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Have You Ever Seen a Spec Ops Candidate Cry?

Stew smith

Don't Shatter Your Spec Ops Dream -
Prepare Well and Pass Selection On The First Try

Photo by D McBurnett (@mcteams3842) Uncommon Grit

Common Mistakes People Make And Fail to Get 
TO and THROUGH Training

Now that I grabbed your attention, first of all, I am not making fun of people crying. It is normal to cry when something or someone you love is lost - so don't go there as you will miss the most important part of this article - how to avoid having your dreams shattered. If you want to make it TO and THROUGH training, you want to read this: 

The military is full of former aspiring special ops candidates. In fact, hundreds of special ops candidate join the ranks of the conventional branches of service each year. To avoid being part of the 75-80% of the special ops candidates that fail, it is up to YOU on how hard you prepare and how bad you want it. 

Here is a list of ten mistakes that a majority of people make every year somewhere during their journey:

1) Lack of Research and Preparation Time Prior to Enlisting - This is the start of a new career. You would think you would want to give yourself time to prepare - really prepare and actually learn something about the profession.  This may actually take a few years to do it right. Just because you are 18 and eligible to serve, does not mean you should - yet. Set a performance starting line not some arbitrary timeline that sets you up for failure. 

- One Stop Shop for Spec Ops Research

- Set a Performance Starting Line - Are You Good Enough?

- There is NO excuse in not having read every page of the Official Navy SEAL / SWCC website. 

2) Know Your Why. Not many have really thought this one through. Why are you doing this? Your WHY has to create a strong answer when you are tired, cold, wet, sandy, and miserable and alone with your thoughts. What will you tell yourself? This is the test right here you have been waiting for - be ready to crush it and "talk to yourself - don't listen to yourself." There will be a moment of truth - how will you answer that test? 

3) Focus on the PST ONLY and Fail to Prep for Selection Events - Too many candidates just get good at the PST as they joined DEP too early and spent all of DEP just trying to get a contract to get TO the training and did not have the time or ability to focus on the next level:  Getting THROUGH the Training.  If your training is not including 4 mile timed runs, 2 mile swim with fins, some rucking and load bearing to prepare your body for what it needs to endure, chances are you won't even make it to Hellweek. Here is a link of an average of outstanding physical scores that will help you if you can get close to them with both phases:  TO and THROUGH.  Assess Yourself before you Wreck Yourself. 

4) Are You Mentally Ready?  Mind games and negative feedback are constant. Can you handle it? Can you handle not being the best at something?  How about being the worst at something and you struggle with all your ability to meet the standard? You have a lot of new skills to learn on a steep learning curve, in a new environment, that is high stress, in a new city, missing home, getting asked to perform at levels you once thought impossible, and being challenged by instructors every day. Are you ready for this snowball of stress? Most people are not. 

Are You Mentally Tough? You Can Develop It BUT It Takes Time

5) Are You Ready for a Full Day's Work? BUDS is not 100% working out, but you rarely stop moving and when you do you have to be learning something new. Some training days turn into nights as well. Being able to workout for a few hours, work the full day in manual labor jobs, prepping gear late into the evening, and repeat over and over is a grind.  Are you really ready for the grind - because there is no nap time at BUDS - unless your boat crew wins a race on day 3 of Hellweek. Most people are not ready for this. 

Getting Prepared for a Hard Day's Work vs. Just Good at a Fitness Test 

6) "Don't practice until you get it right. Practice until you can't get it wrong."  You will have to learn new skills quickly.  Some of these are physically demanding, some are tactically challenging and your ability to acquire the ability to learn what you were just taught is part of the training. Can you follow procedures that will one day save your life in a high stress training environment. This may mean spending weekends at Prep or BUDS in the pool practicing drownproofing, knot tying, treading until you cannot get it wrong!

6) Pool Skills - Neglecting your water confidence when it comes to treading water, drownproofing, and other challenging SCUBA events is a way to get dropped from training. Once again,  "Don't practice until you get it right. Practice until you can't get it wrong." This comfort in the water may take time, lessons to learn techniques, and tons of practice getting in shape physically and mentally. The water, whether it is too cold or too uncomfortable is a great equalizer with the toughest of candidates in the pipeline. Get in the pool or go Army. 

