Book Recollection: Chosen Soldier

Admittedly, I am a rabid reader of books covering aspects of our military.  Specifically, the various special forces.  One of the reasons is due to be very curious as to what type of individual that willingly signs up for this occupation and with that said, what it takes for them to succeed.  I like to consider myself somewhat in shape until I read what these soldiers have to do and it motivates me to do more.  It has been awhile since I had the time to actually read a book, but a few weekends ago our dogs were showing in the Teacup Dog Agility Nationals in Racine Wisconsin.  If you know anything about this event, you are aware there is a lot of down time between the runs.  This was a perfect opportunity to finish a book on my list.

Today’s book review is Chosen Soldier: The Making of a Special Forces Warrior by Dick Couch.  Without hesitation, I can declare this book is right up there with Lone Survivor which is my favorite book (if you have not read or listened to that book, do it immediately).  It also has the distinction of being a 100 fold better than the last military book I read called Warrior Soul.   A big reason for this is the author.  Mr. Couch is a former Navy Seal who was offered the opportunity to observe and write about the process of becoming a Green Beret (contrast that with the Warrior Soul which felt more like a look at me I’m great work).  It was honest, frank and most of all very informative.  I had no idea of the diverse backgrounds this military branch pulled from or its focus as “head of the spear”, tasked with going in ahead of our military might and disrupting the establishment.  They infiltrate, link up and organize local fighters and train them to take control once the military goal is achieved.    Unlike the Seals and Marines who are primarily attack forces, this branch stressed language, culture teaching, medical, engineering and adaptive thinking.  This, of course, is in addition to the elite fighting skills of the other groups.   Even Mr. Couch admitted the stunning difference which means a lot from someone trained as a Seal.

I could barely put this book down to catch the dogs’ runs.  I am completely impressed by the approach taken by the instructors and have a lot more respect for every individual to make through this ordeal and earn their tabs.  To be honest, I even respect those who try their best but find they can’t get to the required level.  As Dick quotes in the book, the Green Berets may lose a candidate in their ranks, but the reassigned branch gains a better soldier.  Those that do make it through are in my opinion as good as it gets both in conditioning, judgment and very apparent in leadership.  Once their job of protecting the interests of the United States are completed, they are more than prepared to excel in any business activity they chose to set their sights on.  My respect and gratitude to those who have earned the Green Beret.

Catch the jump for my recollections:

Here are the things that stood out in Chosen Soldier for me

  • The creed of the Special Forces soldier includes “I will never surrender though I am the last”  – kind of chilling but sets the expectations in battle very clear
  • The creed also includes the word “teach” which rings heavy in their training – again, their purpose is to get in and teach people to defend themselves.  They also practice this ability by teaching their teammates their individual specialties
  • The fact that Hamas rules through an election is against Islamic Law
  • The average age of a Special Forces soldier is ~32 – the entire Marine Corp has an average of 19
  • ~600 soldiers earn their Green Berets each year
  • Clandestine operation means kept secret from enemy – Covert means it is kept secret and the involvement of the US Government is kept quiet
  • 39 of the 46 Iraq deck of cards were captured through Special Forces intelligence
  • Two predictors of Special Forces success – earning the Ranger tab and foreign language (all must speak multiple languages and having this ability beforehand seem to have better interpersonal skills
  • The Army Physical Fitness test top score is 300 – at least 71 pushups  in 2 minutes, at leat 78 situps in 2 minutes and run two miles in under thirteen minutes.  – minimum is 42, 53 and just under 16 minutes.  Needless to say I will be setting new goals for my own fitness
  • All students are timed on a 5 mile run – cutoff is 40 minutes
  • A key attribute for a special forces member is being able to relate to others and can function in a cross-cultural environment -this characteristic is nurtured from the very start of the process
  • Finally learned what the PX is – Post Exchange or mail
  • During one of the phases each candidate is required to bring a book to read on down time  – want to guess which book is the most popular.. here is a hint, it begins with a B.  Second in popularity are Clancy books
  • Each candidate is put through mental screenings – Wonderlic Personnel Test – predict an individual’s ability to learn, adapt, solve and understand instructions, the Test for Adult Basic Education and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personal Inventory which is a psychological assessment tool – again, what type of person joins up for this punishment in the first place.
  • Timothy McVeigh went through the training and was flagged by the psych test as highly unsuitable candidate – he quit
  • Once selected as a candidate, 1 out of 10 will not elect to continue either because of pressure back in their old military branches to remain with them or a decision this isn’t what they want to do
  • Failing to have a round in the chamber with safety on is a violation and dismissal
  • Sandbox 101 is a required class – teaches them how to build target replicas
  • Northrop Grumman apparently hires retired Green Berets who act as civilian trainers in the process
  • POW is name given to Americans taken captive – ones we take are EPWs or Enemy Prisoner of War
  • A DUI or incident in a bar is immediate dismissal
  • Special Forces officers are immediately put in their roles in the theater – by contract Seals platoon leaders are often on their third rotation before
  • All US mines currently have a half life which causes them to explode or become inert after a period of time
  • Their field LANs are a based on Windows 2000 Professional – think about that the next time you talk down on MS products
  • They actually recommend their soldiers procure their own armor vests (armor is provided) that are more configurable to their needs
  • We have Rules of Engagement .. the enemy does not – nothing like sending in a force and handicapping them to appease the legals back in their comfy chairs stateside
  • Leaders must make sure their soldiers have their wills filled out
  • There are a number of different specialties in the Special Forces identified by their call names – Deltas-medical, Bravos-weapons, Charlie-engineers, Echo-communications etc.
  • Delta creed “I am a Warrior first and a Medic second”
  • Special Forces must be aware of cultural differences – gestures, slang etc.
  • My favorite quote “This is the Special Forces, not some liberal-arts, feel-good program”  … good thing I went to the college of Engineering or I would be insulted 8^)
  • They can actually modify their weapons to fire paint balls for their gunfight scenarios – called simunitions
  • Special Forces soldiers can be put in harms way within weeks of graduating – contrast that with Navy Seals which can take up to 18 months
  • I HIGHLY recommend reading his Epilogue if you want a dose of reality on why we are currently at war and the commitment media and the citizens need to have – outstanding

All I can say is pick it and read or listen to it.  You will not be disappointed unless you are a toilet paper parading liberal that thinks war isn’t the reason you have the protected right to free speech.  Now off to read up on Obama’s military experience – I want to contrast this against the National Guard service that Bush was ridiculed for – yes, I know this will be a brief research.

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