Written by: Training Developers of Training Development Division 1, DOTD, USAJFKSWCS
Soldiers selected to attend the SFQC will PCS to Fort Bragg, NC. where they will begin the rigorous training of the SFQC for 52-94 weeks. The course focuses on core tactical competencies, MOS skills, survival, language and cultural skills. Upon completion of the SFQC, Soldiers join the Special Forces brotherhood, earn the right to wear the Special Forces tab and don the highly coveted Green Beret.
Special Forces Orientation Course (Phase 1)
The SF Orientation Course is an introduction to Special Forces and falls under the auspices of the 4th Battalion, 1st SWTG (Airborne). The SFOC is designed to orient the student to the standards of the entire SFQC as well as to the standards and expectations of the 1st SWTG (Airborne) commander. The course is comprised of seven weeks of classroom instruction on the history and lineage of the SF Regiment (1 week) Student G’s in Robin Sage (2 weeks) , SF command and control, duties and responsibilities of each MOS, overview of the SF core missions and methods of instruction (2 weeks), Basic Airborne Refresher, airborne operations, introduction to the SF attributes (1 week), and Cultural training (1 week). The students are introduced to the concepts of small-unit tactics and conducts refresher training on land navigation.
Special Forces Language and Culture Course (Phase 2)
Soldiers receive Basic Special Operations Language Training in the language assigned to them at the completion of Special Forces Assessment and Selection. Languages are broken into two categories based on their degree of difficulty. Soldiers who are assigned a Category I or II language will be enrolled in an 18-week language program, while soldiers who are assigned a Category III or IV language will attend 24 weeks of language training.
Students receive instruction in three basic language skills: speaking, participatory listening and reading (limited). The following areas of emphasis are covered during the training: overview of physical and social systems, economics, politics and security, infrastructure and technology information, culture and regional studies. Language instruction focuses on functional application geared toward mission-related tasks, enhanced rapport building techniques, cultural mitigation strategies, interpreting and control of interpreter methods. Also during Phase 2, a progressive PT program is started in order to prepare for Phase 3.
To successfully complete Phase 2, Soldiers must achieve a minimum of 1/1 Listening and Speaking as measured by the two-skill Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI).
Special Forces Qualification (Individual Training) Small Unit Tactics/SERE (Phase 3)
The Special Forces Small Unit Tactics is the third phase in the qualification course. The 13-week program provides Soldiers in the SFQC the apprentice-level tactical combat skills required to successfully operate on an SFOD-A.
Students will master the following tactical skills: advanced marksmanship; small-unit tactics; mounted operations; Special Forces common tasks; urban operations; mission analysis; advanced special operations level 1; sensitive site exploitation; military decision making process.
At the end of Phase 3, Soldiers will enroll in SERE Level C, To better meet the demands of the current operating environment, Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, has implemented significant changes to resistance training in the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course, or SERE, to increase the intellectual quality of training and to replicate the complexities of the contemporary operating environment, or COE.
In the future, detention is likely to be of two types: governmental, in which diplomatic relations will be either limited or nonexistent; and nongovernmental, which can be carried out by a host of potential irregular adversaries. To better replicate the COE, SERE’s resistance training lab, or RTL, now includes governmental and nongovernmental detention scenarios across the spectrum of captivity. SERE’s Pineland scenario, which serves as the vehicle for resistance training, has been rewritten to include peacetime governmental and nongovernmental hostage detention.
To address the intellectual quality of training, SERE has fully implemented a single-skill-set resistance model, the directed communications model, or DCM, into resistance academics and the RTL evaluation. Soldiers now receive 110 hours of training in negotiation and dilemmas that requires them to apply the DCM’s experience-based technique of problem-solving and learning. The goal is to help the student find a practical solution, not necessarily a perfect one. That adaptive approach to ill-structured problem environments allows instructors to tailor the training to the students’ capabilities. The training develops skills that will transfer not only to other phases of training but also into the Soldier’s career — the skills required to negotiate a hostage-detention scenario are essentially the same as those needed to influence a tribal elder in Afghanistan.
Graduates of SERE can apply their survival skills either during evasion or in captivity. They can produce and execute a plan that applies evasion techniques and incorporates the doctrine of personnel recovery. Soldiers can also assess their captivity environment not only to identify the opportunity and means of escape but also to create a POW/detainee/hostage action plan for resisting exploitation and surviving to return with honor.
Special Forces Qualification (Individual Training) Small Unit Tactics/SERE (Phase 3)
Each Soldier going through the Special Forces Qualification Course is assigned to one of the five occupational specialties: Detachment Commander, or 18A; Weapons Sergeant, or 18B Engineer Sergeant, or 18C; Special Forces Medical Sergeant, or 18D; and Communications Sergeant, or 18E.
