Random Thoughts from an Old Support Guy

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AWP

Formerly Known as Freefalling
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I don't know why I just typed these up and while they are geared towards support an SF battalion, many of these points could apply to any unit or branch. Feel free to add or subtract from my observations as needed. If it helps one person, my job is done.

I haven’t worn a uniform in over a decade, so my advice is hardly up-to-date. However, I would like to pass along some thoughts which I think are valid regardless of the year. Take or leave these, agree or disagree, you’re welcome to your own opinion(s).
- You aren’t “cool.” You aren’t a door kicker. You aren’t the Punisher. You’re a support guy, an enabler, a facilitator. Your job is to support the “cool” guy door-kicker, Frank Castle types. “Support”: to give strength to; maintain; to provide the necessities of life. Your job is important, every job is important, but you aren’t the tip of the spear and you aren’t why the unit exists. I see too many, far too many, support guys forget these basic concepts.
- There are numerous opportunities for support guys to go downrange or be attached to an ODA or ODB. Don’t call them, they will call you, and don’t forget the point above. You will be there to give strength to the ODA, not become the focal point.
- With those in mind, you should ALWAYS strive to be the best soldier possible. Mentally, physically, technically, and tactically proficient. Know your job inside and out but your PT sucks? You stay at the FOB. Great physical conditioning but you aren’t as MOS proficient as other soldiers. You stay at the FOB. You have both of the above but your personality sucks? You stay at the FOB. An ODA is not going to invest time and money to nursemaid you, they will take the best fit for their organization to accomplish the mission. The faster runner isn’t always the best receiver on a football team.
- Your fancy-pants tactical nylon and fear-inducing bloodthirsty patches don’t make you a good soldier and they don’t make you a killer. They make you look like a clown who is trying to be cool by association.
- DO NOT JOIN TO DO “COOL” GUY STUFF. I can’t emphasize this enough. What do you do when you break your leg on a jump? Can’t be promoted? Moved to another unit? You’d better like your MOS, not the Sierra identifier.
- If you want a guaranteed way to do “cool” guy stuff, then you need to spend a few weeks at Camp Mackall demonstrating that you have what it take to start the Special Forces Q Course.
- The team won’t keep you forever, you WILL go back to your “day job” in Support Company. This is a time for you to further excel, not brag and tell war stories. This is your time to pass along your knowledge and experiences to other soldiers, not hoard it away so you’ll always “be the man.” Your fellow soldiers will see through you and conduct a brutal character assassination.
- The team can do their job(s) without you. Period. Don’t forget this. The question is, did they go to the Q Course to repair vehicles or file travel vouchers? Nope. Your job allows them to focus on their job. You aren’t indispensible and you may be a great soldier, but you are replaceable.
- Don’t be afraid to tell an ODA “No” but remember that if push comes to shove, you’ll probably lose the fight. That’s a fact of life. You can be 100% right and still lose the argument. Deal with it, don’t carry a grudge, move forward.
- That SF unit patch does not give you carte blanche to be a douche bag in public. On the contrary, you should strive for a higher standard in dress, appearance, and behavior in public. Represent your unit well and remember point #3 above.
- Don’t hunt for badges or schools, hunt for educational opportunities that allow you to give something back to the unit. Yeah, Pathfinder is sexy and everything, but you’re better off asking for additional training for your MOS. A course to maintain MRAPs or a lab on Cisco routers, maybe learn a database and SQL queries. At the end of the day the only people to care about your Pathfinder or Air Assault badge are little kids and your own inflated ego, but a guy who can help an 18F with biometrics or geospatial analysis has marketable skill sets.
- Prove yourself to your unit and peers first, exceptional opportunities won’t happen without success there.
 

Brill

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Great post Free.

I feel that it is prudent to add that it is a widely shared reality that there is a distinct difference between SOF support jobs and SOF direct support jobs. I would also add that some of FF's posts are spot on for both Support roles however direct support jobs carry additional responsibilities of maturity, MOS proficiency, and situational awareness (understanding how/when your capabilities enable or detract from the overall mission of the SOTF down to ODA from garrison to battlefield).

I totally agree with the overall point: if you want to do cool guy shit, go to your service's assessment & selection course. If you are a support guy and stray into "I'm too cool for my Oakleys" (e.g. showing up to SFAUCC with disks in your ears), my SNCO support brothers and I will kick you in the f'ing teeth because you are negatively effecting the perception of us.
 

