Wannabes/ Newbies: Start Here


Intel Enabler
Verified SOF
Sep 9, 2006
Originally posted by @compforce

Let me tell you about backup plans… This is going to be a long one

I’ve always wanted to be military and Special Operations. When I was 6 years old we had to do a kindergarten assignment “what do you want?” I drew a stick Army man with the caption “I want to have a machine gun”.

At 17, I was a Junior in high school at my 13th school in 12 years. When my mother told me that we were moving again, I simply said “no, I’m not”. I went down and talked to the Army recruiter and three days later I was at MEPS. I had the ASVAB score for any MOS. The recruiter at MEPS said to me that because I didn’t have a degree, I could only enlist in the Infantry. I looked at him and said “Perfect, I want to be Infantry and go Airborne, Ranger then SF”. I left MEPS with a shiny new DEP contract for the Infantry.

I worked hard as an Infantryman. I embraced the suck. I finished my last few high school classes and got my diploma. I went from E1 to E4(p) in 15 months. I was stationed in Korea when the SF Recruiting team came to post. By then I had learned that Ranger was not a requirement for SF so I went down to the theatre where the briefing was held. I did the paperwork, did the swim test and PT test. I scored higher on that PT test than I had ever done before. I was two pushups short of maxing the test for the first time in my career. When I was on the two mile run, I sprinted the whole thing for a time of 11:34. It was 45 seconds better than my fastest normal test. I wanted it. With every bone in my body I wanted to be one of those guys that was the best at what they did.

When I got to Ft Campbell the company was going to JRTC two days after I got there. When I met the 1SG, he asked me if I could be ready and told me that I didn’t have to go if I needed time to settle in. I went. When we were standing down in the old barracks, the 1SG said he had a slot for PLDC that was one month away and asked if I could be ready. I went and was on the Commandant’s list. The night of graduation I went back to the barracks and was going to go out with some of the guys. I was driving a friend’s car and we were screwing around, fighting in the front seat. I got pulled over for swerving and something about the officer’s attitude pissed me off. I made a few smart assed comments to him and he charged me with DUI. As an aside, that officer was later fired for harassing the military folks. I chose to fight it in court as I had only had one beer before leaving and was not even close to drunk. The case was eventually thrown out of court.

Fast forward to June of 1990. My orders for SFAS came in. I went to the 1SG (the new one) and showed him the orders. He told me that I had a flag to favorable actions and a bar to reenlistment because of the DUI charge. I told him that it had been thrown out of court and asked why I still had a flag and bar. It turns out that the paperwork on those wasn’t done until the day after I notified him I had received the orders. It was a convenient excuse to keep a soldier in the company. I still did my job to my best ability. I called the contact number from the orders and the schoolhouse told me there was nothing I could do but wait it out for my next assignment or ask for an administrative transfer then impress the new unit so they’d remove the flag.

I went to Desert Storm and Desert Shield with the flag still hanging over me. In January 1991 the promotion points finally dropped. They had been at 998 for so long that I actually had more time as an E4(p) than I had as all the other ranks leading up to it. It had been almost two years since I passed the board. When I didn’t get promoted, I started going up the Chain of Command. At every level the answer was the same. It’s the Company’s prerogative. Then it was time to put away the administrative stuff and move to the Iraq border…

When we got back, I tried to get the flag removed again, but the Company refused. I had been the only E4 Squad Leader for almost two years. Every time a bad detail came down the other squad leaders were pushing it on my guys because I was the lowest ranking squad leader with the lowest average rank in the squad. I was pushing back telling them it wasn’t fair to the guys that they got every shitty detail because they were unlucky enough to land in my squad. Again, I was preaching to deaf ears. I had some other personal crap happen along the way too. My motivation was crushed. When the Army decided to offer early outs to E4 and above after DS, I took it.

In 1999 I realized that I missed it. I tried to get back in. The problem was that I was taking Xanax for stress. That was a permanent disqualifier. I applied for a waiver and it went to the Army Surgeon General, who denied the waiver. For four years I applied for a waiver and each year it was denied. Finally, in 2005 I decided that I was going to try one more time and if they denied it again, I was going to stop. I figured I would have a better chance of getting in if I went National Guard. By that time, I had found out that you didn’t have to enlist in the state you lived in. So I went down to the recruiter at 20th Group and talked with him. I had to go through a pretty laborious process, I needed two waivers, a medical one for the Xanax and one for my RE code (I was RE-3 because of the way I got out). But I got it all done and had an interview with the commander of 20th. He liked me, liked my IT experience and gave me the opportunity. I told him that I was going to train up to go to selection. And I did. I started training, hard. I got my run times down. But age had caught up to me. I was constantly injuring and reinjuring myself. As my time in Group continued, I got broken more and more. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was never going to be able to go to selection. So I focused on what I could do. I contributed everything that I could, while around me were all the guys that had gotten to a place that I had wanted to be my entire life.

This has been a long post, but the point I am making is that you can push, train, do all the right things and circumstances can still conspire to take away the dream. Just like an NFL rookie can get in the show and blow out his knee in the first game, your dream of being in SOF can be taken. But you don’t quit, never give up and you can still contribute in a meaningful way. You never know where life may take you. I’ll never wear the beret that I wanted for my whole life, but I got to serve with some of the finest men on the planet. For 7 years I was treated as one of their own.

I truly hope you make it and will help any of you to reach your goals. This post isn’t to take away your motivation, it’s to help you understand why that backup plan is necessary. You can be a PT stud. You can check all of the boxes. You just don’t know where life will take you.

Have a plan.