EVERY SOLDIER NEEDS
A LITTLE TRAINING
It's been almost a year since I wrote about a young man from
Marin County, best friend to my two sons and marketing manager for my
company, who surprised all of us by announcing he was joining the army.
The title of the column was "No Such Thing as an Unknown
Soldier," and it recounted my realization that those men and women
who serve our country would no longer be anonymous to me, and never should
Brian is 28 years old with a business degree from the
University of San Diego, and fiercely dedicated to serving his country. He
decided he wanted to become a member of Special Forces and protect us from
the evils that are permeating the world.
Many readers emailed their appreciation of Brian's sense of
duty, and asked for periodic updates on his experience. So in the interest
of bringing the armed forces a little closer to home, here it is.
"How's the army treating you? " I remember asking
after he got his cell phone back following the first month of basic
training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
"Lot of standing around and waiting," he replied.
"And lots of marching."
"Sounds like the army to me," I told him, even
though I had no idea what the army would be like.
That was early on. After learning basic infantry tasks such
as maintaining weapons, patrolling and tactical movement techniques, the
training culminated with mock raids on other platoons, building fortified
positions and other exercises. "It was like we were little kids in
the backyard," Brian wrote at the time, "except the stakes were
Basic training lasted four months, right through the 100+
degree Georgia summer. Then it was off to Airborne School for 3 weeks of
learning how to jump out of an airplane. Brian did five jumps, some with
combat loads as if he was going on a mission once hitting the ground.
After graduating Airborne (I guess that means the chute
opened), he went straight to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he pursued
his dream of being selected to the elite Special Forces division of the
Army. After some extended preparation, the three week selection
In the beginning, 360 soldiers competed for
"selection." After the first week, which consisted mostly of
patty-cake physical activities such as 12 mile runs with 55 pound
backpacks, 110 applicants were dropped. Brian, who looks like Popeye after
a spinach binge, easily made it to week 2.
That's when disaster struck. He lost his "military
bearing" during the land navigation phase and went out of bounds,
which is a safety violation resulting in immediate dismissal. He was
"It was a stupid, stupid mistake that would never happen
again," he wrote when he finally surfaced from his devastation. He
had to hang out with the other soldiers who had been dropped, with nothing
to do but sulk, until the selection process was complete. It was the most
miserable week of his life.
But he didn't give up. Because he had a reputation as a team
leader among his peers and had excelled in other areas of the training, he
applied for and was granted a highly unusual return waiver and 2 weeks
later was slotted for the next Special Forces selection course. Sometimes
you do get a second chance.
This time he didn't disappoint himself. 350 showed up again,
and by the third week only 90 had remained, including Brian. But there was
one final cut. This is what Brian wrote to me:
"The Sergeant Major came out to meet us, gave a speech,
and started to rattle off roster numbers of those that would be dropped.
Some great guys were called out, about 40....we were in shock."
"Then he hit us with this: 'I am just screwing with
y'all...everyone here has been selected!"
"We erupted. Shouts of joy, tears of happiness and shock
were across all of our faces. WE DID IT!"
Yep, he did it. He then chose and received his first field
option, which was to become a Special Operations Combat Medic. He'll be
stationed and train for two years at Fort Bragg, and then be deployed to a
unit somewhere in this stressful world.
His mission remains firm. Serve his country and protect us
from some very bad people out there. And if there's one thing I've
realized from his first year of service, it's that he'll be well trained
to do so.