Anonymous Letter Discussion and General Kurt Sonntags rebuttal (MERGED)

twobare

Unverified
Joined
Dec 14, 2016
Messages
10
- MOD EDIT -

This is the link that General Sonntag is responding to:
Anonymous Letter

Rah'
_

“To the Men and Women of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School,

Many of you have seen the anonymous letter calling into question the integrity of our training standards and the quality of the Soldiers being produced. Let me be clear, I would be proud to serve with each and every one of our Special Forces Qualification Course graduates, and I stand behind the quality of every Soldier we are sending to the operational force.

The U.S. Army Green Berets have been at the tip of the spear in defense of our nation for more than 70 years. The U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, the proponent for Special Forces, is charged with professional training and development of the force throughout a Soldier’s career.

Since 1952, Soldiers seeking to enter Special Forces have attended a qualification course to learn advanced warrior skills. In 1988, a Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) was introduced to the course, which was based on the Assessment and Selection process of the Office of Strategic Services. SFAS evolved into a proven, challenging process that allows the regiment to better predict a candidate’s ability to succeed in training as well as operate successfully in their respective operational environment. The consistent achievements of our operational force across the globe is a testament to the quality of the effectiveness of the assessment, selection, and training model.

The SFAS process ensures candidates successfully demonstrate the qualities of the Army Special Operations Force Attributes under dynamic and stressful conditions. To join the Special Forces Regiment, each candidate must demonstrate they possess the required strength, cognitive flexibility, and willpower to thrive in challenging and uncertain Special Operations environments. Students are evaluated using a holistic and multidiscipline approach, supported by a range of military and scientific experts to include psychologists, physiological experts and experienced combat veterans who select candidates who are physically strong, mentally tough and possess the character necessary to serve in the regiment.

If SFAS is correct, and we believe it is, the SFQC is not a place where high attrition rates should occur. Instead, the mission of the SFQC cadre is to train to standard. Without a doubt, if you were to take five Green Berets who attended the course at different periods of time, none of them would have had to meet the same standard as those Soldiers who are now in the course. Since 9/11, the SFQC has had at least eight significant modifications, each resulting in new or modified Tasks, Conditions, & Standards throughout the respective programs of instruction. These modifications are made to keep training relevant, efficient and effective, with the needs of the operational force driving each one. Today, the SFQC consists of six distinct phases (Orientation, Small Unit Tactics/Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE), Military Occupational Specialty, Unconventional Warfare, language and graduation; followed by Military Free Fall training), which takes a minimum of 62 weeks in length if a candidate is not recycled.


Let me address some of the concerns in the anonymous letter.

– No fundamental SF standard has been removed.

– No academic or character performance standards have been adjusted.

– Previously, the Special Forces Physical Fitness Assessment (instituted as a ‘must-pass’ standard in 2012), rope climb, and ruck march were evaluated in the first phase of SFQC. Cadre will continue to administer diagnostic evaluations of these events throughout the SFQC with the final evaluation occurring in the last phase of the course. This shift gives the Cadre more time to prepare the students for these events. Students must meet these standards prior joining the operational force.

– Training in the SFQC remains among the most difficult in the Department of Defense. In 2017, more than 2,000 Soldiers attempted SFAS and 541 graduated the SFQC.

– I value our Cadre’s input and have not, and will not, issue a gag order. The CSM and I have visited each unit and conducted more than 10 town hall meetings with each subordinate unit within this command. We will continue to solicit feedback from each and every individual. My open door policy remains in effect.


– Language and cultural awareness training remain an essential part of the qualification course. All students must achieve a 1+/1+ rating in their assigned language before entering the operational force; which is above the operational force minimum standard of 1/1. Up until 2006, students earned their Green Beret after successful completion of Robin Sage.

– As an institution, SWCS has moved language instruction several times to optimize the flow of course instruction. I’ve recently adjusted the phasing of the SFQC, by moving graduation ahead of language training. By doing this, Soldiers who are already language qualified go directly to the Operational Groups after attending the Military Free Fall School; while those who are not qualified will attend language school and MFF before going to their Group assignment.

We work closely with 1SFC (A) leadership to ensure we are producing the Green Berets needed by the 1st SFC (A), and to the standards to which they need them trained. As we speak to Operational Groups, we consistently receive positive feedback.

– “They are well-trained, physically fit, and ready to join their teams from day one.”

– “Highest quality graduates we’ve seen in years.”

1st SFC (A) sets the standard and SWCS trains, coaches and mentors the students to achieve them. SWCS has always produced highly-qualified Soldiers who meet the expectations of the operational formations as they tend to the Nation’s business. That will not stop. Every decision is made, not only by looking forward, but with the utmost respect for our Special Forces legacy, to ensure we maintain the integrity and standards of those who have come before us.


