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What Are You Thinking? or Not Thinking? Research Matters When Preparing for a New Career

Stew smith

 If You Are Considering ANY Path Towards ANY Career - Do Your Research!  Especially a Military / Spec Ops Path

You would be surprised at how many young people show up to a recruiter's office not knowing ANYTHING about the military. Not only are they unaware of the hundreds of types of jobs in the military, but have no clue on the basic knowledge of what they want to do, where they will potentially live, or any of the standards and requirements needed to enter the military in general. People seeking special ops are no different as they have no clue with the process to getting contract to attend Spec Ops training after boot / basic training nor do they know the training pipeline of any special programs.

Many recruits are basically there to learn everything from the recruiter - AND - that can be a good thing if you are lucky, but mostly the recruiter wants to get you on the bus to boot camp / basic training and that is it. There is nothing about the recruiter's job to help you prepare for anything other than the basic requirements of service and that is fine as long as you understand that. Getting the job you actually want may also be not available due to the needs of that military branch. What do you do then? Join anyway? Wait a few months until you can get the job you want? Train longer so you can crush the PT test before you go back to the recruiter's office? 

Your Over-Confidence or Under-Confidence Will End Your Dreams...

If you want to be taken seriously upon entering the recruiter's office and stating you want to go Special Ops, be READY to go Special Ops. What does that mean? Understand there are two phases you need to get through before you attend any special ops training program: 

Getting INTO the Military
(To the Training - Phase 1)

True - it is the recruiter's job to inform about the process to transition from civilian to becoming a military member and help you with that process. This is mostly administrative and having a recruiter that knows how to work the bureaucracy of the branch of service you seek is a plus in your favor. But you should have done enough research to know that there is an ASVAB test and a fitness test you will need to take and do well on depending on the job you seek. There are also academic, medical standards, pharmaceutical, and legal (birth certificates) / criminal records that need to be reviewed. This can take some time as every red flag of the above like a surgery requires a waiver process of some sort - even LASIK and PRK. 

There is much to understand about the process of getting into the military and TO the training. Whether that training is boot camp and the MOS / Rating training you prefer, or advanced training in the Special Ops programs within the military, the recruiter's job is to get you TO the Training - NOT THROUGH the Training. That is YOUR job and it requires much more than passing an ASVAB and fitness test. You can start your education by reading the requirements on the offical recruiting websites - really reading and understanding! This may not be a big issue to recruits who seek to serve within the conventional forces. However, the candidates for special ops programs cannot stroll into a recruiter's office and say they want to be a Special Operator and not understand the preparation that is required that typically goes far beyond any athletic activity can provide them alone. 

Official Military Special Ops Recruiting Links:


Navy SEAL / SWCC  - (if going SEAL or SWCC)

Army Special Forces - Special Forces, Ranger, 160th SOAR, Civil Affairs / Psy Ops are jobs within Army Special Operations Command.  

Air Force Special Warfare - ParaRescue, CCT, TACP, Special Recon, SERE are jobs within Air Force Special Operations Command - ground fighters. 

Marine Corps - RECON Recruiting and MarSOC Info


Check Out - Be a Better Recruit (Spec Ops Level)

For those seeking Special Ops Level advice on being a better recruit see the links below:

Be a Better Spec Ops Recruit / Candidate

Four Steps to Get Prepared for Spec Ops

Do Your Research - It takes time - so allow yourself some time. Show some initiative and be a self-starter. Go to ALL the official websites of the Department of Defense and read about the job opportunities, physical fitness requirements, and ASVAB scores you need for certain Army or Marine Corps MOS, Air Force AFSC, or Navy and Coast Guard Ratings.  Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC), and Ratings are also known as professions in the military and will be what you sign up to do (if you qualify). 

Air Force Careers

Navy Careers

Marine Corps Careers

Army Careers

Coast Guard Careers

Check out more info at Be a Better Recruit (conventional military)

But You Would Be Surprised...

Many people who go to take these advanced level Physical Screening Tests, have never learned how to swim, or even taken a practice test on their own. 

In fact, one of their first questions is "What is the fitness test and what are the minimum standards"?  Chances are they do not know their 1.5 mile run time or their 500yd swim test utilizing a special underwater recovery swim stroke like the Combat Side Stroke (CSS) or breast stroke. They very likely have never taken a two minute test in pushups, situps or max rep pullups either. You will quickly realize you are in over your head if this is you upon your first PST with the Spec War Scout Team.

By the way - the Scout Team is a group of specially trained recruiters who administer the fitness test (Navy). They are not necessarily from the Spec War Community - some may be. The Air Force Special Warfare recruiting process are using active / prior Special Warfare members to help screen and prepare their Spec War candidates however.  Air Force and Navy Special Warfare Similarities and Differences

The difference with the Army and the USMC is that there is a logical training pipeline you will take within the conventional side through infantry training, jump school, prior to getting to Ranger / Army SF or screening for RECON or MarSOC. The Navy and the Air Force do not have a training pipeline or first level job to do to prepare for Special Warfare so their recruitment process tends to come from the new graduates of boot camp or basic military training. 

