At some stage, almost every gung-ho Adrenalist dreams about joining a Special Forces cadre. Although fighting is extremely dirty work, Special Forces organizations retain a sheen of glamour and honor. It helps that Special Forces members must be some of the most highly trained men in any field – the ultra-effective elite of the elite.
Do you think you could cut it as a Special Forces agent? Here is some intel on five extreme military tests and workouts.
To qualify as navy SEAL, you must be an active-duty member of the Navy and have staggering powers of endurance for several reasons. For starters you need to be able to swim 457.2 meters in 12 minutes or less. Ready for endurance running? SEALS must belt out at least 4 miles in 28 minutes in boots. Other challenges include a lung-mangling 50-meter underwater swim and the particularly sadistic sounding swimming pool “drown-proofing test.” And let’s not forget the underwater knot tying and cold water conditioning also called “surf torture.” Tough stuff but just wait until you get to Hell Week, which is every bit as agonizing as it sounds. Hell Week means five and a half days of non-stop training that pushes half of trainees to go home. In one Hell Week trial – or “evolution” to use SEAL lingo – “log PT” – makeshift boat crews heft shoulder-shredding logs weighing 150 lbs. Not just a military workout, but sheer hell unless you’re seriously hard.
The Brits invented the concept of Special Forces in the shape of the Special Air Service or SAS – an army regiment founded in 1950. The selection test for the SAS is said to be one of the world’s most grueling. The pass rate? It’s less than 10%. Would-be SAS soldiers must prove they have mammoth strength, endurance, and plenty of grit as they march across Wales and the jungle of Brunei. Candidates complete in 6 months if they are gutsy and savvy enough. Candidates get just two cracks at selection – little leeway in light of the hurdles they must vanquish. Think extreme orienteering involving a 40 mile march across Wales Brecon Beacons, in under 20 hours, carrying over fifty five pounds and water, food and rifle. Then there is the weapon handling, vehicle handling, demolitions, jungle survival, and Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract training among other tests. Intensely punishing, but as the SAS say: “Who dares wins.”
If you want to become part of the legendary Green Berets, you need to be able to do more than just rack out scores of push-ups - a feat that itself is way beyond the scope of most fitness fanatics. From the get-go, you must meet some key physical fitness benchmarks, scoring a minimum of 260 on the Army physical fitness test for the 17-to-21 age group. Then the real fun begins as you apply yourself to passing the three-week Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course (SFAS). If you want to shine during the SFAS, you need to do the 2-mile run in about 12 minutes, pump out 100 sit-ups in 2 minutes and – perhaps toughest of all – complete 100 push-ups in 2 minutes. Murder, but wait there’s more, much more to SFAS. During it, you also undergo land navigation courses conducted day and night carrying hefty equipment, in volatile weather across rugged, sloping terrain. Worse, you get no help from instructors and must stay within a time limit. If you pass, you then must face the marathon Q Course, which further tests your ability to withstand acute sustained stress.
The Ranger selection test may not be quite as notoriously hard as others in this list, but perhaps it should be. Would-be Rangers go through hell designed to “smoke” candidates through persistent punishment inflicted by relentless military workouts and training. The training is split into various furious phases: Benning, Mountain and Florida. If you think the Florida phase sounds cushy, it’s not. Florida forces trainees to learn the skills needed to survive and thrive in a jungle or swamp rather than a sandy beach. The Mountain phase is equally mean. It obliges grunts to try to cope with rough terrain, starvation and sleep deprivation, all of which adds up to immense stress. The beginning phase, Benning, is all about brutal physical exercise. Think push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, endurance running and hiking. Then there’s the short, sharp and incredibly tiring trial swim. Besides, trainees must tackle obstacle courses and shine at nitty gritty tasks including airborne operations and – get this – close quarters combat.
French Foreign Legion
No fighting force in this list has more mystique than the French Foreign Legion. But there is nothing romantic about French Foreign Legion training, with its emphasis on training heavily laden amid blazing North African desert heat. Early on in the selection process, candidates from all walks of life undergo “Gestapo” interviews where their history and personality are assessed. Mental training is a priority, Leggionaires must be hardened to the core. Then, the thrust of physical training is running, running, running. During the “luc leger” shuttle run, you hare back and forth between two markers set 20 m apart. Like the famous beep test, the pace ratchets up until you feel like your head will pop. Besides all the running, inevitably, there are countless pull-ups and sit-ups and, in a twist, a touch of rope climbing. Despite expending masses of calories, candidates are given scant food and water. Injuries are common. Think broken bones, concussions, exhaustion, stroke and more, but the drill instructors do not care. Orders are barked out in French, making the mental element especially hard for foreign applicants attempting this fierce military test.
Have you been through hell and back and completed any of these military tests? Any other military tests that deserve to be on this list? We want to hear it, so let us know in the comments below or @DegreeMen on Twitter.
Cover Photo Credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery / Flickr.com