Infantry: May 6, 2003


The U.S. Army Special Forces is still having recruiting problems. There are supposed to be 270 twelve man Special Forces A Teams, but there are only enough trained and qualified troopers for 225. Unwilling to lower its standards, the Special Forces has returned to a long abandoned practice of accepting recruits direct from civilian life. The army prefers to recruit for the Special Forces from those who have already been in the army (or marines) for a few years. But recruiting civilians has only been going on for the past year, and it takes at least two years to train someone for A Team duty. And then it takes several years more before the new Special Forces soldier becomes "seasoned" and capable of dealing with all the different challenges an A Team can encounter in the field. You'd think that a nation of 280 million people could attract more than 2,700 men to meet Special Forces standards. But that's what makes Special Forces so effective. They are selective, and wash out a lot of people who are almost good enough. It only takes one member of an A Team to make a mistake that can get the entire team wiped out. Efforts are being made to change the training methods so as to salvage men who would have washed out in the past. It's also been proposed to use a recruiting technique common in the early days of the Special Forces; looking for suitable candidates overseas. In the early days of the Cold War, this was seen as an effective way to get men with the language skills and cultural knowledge of nations behind the Iron Curtain. All of this increased recruiting effort is not just to get the Special Forces up to strength, but to make it possible to expand the force. 


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