Old 02-18-2004, 18:21   #1
The Reaper
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SF Officer Article

From Special Warfare Magazine. An interesting article.


Special Forces: Selecting and Training Officers for Adaptability
by Captain Will Cotty, Jat Thompson and Dr. Michael G. Sanders

United States Army Special Forces requires soldiers who will be able to perform their missions in unique environments. In order to ensure the mission success of SF soldiers and to maximize the effectiveness of SF training, SF uses its training pipeline as a means not only of training but also of selecting soldiers for SF. The process, especially in the training of SF officers, can be seen as an example of natural selection.

Natural selection has been defined as a process that promotes the survival of species that are able to adapt to changes in their environment. While it is normally discussed in scientific circles, natural selection has its place in the military environment, as well. A good example of natural selection in the military environment is
the evolution of the M-16 rifle.

During the early 1960s, the U.S. military was looking for a rifle or carbine that could be used in fighting communist forces armed with AK-47s in the jungles of Southeast Asia. The U.S. had the 7.62 mm M-14 rifle and the .30-caliber M-1 carbine in its inventory, but no matter what modifications were made to either weapon, neither met the demands of the environment. What was needed was a carbine or a shortbarreled rifle that would fire an intermediate-weight cartridge and was capable of full automatic fire.

The M-14 performed well, but it was considered to be too heavy for soldiers to carry in the humid jungles of Southeast Asia. Because of the size and weight of the M-14’s cartridge, soldiers could not carry more than 100 rounds on patrols, which severely limited the rifle’s capability as an assault weapon. The M-1 carbine was lighter in weight than the M-14 and used a smaller cartridge, but the carbine’s cartridge was considered to be severely underpowered.

The U.S. eventually chose the 5.56 mm AR-15 rifle, the forerunner of the M-16, not because it was a superior weapon, but because it had greater capability for modification — it was capable of adapting. The M-16 weapon system is still in use today because it has been able to continually improve in order to meet the demands of the changing global environment. The latest design is the M-4 SOPMOD, which features a rail system that allows attachments — including flashlights, sights, lasers and grips — to be placed on the weapon, adapting it to a particular environment.

This example illustrates the importance of adaptability to the survival of a weapon system. Like the M-16, officers attempting to become SF team leaders go through a selection process. SF is looking for officers who have or will be able to build their own rail system. Officers who embody rail-system adaptability are capable of adjusting to the demands of almost any environment. The training for that type of officer is a progression of learning that allows him to acquire knowledge and skills that can be attached to his rail system. This article will look at the process by which the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, or SWCS, selects and trains adaptive officers. Specifically, the article will describe the core attributes that SF officers (18A) must possess if they are to be capable of adapting to changes in the SF environment.

As an officer progresses through the SF training process, his ability and his determination for acquiring the knowledge and skills he will need to be an effective 18A will determine his future in SF. During the process, some soldiers will recognize that the SF environment is not a good match for their skills and interests. In other instances, SWCS will make that determination, even if the soldier does not. In either case, an officer who leaves the SF training process early departs a better soldier because of the experiences and training that he received while he was in the SF training pipeline. SWCS recognizes that many of the soldiers who leave the pipeline early are capable and talented officers whose skills are not a good match for 18A.

Required attributes

An officer who assumes command of an SF A-detachment will face many challenges that are unique to SF. The 18A job is complex, and it requires an adaptable soldier who can perform effectively in a number of roles and missions. SF is clear about the type of officer required to fill the job, and it has established nine attributes that an officer must possess in order to be successful as an 18A:

• Thrive in complex and ambiguous situations.
• Possess the cognitive resilience and mental dexterity needed for acting autonomously while under great stress.
• Be mentally flexible and willing to experiment and to innovate in a decentralized and unstructured environment.
• Be a self-reliant team player who can function as a leader in a tightly knit small group.
• Possess good interpersonal skills and display political acumen and cultural sensitivity.
• Be extremely physically fit.
• Possess unquestioned integrity.
• Be able to inspire others to perform effectively under stress.
• Be a war fighter.

The following discussion will describe the attributes in detail and examine the type of training in the SF training pipeline that produces SF officers who are ready to assume command of an SF team.