Detachment Commander 18A: Over the past year, Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, has made changes to its instruction that are larger and more significant than any in its history. Dedicated to teaching critical skill sets and developing leadership capacities in future SF officers (18A), Co. A continues to refine its ability to train SF officer candidates to operate effectively in complex, dynamic environments and to become adaptive problem solvers.
During the officers’ military occupational specialty, or MOS, training phase (Phase IV), the company’s small-group instructors, or SGIs, and field team work together to give students 14 weeks of training in tasks identified by the most recent critical task selection board. Focusing on skill sets related to unconventional warfare, or UW, Phase IV training modules include SF doctrine; special-operations mission planning; cross-cultural communication and negotiations; MOS cross-training; and UW, counterinsurgency and foreign internal defense, or FID. Instruction also includes tactical airborne operations and three field-training exercises that focus on developing the students’ ability to conduct SF missions across the spectrum of conflict. To complete Phase IV, students must demonstrate the level of proficiency required for them to perform successfully as SF detachment commanders.
Recent changes to the Special Forces Qualification Course, or SFQC, have enhanced the training environment and increased the 18A students’ understanding of SF missions. The SFQC’s 18A training exercises are now entirely nested within the “Pineland” strategic training scenario. The current training environment allows 18A students to plan and conduct FID missions in a permissive environment and UW operations in an uncertain or hostile environment. The company has also designed and implemented a FID training exercise, conducted as part of the FID module of instruction, which replicates a joint combined exchange training mission in the Republic of Pineland and develops students’ understanding and ability to conduct combined operations with partner-nation forces.
Whether students are working with partner-nation forces from the Republic of Pineland or resistance forces in the People’s Republic of Pineland, they learn and apply skill sets that are critical for success in the SFQC’s “Robin Sage” culmination exercise and as an SF detachment commander. Throughout Phase IV, the 18A students gain knowledge, understanding and proficiency of SF leader skills through the instruction and mentoring from their SGIs. The SGIs dedicate countless hours of coaching, teaching and mentoring to every aspiring SF captain, and the quality of training is unparalleled.
In addition to providing SF-qualification training, Co. A also teaches the Detachment Leaders Course, a new initiative designed to provide follow-on, advanced resident training to newly qualified SF captains as they transition from the 1st SWTG to the operational SF groups. The Detachment Leaders Course, which taught its first iteration in January, is designed to expand students’ base of knowledge and give them exposure to the contemporary operational environment.
The course delivers focused training on SF-specific topics from SGIs, guest speakers and Army special-operations personnel, using operational vignettes from SF detachments and video teleconferences with forward-deployed units. Students also gain a better understanding of the joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational environment; SF persistent-engagement missions; and combat operations of joint special operations. Although the initial iterations of the course were focused on recent SF officer graduates, the course is now listed in the Army Training Requirements and Resources System and is open to SF warrant officers and SF NCOs who have been selected to serve as detachment operations.
Weapons Sergeant 18B: Weapons sergeants have a familiarization with weapons systems found throughout the world. They gain extensive knowledge about various types of U.S. and foreign small arms, submachine guns, machine guns, grenade launchers, forward-observer procedures and directs fires and indirect-fire weapons (mortars).
They learn the capabilities and characteristics of U.S. and foreign air defense and anti-tank weapons systems, tactical training and range fire as well as how to teach marksmanship and the employment of weapons to others. Weapons sergeants employ conventional and unconventional tactics and techniques as tactical mission leaders. They can recruit, organize, train and advise or command indigenous combat forces up to company size.
Engineer Sergeant 18C: Engineer sergeants are experts in the planning, design and construction of buildings, demolition, mine warfare, special purpose munitions and explosives, counter booby trap and unexploded ordinances clearance operations and improvised munitions and explosives. The construction module requires Soldiers to learn to read blueprints as well as design, and to construct a theater-of-operations building, as well as field fortifications to be used as fire bases while deployed on an SFODA. Special Forces engineers are taught basic to advanced demolition skills that will enable them to destroy targets in non-electric and electric firing systems, with U.S., foreign and civilian demolition components.
Engineer sergeants plan, supervise, lead, perform and instruct all aspects of combat engineering, demolition operations and theater-of operations construction engineering in either English or their target language. They can recruit, organize, train and advise or command indigenous combat forces up to company size.
Medical Sergeant 18D: Medical sergeants specialize in trauma management, infectious diseases, cardiac life support and surgical procedures, with a basic understanding of veterinary and dental medicine. Both general health care and emergency health care are stressed in training.
Medical sergeants provide emergency, routine and long-term medical care for detachment members and associated allied members and host-nation personnel. They establish field medical facilities to support unconventional warfare operations, provide veterinary care, and prepare the medical portion of area studies, brief backs and operation plans and orders.
Soldiers selected for MOS 18D attend 250 days of advanced medical training. Additionally, they spend two months of the year on a trauma rotation in hospital emergency rooms. The medical-training phase includes a nationally accredited emergency medical technician paramedic program. They can recruit, organize, train and advise or command indigenous combat forces up to company size.