0699

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I used to tell Marines (and I think it fits this thread) that the first two steps in being "high speed" are 1) reliability/responsibility and 2) know your MOS. Everything else comes after those. If I can't trust you to do the right thing or you don't know your MOS, you're no good to me. Just because you went to jump/scuba/etc, doesn't mean you can get a DUI your first weekend back from school.
 

bugkill

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I know this is an old thread, but I feel the need to address what Freefalling (FF) wrote since it was my first time seeing this. I served nearly 3 years in a SF battalion as a 92A (Automated Logistical Specialist) and I was a former Infantryman prior to that. I understand what FF was saying, but I have a problem with what he thinks SOF support really means. First of all, our job is to support/sustain the SF mission, not to facilitate or enable the teams. We are not the team's bitch boys and we certainly did not answer to them. I had my lane and they had theirs, but we all belonged to the same team. The operators CHOSE to be Green Berets and we chose whatever MOS we wanted to do. No Green Beret, Ranger, or whatever else operator out there should be concerned with what support personnel do, except when it impacts what they are doing.

Your description of a "cool guy" is pretty funny, but I can assure you that the SOF support folks that I worked did not care for the title or even really cared about what the operators thought. We jumped out of airplanes, got trained on various combat techniques by the operators, and were able to attend a number of schools that support personnel in the Army rarely get a chance to go to, which is basically "cool guy" shit in our world. For us, we don't have to go to Selection or the Q course, being in the unit was good enough compared to what the conventional side offered. Doing our job is what mattered the most because our job was critical to overall mission success, not for pleasing the teams or being called a "cool guy". The operators CANNOT do our jobs, just like we can't do theirs, not a big deal when you think about it. However, it was my RESPONSIBILITY to tell operators "No" and I never lost a battle when I did it because I was the subject matter expert on logistics and it was my ass on the line, not the operators. I had already proven that I would go above and beyond to help the mission get accomplished, but I also had a duty to not put my command in a bind because the things I do go beyond the unit much of the time, especially when it concerns thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Commanders lose their jobs when troops like us don't do our jobs correctly, simple as that.

I take great pride in being a Paratrooper, Infantryman, and Quartermaster Soldier. I see myself as a professional who risked his life on numerous occasions on multiple deployments. When I deployed to A-stan with my SF unit, I did far more duties (that took me outside the wire a lot) than what was required for my job and some of it had ZERO to do with the ODA's. There are other things that go on outside of the A and B teams that can impact mission success. When I was serving in the infantry, it always chaffed my ass to hear infantrymen talk shit about support troops or complain about how easy they got it. I always told them that we chose this life of suck and there is no reason to talk about the support guys. Many of them wished they were us and some of the time we secretly wished we could have it as good as them, but we all chose the jobs we wanted. FF is not the first person to bring up the "cool guy" thing and like I said before, I understand what he was saying. But I want to make it clear that the vast majority of SOF personnel don't view ourselves as operators or anything close to that because we don't have to. We are members of the unit and we are special operations soldiers, what we do actually does matter. Not everyone can do the job proficiently and that is why some have been sent down the street and last I checked, it happens within the ranks of the operators as well.

You can have all the badges and schools you want, but in the end it is all about the unit you serve in and the job you did to help mission success. All the other "cool guy" bullshit don't matter and it never really did. You could be a full blown operator or a cook, but in the end, did you do your damn job? SOF support soldiers can have all the pride they want for serving in a special operations unit and no one should be trying to piss on it. Yeah, you got knuckleheads out there that take it to the extreme, but to paint with a broad brush and make it about SOF support in general is not right. There are far more professional SOF support troops than the idiots that make it into the ranks and let's not forget some of the riff raffs that make it through the Q course or RASP, nothing is ever perfect.

The bottom line is that you only need to look at the USASOC Memorial Wall and you will see not just the operators, but a good amount of support guys that got killed doing the mission. This idea that we are basically "second class" Soldiers is ridiculous and that is what FF's post comes off as saying in a way. Every combat unit has Shooters and Sustainers, and we are both equally critical for overall mission success, and that is the only thing that matters.
 

Marauder06

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... This idea that we are basically "second class" Soldiers is ridiculous and that is what FF's post comes off as saying in a way. Every combat unit has Shooters and Sustainers, and we are both equally critical for overall mission success, and that is the only thing that matters.


If you are tabless in Group, you ARE second-class. They even make you wear a different color hat to remind you of it.

