SO YOU WANT TO BE AN OPERATOR?
At Vigilance Elite one of my most commonly asked questions is "What do I do to prepare for Special Operations?". I've decided to bring some fresh insight from not only a new source, but someone who has served in the most elite capacity, but in a completely different outfit rather than the SEAL Teams.
Sean Buck Rogers is a former Green Beret who now runs a successful YouTube Channel known as FNG ACADEMY where he has compiled 89 videos and counting, covering everything you need to know when it comes to preparing for a selection into the worlds most elite special operations units. His experience, knowledge, and advice on the subject not only as an operator, but as a Green Beret are invaluable. Green Berets not only go through one of the most rigorous selections known to man, but they continue on to identify, select, train, and eventually operate with indigenous commandos all throughout the world to free the oppressed. Green Berets know exactly what they are looking for in a potential operator in his/her rawest form. We've asked Sean to write an article covering 10 Tips to prepare for Special Operations to help get you ready to begin your journey. Please enjoy the article, and take a look at Sean's new book "Rising Above".
De Oppresso Liber,
- Shawn Ryan
1. Don’t wait to be tested
Often people wonder if they have what it takes. They ask me question after question in an attempt to associate themselves with characteristics of operators to find similarities. Although I completely understand because I remember being there myself, there is no need to wait to be tested. There are so many ways people can push themselves mentally and physically to find their level of grit and develop it further. Running is not only a key to Special Operations success but is also a great way to push your mind and body to new limits.
My first marathon I ran because someone bet that I wouldn’t. I had hardly trained and before I knew it the time had come to drive from Bamberg Germany to the Czech Republic for the run. In “train” up I had completed one ten-mile run as my longest run, before that no more than 5 miles at a time.
I was wildly underprepared.
The run broke my body, my mind was not too far behind after dipping a banana into what I thought was sugar and taking a huge bite, the taste of salt filled my dehydrated mouth and made me want to vomit. I was out of my league and I was paying the price for my arrogance. Yet, here I was having more pain in my knees, back, elbows, and ankles than I had ever had in my life, and I was still moving forward.
I finished that race at a terrible 5 hours and 10 minutes and had to get a ride back to my hotel which was less than two blocks away. I couldn’t walk right for three weeks. The lessons learned from that race were instrumental to my success in Special Forces. I found out that my mind was strong. I found that proper preparation would have made all of the difference and completely changed the experience.
So why wait until it is go time to receive these valuable lessons?
Go out there and start attacking difficult things now. To this day running ultra-marathons taught me more about myself and my mind than anything else I have ever done. Don’t wait to be tested.
2. Visualize your why
Your why is absolutely key to your success in all avenues of life. People who have failed to visualize their “why” with enough accuracy to develop passion, will find themselves asking “why” when things get difficult. They will question their reasoning for being there, they will feel as though they are being selfish for chasing their dreams and use their families or loved ones as an excuse to quit. Develop a short-term and long-term “why” that will empower you to push through the difficult moments. Never underestimate the power of purpose.
3. Develop a fear forward mindset
Whether you pass or fail Special Forces Assessment and Selection you have made substantial growth as a person. The ability to face your fears and move forward is essential to success in life.
If you can make this behavior habitual you will accomplish goals that others only wish they could. Imagine life is a land navigation event. Everyone gets a compass, however, some people’s true north is always pointing to comfort and safety, while others are pointed towards risk, and fear.
The ones who guide themselves towards the fear will obtain the rewards they desire. They will be viewed as the achievers of our society. The non-achievers will sit in their bubble of safety watching from the sidelines. They will imagine themselves one day conquering their fears and joining them.
Unfortunately, fear will likely prevent that from happening and they will remain spectators. So, focus on the bigger picture and learn the process of chasing your fears with the intention of replicating that process over and over again. Whether you earn a Green Beret or not the process must continue. After enough victories, you will come to realize that the journey is far more exhilarating than the goal.
4. Train smarter and harder
Gone are the days of beating yourself into the ground and hoping that it was enough. Physical fitness and our access to top-notch trainers are unprecedented. Technology has given nearly everyone access to the best trainers in the world. I don’t care how strong you are mentally our bodies have limits. I found that out the hard way during the Czech marathon.
You need to prepare effectively and efficiently. This happens by finding the right training plan that includes the things most of us don’t want to do. Like stretching and injury prevention drills. When running ultra’s, I found myself doing just as much run recovery and stretching as I was running. This level of commitment prevented injury and kept me in the runs without ever suffering injuries post-run. I found the more time I dedicated to recovery the quicker I bounced back. The first ultra, had some knee and ankle pain for weeks, by the third I was back out and running by day 3.