The 18A must thrive in complex and ambiguous situations. The breadth of the SF officer’s job is extreme. Effective performers in that job “are those who anticipate future needs and adapt to changing job requirements by learning new tasks, technologies, procedures, and roles.” The Special Forces Qualification Course, or SFQC, is designed to expose candidates to the types of missions they may face as SF team leaders.

Each of the SF missions has different demands. As candidates are exposed to the missions, they must be able to acquire new skills and to learn the nuances of each mission so that they can become effective performers in unconventional environments. By exposing candidates to the different mission tasks, SF trainers are able to assess the candidates and provide feedback on the appropriateness of candidates’ actions relative to the tasks.

Using that feedback, candidates can build a larger body of knowledge that will help them to make better decisions in the future. The SF training pipeline assesses a candidate’s ability to learn SF tactics and procedures and to demonstrate that he can understand and effectively execute SF fundamental tasks. The ability to learn is essential for every 18A because it will be critically important for them to learn the situational demands of each mission and to thrive in environments that are complex and changing.

An 18A must possess the cognitive resilience and mental dexterity for acting autonomously while under great stress. The
18A has an unpredictable job, and he must be able to adjust to mission changes, changes in resources and shifting priorities. The effective SF officer will be able to shift his focus when necessary and to continue to take reasonable actions despite the uncertainty of the situation.

Many of the training exercises within the SF training pipeline create situations in which there are changes in resources, in the mission or in mission priorities. Those changes force the 18A candidate to develop new courses of action based on evolving realities. The training assesses whether officers can create structure in a situation in which there is no structure or in which the existing structure has fallen apart.

(TBC)
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"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - President Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

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Last edited by The Reaper; 02-18-2004 at 18:26.
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Old 02-18-2004, 18:21   #2
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An 18A must be mentally flexible and willing to experiment and to innovate in a decentralized and unstructured environment. The effective SF officer must be able to solve the ill-defined and complex problems that are often associated with his job and, in so doing, to develop creative andnovel solutions that will produce the desired end state. The adaptability training that 18A candidates receive addresses this attribute. The officers are taught to look at circumstances and facts differently and to consider alternative solutions to problems.

There are numerous exercises throughout SF training that provide unstructured situations that encourage the 18A candidate to experiment and to develop innovative solutions. During the military-occupational-specialty phase of SF training, the officer candidates are encouraged to perform informal after-action reviews and to discuss the different ways that they chose for solving the same problems. The candidates are encouraged to learn from their peers and to develop alternative strategies for dealing with atypical problems.

An 18A must be a self-reliant team player who can function as a leader in a tightly knit small group. This attribute “includes such things as demonstrating interpersonal flexibility; adjusting interpersonal style to achieve a goal; adapting interpersonal behavior to work effectively with a new team.” To “new team,” we could add host-nation personnel, or representatives from another agency. Many of the SF training tasks and exercises require candidates to function in small groups so that they can develop and demonstrate interpersonal adaptability. The 18A candidates who demonstrate that they can adapt their interpersonal behavior to the situation have a much higher chance of success as SF team leaders than those who don’t.

This attribute involves a strong component of situational awareness, because the 18A must identify the role appropriate for him to play in different situations and then be adaptable enough to perform that role. The issue of social intelligence has lately received a great deal of attention and discussion. Because SF team leaders will consistently interact with their team members, with host-nation personnel and with other key personnel, there is a critical requirement for 18As to be situationally aware and interpersonally adaptable. Various exercises throughout SF training provide opportunities for candidates to interact with others. The candidates later receive feedback on their interactions and developmental guidance to help them make any necessary improvements.

An 18A must possess good interpersonal skills and display political acumen and cultural sensitivity. Mission success will often depend on SF soldiers’ ability to establish rapport and influence the attitudes and behaviors of people from a foreign culture. Recent feedback from Afghanistan indicates the importance of cultural adaptability in SF missions. Cultural adaptability continues to be an attribute that distinguishes SF from many other components of the Army. An SF team’s cultural adaptability often determines the success of the team’s mission.

Cultural adaptability includes learning such things as language (including the acronyms, slang and jargon that are unique to the culture); goals and values (formal rules and principles, as well as unwritten, informal goals and values that govern behavior); history (traditions, customs, myths and rituals that convey cultural knowledge); and politics (formal and informal relationships and power structures within the culture). But to fully integrate into a culture, the SF team must be willing to behave in accordance with the acceptable customs of that culture. Situational awareness and social intelligence have a great effect on cultural integration, because one must first recognize the need to behave in a certain manner and then be adaptable enough to act appropriately.

