The NGSF is one of the best little secrets of the US military. It lets someone join and serve in one of the most elite of the nation’s forces, while, when not deployed, staying at home, prioritizing school, work, and family as you’d like. It’s a natural fit for an active-duty SF man (or other serviceman who’s SF material), who’s looking to move on in life while keeping his hand in. A number of joiners come in after being off active duty for a while, desirous of renewing and maintaining an association with a caliber of personnel you don’t work with in most civilian workplaces.
How do I join?
Explore. Learn. Not many meet the qualifications required for the opportunity to try out, and fewer still can meet the demands that come with the job. The individuals we seek are those with knowledge, motivation, and preparedness. Fitness, both mentally and physically, is a requirement.
As a rule of thumb, NG SF units prefer new recruits to have already passed the SF Qualification Course (SFQC) or SF Assessment & Selection (SFAS). (It is not unusual for a soldier to complete SFAS close to ETS so that he can join the Guard SF). Non-qualified and non-selected recruits must pass some administrative gates, in order to undergo a short, sharp tryout that is essentially a “gut check” of several day’s duration. This may be as little as a long, hard weekend beginning Friday night and ending with those exhausted candidates who did not quit facing a selection board of qualified NCOs and officers on Sunday afternoon. Candidates are evaluated on fitness, performance, and character. Even completing the weekend may not be enough. Some candidates are advised not to return, others are counseled as to what need improvement if they return, and the remainder, if any, are accepted for training.
It just begins there. Successful candidates may go directly into the SF pipeline where they join 18X recruits and experienced soldiers, or they may prepare during a period of part-time Guard service. They are not deployable as SF soldiers until they go to Camp Mackall and Fort Bragg and complete the entire SFQC exactly as any active-duty SF soldier does. Some use the Guard to “time” attendance at SFQC in and around school schedules or work or family requirements. But there is no slack and no exceptions to standards. As a result, the Guard SF soldier and team is fairly interchangeable with its active-duty counterpart.
The soldier who does not complete SFQC is assessed as to whether a recycle is in his and the Army’s best interest. If so, he gets another chance, either right then at SFQC in the next class, or after returning to the training team on his home unit to prepare to attend again. If he quits, is not recycled, or has an NTR letter (“Never To Return,” usually a marker of a character issue), he returns to his home state where he is reassigned to a non-SF Guard unit for the remainder of his obligation.
Once a candidate has completed SFQC, he starts learning and performing to standard on an SF ODA or ODB. In time his own contribution strengthens his team, his company (ODB) and Group, and Special Forces as a whole. For the qualified soldier there are a wide range school and deployment opportunities. Even in the Guard, you will see the world in ways a tourist never can.
Special Forces is one of the few minority groups that you can actually join. It’s not for everybody. For those it is for, nothing else substitutes. There are many good resources on today’s Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week for those interested.
Kevin was a former Special Forces weapons man (MOS 18B, before the 18 series, 11B with Skill Qualification Indicator of S). His focus was on weapons: their history, effects and employment. He started WeaponsMan.com in 2011 and operated it until he passed away in 2017. His work is being preserved here at the request of his family.