5. Develop a Mantra
You don’t have to be Buddhist to take advantage of Mantras. Mantras are words or sentences that can be repeated in order to improve concentration. Likely, you have utilized Mantra’s in the past already. However, it would be beneficial to find one that really sparks inspiration when things are going badly.
Examples of Mantras that you may have heard, things like “cast or tab”, “Just make it to the next meal”, “one step at a time”, “the only way I’m leaving is on a stretcher”.
Don’t limit yourself to the old tough guy sayings because they sound cool. Find something that truly pulls you out of a dark place when things get tough. How do you know if it works? Well, that is on you. You can either wait for the cadre to put you in that position or find something difficult and do that on your own.
6. Lead organically
Everyone expects at some point during SFAS they will be put in a position to lead. I stressed about this position myself. However, during selection, I realized there were two types of “leaders”. Those who were knowledgeable and proficient at certain tasks and used that proficiency to help the team succeed, and those who thought of themselves as leaders and did a lot of talking. The latter felt inorganic, it felt as though the person was talking for the sake of the cadre and not our team’s success.
Don’t be the person trying to look as though you are leading others by flapping your jaws. If the team needs your expertise then step up and offer it to them, that is leadership in this community. The comedian in the group leads by keeping spirits high, the boy scout leads by jumping on knots during team week, the introvert leads by always volunteering to relive those who are struggling.
Understanding that leadership has many forms and variants can allow you to lead in your own way. Just understand that whatever your leadership style is, do it for the team and not the cadre. Focus on the success of the group and the rest should come naturally.
7. Keep your plans to yourself
Those planning to attend Special Forces selection will be met with enough doubt and hate as it is. When you are early in your career you will have plenty of self-doubts to contend with. When someone you know adds more, it could stick in the back of your head and their words may echo at your lowest point.
This doubt is unnecessary and if it comes from the right person at the right time it could derail your plans entirely. So, keep your plans to yourself and journal the things you need to talk about for self-reflection at a later time. You will learn more from writing and re-reading your own thoughts than you will from random advice given by those who have never done it. Another unfortunate side effect of telling people your plans of attending SFAS is the endless stories of the “friend” who didn’t make it. These stories will cause you to fear that particular event and likely that “friend” was full of shit anyway.
8. Control your emotions
Controlling your emotions is a vital aspect of Special Operations. One of the cadre’s primary goals is to see how you act when under extreme stress. Some people start to lash out at others in anger, some shut down and start underperforming, each person has a variant of attitude when they reach a survival mode. However, it is vital that operators are able to control their emotions despite the severity of the situation.
The same goes for Special Operations selections. If you can’t maintain emotional control because you are tired and hungry, then how will you fare in a gunfight when things are looking bleak. Never forget that your attitude is being evaluated at all times.
9. Your reputation is everything
Your reputation starts in SFAS. Some of the people you attend the course with will be the same faces that show up to group and maybe even your team. Act like a dirtbag at any point and the word will spread. You may earn the Green Beret and slip through the cracks, but everyone will know if you develop a bad reputation.
Before people get assigned to teams anyone that knows that person will say whether or not they had a good rep throughout the qualification course and or selection. People lose out on opportunities they didn’t even know they had from their actions in training. You may have gotten away with it from cadre, but your peers are truly the ones who matter.
10. The goal is growth
The most important tip of all is understanding the big picture. The big picture is growth as a human being. I have chased achievements my entire life to prove that I was something to other people. I ran ultra-marathons, competed in BJJ, earned a master’s degree, Green Beret, law enforcement, author. All of those achievements taught me that it was up to me to find acceptance from within. I had to deem myself worthy and appreciate the person looking back at me in the mirror.
Goals should bring as much growth as possible because accolades on their own are useless. Understanding that the goal is growth has an important impact on the way we approach our goals. Instead of only focusing on the end result we can start to pull from the process. That way you develop the “winning or learning” mentality. This mentality will keep you in the fight and increase your overall successes throughout your life. You are not trying to win the battle; you are trying to win the war.
About Sean "Buck" Rogers
Sean was raised in Phelan, California. After going through some hard endeavors as just a child, Sean decided to leave home and start a new life away from the childhood trauma and away from everything that weighed him down. Sean joined the military at the age of 21, assigned to a support unit, started a family and later achieved the title of Green Beret.
After leaving the service Sean joined the Denver Police Department earning a spot on the Citywide Impact Team. Sean left the department in order to pursue his passion to help others achieve their goals. Since then starting the FNG Academy, Podcast and writing his memoir. De Oppresso Liber!
Learn more about Sean "Buck" Rogers at www.seanbuckrogers.com/.