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Teamwork Skills in U.S. Special Ops Programs

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When asked recently about the most important "non-physical" trait someone who is about to attend BUD/S or any other Special Ops selection program should have, it took a minute to decide on the "most important." Sure, you need mental toughness, a never quit attitude, and must be hard physically, but I think the most important non-physical trait is being a TEAM PLAYER.

Of course, there are individual challenges and tests that you alone must conquer, but no one makes it through any selection program by themselves. You must be a team player and help each other get through training TOGETHER.

What is a Team Player?

You might think that a team player must be an athlete in a former life, but there are many ways to be a team player. Not all Special Ops candidates are former athletes in high school or college. Most are, but it does not take an athlete to be in good physical shape and conditioning.

In fact, some of the best teammates I ever had played individual sports like wrestling or cross country, but also did something else like band or acted in plays. Yes, that is right! Some of the best team players I have seen had a background in music and acting, so do not knock the band members and drama club kids. Team work is team work no matter what it looks like.

Another example is the family team player. Some did not play any sports, instead working after school to help support their family either at a family business or just to earn more money to make ends meet. These guys join the military and send their paycheck home to help younger siblings buy food and clothes. Typically, they have a solid work ethic, are mentally tough, and have a great attitude when under a log or a boat. In their mind, they are working out for a living and have a place to sleep and plenty of food to eat. That is what team players look like.

On a side note, all sports of former team athletes are represented at BUD/S, however those sports that have a high rate of success are lacrosse, wrestling and any running (as long as you have a decent background with swimming comfort.

Team Event

You will be a team or boat crew carrying a boat (on head or by handles), paddling a boat, carrying a log, and general accountability each day. Your entire class is a team and you will succeed and fail together. The more your team fails, the more you pay the price in some form of extra physical events or time consuming duty.

Your respect for the team and holding yourself accountable to meet the standard as well as set the standard for your teammates is critical to your personal survival as well as your team's success. When someone from your boat crew or team is not meeting the standard and making it more difficult for the rest of the team, the boat crew leader has the duty to counsel that person. Do not team up against him and make him quit. It is the instructor's job to do that. The instructors will notice, especially if your boat or team is being dragged down by someone not pulling their own. Show up last a few times in races and you will see all the instructor attention you care for. That will either motivate the group to NEVER be in that situation again, or the weak links will fall. The goal as a team is to move smoothly from one event to another. This will make or break your team as it always "pays to be a winner." If you get caught up in petty bickering on who is not working hard enough, you can lose valuable time, fail events, and create a feeling of distrust within the team.

For instance, when you carry the boat by hand you are basically farmer walking the boat as a team. Eventually, one hand grip will fail and you have to switch hands. The only way to do that is to switch sides with one of your team mates. The best way is to switch out sides as a group -- almost like a Chinese fire drill in your car at a stop light (for lack of a better analogy). Both sides travel clockwise around the boat on verbal command and you are back to moving again within seconds.

Another example is Log PT. Overhead presses and holds of the log get tough quickly -- within minutes. However, if pushing a log, or a boat for that matter, over your head, your team needs to get good at implementing a quick push press versus a pure shoulder press. Simply by using your legs to push the log or boat to an overhead extended arm position will give your team some more time before failure kicks in. But this takes perfect timing and is a perfect example of how teamwork makes tasks easier for you and the team.

As stated, you cannot maneuver through these events without being a functionally working team. Once you have completed your selection, you will join what can be described as the ultimate in teams -- The Teams. Your success means your team lives another day -- it is that serious. So, go into training with a team work mentality. Rambo does not make it in the Teams.

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