Communications Sergeant 18E: The Special Forces communications sergeant has to learn U.S. communication systems as well as those systems found throughout the world. He must incorporate this information and technology into his communications planning, and teach it to the other members of his ODA. Communications sergeants have a thorough grounding in communication basics, communications procedures, computer technology; assembly and systems applications.
They must understand communication theory – how to install, operate and maintain FM, AM, HF, VHF and UHF radio systems They must be able to make communications in voice to data, and to read voice and data radio nets by utilizing computer systems and networks.
Communications sergeants are experts in sending and receiving critical messages that link the SFODA with its command and control elements. They are familiar with antenna theory, radio wave propagation and how to teach it to others. Communications sergeants prepare the communications portion of area studies, brief backs and operation plans and orders. They can recruit, organize, train and advise or command indigenous combat forces up to company size.
Special Forces Qualification (CULEX) (Phase 5)
Robin Sage, for more than 40 years the world’s best collective training event for preparing Soldiers for unconventional warfare, or UW, has trained every Soldier currently in Special Forces. But changes made to keep pace with current operations have produced a Robin Sage unlike the one many of its alumni remember.
The 14-day exercise, taught by the cadre of Company D, 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, is the culmination exercise of Phase V of the Special Forces Qualification Course, or SFQC. Although Robin Sage continues to represent each entry-level SF Soldier’s formative UW experience before he joins an SF group, Co. D. has made significant advances in the methods used to provide the training.
One of the things to change has been Phase V’s program of instruction, or POI. The POI has been changed to increase small-group instruction, provide entry-level education on the fundamentals of insurgency and UW, and enhance or add contemporary UW topics. Examples include a 100-percent increase in training in subversion and sabotage and a new entry-level class on targeting in UW.
Led by the cadre, students conduct a case study of the fundamentals of insurgency, culminating with a discussion of key points of insurgencies in China, Algeria and Cuba. Co. D also ties all the small-group instruction and practical exercises together into a UW case study that includes viewing and discussing the movie “Defiance,” which depicts resistance to Nazi occupation of Belarus during World War II. The movie provides a real-world example that captures students’ attention and serves as a springboard for discussion and interaction prior to the students’ receipt of their warning order for the UW operation in Pineland. The training in the fundamentals of insurgency, the UW case study and the leveraging of students’ language skills allow the cadre to introduce more complex scenarios with a better balance of lethal and nonlethal operations across urban and rural environments.
By this fall, other changes will be implemented to expand students’ knowledge of UW. Before students begin the SFQC, they will take five UW classes (fundamentals of UW, underground, auxiliary, guerrilla tactics and operations) via distance learning. That basic instruction will be reinforced throughout the course by the cadre and the instructors of the student SF detachments. At the end of Phase IV, students will take a comprehensive exam to test their UW knowledge. Those who fail will not enter Phase V, because they will not have the basic UW knowledge that will be necessary for success.
Throughout Phase V, the cadre team sergeant, or CTS, and his student SF detachment remain the focal point of training. The CTS is responsible for the development of his civilian hosted area — the physical and human infrastructure necessary for simulating UW operations in denied territory. Most importantly, the CTS serves as the small-group instructor for his student detachment, providing the appropriate blend of coaching, teaching, training and mentoring through face-to-face interaction with students and through “in-role” feedback during the Pineland scenario. Each CTS brings the experience, knowledge and familiarity with current tactics, techniques and procedures that allow him to make subtle changes in the scenarios in order to provide realistic training that is crucial to each student’s success. CTSs are selected for their UW operational experience, and their combined experience gives Co. D one of the highest concentrations of real-world UW experience in the SF Regiment.
While the fundamentals of UW haven’t changed much over the last 40 years, UW training has evolved in order to remain relevant. Even though the dominant features of Robin Sage and Pineland remain rucksacks, muddy boots and a focus on UW in denied territory, Co. D has made significant changes in what and how students are trained, based on the experience of the cadre team sergeants and the needs of the SF groups and the 21st-century operating environment.
Special Forces Qualification Graduation (Phase 6)
The final stage and is comprised of one week of out-processing, the Regimental First Formation where students don their “Green Berets” for the first time, and the graduation ceremony.
The Special Forces training requires a commitment of one (1) (2 years for 18Ds) of intensive coursework based on the soldier’s military specialty training. A Soldier is awarded the “Green beret” and the Special Forces Tab at the end of all the course of training. Admission into the Special Forces Regiment begins the day before graduation to meet the leaders of the SF units they will be assigned to. They are officially welcomed into the Regiment the day after at the graduation ceremony which is a combination of the Regimental First Formation and graduation at the Civic Center. They are awarded their Certificate of graduation, the Special Forces Tab, their Green Beret and the converted Yarborough at this ceremony.