A culturally adaptable SF team leader will significantly enhance the probability of his team’s success, because he often sets the tone for the team. Several exercises during the training of SF officers expose the candidates to the challenges of establishing working relationships with and influencing people in other cultures. The Robin Sage exercise has a strong impact on students because they are often shocked by the cultural dilemmas that it presents.

An 18A must be extremely physically fit. SF officers must maintain a high enough state of physical fitness to inspire their soldiers, no matter how difficult the physical environment, how high the level of exhaustion or how desperate the tactical situation, in peace or in war. During SF missions, “quickly adapting to the varied and challenging physical conditions as one moves from country to country and climate to climate is a key aspect of effective performance.”

SF officers must be able to adapt to many different physical factors, and SWCS places a great deal of emphasis on physical fitness during SFAS and throughout the SFQC, in terms of requiring candidates to perform physically demanding tasks and exercises. Various exercises throughout SFQC are designed to replicate real-world missions that require good mental and physical stamina.

An 18A must possess unquestioned integrity. Throughout SF training, candidates are faced with dilemmas and exercises in which they must demonstrate a strong moral compass. All candidates’ behavior is evaluated along that dimension, and candidates receive clear guidance concerning the expectation of integrity for SF soldiers. Candidates who demonstrate behavior that is inconsistent with the requirement for integrity are eliminated from SF training.

An 18A must be able to inspire others to perform effectively under stress. A key feature of the 18A training is the emphasis on self-awareness and individual development — two important components of effective leadership in the unconventional environment. All officers are given tests that address personality dimensions related to successful performance, both in SF training and in the field. The officers receive feedback on the test results. The feedback gives them a greater understanding of their strengths, possible vulnerabilities and preferred operating style. Subsequent to the tests and the feedback, 18A candidates rotate through leadership positions during exercises in SFAS and SFQC, allowing the cadre to closely observe and rate each officer in terms of the appropriateness of his actions. After the exercises, each officer’s performance is critiqued and a summary given him for his personal development.

Throughout the process, cadre work with the candidates to ensure that each candidate understands what he needs to do to improve his performance in areas that are critical for success in SF operations. The intent is to give each officer feedback on his preferred operating style (this feedback is provided by professional psychologists) and on exercise-based performance (provided by cadre members) and to help him develop a plan that will facilitate his growth and movement toward successful performance as an 18A.

An 18A must be a war fighter. This attribute is a reflection, in part, of all of the issues addressed in this article. Many of the exercises conducted during SF training are designed to be intensely real simulations of what candidates will do in combat situations. SF believes in the adage, “You fight as you train. ”Tough, realistic training prepares the future 18A to be an effective war fighter. Realistic training gives the candidate a preview of what his life will be like as an 18A. Candidates who realize that their skills are not well-suited to the demands that are placed on an 18A have the opportunity to drop out of training and return to a part of the Army that will provide a better match for their skills and abilities.

Conclusion

The type of warfare being conducted in Afghanistan and Iraq illustrates the need for SF leaders who must adapt if they are to succeed. Based on lessons learned from Afghanistan and Iraq, SWCS is ensuring that SF soldiers will be prepared to meet the demands of future engagements. Just as the rail system of the M-4 allows it to adapt to various environments, the SFQC gives SF officers their own rail system that will allow them to adapt to the various environments that they may face in the 21st century.

There are many changes underway in the SF training pipeline — so many that they could not all be addressed in this article. Future articles will describe more fully the critical components that are being configured at SWCS to produce adaptable SF soldiers, leaders and teams.
__________________
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - President Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

De Oppresso Liber 01/20/2017

Last edited by The Reaper; 02-18-2004 at 18:35.
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Old 02-18-2004, 19:06   #3
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Re: SF Officer Article

Quote:
Originally posted by The Reaper
Specifically, the article will describe the core attributes that SF officers (18A) must possess if they are to be capable of adapting to changes in the SF environment.
Sir: safe to assume these 9 attributes are important to at least some degree for all SF soldiers?
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