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FAQ About Special Forces Assessment and Selection

FAQ About Special Forces Assessment and Selection

Every day we receive numerous emails and messages on our page regarding questions about SF Selection (SFAS), the 18D course, and more. We love hearing from you all, but it is impossible to respond to every question directly, so we've taken these great questions and attempted to assemble them into one page!

FAQ about Selection (SFAS)

What if I have a disciplinary record? Will that stop me from being SF?           

Depends. SF isn’t made up of saints, but it’s wise to ask an SF recruiter whether your previous history will prevent you from going.

Do you have to be big to make it through selection?

No, absolutely not. SF guys come in all sizes. A snapshot of the 18D’s who work for Ready Warrior--one is 5’7” and 170lbs, one is 6’0, 210lbs, and one is 6’3” and 235lbs. The great equalizer is fitness, rucking, and drive.

How do I prepare for selection?                                                                     

Be well-rounded. Don’t be a linebacker who can’t run, or a runner who can’t handle a heavy rucksack. We hesitate to use the example of Crossfit, because people either swear by it or despise it, but the all-around fitness it encourages is close to what you’ll need to be successful. 

How do I mentally prepare for selection?                                                          

To quote Eric Thomas: "When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful." There is no magic pill to take or book to read in order to be successful. You have to accept that selection will suck, and that you will have to have a laser-like focus an believe that you want nothing more in life than to succeed at this to get through each day. 3 weeks seems like a long time, but the pride of getting selected lasts forever.  

Can we bring any Motrin or Vitamins to Selection?

No. Non-essential medications are strictly forbidden. Prior approval must be attained before bringing any medication for illnesses.

What are some good standards to shoot for in preparation for selection?     

A general guideline is to be able to run 5 miles in an average of 35-37 minutes. Ruck should be 11-13 min/mile indefinitely. Rule of thumb is do your absolute best, all the time. Faster is always better. Ruck tips in our blog post here.

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. We 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 we’ve ever witnessed. 

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

We’d be lying if we 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. Now the goal Is to get through the Q course in 12 months (not including medics), but you still have even more training once you get to a team, which means you are an unproven rookie!

That being said, we 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, decide quickly, but that it’s entirely possible if you perform well and have something they are looking for. We’re not selection cadre, so don’t ask us what that is! Mid-late 30’s……eh……you’re pushing it. We had a 38-ish guy in my selection class that made it all the way to the end, and was a non-select. We also had some early 30’s guys who did get selected.  

We’re 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 us 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, we’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. We 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 way once.

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

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. 

I’m 17. Any advice on becoming an 18D? 

Finish school. Stay out of trouble. 

Any ways to guarantee getting the 18D MOS after Selection?

Short answer, no guarantees. You will be assigned an MOS based off the needs of the regiment. However, having a 4-year degree, any sort of medical background including EMT, scoring a 120 or above on your GT and simply requesting the 18D MOS will all help your cause. While there is no guarantee, SF always seems to need 18D’s, so your chance of getting it is pretty good if you have at least some of the above qualifications. 

What was your favorite part of the 18D course?
Rotations. Your experiences at the Hospitals you get to work at on rotation are some of the best hands-on experiences you’ll ever have in your life.

 

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.

 

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FAQ on 68W/SOCM/18D and being a medic

FAQ on 68W/SOCM/18D and being a medic

We get asked multiple times a week if we have any advice to give for new 68w, those going to the SOCM course, or those interested in being a medic. We’re going to do our best to help answer some questions, and we’ll continue to add to the list as we think of/get asked new questions and answers.

1) Q) What can I do to prepare for the upcoming SOCM course?

The SOCM course is not a course that you NEED to pre-study for. They do a fantastic job of setting you up for success as long as you put the time and energy into learning it.  We didn’t study for a single day before the start of the course. However, we ended up studying 3-4hrs every night and studying 8-10 hours each Saturday and Sunday in order to pass the tests. REALLY wish we were exaggerating too…but we’re not.  Studying ahead of time would have benefitted us greatly, not only in the depth of our understanding of the material, but potentially the amount of time we had to study each night!