What kinds of "special" selection and training did you have to go through to get into a Group as a support guy? Unless things have drastically changed in the years since Freefalling and I were assigned to support SF, the answer is, "none." Most likely, you were a needs-of-the-Army assignment to Group. That's not a ding on you, that's the way the system works.

There are very few jobs that an 18-series guy doesn't think (correctly, in most cases) that he or someone on his team can't do, or that they can't hire a local national to do for them. While we certainly make it easier for them, if you think they won't do it without you, or that you're accepted as a peer, you are sadly mistaken.
 

bugkill

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If you are tabless in Group, you ARE second-class. They even make you wear a different color hat to remind you of it.

What kinds of "special" selection and training did you have to go through to get into a Group as a support guy? Unless things have drastically changed in the years since Freefalling and I were assigned to support SF, the answer is, "none." Most likely, you were a needs-of-the-Army assignment to Group. That's not a ding on you, that's the way the system works.

There are very few jobs that an 18-series guy doesn't think (correctly, in most cases) that he or someone on his team can't do, or that they can't hire a local national to do for them. While we certainly make it easier for them, if you think they won't do it without you, or that you're accepted as a peer, you are sadly mistaken.

The "special" selection and training that operators get is for them to do their jobs and to weed out those not fit to do it. Don't make them "special" and sure as hell don't make them "first class". I and every other Soldier, Sailor, Marine, or Airmen, are nothing but numbers on a desk, but we are ALL equally important (and worthless) in the overall scheme of things. We all choose whatever job we want to do in the military, but NO ONE is bigger than the collective, not even the special operators. I could care less what the operators went through to attain the right for them to do their jobs, it was their choice and I respect their service, but that is as far as it goes.

I've been shot at and taken indirect fire, conducted raids in Iraq, and been on numerous patrols and convoys under combat conditions in support of the units I've served with, and I'd be damned if I'm going to allow someone with a tab or multiple tabs consider me "second class" or even allow other support troops to believe that. I've been fortunate enough to do some really cool things in my career and I was "lucky" enough to have seen combat and survive it.

I don't know what units you served in outside of SF, but I have had the honor to have served with some of the most dedicated Soldiers I have ever met and many of them did not wear any tab. Special Forces and Special Operations units in general perform specialized missions. Yes, in some conflicts, they are the tip of the spear, but guess what? Not every mission will suit their skill set. There are missions that they can't do, much less do by themselves. I know that the special operators are the most important element in a special operations unit because they are the machine that produces the results of the mission, while the support element keeps the machine running and also perform other duties.

What I'm basically saying is that I've done enough in my career to be able to hold my head up high and take pride in what I have done. When you have gone overseas on multiple deployments and risked your life doing your job, you don't consider yourself second rate to anyone. I hear what you are saying about 18E and the other SF MOS's and how important they are, but the bottom line is that their worth does not mean that I must accept this notion that I'm "second class" within the unit. We all have a part to play and my responsibilities were huge, but in a different way than what the operators had to do.

To answer your question of what I did to get assigned to group, I'll lay it out to you. I made a personal call to USASOC Strength Management and spoke to a MSG there. I told him that I wanted to be assigned to a special operations unit because I wanted to get back on jump status, tired of working in leg units, and that I would be 100% dedicated to the special operations mission no matter what unit I get assigned to. He looked up the units and had no slots for my MOS, but he liked the fact that I was hooah about everything and assigned me to an overstrength SF unit, true story. The "special" training that I had was that I was damn good at my job and I was more than willing to take on other duties outside the scope of my MOS. My performance dictated where I would go and I had to do an interview with the SGM and he liked me enough to put me in the battalion and not Grp HQ or GSC (GSB was not created yet).

Yep, no selection course to push me to my limits or a Q course to ensure that I learned the skills of a Green Beret, but guess what? Not my job and it has no bearing on what I think of myself and my fellow support Soldiers.
 
L

Lycurgus

Guest
Sorry bugkill, I have to disagree. We have plenty of support guys and I treat them with respect, but they know their place. Everyone's job is important to the overall mission, but this is the type of attitude that pisses off operators. Operators are not EQUAL to support. We are the guys that go on target and risk our lives day in and out, in combat and in training.
 

bugkill

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I'm not trying to escalate anything or take issue with anyone. I'm just saying that we don't need guys telling SOF support troops that they are not "cool guys" and having a list running down how we are supposed to "act" while serving in a special operations unit. Professionalism is not something that special operators own because everyone serving in the military has to have it, but not everyone does, even some special operators. I had a great time serving in SF and the sacrifices I made for mission accomplishment matters. I may not have been tabbed and went out there to train indigenous forces and rub elbows with tribal leaders, but I sure as hell put in work and put my life on the line on numerous occasions.