As the operational environment changes, we will continue to adjust instruction to fulfill our obligation to produce fully-qualified Army Special Operations Soldiers. Some of the comments in the email warrant further evaluation, and we are doing that through formal inquiries and a number of existing institutional forums.

Let me reiterate, CSM Arrowsmith and I seek healthy dialogue as a means of improvement. Every level of the command has been encouraged to challenge the current process, phasing and training methodology to ensure SWCS’ training remains relevant to meet the needs of the 1st SFC (A). Training at SWCS will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the Army. We will remain relevant while upholding the highest academic, military and physical standards. SWCS strives for a professional, rewarding experience for its students, cadre and families.”



The article pertains to *Special Forces, but is this an issue plaguing other special operation forces?
 
Last edited by a moderator:

amlove21

Pararescue
Verified SOF
Joined
Dec 29, 2008
Messages
4,526
Location
The City of Destiny
SSMP
SOF Mentor
These issues are constantly on the forefront of every schoolhouse and training program in the military- not just SOF. For SOF, yes, the volume gets turned up on a lot of these because they're wrapped up in the Id and Ego of those that work there. Maintaining standards, personal accountability, adherence to a proud tradition of training and training the right way- these aren't just things we say in mission statements they're tenets and pillars of every SOF culture and something the individuals in that culture personally identify with. For a lot, those things are the very reasons why you signed up in the first place.

I want to point out that none of the claims made in the anonymous email have been substantiated. A lot of us on the board here have friends that work at the school, friends that just graduated, etc., and at least for me a couple of the reactions have been mixed. Like with everything else, "truth" lies on the midline of a lot of differing accounts.

In the end, decisions can get made at the command level that the Instructor staff feels are wrong. Instructors are typically very motivated and doing the instructor gig because they care deeply about the community and want to make it better. Sometimes, command can make a call that the instructors don't agree with and those deeply bought in Alpha type dudes see it as a personal affront, or an affront to the community or history or the standards or whatever. And neither side is technically wrong; and neither side is technically right, either.

ETA- Spelling, cause I haz the dum
 
Last edited:

Teufel

Force Recon
Verified SOF
Joined
Mar 15, 2008
Messages
4,476
Location
Tun Tavern
I know that everyone reads the SOF truths but sometimes commanders have a fuzzy recollection of them when they are trapped inside the gap that often exists between graduation rates and manpower requirements. Especially when they usually evaluated against tangible factors like throughput goals.
 
Last edited:

amlove21

Pararescue
Verified SOF
Joined
Dec 29, 2008
Messages
4,526
Location
The City of Destiny
SSMP
SOF Mentor
I know that everyone reads the SOF truths but sometimes commanders have a fuzzy recollection of them when they are trapped inside the gap that often exists between graduation rates and manpower requirements. Especially when they usually evaluated against tangible factors like throughput goals.
This.

Now, imagine if you will, that the commanders we are speaking of are not actually beret wearing special operators. Imagine, instead, that those commanders might not even know those SOF truths, and are only concerned with student throughput.

Not to derail the thread, but that's my life.
 

Raksasa Kotor

AFSOF
Verified SOF
Joined
Jun 3, 2013
Messages
464
This.

Now, imagine if you will, that the commanders we are speaking of are not actually beret wearing special operators. Imagine, instead, that those commanders might not even know those SOF truths, and are only concerned with student throughput.

Not to derail the thread, but that's my life.

We're dealing with a similar issue. Our MQC was completely shut down a few years ago when a previous AFSOC CC tried to divest our capability. When he retired, we were directed to switch back to our primary mission set - but there was no operational pause. MQC was turned back on nearly overnight, but severely curtailed in the interest of throughput. Assessment and selection was non-existent at first, and primarily administrative later. We've since managed to shuffle most of the folks hired during that period off to other assignments, but we're still feeling ripple effects.

The unit owns A&S, and it has since been completely overhauled into something appropriate. MQC however, is owned by another organization (that also runs courses for other mission sets) - and continues to be a slow fight.
 

amlove21

Pararescue
Verified SOF
Joined
Dec 29, 2008
Messages
4,526
Location
The City of Destiny
SSMP
SOF Mentor
We're dealing with a similar issue. Our MQC was completely shut down a few years ago when a previous AFSOC CC tried to divest our capability. When he retired, we were directed to switch back to our primary mission set - but there was no operational pause. MQC was turned back on nearly overnight, but severely curtailed in the interest of throughput. Assessment and selection was non-existent at first, and primarily administrative later. We've since managed to shuffle most of the folks hired during that period off to other assignments, but we're still feeling ripple effects.