So, what can we do to prepare?

-- Know your Anatomy and Physiology. You do not need to know every single piece of the human body. Don’t even try. You will be far better served knowing the major muscles systems, nerves, arteries and veins, bones of the body, how the body works, sections of the heart, lungs, etc. This is not a complete list, but it’s a GREAT way to start building a foundation of knowledge.

2) Q: What are some good study guides to get me started?

  1. There is no one size fits all. However, we do recommend the following books that worked for us.

            A) Anatomy and Physiology Cliff Notes (yes it exists, and yes, it is super helpful)  https://is.gd/L61Nth

            B) Netter’s Anatomy flash cards:  https://is.gd/il6YZR

            C) Anatomy Coloring Book:  https://is.gd/rw8a3Y

     2. If you want to work ahead a bit, the ‘bible’ of Special Operations Medicine is the Advanced Tactical Paramedic Protocols 10th Addition put out by the Journal of Special Operations Medical.

https://www.jsomonline.org/Journals.php#ATP-P

 

3) I’m starting 68w school soon. Any advice?

-- Probably the biggest thing that we learned when we joined the military and our subsequent progression through different schools and units was this: Your reputation starts from day one. How you present yourself, how you interact with others, and most importantly, how hard you work will follow you for the rest of your military career. For as large as the military is, someone will inevitably ALWAYS know someone where you are going or currently are.

As an example, we had someone in our basic training class who was disrespectful, immature, and lazy. However, he was an absolute physical stud. We ended up on the same military base, but in different military units, and we ran into him from time to time. He had not changed a bit. Last time we saw him, he told us he was going to the next SF selection class. Interesting…you know what’s also interesting? We were far enough along in our careers where we had really good friends who were on the selection committee…who had ALSO BEEN IN OUR BASIC TRAINING CLASS. Sure enough, he was a non-select. Not because of his inability to pass the physical portions of SFAS, but because his reputation proceeded him.   

Additional pointers: 

-- Make your mistakes in training. Put yourself in uncomfortable scenarios, and never pass up an opportunity for extra practice. 

-- Do not EVER feel you have it figured out. A medic is never off-duty, and no injury set is ever unique. Never stop practicing, never stop drilling. We as medics tend to practice on the same set of injuries over and over again. If we can’t pull ourselves out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves, we will never progress and advance.

4) I am on the fence about being a medic. What should I know about the job? Is it right for me? We have no idea if it’s right for you. However, being a medic was the most rewarding job we ever had. Using your skillset to return a teammate back to their family is a feeling that cannot be replicated.  To have a chance to kneel over them and see a sense of fear turn to relief because they trust your ability to save their life is not something that 99% of jobs give you the opportunity to do. The only caveat to that? Your job is NEVER done. A gun may not change for 30 years, but medicine never ceases to change and progress.

 5) What was the toughest part of the SOCM/18D course?

Every person will find a different portion of the course to be the toughest. For us, it was the hands-on portion, but for a large number of people, it was the Anatomy and Physiology portion. The A&P part of the course was 6 straight weeks of an absolute firehose of information shoved down your throat. We were told it was comparable to a years-worth of Anatomy and Physiology in 6 weeks, with tests every 2-3 days. Fail 1 test and you had to retake it. Fail it again or fail a 2nd test (failing was 74.4%) and you were immediately recycled or taken out of the course and re-classed or sent to needs of the Army. Out of class of 72 that started, we were down to 50 after the first 6 weeks. The second biggest portion that got guys recycled or failed was a portion that heavily tested a variety of hands-on skills. You never knew what you were going to get, and you had strict time standards that you had to meet while remembering exact steps within numerous sequences. Miss enough of the small things or any of the big ones, and you were a failure. We graduated 33 people out of a class of 72 for SOCM.