You can get badges in a number of units (I got more than two). You can roll out and get your kill on in a number of units (Shot some human beings in my time overseas). You can be a door kicker in a number of units (did raids in my time overseas). You can do a number of "cool guy" things without a tab and I resent anyone having the idea to belittle others due to their MOS who serve in a unit where everyone is committed to mission accomplishment, and where everyone has an important job to do make sure it gets done. Maybe my experience was different from other SOF support guys because I did not see it as a big deal that we got to do more training and shooting in SF. Yeah, my helmet was painted and I got the nice chest rig and got issued a M4A1 (with all the bells and whistles) and a Mk23, but it never crossed my mind that I was "cool" or that I was the shit. Gear is gear, but my job was priority #1, not schools and not badges, and I never saw anyone during my time in Group that really gave a shit about all that either.

We were all professionals and everyone did what they needed to do, there were none of this "I'm a Green Beret and you ain't shit" type of attitude going around. I would not understand why a Green Beret, Ranger, or other operator. would waste their time worrying about support Soldiers outside of them doing their jobs. Support troops have every damn right to be happy and proud to be serving in a special operations unit and doing their part, and some have paid the ultimate sacrifice doing it. They jump of out airplanes and some get to go out on missions, and if they feel like a "cool guy", I say they deserve to feel that way.
 

ZmanTX

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Bugkill,

First off thank you for your service and I understand what you are trying to say. However, I believe Freefalling's initial post was in regards to people who are a little overzealous who overstepped their boundaries by misrepresenting themselves or by trying to do more than what they are being asked...

Just my .02
ZM
 

AWP

Formerly Known as Freefalling
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First of all, our job is to support/sustain the SF mission, not to facilitate or enable the teams.

I'm curious, what SF mission doesn't involve the ODA's/ ODB's? Better still, what rough percentage of SF missions don't involve the ODA's/ ODB's?

You wish to take issue with my post, that's fine, you're certainly entitled to your opinion. I never stated that the support side were second class citizens. One of the points I made was that "it isn't about you" which is a mentality I've seen in Support roles. To be fair, I wouldn't even call it the mentality of every Support soldier or even a majority of Support/ Enabler types, but I've seen it enough to know that the customer is usually wary of his support slice. I've seen the mentality infect entire detachments in BSC or GSC (usually this is a leadership issue). I visited Camp Montrond as recently as 2010 and witnessed it there; it was bad enough that the BSC CDR sent an email to his leadership reminding them of many of the points I made above. The bottom line is that there are plenty of Support types out there, though they may be in the minority, who think that being in an SF unit suddenly makes them a superior soldier who is entitled to do "cool guy" things.

You've had a different experience? I'm honestly happy to hear that. Open your eyes around the BSC/ GSC and you'll see the guys I'm talking about. They are there and they are in larger quantities than is healthy. Look at your attachments on your next deployment, the mentality will exist there as well.

The hard, cold bottom line than many don't grasp is that they are there to perform their MOS and everything else is a bonus.
 

Brill

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First of all, our job is to support/sustain the SF mission, not to facilitate or enable the teams.

Uh, I know 350-1 and the FMs "say" my four-man team is capable of operating indepently of an ODA but 13 years of collective experience has changed that: we're attached to a team to do nothing more than ENABLE an ODA to conduct operations, either offensive or defensive. I take my marching orders from the TM SGT directly.

Hell, you might was well try to (wrongly) argue that CAS and MEDEVAC support/sustain their missions too.
 

bugkill

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I'm curious, what SF mission doesn't involve the ODA's/ ODB's? Better still, what rough percentage of SF missions don't involve the ODA's/ ODB's?

You wish to take issue with my post, that's fine, you're certainly entitled to your opinion. I never stated that the support side were second class citizens. One of the points I made was that "it isn't about you" which is a mentality I've seen in Support roles. To be fair, I wouldn't even call it the mentality of every Support soldier or even a majority of Support/ Enabler types, but I've seen it enough to know that the customer is usually wary of his support slice. I've seen the mentality infect entire detachments in BSC or GSC (usually this is a leadership issue). I visited Camp Montrond as recently as 2010 and witnessed it there; it was bad enough that the BSC CDR sent an email to his leadership reminding them of many of the points I made above. The bottom line is that there are plenty of Support types out there, though they may be in the minority, who think that being in an SF unit suddenly makes them a superior soldier who is entitled to do "cool guy" things.

