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BEWARE: Things That Can End Your Spec Ops Journey (before it even starts)

Stew smith

Wanting To Be Something and Working Tirelessly To Achieve It Are On Opposites Sides of the Goal Achievement Spectrum

Wanting it is NOT ENOUGH. It is a good place to start...but there is so much more ahead of you no matter what the goal you have for yourself. 

You can apply this to any goal you "want" to achieve, but the journey to become a member of any special ops unit is going to be a long, dark, and cold road that takes you to places in your own head to test how bad you really want it. 

Failing, Quitting, Changing Their Mind

For most special ops candidates, the most common issues go into this group of three reasons why the journey ended for them is: failing to meet the standards (physical, academic, etc), quitting, or simply changing their mind. All of which are caused being emotionally (maturity), mentally or physically unprepared. Though there are some reasons why your spec ops journey ended before it even started that is completed out of your hands. For instance - not meeting the medical standards to enter the military (vision, hearing, unwaiverable ailments, etc) 


- Exceeding the Standards IS the Standard - I have seen "exceeding the standard IS the standard" work for myself and my students. Bringing your A-Game to your preparation then eventually your testing / selection will set you apart many ways:

You will never think about quitting when you think about winning. Exceeding the standard puts you in good company with those who win events in training.
Setting the highest of standards requires significant preparation, but during that journey is where the real magic occurs - you get stronger, faster, and more mentally tough.

Your motivation builds habits. Your habits build discipline. Your discipline helps you get to where you are going when you don't feel like moving. Your discipline allows you to find the fuel when the tank is empty and REMEMBER WHY YOU STARTED THIS JOURNEY IN THE FIRST PLACE.

- Quitting is a Choice - No matter what goal or challenge we take on in life, there tends to be that moment that occurs along the journey where you make a decision because you are forced with a choice of quitting or not quitting. The goals, the timelines, the processes are different for each of us, but we typically have to rely on pure will, guts, determination, and remember “our why” in order to be successful with the personal or team mission you are trying to accomplish. The process that we have to consider is how do we best utilize our past, present, and even the future to help us get through what feels like sticking points in personal, professional, team, or military selection goals.

- I Changed My Mind - I never understood this one. The time it takes most candidates to prepare themselves to endure boot camp, basic training, Academies, then pre-training, is a significant multi-year process. It is your right to change your mind, but most people change their mind when things get really hard OR the journey looks like it is going to never end. Basically, you let something get into your head and change your mind. This is every bit a mental toughness issue as enduring physical pain and cold. If you can leave your journey with a statement of "this is not for me", I understand. But, selection is not for ANYBODY. Selection is the gateway to get to where you want to be and you have not even experienced enough to say, "this is not for me." 

Injuries - Unfortunately injuries occur and many of them are due to not being prepared for the work load that your body was tasked to perform on any given day and it broke on you. Though some injuries happen simply due to bad luck, most of the injuries that occur during military selection programs are due to over-use injuries. This "over-use" label is completely relative as some people do not sustain these injuries and some receive chronic versions of these due to their lack of thorough preparation. There are other injuries however that have ended people's journey long before it even started.

PC: D McBurnett (@mcteams3842) Uncommon Grit

Beware of These Potential Injury Makers Six Months Out From Shipping

There is a reason why I recommend special ops candidates to stop doing potentially dangerous activities 6 months (or more) prior to shipping out for training.  The following is a list of things I have seen great spec ops candidates / students experience countless times prior to shipping: 

- Contact Sports - If you are still playing explosive contact sports (rugby, football, lacrosse, etc), the chances of you injuring yourself are great.  Even small ankle sprains can affect running / swimming with fins / rucking preparation needed for many of the spec ops schools in the near future.  But surgery needing injuries could jeopardize or delay the process and even make you disqualified to serve period. 

- Martial Arts - MMA, Judo, JuiJitsu, Boxing, and Wrestling have caused many great athletes and spec ops candidates to injure themselves with broken hands (requiring surgery), dislocated joints, and sprains that limited the training intensity and ability of events needed to better prepare themselves for selection. 