Here is the biggest thing we discovered. You have to work harder and study harder than you’ve likely ever studied and worked before. Not only that, but you have to find it within yourself to maintain that motivation for nearly a year. When you finish though, the pride you will feel is unmatched. This is not meant to scare you, it is meant to give you a realistic look at what is expected of you. You will study for hours each night. You will study on weekends. You will give up your weekends of drinking and relaxing, and you will lose sleep in favor of more studying and practicing. You will likely have bad days, and doubt yourself and if you belong. That is okay. Every single person going through SOCM has doubted themselves at some point. Keep going! 

6) How should I mentally and physically prepare for the school?

-- Develop good study habits. Learn how you learn. What do we mean? Figure out if you are a visual learner, rote memorization (repetitive learning), or other. Do you need notecards for everything? Do you use word association to help you remember things? Finding out how you learn best will help you not waste time early in the course figuring this out.

-- Mentally understand and prep yourself and your loved ones for the time commitment that you will have to undergo in order to be successful.

-- Stay as physically fit as you would in any other school. Just because you’ll be in a garrison environment with mainly classroom sessions does not mean you are not expected to be physically capable of rucking, running and passing your PT tests according to the SOF standard of 270. Every so often they'll give you a PT test, and god help you if you fail. 

7) Are there any good books out there describing the 68W or SOCM/18D course?

No, not to our knowledge. Most references to the SOCM/18D course are paragraphs or blurbs in other books, such as Masters of Chaos, Chosen Soldier, etc.

8) What are rotations like? Rotations at civilian Level 1 trauma centers and local EMS services take place during the SOCM course, and are meant to give you the real life hands on experience you have theoretically only been training on up to that point. You will experience true traumas during this period, where you will be evaluated and gain experience. This was one of the best months of our lives in terms of realistic application of what we had been taught.

Where do these take place and what are the expectations? You'll have to get to that point to find out!

9) Should I pick up your Medic Quick Reference Guides before I join the Army?

With complete honesty, not yet. The Medic Quick Reference Guide and Narcotic Quick Reference Guide will do you the most good once you have started your 68W program or SOCM and have at least a base of knowledge. You can check it out HERE to see if it would be a good fit for you if you've already started school or are currently a medic!

Didn’t find your question here? Shoot us a comment and we’ll add onto this list with our responses! 

Heat Casualties

Heat Casualties

Heat Injuries!

During a hospital rotation with the 18D course, I was working in the ER when a soldier was brought in with a core temperature of 108 degrees. We rushed to get his core temperature under control by dousing his entire body with ice and turning on multiple fans. When his core temperature reached 102, myself and the other students wiped the ice off him to begin the slower rate of cooling. Just then, someone else came in and dumped more ice on him, and despite our protests, we were overruled as to these further cooling attempts. This soldiers’ temp dropped all the way into the mid-90’s before they realized their error and tried to reverse the now hypothermic soldier. 3 weeks later when our rotation ended, this soldier was still in the ICU, and his prognosis was not good. Heat injuries are extremely common, and understanding the difference between the different types of heat injuries and can help us identify them early, and render proper treatment. 

HEAT INJURIES 

There are 3 forms of heat injuries. In progression of least to most serious, we have heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The progression of heat cramps to heat stroke can be rapid if not recognized and proper actions taken. Let’s take a few minutes to understand what each of these 3 forms of heat injuries means.

Heat Cramps:

 Heat Cramps are exactly what they sound like. Involuntary muscle contractions, aka cramping. They are most likely caused by an electrolyte imbalance caused by dehydration, heavy sweating, and improper rehydration.

Symptoms:

Heat Cramps are often: Intermittent, involuntary, and painful. When recognized early and treated properly, they tend to go away on their own.

Treatment:

1) Rest in cool place. Drink cool water, electrolyte drink, and/or eat food.

2) Do not overexert yourself or try and return to activity too early.

Heat Cramps can be a warning sign of impending Heat Exhaustion.

 

Heat Exhaustion:

Heat Exhaustion is the next most serious form of heat injury, and is caused when your body begins overheating. This is most commonly associated with strenuous activity in conjunction with high temperatures and high humidity. Body Temps are often found as high as 103-104 in heat exhaustion, but can be lower and still exhibit some or all of the following symptoms. 

