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John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School
John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center
"Truth and Liberty"


The legendary green beret and the special forces tab are symbols of physical and mental excellence, courage, ingenuity and just plain stubbornness. The only place to get them is at the US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. At the heart of special forces training is the 1st Special Warfare Training Group, which conducts the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course, Special Forces Qualification Course, and all advanced special forces skills training such as language training and regional studies.

The Special Forces Training Pipeline, which includes 6 phases of training, requires a commitment of 1-2 years of intensive coursework based on the soldier's military specialty training. Although a soldier is authorized to wear the coveted "Green Beret" at the end of Phase IV, he still must complete all 6 phases of training before being awarded the Special Forces Tab and is assigned to an Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (SFODA). The 6 phases include: Phase I, Special Forces Assessment and Selection; Phase II, Small Unit Tactics; Phase III, Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) Specific Training; Phase IV, Culmination Exercise (Robin Sage); Phase V, Language Training; and Phase VI, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE). Phases II-IV are considered the Special Forces Qualification Course.

Special Forces Volunteers are required to meet the following prerequisites: Be a male, enlisted volunteer, volunteer for airborne training and complete that training prior to coming to the Special Forces Qualification Course, minimum GT score of 110 (waiverable to 100), High School graduate or GED equivalent, be a Specialist (E-4) through Sergeant 1st Class (E-7) or a promotable 1st Lieutenant or Captain, pass the Special Forces physical, pass a 50 meter swim with BDU's and boots (diagnostic given at SFAS, test upon arrival at SFQC; there is a 2-week swim course offered just prior to SFQC if one fails the diagnostic at SFAS, enlisted only; this 2-week prep course is not mandatory), pass the APFT with a minimum score of 229, and complete Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC) prior to attendance at SFQC (enlisted only).

Aspiring special forces soldiers must first go through Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS), which lasts 24 days. Company G, 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group conducts SFAS training at Camp MacKall, North Carolina. The SFAS cadre look at nearly 1,800 Special Forces volunteers each year to determine who is suitable for Special Forces training and to determine who may be unable to adapt to the Special Forces environment. Candidates attend SFAS in a temporary duty (TDY) status. Candidates who enter this course find themselves under constant evaluation starting with the day they in-process until the day they out-process. The SFAS model focuses on student trainability and suitability for service in Special Forces. Teaching, coaching, training and mentoring are important aspects of the program. Land navigation is used as a common medium to judge student trainability.

Those who make it through SFAS next attend the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC), or "Q" Course, which is divided into 3 phases. A series of 12 attributes linked to success in the SFQC form the basis for evaluating candidate suitability. These attributes include intelligence, physical fitness, motivation, trustworthiness, accountability, maturity, stability, judgment, decisiveness, teamwork, influence, and communications. Though land navigation is an important evaluation tool, other training events such as a one-mile obstacle course, runs, road marches and rappelling are also used to evaluate students. Depending on their specialties, soldiers will spend from 18 months to two years in training. Of the more than 2,000 candidates starting the assessment course annually, only about 850 are selected to attend the qualification course, and only some 600 will graduate the "Q" Course.

Phase I teaches small-unit tactics and land navigation. It is in Phase I that students learn the skills needed to conduct missions. During Phase I, all potential students train together regardless of rank. The first few days of SFQC is in-processing, which includes a swim test of 50 meters in full uniform and a combat equipment jump. When in-processing is completed, the soldiers are transported to Camp MacKall to begin Phase II. Company F, 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group teaches Phase II of SFQC.

With the wide diversity of MOSs who volunteer for Special Forces, Phase II is required to train all students in the basics of infantry small unit tactics. All the students complete 39 days of land navigation, field craft training, small unit tactics training and live-fire exercises. Students must complete an 18-kilometer land navigation course and 2 graded field training exercises. The field training emphasizes squad-size and platoon-size infantry missions. After completing the initial phase, students move on to specific MOS training in Phase II.