# 1 Rule - Be able to crush the fitness BEFORE you walk into the recruiter's office. Learn the competitive standards and strive to exceed them. Then you can spend the months in the recruitment process focusing on getting THROUGH the training.  You will not be granted the opportunity to take the PST and join the Special Ops ratings in the Navy while at Boot Camp. You pre-qualify through the Navy Special Warfare Challenge Scout Team by hitting the competitive scores on the PST.

MOST IMPORTANT - Learn about the fitness test you have to take to get into the military as well as the fitness tests and selection challenges that you must prepare for to get THROUGH the training and graduate. There is plenty of information out there and you can start with - click the military or special ops links in the navigation bar / drop down menu (book or ebook format available). 

IF Navy - Know that you have to meet the competitive standards of the Navy SEAL, SWCC, EOD/Diver PST in order to get a contract in these Special Warfare / Special Operations programs - you cannot go into these jobs with the bare minimum standards. Then the other thing that is very important to realize is that the fitness test that you have prepared significantly to master is only the tool to get you TO the training. It is not going to prepare you for the 4 mile timed runs, 2 mile swims with fins, rucks, and other load bearing activities like boats, and logs. and equipment / personnel carries. This may require time to build up the strength and endurance capable of handling those events beyond the standards of the entry level fitness test. 

LASIK / PRK for Eye Sight? 

Did you know that the corrective surgeries LASIK and PRK are waiverable for many of the jobs in the military? Did you know that if you get the surgery before your military service, you have to wait six months before you can join the military? Many use that time to train even more so look at it as a blessing becuase as soon as your get through MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) and enrolled into the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) your timeline is now not your own. You may get a few months before you ship to continue training, but if you cannot pass the PST at this point, you have a long way to prepare yourself to not only get TO the training and get a contract, but you are way behind the curve to be prepared enough to get THROUGH the training after boot camp / basic. 

Color blindness or depth perception is also a killer (non-waiverable) to the Spec Ops dream in the Navy, but other branches of service are more lenient with these ailments. 

Check This Out: Things that can ruin your spec ops / any service career before it even starts. 

Getting Your Mind Right 

Your physical fitness levels need to be high, but it goes much deeper than that to ensure success when attending high attrition rate special ops programs. You will need an answer for "how bad you want this" Ask Yourself How Bad Do You Want This? 

There is a Moment of Truth when your Will Will Be Tested where your answer to the questions of why you are doing this to yourself also need an answer. 

Related Articles on the Topic

Are You Mentally Ready? Special Ops Level Tactical Fitness Training Ideas for the future: 

Determine Your Why, - Why Do You Want to do This?

Twelve Questions / Answers About Mental Toughness

Quitting or Not Quitting - The Choice is YOURS  

Getting TO and THROUGH Training (Two Phases of Tactical Fitness)

Learn How to do Seasonal Periodization to Build Tactical Athlete Skills

For You Special Candidates
(Get in Shape LONG Before You Join)

Which Program is Right For Me?

It Depends...Special Ops Candidates  


(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. We also have training programs to help you with training as you age in these professions (Tactical Fitness 40+ series). 


It is not all just calisthenics and cardio at Stew Smith Fitness

These programs have Lift Cycles in them as part of our Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System. But, do not get these lift cycles confused with ACTUAL strength / power lifting programs, these are strength / power programs that also have a focus on cardio fitness maintenance BECAUSE you need to be good at all the elements of fitness and develop into an all-round Tactical Athlete.  

Most Recent Spring / Summer & Fall Winter Programs:
(click to read more)

Who is Stew Smith? Coach, Trainer, Author, PodcasterI'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

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  • Harley Shoaff on

    Hi Stew, I am a Marine grunt (Division Recon, don’t know if the Corps still has this unit .) Vietnam vet.
    I am a former Golden Gloves Champion and still train for boxing , swim a couple of hours daily and do a rigorous program of calisthenics.
    I came upon your YouTube videos accidentally but happily and enjoy them very much.
    I recommend them to anyone I meet who seems to need advice and encouragement. Whether they are old heads like me or teens and regardless of their future plans.
    I am certain that you have studied the ideas of Admiral Stockdale and how he applied the principles of Stoic Philosophy in coping with his experiences as a POW. I had the good fortune to have a one on one chat with him in his office and I still think of him often and try to follow his example.
    I taught history in Lancaster County, PA and when I saw the series “ Band of Brothers “ , I learned of Major “ Dick” Winters and found out he was from Lancaster and graduated from Franklin and Marshal College . When he began to be asked to speak at local historical societies, I got tickets to attend everyone.
    He was a very humble man, truly so ,you can tell it came from the real humility that welled up inside him.
    He even brought out the very best in his audiences , not one time did I see a questioner use the Q&A time to pontificate. All asked questions that they wanted him to answer . I was glad to hear every question and listened intently to every answer. This was the feeling throughout the room in every venue.
    I wanted to ask a question , but didn’t because I had read about him and heard him speak so many times that I was pretty certain I knew the answer .
    To ask a question would have been nothing but self-indulgent . I had served under men like Major Winters and knew there was no secret .

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