Some 60 percent of those applying for Special Forces jobs are from the combat arms. This gives them an advantage, for while Special Forces troops acquire a lot of technical skills, they are also commando class combat troops. But the army encourages non-combat arms troops to apply, recognizing that a lot of people with infantry potential, end up doing something else once they are in the army. Overall, about 35-40 percent of those that make it to the three week SFAS (Special Forces Assessment Test) pass and go on to the 46 day SFQC (Special Forces Qualification Course), which only about half pass. The SFQC is most important for those candidates who are not infantry, for it makes sure everyone learns basic infantry skills and then runs a lot of squad and platoon exercises to see who can do what. Those who make it this far go on to the Special Forces training program, which has a much lower attrition rate. The SFAS and SFQC are both intense, and are mainly looking for those who can function well under intense mental and physical pressure. It's ten weeks of constant activity that no Special Forces is ever likely to forget.
Total Special Forces training takes 1-2 years, depending on which technical specialty they train for. The medics have the longest training, some ten months. The training also includes language school (18-24 weeks). At that point, the Special Forces trooper is assigned to a unit, and continues to spend a third or more of their time training for the rest of their career. A "seasoned" Special Forces operator requires 5-10 years of service in the Green Berets.
Through the 1980s, the Special Forces raised its standards for new recruits. Only about ten percent of those who apply make it through all the training. Special Forces is a very selective organization that is basically looking for guys with lots of brain and brawn. Until September 11, 2001, about 1800 candidates made it as far as the 24 day long Special Forces Assessment and Selection test.