Special Operations: Special Forces Revises Training While Expanding


October 27, 2005: The U.S. Army is cutting the initial training course for Special Forces troops from 63 to 48 weeks. It will still take from 20 to 30 months to complete all necessary training, but the cut in the initial training is driven more by the increased number of candidates being trained than anything else. In 2001, the army got 282 new Special Forces troopers through the initial school, compared to 617 last year. The goal is to get the number up to 750 a year, and then take it even higher.

Perhaps more important has been the many changes made to the training as a result of recent combat experience. For example, the troops fire a lot more live ammunition, and use foreign languages more during the training, rather than waiting for troops to go through separate language and combat courses. Another big change is lots and lots of combat experienced instructors. These guys make a major difference. The combat experience has a lot to do with the many changes in the training.

The Special Forces has always been understrength. The typical twelve man "A Team" usually goes into action short three, four or more men. It's not just a shortage of Special Forces qualified troops, but additional training, or special assignments (as in espionage, training or even security) that takes operators away from their teams. There are about 500 A Teams in service, but about a quarter of them are from the reserves, and cannot be used as heavily as the active duty teams.

There is also apprehension among experienced Special Forces members that the expansion will lower quality. Hard to tell just yet. There have not been any disasters on this count so far. The army has been casting a wider net in its search for candidates, and many more qualified young men have been responding for patriotic reasons, and because there is a war going on. The Special Forces are the tip of the spear in the war on terror, and many potential candidates who would not consider joining in peace time, are ready to sign up because there is plenty to do.


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