Training intensifies in Phase II, in which SF students focus on their individual "trades": medical, weapons, engineer or communications. Officers attending Phase II receive an overview of these specialties, but their training concentrates on mission planning. Weapons sergeants must learn to use more than 50 US and foreign weapons, from handguns to shoulder-fired missiles. Medics spend the longest time in training, during which they join future Air Force pararescue and combat control team members, Marine recon medics and Navy SEALs to learn vital lifesaving and intervention techniques that will earn them certification as emergency medical technicians.

Company A, 4th Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group conducts the 18A Officer Course, which lasts 65 days. It trains and qualifies officers in the basic skills and knowledge required to perform duties as an Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpah (SFODA) commander. This training consists of general subjects, special operations, Special Forces planning (using the military decision-making process), engineer and weapons training, communications and medical training, special reconnaissance, direct action, unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, and counterinsurgency operations.

Company B, 4th Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group conducts the 18B Weapons Sergeant Course, which lasts 65 days. It trains and qualifies NCOs in the basic skills and knowledge required to perform duties as a weapons sergeant on an SFODA. Students become proficient in a wide variety of small arms, anti-tank weapons, air defense systems, crew-served weapons, and mortars. The cadre focuses on training students with foreign weapons and equipment. This phase concludes with a light infantry, live-fire training exercise.

Company B also conducts the 18C Engineer Sergeant Course, which also lasts 65 days. The course focuses on training and qualifying NCOs in the basic skills and knowledge required to perform duties as an engineer sergeant on an SFODA. These students learn pre-engineering subjects, field construction techniques, field fortifications, land mine warfare (US and foreign mines), bridging, engineer reconnaissance, target analysis, and demolitions. This phase culminates with an engineering field training exercise.

The Special Warfare Medical Group (Airborne) is responsible for all US Military Special Operations Forces' combat medical training including Army Rangers, Army Civil Affairs medics and Navy Corpsmen. Special Forces medics initially attend the Special Warfare Medical Group's 11-month Special Operations Combat Medic Course to gain a vast expertise in advanced trauma and health care. These Soldiers go on to join Special Forces teams in various units across the active duty Army and Army National Guard. Service members from across the Department of Defense return to the Special Warfare Medical Group every 2 years for required refresher training. These medics possess all the training of a licensed paramedic, as well as advanced trauma training, capped by practical training in civilian trauma facilities in Virginia and Florida.

Prior to the activation of the Special Warfare Medical Group, Company D, 4th Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group conducted the 18D Special Forces Medical Sergeants Course. The course lasted 322 days. Company D was responsible for all medical training at the USAJFKSWCS. The Special Forces Medical Sergeants Course consisted of the 24-week Special Operations Combat Medic (SOCM) Course and an additional 22-week training cycle that completed the 18Ds medical training. The 24-week Special Operations Combat Medic (SOCM) course was also taught to enlisted Army personnel from the Ranger Regiment, Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) and Special Operations Support Battalion (SOSB). US Navy SEALs and US Navy personnel supporting USMC Recon units, as well as Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) Para-Rescue personnel also attend the SOCM course.

Although 19 of the 24 weeks of SOCM training was focused on anatomy and physiology and paramedic training, the remaining 5 weeks covered unique military subjects such as sickcall medicine environmental medicine. A 4-day field training exercise in a simulated combat environment culminated the SOCM course. During the SOCM course students received American Heart Association certification in Basic and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), as well as certification by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians at the EMT-Basic and Paramedic levels. Upon graduation a SOCM was capable of providing basic primary care for his Special Operations team for up to 7 days and was capable of sustaining a combat casualty for up to 72 hours after injury as required.

Special Operations Combat Medic students received clinical training in both emergency pre-hospital and hospital settings. This training was conducted during a 4-week deployment to one of 2 major metropolitan areas: New York City or Tampa, Florida. US Army Special Forces students attended the 46 week Special Forces Medical Sergeants (SFMS) course. Students in this course had to successfully complete the 24-week SOCM curriculum before continuing on for an additional 22 weeks of specialized training in medical, surgical, dental, veterinary, laboratory, pharmaceutical and preventive medicine subjects. Upon completion of this course students were trained to function as independent health care providers. In addition to the 4 weeks of clinical training provided during the SOCM portion of their training, SFMS students received another 4 weeks of clinical experience at selected health care facilities throughout the United States. The focus of this training was on honing student skills as independent, general practice, health care providers.