You've had a different experience? I'm honestly happy to hear that. Open your eyes around the BSC/ GSC and you'll see the guys I'm talking about. They are there and they are in larger quantities than is healthy. Look at your attachments on your next deployment, the mentality will exist there as well.

The hard, cold bottom line than many don't grasp is that they are there to perform their MOS and everything else is a bonus.


I feel you on what you are saying and your initial post got me a bit riled up despite the fact I knew what you were trying to say. If you got a support Soldier or any Soldier for that matter who is good in PT, does his job well, and is serving in a unit that has a long historical history or is a specialized unit, there is going to be some cockiness there, totally unavoidable. When I walked around with my maroon beret and that SF patch, I got sneers and second looks from leg Soldiers and for what? Simply for being where they wish they could be.

I can guarantee you that all you guys on here that has or is currently serving in a SF unit in a support MOS, are looked upon outside the unit as being a cocky little bastard that thinks he is SF and you get called this for simply wearing your uniform. The Army is filled with haters and they can't stand SOF support because we get to parachute out of airplanes, get issued high speed gear and weapons, get advanced combat training, and granted access to the "secret squirrel" life inside the compound. You only have to wear the patch and opinions are flying, and 99% of the time these people don't even know you, but they sure as hell judge you right on the spot.

I've had to deal with that non-sense for a number of years and when troops finally ask me how it was to be "attached" to SF, I quickly make them understand that I was "assigned" to the unit and that it was a blast serving there because you do far more than you would in a conventional unit in a support MOS. I rarely ever mention what the operators do because their experience is not mine and I only tell people that they are good Soldiers like everyone else, and they do their job to the best of their ability like everyone else. I was more excited for being part of the SF mission than anything else and that is what I talk about, my experience doing my job. I was not there to rub elbows with Green Berets, but I did anyway. Was not there to pretend to be a "cool guy", but got accused of doing just that anyway. SF was just another unit that I served in, but it had its advantages because I was able to do some things that others in my MOS (or even in the infantry) will NEVER do in their careers.

When I served in the 82nd it was the same damn thing, people talking about shit that don't matter. I want troops to be cocky and feel superior to others if they are indeed handling their business. If you are squared away and you are proud to be where you are at, don't be afraid to show it because people will see it anyway, but you have to be professional about it. You are not supposed to flaunt it and that is when you would take a Soldier to the side and explain to them how professionalism works. You don't want SOF support to compare themselves to the operators, but they have to recognize their own worth to the unit and that is what matters. Telling support that they are there to serve an fairly insignificant purpose or that teams can do it without them is simply ridiculous and I could care less what manual says it or what Green Beret actually thinks it. My job performance impacts PART of the overall mission. I can't do their job and they are without a doubt the very tip of the spear for a SF mission, but they need significant pieces to get the SF mission completed, not just rely on the ODA's.

I'm just one of those dudes that don't like to hear all the "ladder" talk with respect to the unit. I know who I am and what my contribution meant to unit success, and that is all that matters. Not concerned with all the "cool guy" talk because if you are assigned to the unit, people will judge you anyway, so it really don't matter much. I respect all your opinions and I definitely see where many of you disagree with me and that's cool, not a problem at all. You guys have a great Memorial Day.
 

Brill

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The Army is filled with haters and they can't stand SOF support because we get to parachute out of airplanes, get issued high speed gear :hmm: and weapons, get advanced combat training, :hmm: and granted access to the "secret squirrel" life :hmm: inside the compound.

:wall:
 

Ranger Psych

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The Army is filled with haters and they can't stand SOF support because we get to parachute out of airplanes, get issued high speed gear and weapons, get advanced combat training, and granted access to the "secret squirrel" life inside the compound, .

without having been through any qualification or otherwise proving they're not a shitbag.

Blind faith is stupid. Why do you think Ranger Regiment has RASP for everyone? At least Ranger support actually gets selected to serve in the regiment for proven performance and exceeding the standard...... instead of just begging DA because you wanted jump pay back.

Our support wears the same f'ing beret as everyone else in the unit, because they earned that shit.
 
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