Welcome to “TheGaGG.com Answers…” series. In this series, we present answers to the questions that we are asked from various media sources. Some of these questions may become longer articles that we will provide a more thorough answer to at a later time.
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Quora Question#1: What made you fail at the US Army SF Assessment & Selection and/or Qual (Q) course and Robin Sage exercise, or at what point were you closest to failing?
I attended all of them, including the SOMED course, and was the honor graduate for each course. At the time (in the 80s), I was the youngest and most junior ranked soldier to have achieved that accolade. Though this was awhile ago, from what I hear and what I have seen (I live near Ft. Bragg), the intensity, tempo and harshness of training has gone down, not up. No way is this an offense to recent grads.
The Q course is a toughie. I just wrote a response to someone who said BUDs were more physically challenging. It is in one sense (it is more brief), but in another sense (long grueling ordeal) it is not. From start to finish of this course, I was in training for almost 2 years.
Some of the comments below I agree with, whereas some I do not. I remember the very first day of the Q course at the first PT test. I stood around looking at my skinny, average self. Everybody else around me either looked like NFL linebackers or gazelles – I thought I was screwed. Out of the 700 who started, we were down below 300 after Phase 1. By the end of the course, we were down below 60 (this is less than 10% pass rate). This is not a test of who is the best athlete. It is a test of who wants “it” the most, who is willing to never give up and who will endure everything (mental, physical and spiritual).
The success factors:
- Mental – You have to want this. If you do not, then you will fail. You have to accept that you will be broken, mind-screwed and totally lead to believe you can’t do this – YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE YOU WILL (and not just can).
- Mental – You have to be ready to learn. You will drink from a fire hose of knowledge that is passed to you in classes and from instructors. In many cases, you will get just 1 fleeting glimpse of the information, then turn around to utilize it in a field setting.
- Mental – You have to wake up many days when you are beaten into the ground, you are tired, yet you must go on. You have to go running for 10–20 miles and, as you see the finish line, be willing to make yourself go another – you will have to. On the first night of Robin Sage, I broke my ankle – I could have quit. I duct taped my ankle and continued on. Furthermore, due to my junior rank, I had to go on every water fetch, recon, food run – all on a broken ankle while carrying weight.
- Physical – Be in shape – in both endurance and strength, but do not overdo “being in shape”. If, during rest periods (coursework), you do not recover and heal, then you will not make it through the next physical period. As long as you are in top shape (not ready to enter the Olympics shape), then you can make it. Most of the physical is actually mental.
- Accept pain – Whether with blisters or a broken ankle, you have to be ready to go on. Do not do permanent damage to yourself, but you must be willing to accept pain. It is actually part of how you are being evaluated.
- Solve problems – When you can not solve them, then blow the problems up and change the scenario. There are tests along the way that are not what the criteria claim – you will fail if you are not willing to solve or change the problem. “Problems” can be things like land nav stakes not being at the exact coordinates they give you, or other such nonsense. There is a saying in SF – “If you are not cheating, you are not trying”. Do it pragmatically. Get caught, then you are out. If you do not get caught, then you pass.
- Teamwork – Even though this is an individual event, if you do not work as a team from start to finish, then you will fail – the “Buddy-Screwers” do not make it through. I saw a Captain, who was Mr. HORAH Hardcore (rather Cpt. HORAH Hardcore), do everything “right”, yet get jacked out and failed by the training cadre for not being a team player. Personally, I had to save his ass several times during night missions. I saw many smart and/or physical guys (who could have glided through the course) fail because they tried to do it alone. You are part of a team from day 1 – fail to recognize that and you will fail the course.
- Accept failure – If you are manic-depressive about always succeeding and can never fail , then you will fail. The course has a LOT of predicament challenges where you will fail. The instructors want to know how you respond to failure and whether or not you can pick up and move on. They want to know if you are one who loses in failure or wins in failure. They want to know if you will argue about finding a win or just dust your boots off and move on. In the field, you have to be willing to move on. You will kill people if you do not.
- Do not wait to be told – During Phase 3, we were in a base camp and the instructors told us that they wanted a permanent firewall built for the winter training (we were late fall). The team leader and sergeant, as well as several other of the “team”, started arguing with the instructors about it and about how to construct it. I picked up 3 axes, grabbed two Gs and cut down a half of a dozen trees that were up the hill. As I dragged them into camp and stacked them up into a firewall, the others were still arguing. Nearly all of them got gigged for A) waiting to be told, and B) not doing the task as requested. But, by my just getting it done, I kept the whole team from being penalized.
Do you want the blast at a safe distance away? Pull the pin, throw and count…
Do you want the blast to be close? Pull the pin, count to 1, throw…
Do you want the blast to be dangerously close? Pull the pin, count to 1, just before you would say “2”, throw…
Do you want the blast to be “get down and pray” close? Pull the pin, count 1, 2, and throw…
In CQB scenarios, you will often pull, count and throw… depending on the distance to your targets. The LAST thing that you want your adversary to do is to pick up your grenade and throw it back (or soccer kick it back). It happens.
When doing dynamic entry into a room, I often pulled, counted to about 1.5 and tossed. I have gone above 2 in a very tight scenario. Let me tell you, it is a butt clincher when you do.
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