Company E, 4th Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group conducts the 18E Communications Sergeants Course, which lasts 105 days. The unit trains and qualifies NCOs in the basic skills and knowledge required to perform duties as a communications sergeant on an SFODA. The training focuses on long-range communications and deals with the most sophisticated communications equipment in the Army. Students also train on the less sophisticated equipment they may find in foreign countries. Each student gains proficiency in Morse code; basic electronics; antenna theory and construction; cryptography; installation, operation, and maintenance of various high frequency, very high frequency, and ultrahigh frequency outstation radio systems; basic computers; and Special Forces communications techniques and procedures. This phase culminates with a long-range communications exercise conducted at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma.

Instructors bring students of different specialties together in Phase III to form notional SFODA teams, which must navigate unconventional warfare missions that bring together the general and specialized skills they have acquired up to this point. The culmination of Phase III is Exercise Robin Sage, during which the 12- to 15-man SFODAs complete a grueling unconventional warfare scenario that encompasses all that they have learned.

Students are again transported to Company F, 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Camp MacKall where they form student SFODAs and put their knowledge and skills to use in the Robin Sage Field Training Exercise (FTX). Robin Sage is a 19-day problem-solving FTX. During this unconventional warfare exercise, the students are required to apply the lessons learned from previous months of Special Forces MOS training and field training. This exercise involves the students, counterinsurgent and guerrilla personnel (other service members), auxiliary personnel, and cadre. This scenario stresses realism because the student SFODAs must train a mock guerilla force in a hostile environment using civilians in the surrounding community as the auxiliary. This exercise ranges over approximately 50,000 square miles. By the conclusion of Robin Sage, the students have been placed in many situations where they were required to use MOS and leadership skills, and their abilities were tested to work in adverse and ambiguous conditions.

Following SFQC, all special forces soldiers attend a 3-week survival, evasion, resistance and escape course and regionally orientated language training, before being assigned to an operational Special Forces Group.

Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Group conducts the SERE course at Camp MacKall, North Carolina. The goal of training in survival, evasion, resistance and escape, or SERE, is to teach personnel how to survive if they become separated from their unit; to evade a hostile force and make their way back to friendly forces; and to avoid capture. In the event that soldiers are captured, SERE training prepares them to resist the enemy's attempts at exploitation, to escape from captivity and to return home with honor.

3rd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group is responsible for all language training at the USAJFKSWCS. The Basic Military Language Course (BMLC) is primarily a performance-oriented language course. Students must show proficiency in speaking, listening and reading. The general purpose of the course is to provide each student with the ability to communicate in a foreign language. For successful completion of the course, the student must achieve at least a 70 percent academic average in all four modules, a 0+ or higher on the Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT) in two of the three graded areas (speaking, listening, and reading).

The languages are divided into 4 categories. Category 1 includes Spanish, French, and Portuguese and lasts 18 weeks, 3 days). Category 2 includes German, Indonesian and lasts 18 weeks, 3 days. Category 3 includes Czech, Persian-Farsi, Polish, Russian, Serbo- Croatian, Tagalog, Thai and Turkish and lasts 24 weeks, 2 days. Category 4 includes Arabic, Korean and Japanese and lasts 24 weeks, 2 days.

The USAJFKSWCS continues to enhance the special forces mission by providing advanced training in subjects such as close-quarters combat, military free-fall or underwater operations. Further training is provided at the Military Free Fall School at the Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and at the Special Forces Underwater Operations School in Key West, Florida. The Military Free Fall School provides training in freefall parachute techniques, while the Special Forces Underwater Operations School's training centers around maritime operations and infiltration techniques used to infiltrate enemy areas to avoid detection.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:36:10 ZULU