Well, it's been a couple of weeks since I returned from SFAS (Special Forces Assesment/Selection) after failing the land navigation portion, and I have had a little bit of time to relax and see it with a little less animosity.
It is truly amazing how much one's mood can change over the course of a month. Upon arriving at Ft. Bragg in November, I was pumped. Ready to conquer the world. Within two weeks I was questioning my own existence in the cold, rainy forests of North Carolina and wondering what in the name of all that is good on this earth was I thinking when I volunteered for Special Forces. And now, just a few weeks later, my sick and twisted mind is following along the lines of "it wasn't that bad, maybe I should try again". You really have to wonder what wires are crossed in my melon...
Describing SFAS to people who have never been in the military is a little bit awkward. You can tell them that it's "hard" or "tough", but that doesn't really convey the full weight of the situation. I can tell you about carrying 60 lbs. on my back for endless hours through some of the ugliest terrain I have ever seen, or about standing in the freezing rain, shivering, and waiting for... something? anything? to happen. Or about the lack of sleep, and how much you miss things like Pizza Hut and IHOP. Or about how much of a beating your body takes after just a few days of running, carrying logs and forced marches. I could tell you, in painful detail, about all of that, but I think it is summed up by saying one thing - it sucked. It doesn't matter how much you prepare yourself, mentally or physically, it will drain you. That is what it was designed to do. And it does it in different ways, depending on who you are, what your strengths are and, more importantly, your weaknesses.
My weakness (obviously) is finding my way in the dark with a compass. For others it is the physical demands, and for many it is the ambiguity of the instructions given for some of the tasks (Side note: In nearly every end of the military, every task that is handed out comes with a detailed block of instruction informing you on every detail about how the task should be accomplished, usually to the point of overkill. SFAS is the opposite, giving very little in the way of instructions, opting more for the "figure it out for yourself" mode of thinking). Some people simply do not do well in an environment where they are not told exactly what to do. Especially when they have been living in exactly that environment their entire military career.
The physical aspect of the course is, well, physical. It doesn't matter how well you prepare (I was very well prepared in that regard), you are going to be hurting at some point. Your body simply does not have the time it needs to fully recover during the course. By no means, however, does this imply that you have to be an Olympic athlete to make it through. I would say a more important attribute than over all physical fitness would be a high threshold for pain and discomfort (and be able to tolerate standing in the freezing cold rain for hours on end. Did I mention the rain? I hope so, because it did. A lot. I'll remind you all again in a minute, just in case you forget). There were people there who were in far worse physical shape than I was, yet they made it. If you possess a "never quit" attitude, that is by far the most important quality to help you through a test like that. Although for me, added on to the "never quit" would be a "learn to walk through the woods without getting lost at night" attribute that I seem to be sorely lacking.
Now of course, the million dollar question; will I go back and try it again? In all honesty, I don't know at this point. I am torn. There are many reasons floating through my mind for choosing either to go or not to go. For now, I will continue on with college and see how I feel about all of this in a few months. Because, to be honest, there is no way I am going back there during the winter. If I am going to get rained on (told ya), it will be warm rain.
Incidentally, I went through SFAS with a good friend of mine who did make it. His thoughts can be viewed here. Regardless of what I do, I am forever grateful that there are so many guys out there who are willing to put themselves through all that hardship just so that they can go on to more dangerous ways of protecting our country. Truly humbling.