 Symptoms:

- Heavy sweating and rapid pulse

- Dizziness

- Fatigue

- Low blood pressure when standing

- Headache

- Nausea

- Faintness

- Cool, clammy skin

In order to get a proper reading on temperature, take a CORE temp. Do not take an under-the-tongue temp, forehead temp, etc. as it may not reflect what is happening internal to the body. A CORE temp must be taken. 

 

Treatment:

1) Stop all activity and rest immediately

2) Move to cool place

3) Drink electrolyte fluid and water

4) Do NOT slam fluids down. Take measured sips over time. 

5) Just because you FEEL better, does not mean your body has had proper time to recover. If you exhibit any of the above symptoms, give your body adequate time to recover, and return to activity SLOWLY to gauge your ability to handle the heat AFTER your symptoms have gone away. 

-- If you are unable to drink fluids due to vomiting or nausea, you may need higher medical attention for IV rehydration.

-- Do NOT give too much IV fluid, and do not give it too quickly. Your body can not process more than around 1L per hour, so slamming home bag after bag of IV fluid is bad medicine, and can lead to hyponatremia (too much water/fluids) and cause additional severe problems to the body. 

If Heat Exhaustion is not treated quickly, it can very quickly lead to Heat Stroke, which is extremely life threatening.

 

Heat Stroke:

The most severe form of heat injury and EXTREMELY LIFE THREATENING

It generally involves a physical collapse or debilitation during or immediately following exertion in the heat. Can be sudden or gradual. Take a CORE temp to determine true body temperature. 

Symptoms:

- Body core temperature exceeds 104 degrees (F).

- Altered mental status, to include delirium, stupor, coma

 

Treatment and Management:

-- If you haven’t called 911 or alerted emergency services-do so!

-- Cooling should be immediate and primary goal!

(Early rapid cooling reduces mortality and morbidity!!!)

-- Best option for rapid cooling is an ice bath with full body immersion (minus the head)

-- If unavailable, a continual dousing of cold water such as one would experience in a cold shower.

-- If the first options aren't feasible, spraying patient with water plus fanning/rapid air movement across the body can also be done.

CONTINUOUSLY APPLY THESE MEASURES UNTIL CORE TEMPERATURE GOES BELOW 102 degrees!!! Then, continue to cool at a much slower rate, so as not to drop the bodies temperature into hypothermia. 

 

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS:

Risk factors to consider with heat injuries:

-- The very young and very old (Under 4 and over 65) have a much harder time regulating their body temperature.

-- Drugs (Prescription and illicit) Blood pressure medications, antihistamines, antipsychotic, and more tend to make your more vulnerable to heat.

-- Obesity: Excess weight can cause difficulty for your body in regulating its heat.

-- Sudden changes in temperature. Moving or traveling from a cold climate to a warmer one can cause lags in your body’s ability to acclimate and adjust its temperature.

-- Heat Index: Be wary of the heat index and limit exposure during most intense parts of the day.

REMEMBER—You tend to run a higher risk of being a repeat heat casualty if you have had it happen before. Your body’s ability to regulate heat takes a hit after a serious heat related injury, and it may take months to recover. Additionally, the factors that led your body to become a heat injury in the first place are often still there, so you still maintain a higher risk factor. Recognize the risk factors in yourself and others, and be prepared to jump in when you see someone who needs your help!

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For more case studies, treatments, breakdowns, etc., please visit other posts in our blog at the following link below, or simply explore our website and the blog! 

For the blog-Click HERE--> Silver Bullet Blog

We help you remember all the SMARCH Steps, Drip-rate calculations, as well as remembering the GSC, 9-line, MIST, Dermatome breakdown, Neuro-Exam, Drug calculation sheet, and much much more, in our Medic Quick Reference pocket guide! We have numerous guides to fit your skill-set and interest!

For the full lineup of our Reference Guides-Click HERE--> Quick Reference Guides