The Real Reason You Wouldn't Survive Special Forces Training

It's probably fairly obvious and intuitive that Special Forces (AKA Green Beret) training involves a bit more than a few gentle laps, a couple of lazy pushups, and a multiple-choice test on how to kill bad guys with a pencil. There are no gold stars for deducing that special forces training is tough. What is surprising though is the sheer variety of ways this training can heap unholy, world-shattering destruction on an individual's body, brain, and general desire to live.

Here's a quick and dirty overview, straight from the source. After a preliminary nine weeks of Basic Combat Training, the Special Forces candidate is whisked off to scenic Fort Benning, Georgia. Here the candidate is rewarded with a six-week-long battery of physical, psychological, and aptitude tests leading into what amounts to Badassery for Dummies — a jaunt through the finer points of raids, ambushes, and recon (oh my). And here's the important thing: All of that pain is just the deadly tip of the Special Forces training iceberg.

Then it gets serious

Assuming the candidate is willing and able to continue, instruction then elegantly pivots to working effectively as a small unit. We're talking more psychological stress, greater physical hardships, and a steady barrage of scary new knowledge including how to avoid capture in enemy territory, how to resist enemy interrogation (a nice way of saying torture), and handy tips for making a daring escape. Then the real pain begins with candidates undergoing up to 18 months of specialized training. This may include deeper weapons know-how, military engineering (basically how to make stuff and how to make other stuff blow up), or advanced communication systems. Oh, and candidates will need to learn a second language — because advanced killing techniques are enhanced by being bilingual. And only then, after over two years of this crucible of pain and pressure will a fledgling Green Beret be tested in a real mission situation.

At any point on this long, torturous promenade to perdition if the candidate shows even the smallest physical or emotional crack, they face the prospect of failure. The take-home message here is that Special Forces training is to the Hollywood idea of boot camp (with a hard-talkin' but ultimately supportive Major General) as Charles Manson is to Oscar the Grouch. Sure, they're both mean. But only one of 'em will happily eat your face.

The less obvious (and scarier) reason most mere mortals won't make the grade

Ultimately, special forces training isn't reasonable, and it doesn't have the candidate's best interests at heart. That's kind of the point. If you compare it to something frivolous like the American Ninja Warrior TV show, that crucial added element of unreasonableness becomes super-obvious. To compete in American Ninja Warrior, contestants need to be peak-level athletes. They need to have trained and suffered for years to set foot in that arena. But ultimately, the TV show wants contestants to last long enough to create entertainment. Moreover, the show isn't designed to disassemble a contestant right down to the brink of psychological obliteration. Green Beret training is. This training leaves scars; it's built to break people. Military life is tough, uncompromising, and challenging enough at the normal difficulty setting. Green Beret training shifts that slider bar to nightmare mode, simply because those who do outlast the process will go on to experience things a normal human being just isn't built to endure.