7) Over-Confident and Under-Confident - These are Two Danger Signs That Will Affect Your Success.  You know who these are. The ones who won't shut up about making it through training and the ones who feel completely overwhelmed by the anxiety of actually starting. Many have a bad day in prep and decide, "if I cannot handle BUDS Prep how am I going to handle BUDS?". Their journey has just ended inside their own head.  Or you say, "I have a lot to work on, better start putting in the time to learn this skill or get into better shape".  Typically neither one of these guys make it. When we talk about maturity - this is what we mean typically. 

8.  Injuries - These just suck. Most of the time they are just bad luck and accidental. But sometimes a candidate will get involved in sports, martial arts, or over-train very close to leaving for Boot Camp. I have seen many get dropped before they even can join the Navy due to an unnecessary injury (broken hand, leg, concussion, motor cycle accident, etc). I cannot tell you how many were medically disqualified within months of shipping out over the years. Be smart and take your health seriously. Training accidents happen, you do not have to increase your chances of injury by doing additionally dangerous activities. 

PC: D McBurnett (@mcteams3842) Uncommon Grit
9) Team Player - You have to be able to work well with others. Use your strengths to balance out your team's weaknesses and the same goes for you. Being able to offer techniques, useful advice, and just be helpful will pay off with huge dividends along your journey. You do not make it through any of this alone and you need your teammates to offer you the same assistance along the way eventually.  We all do. BUDS has a way of exposing weaknesses that you may not have realized you had, but being part of a good team will help everyone. Don't be a dick. Peer evaluations matter. 
10) Finally, DON'T BE STUPID.  This one is really important because every year people will get kicked out of the program for lying, cheating on tests, or breaking rules. Too many good people who decided to not follow the rules have been kicked out in 2nd and 3rd phase for no other reason was they sought an easier route.  BUDS is hard.  It is supposed to be hard. Expect it. 
Most of these mistakes above are within our control and you can enjoy this journey if you have some patience with the process, join when you are READY to crush the PST on day 1, and make good decisions along the way.  Eventually, if you want to do a serious job, you have to start taking your life and training seriously. 

If you want help, that’s what I do…. Check out these resources that have helped spec ops candidates succeed where others have failed for the last 20+ years!

There is More To than a You May Know

Who is Stew Smith CSCS? Coach, Trainer, Writer, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that tactical candidates go to for books, eBooks, local 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

(In fact, there are more than 40 books, 1000+ articles, online coaching - and more) 

Where to Find More Information About Optimal Performance Training Programs

When you start training again, consider the seasonal tactical fitness model.  I call it A WAY to train and obviously not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity to never neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, but will also put you at a level of physical abilities where you are happy with your overall ability to do just about anything. We have a system where the seasons dictate our training. When it is nicer outside, we tend to run and do more calisthenics. When it is colder and not so nice, we lift more, run less, and still maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.  

Where Optimal Performance Will Be Tested Each Day

The Specific Military / Special Ops Physical Fitness Workouts 

Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4  Grinder PT
Navy SWCC Workout

Army / Air Force Advanced Fitness / Special Ops 

Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout
Army Air Assault School Workout
Army Airborne Workout
Air Force Special Warfare IFT / OFT / Selection Prep


Advanced Running Program - Special Ops Supplement Plan
USMC OCS / TBS Workout


The Combat Conditioning Workout
Air Force PJ / CCT Workout  Battlefield Airman Prep Course
The UBRR Upper Body Round Robin Workout / Spec Ops version


The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer / Navy SAR Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Boot Camp Workout


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Workouts

The FBI Academy Workout  |   FBI Workout Vol 2  
The DEA Workout
The FLETC Workout - Ace the PEB
The PFT Bible: Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5 Mile Run
The Fire Fighter Workout - Ace the CPAT


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Online PT CLUB - Weekly Workouts created personally for you.

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If you want access to years worth of workouts, many of the top eBOOKs, favorite workouts of the week, free fitness APP, closed Facebook Group, video / picture library of exercises, and more access to LIVE Q/A sessions check out the Stew Smith Fitness Members Section

The dashboard below has the links to all the information, archives, videos, and links to workouts, podcasts, live Q and A lessons. 

Consider this! - A Membership Program and Gain Access to Exclusive Content
(click for Fitness Club Dashboard - members only)

Best of all, if you have questions, email Stew Smith himself (  Join the tactical fitness group discussions, latest articles, videos, podcasts at the Stew Smith Tactical Fitness Training Closed Group on Facebook.


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