Everyone in the course struggled with different phases, which is one of the reasons why the attrition rate is so high. Personally, I had more trouble with the hands-on material than with the book material. Anatomy and Physiology is extremely book intensive, but if you put in the hours you can pass. The hands-on material takes the ability to really think critically and adjust as necessary to innumerable what-if’s, which means quick thinking and applying relevant algorithms of care. Even to this day, practicing and hands on is a key component of training.

Besides the 18D course, what is the toughest part of the SF pipeline?

Small Unit Tactics. It’s invaluable, but it’s a suck fest.

What are the primary differences between an 18D and a PJ?

I get this question a lot. Besides the obvious answers that Google and 5 minutes of research on your own can provide, there is this. 18D’s are 100% members of an SF team. This means conducting UW, FID and everything else SF teams are tasked with. This also means that they are fully integrated into the entire training cycle of their ODA, including ranges, demo, CQB, airborne ops, and pretty much everything else non-medical you can think of. An 18D often has to find their own training opportunities for rehearsing, practicing and staying proficient in all facets of medical care. You become an extremely well-rounded soldier in every aspect of what it means to be an SF guy. That’s the super short answer. A PJ is the finest combat rescue professional on the planet. While I do not speak for PJ’s, their job centers around medicine and the vast majority of their training is designed for them to be able to get to their patient. A PJ’s job is not to conduct a shura, or train a foreign military in CQB.


We will be posting new FAQ every Friday, so if you have a question - drop us a line here or via IG/FB!