No call or letter this week, but I'm not surprised. He's on base now, ACUs and all, so I'm sure he's getting used to the pleasure of having a drill sergeant.
I decided to fill my time during this anticipated communication lull with research. I knew he would be going through a lot in training, but it's rather amazing when you delve into it. The wash-out rate for 18x is somewhere around 75-80%, so if he gets through all four phases, it will truly be an indicator of what a special young man he is. I have no idea what specialty area he's interested in if he gets through the program, but I guess that is looking pretty far down the road right now. The goal is to not become regular infantry for the next 6 years, given our current world state of affairs. I'm going to totally pull a Scarlett O'Hara and think about that tomorrow, or at least later.
So back to my research ...
How We Got Here
The basic eligibility requirements to be considered for entry into Special Forces training are:
- Be a male, age 19-30. Check.
- Be a U.S. citizen. (Excepting 48 annual slots for foreign military students) Check.
- Be a high school graduate. Check.
- Score a General Technical score of 107 or higher and a combat operation score of 98 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Check.
- Qualify for a secret security clearance. He should, so Check.
- Qualify and volunteer for Airborne training. Oh, sweet Jesus, he'll be jumping out of airplanes too. Check.
- Take Defense Language Aptitude Battery or Defense Language Proficiency Tests. Check.
- Score at least 60 points on each event and overall minimum score of 240 on the Army Physical Fitness Test. Check.
There are now two ways for soldiers to volunteer to attend SFAS:
- As an existing soldier in the US Army with the Enlisted rank of E-4 (Corporal/Specialist) or higher, and for Officers the rank of O-2 (1st Lieutenant) promotable to O-3 (Captain), or existing O-3s.
- The other path is that of direct entry, referred to as Initial Accession or IA. Check. Here an individual who has no prior military service or who has previously separated from military service is given the opportunity to attend SFAS. Both the Active Duty and National Guard components offer Special Forces Initial Accession programs. The Active Duty program is referred to as the "18X Program" because of the Initial Entry Code that appears on the assignment orders. These soldiers will attend Infantry One Station Unit Training (OSUT, the combination of Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training), Airborne School, and a preparation course to help prepare them for SFAS. This program is commonly referred to as the "X-Ray Program", derived from "18X". The candidates in this program are known as "X-Rays".
More From a Wiki Source:
"The United States Army Special Forces soldier trains on a regular basis over the course of their entire career. The initial formal training program for entry into Special Forces is divided into four phases collectively known as the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) or, informally, the "Q Course". The length of the Q Course changes depending on the applicant's primary job field within Special Forces and their assigned foreign language capability but will usually last between 56 to 95 weeks. Okay, I like that part because he'll still be in training stateside and won't have a bullseye on his back, as seen through night-vision goggles or some high tech sumthin' sumthin' by some crazy person on the other side of the world hell-bent on killing him first. He'll eventually BE that crazy person. What is the upside of war, exactly?
Entry into the United States Army Special Forces begins with Phase I of the Q Course known as Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS). Getting "Selected" at SFAS will enable a candidate to continue on to the next four phases of the Special Forces Qualification Course. If a candidate successfully completes these next four phases he will graduate as a Special Forces soldier and will generally be assigned to a 12-man Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA), commonly known as an "A team." Really? Is it going to be like the bad 70-80s tv show?
The average 18X candidate is 21/22, has 1-2 years of college, played organized athletics in high school. A recruit who enlists in the 18X Special Forces enlistment program will attend Infantry OSUT (One Station Unit Training), which combines Army Basic Training and Infantry AIT (Advanced Individual Training), all in one 17-week course. Upon graduation, recruits attend Airborne Training. After "jump school," recruits attend a 4-week Special Operations Preparation Course (SOPC). Following graduation from SOPC, recruits are scheduled for the Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) program. This is a very tough course, and has an extremely high wash-out rate. The Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) program assesses and selects Soldiers for attendance at the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC). This program allows SF an opportunity to assess each Soldier's capabilities by testing his physical, emotional, and mental stamina. The SFAS also allows each Soldier the opportunity to make a meaningful and educated decision about SF and his career plan.
That's a whole lot of alphabet soup.
So here's where "we" are now ...
Special Forces Assessment and Selection (Phase I)
The first phase of the Special Forces Qualification Course is Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS), consisting of 24 days of training held at Camp Mackall. It is a mentally and physically demanding course designed to see if the soldier has the twelve "Whole Man" attributes to continue in Special Forces training and to serve on an ODA: intelligence, physical fitness, motivation, trustworthiness, accountability, maturity, stability, judgment, decisiveness, teamwork, influence, and communications. Many unsuccessful candidates elect to Voluntarily Withdraw (VW), while others suffer injuries in the course of training and are "Medically Dropped." Those who successfully complete the course must then be selected by the final selection board. Many candidates who make it to the end of the course are not selected because the board deems that they lack the required attributes of an SF soldier, or that they are not yet ready to attempt the next phase in SF training.
Events in SFAS include numerous long distance land navigation courses. All land navigation courses are conducted day and night under heavy loads of equipment, in varied weather conditions, and in rough, hilly terrain. Land navigation work is done individually with no assistance from instructors or fellow students and is always done on a time limit. Each land navigation course has its maximum time limit reduced as course moves along and are upwards of 12 miles (19 km) each. Instructors evaluate candidates by using obstacle course runs, team events including moving heavy loads such as telephone poles and old jeep trucks through sand as a 12-man team, the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), a swim assessment, and numerous psychological exams such as IQ tests and the Defense Language Aptitude Battery (DLAB) test. The final event, which was discontinued in early 2009, was a road march of up to 32 miles (51 km) known as "the Trek" or Long Range Individual Movement (LRIM).
- Those who quit are Voluntarily Withdrawn (VW) by the course cadre are generally designated NTR or Not-to-Return. This generally ends any opportunity a candidate may have to become a Special Forces soldier. Active Duty military candidates will be returned to their previous units, and IA 18X candidates will be transferred to infantry units as 11B Infantrymen.
- Candidates who are "medically dropped," and who are not then medically discharged from the military due to serious injury, are often permitted to "recycle," and to attempt the course again as soon as they are physically able to do so.
- Candidates who successfully complete the course but who are "Boarded" and not selected ("Non-Select") are generally given the opportunity to attend selection again in 12 or 24 months. It must be noted, however, that the time window to attend SFAS a second time can be heavily influenced by deployment schedules, as "non-selected" candidates are assigned to infantry units in the meantime.
Successful Active Duty candidates usually return to their previous units to await a slot in the Special Forces Qualification Course. Because an Initial Accession (IA) 18X candidate lacks a previous unit, he will normally enter the Q Course immediately. Oh, yay.
Okay, eyes on the "prize", right? He has to get through this first phase, and I am definitely pulling for him. Career military? Who'd a thunk it, so I'm not going there now. I don't know how his Col. Granddad would have felt about it either these days.
It's going to be a looooong few weeks.