- Long Distance Running Events - Marathons, 50+ or 100 mile races on unprepared legs to test your mental toughness borders on the fine line between mental toughness and stupidity.  It becomes stupid when you can no longer run or ruck after the event for months due to injury.  This does not make you mentally tough, it makes you injured, delays training, and perhaps involves disqualifying surgery with long recovery periods. 

- Road Biking (triathletes) - Crashing on a bike going 20 miles an hour can cause serious injury and even death. I have seen it happen too many times that I added to my list of things to be careful doing prior to shipping. 

The above recommendations are written in blood by previous unlucky candidates, that I have personally witnessed AND warned them prior to continuing these undertakings. Some still went onto continue their successfull Spec Ops career, but many were left in the "almost served" category.  If you are going to do these events, do them with a long period of time prior to shipping / joining the military (6-12 months) at least in order to deal with any of the injury issues that can occur at a higher rate than other activities. 

PS - if you want to do these type of hobbies when in your unit, go ahead, many special operators do during their operational time and later after service.  Depending on your timeline to start selection in your near future, these activities may not be wise to do.  

Not Taking Your LIfe Seriously - This goal many seek is not a kid's game. Most candidates in their teens do not make it through the selection process and are often part of the attrition rate long before selection even starts quitting in the prep courses or even changing their mind during the pre-training pipeline. 

If you do not know that the task you are undertaking is going to be the hardest thing you have ever done up to this point in your life, you are kidding yourself and are not in the right mindset to handle the selection process. Still doing things that can get you arrested or in trouble should make you realize you are not ready for this type of journey. Get your stuff together and start taking this seriously or you could jeopardize the next 4-5 years of your life and where you want to be. This journey will require you to bring your A-Game day after day. Putting on your game face and seeing each daily challenge head on is what is required on top of meeting the standards set by the course of instruction. 

It is not fun watching a spec ops candidate cry realizing that a dream is shattered, but if that is / was you, you can turn it around and crush the next goal in front of you with some new skills from the learning experience (not a failure). 

Who Is The Coach, Trainer, Author Stew Smith?

 I'm the former Navy SEAL that special ops candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession.  See More at

What Programs Are Right For YOU?

It depends on your scores compared to other successful students.  See the Assessment Tool to Make it To and Through Selection and see where you stack up with all the elements of fitness - not just a PST score. 


It depends:  The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness is a classic and focuses on high rep calisthenics and running and swimming base.  You will build up your running over 12-18 weeks to 20 miles but very fast paced focus on both the 1.5 mile run for the PST and the 4 mile timed run for weekly run test at BUDS. If you are an athlete with a strong power / strength background in lifting and not running or swimming, Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you. IF you need some place to start Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you as well because a calisthenics base / running / swimming progression is a good place to build a foundation.  Though you will likely need to spend some time in the Navy SEAL Weight Training Book OR if Navy SEAL FItness is too challenging, go with Navy SEAL SWCC, EOD, Diver, PST Phase 1 Workout.  Phase 1 is a good starting point if Navy SEAL Fitness program is too tough. 

Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver Program Series - Phase 1 is what I call a beginner guide, but it is still challenging.  It is geared toward those who are scoring minimally or failing their Navy PST test - 500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, 1.5 mile run.  It is easier than The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and a good prep course before attempting it. 

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Tactical Fitness Series - Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, and Tactical Mobility is an ALL-encompassing program that focuses on lifting, calisthenics, run, ruck, swim, speed, agility, and flexibility / mobility. Many people focusing on USMC (OCS, RECON, MarSOC) Army Ranger / SF, Air Force Special Warfare, SWAT / Federal Law Enforcement, and Navy Special Warfare have done very well focusing on the Tactical Fitness Series and developing themselves into an all-round Tactical Athlete

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Special Ops – Most of my programs tend to focus on getting TO and THROUGH a specific tactical training program. So you may see a mix of all the seasons in some of these books, but if you are training long term, you can take advantage of Seasonal Periodization and save yourself some of the over-use, long term pains that tend to follow many of the tactical preparations - especially on the spec ops level of training. 

Start training today with workouts that focus on the specifics of getting to and through tactical profession training from firefighter, police, swat, military to special ops. We have programs to help you get TO and THROUGH training.


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