The unit owns A&S, and it has since been completely overhauled into something appropriate. MQC however, is owned by another organization (that also runs courses for other mission sets) - and continues to be a slow fight.
Frustrating, isn't it?

I feel the pain of the SWCS instructors "trying to do the right thing" and having a difference of opinion (not to disparage what @TLDR20 said about how endemic the problem is) with their command. If there is some goodness to be had, it's at least you all learn together and you can all make your culture better.

But it's even worse when you have instructors pounding a table saying "THIS ISN'T THE WAY WE DO THINGS!!!" and having those decisions flow from people that have literally zero experience.
 

DA SWO

SOWT
Verified SOF
Joined
Aug 18, 2007
Messages
9,676
Location
San Antonio Texas
We're dealing with a similar issue. Our MQC was completely shut down a few years ago when a previous AFSOC CC tried to divest our capability. When he retired, we were directed to switch back to our primary mission set - but there was no operational pause. MQC was turned back on nearly overnight, but severely curtailed in the interest of throughput. Assessment and selection was non-existent at first, and primarily administrative later. We've since managed to shuffle most of the folks hired during that period off to other assignments, but we're still feeling ripple effects.

The unit owns A&S, and it has since been completely overhauled into something appropriate. MQC however, is owned by another organization (that also runs courses for other mission sets) - and continues to be a slow fight.
Frustrating, isn't it?

STTS?

I feel the pain of the SWCS instructors "trying to do the right thing" and having a difference of opinion (not to disparage what @TLDR20 said about how endemic the problem is) with their command. If there is some goodness to be had, it's at least you all learn together and you can all make your culture better.

But it's even worse when you have instructors pounding a table saying "THIS ISN'T THE WAY WE DO THINGS!!!" and having those decisions flow from people that have literally zero experience.

2 AF?
 

x SF med

the Troll
Verified SOF
Joined
Jan 1, 2007
Messages
10,841
Location
Not far from the south of Canada, 'Murica!
SSMP
SOF Mentor
With the current situation, I fully understand the reasoning behind the need for the "Quiet Professionalism" desired by SOF before the GWOT. The lack of general knowledge about the SOF and SMU units was a from of defense against the usurpation of training and standards by a politicized leadership. the lack of large scale media exposure (for the most part) was a from of camouflage from the public. From the 1950s to late 1990s very few non military people were even aware of the SOF units and their capabilities. Political leaders brought the media attention to these units in order to advance their careers, and since the media was involved, these units became a target for scrutiny by the uninitiated... a recipe for disaster. As the media circus grew rings, 'leaders' caved, instead of saying GTFO of my AO. Instead they said "Come and see the dogs and ponies, they're trained."

It spirals down from there...

Just my .02
 
Joined
Oct 7, 2017
Messages
8
U.S. Army Green Berets Accused From Within Of Lowering Standards

I found this article pretty interesting. Since this forum bears a reasonable amount of anonymity, I was wondering if anyone near or in the career had any thoughts of their own on this?

How Special Forces Bury the True Cost of America's Wars

This article seems to tag along nicely, accusing the blanket (special operating forces) of accepting simply more bodies, “[Special Operations Forces] have doubled in size and been deployed more often and for longer periods than ever before." as well as mentioning “SOF has become the US version of the French Foreign Legion,” said an Army Special Forces sergeant with over 25 years of service—who requested anonymity as he did not have permission to speak to the press. He was referring to the quasi-mercenary French military force that is separate from its national army and made up almost exclusively of non-French citizens. “The legion being ultimately a force that is not French. Ma and Pa in Paris or wherever, they don’t care if a bunch of Legionnaires get killed somewhere around the world because they’re not French anyway. That’s what SOF is like now.” and the above article a few remarks from anon-Green Berets stating similar things but directly about SF.

Search button....

Threads merged.
 

256

SWAT
Verified Military
Joined
Jan 22, 2018
Messages
240
Location
pert near Lake Erie
Grieving families lash out. Hindsight is 20/20. Mistakes were made. But one AC130 flying overwatch might've made the difference.

I’m going to guess that the whole mission in Africa is much bigger than we’re seeing, for good reason. Big assets bring big attention. Not so much from the media/news stand point. But when an asset gets pullled for something “more important” people start asking questions, then news outlets figure it out through their contacts/connections.

Anonymous Letter

I read the above letter. It’s pretty scary what some of the SF community are saying about their own community. Related to this incident or not, I have no idea. It’s way out of my league, but it made me wonder.
 

TacoTraplord

USMC 0311
Verified Military
Joined
Apr 8, 2017
Messages
15
Location
USA
I’m going to guess that the whole mission in Africa is much bigger than we’re seeing, for good reason. Big assets bring big attention. Not so much from the media/news stand point. But when an asset gets pullled for something “more important” people start asking questions, then news outlets figure it out through their contacts/connections.

Anonymous Letter

I read the above letter. It’s pretty scary what some of the SF community are saying about their own community. Related to this incident or not, I have no idea. It’s way out of my league, but it made me wonder.

Reading the first few pages of that letter all I can think is: "sounds like the military as a whole"...
 

TacoTraplord

USMC 0311
Verified Military
Joined
Apr 8, 2017
Messages
15
Location
USA
You are basing this on what? What they said in the explanatory article they released after the blowback from releasing the video?

I don't remember an article. I think it was just a response to someone asking why they released it.
 

DZ

Special Forces
Verified SOF
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
Messages
288
SSMP
SOF Mentor
That "oversized logo" was to cover up the flag that was watermarked on the video, they also removed the audio because there was music in the form of propaganda and fake screams edited into the video.

Sofrep can try and spin it any way they want, at the end of the day they reposted terrorist propaganda with their logo on it in hopes of bolstering their companies revenue. Fuck sofrep.

The author of that letter (who called out operational SF guys by name, but decided to remain anonymous.) is clearly biased. IUW didn't exist 10 years ago, and now it's suddenly foundational to the training of every generation of Green Berets? Like most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

ETA: I went through IUW when gates and land nav were actually graded ie got you recycled for failing (which happened to close to half of my class), instead of how it is now. So I'm not just saying the above out of defense. I think there are problems, I just don't think it's as severe as portrayed in the letter.
 
Last edited:

256

SWAT
Verified Military
Joined
Jan 22, 2018
Messages
240
Location
pert near Lake Erie
Sofrep can try and spin it any way they want, at the end of the day they reposted terrorist propaganda with their logo on it in hopes of bolstering their companies revenue. Fuck sofrep.


The author of that letter (who called out operational SF guys by name, but decided to remain anonymous.) is clearly biased. IUW didn't exist 10 years ago, and now it's suddenly foundational to the training of every generation of Green Berets? Like most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.


Ok, he’s biased. But who else would you want to give their opinion on this subject but the NCOs in charge of the selection and assessment process? It seems to me (very little military experience), a guy working in the school house would know if the process isn’t excelling like it should.

When a document like that is intentionally put out, they want people in power’s attention, right? Not only that, you can say it’s anonymous all you want, but the people in that community know what NCO(s) put that shit out. So they took great risk to their career and life style for that information (their opinion) to come out. Probably because they are passionate about the men/teams who they are sending men to. Who would know better if the process is working or not? Certainly isn’t me, it’s only the people involved. My take on the letter (my opinion only) it seems like a cry for help, not a badge protection. We’re not talking about a EIB here (I’ve seen a lot of EIB badge protecting nonsense). We’re talking about the men in place complaining that they MUST put guys through because the demand for unconventional Warfare is so high. SOF (Army SF specifically; direct action, training other nation’s armies, reconnaissance, and name 5 other things) has a very demanding mission set. I’m only curious if members of that community see things happening that these NCOs put out in their 14 page letter. Is there real mission evidence showing lacking skills as put out in the letter? I’m not asking for details or even a yes or no, just my general curiosity.

What the soldiers/commanders/TL did or didn’t do isn’t anyone’s business unless you’re part of that community OR/ARE in a place to be able to correct the shortcomings.
 

AWP

Formerly Known as Freefalling
SOF Support
Joined
Sep 8, 2006
Messages
16,199
Location
Not Afghanistan
Sofrep can try and spin it any way they want, at the end of the day they reposted terrorist propaganda with their logo on it in hopes of bolstering their companies revenue. Fuck sofrep.


The author of that letter (who called out operational SF guys by name, but decided to remain anonymous.) is clearly biased. IUW didn't exist 10 years ago, and now it's suddenly foundational to the training of every generation of Green Berets? Like most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Agree on sofrep.

We've had a few SF members in good standing here echo the author's comments about the process and personnel mentioned. Is the truth in the middle? Perhaps. Not being involved but trusting the word of people I have no reason to doubt, I tend to err on the side of the author. Knowing your background I won't dispute any difference of opinion on this topic, I'll leave that to a team room and 18 series better equipped to handle the discussion. Unless proven otherwise, my otusider's opinion is biased towards the letter's author.

Also, fuck sofrep.

ETA: we have a thread or two on the letter, so we should probably take any discussion on it out of this thread.
 
Top