8 Things I Learned In Special Forces - Part 2

Continuing on from last weeks blog in which I admitted how many times I've probably watched the greatest movie ever, Predator...


...here's Part 2.


8 things I learned in Special Forces…and a few myths busted!


5. Bad times always come to end

I remember years ago watching a documentary about an adventure racer. This dude was almost 40 years old and was killing it on the adventure racing circuit and winning most of the events he entered.


These events are brutal with 4-5 days of constantly being on the move. Racing over 100’s of kilometres of terrain and water, hiking abseiling, kayaking, running and navigating to the finish line.


The one thing this guy said that has always stuck with me is: “young people who I race against and quit, don’t seem to realise that the hard times are always going to end.”


I never truly understood his statement until I joined the Army, and particularly Commandos. I went through some pretty challenging times within the Army, but this guy on the documentary was right. They always ended.


I remember one time in Afghanistan while we were conducting an observation mission. I was sitting in my sniper hide with my mate observing an area. The day was brutally hot as usual and because of the terrain and situation, I couldn’t change positions with my mate. I was tasked with looking through the spotting scope the entire day with no rest.


All 14 hours of it.


But, like all shitty situations, it finally came to an end. It always will.


6. Trainability

This is another crucial element of being a Commando. It’s also why Commando’s selection is called the Commando Selection and Training Course. You’re not just tested on your toughness and your ability to keep going when you’re tired, hungry, cold and wet. You’re also tested on your ability to learn new information quickly, retain that information, then recall it and apply it when you’re tired, hungry, cold and wet.


Being able to do this is a great confidence builder and allows the soldier to learn many, many skills which they will be required to employ time and time again while serving within Commandos. It could be months or even years before you’re required to recall information and those skills taught, then utilise them for a task.


Some people have a natural aptitude for this ability, but the majority of us have to work at it. You can actually train yourself to develop this skill. How? By getting out of your comfort zone consistently to experience, learn and develop new skills and acquire new information. The more you do this and the more you test yourself, the more confidence you’ll gain and the better you’ll become at it.


7. Breathe

When we are exposed to a stressful or dangerous situation, our brain lets us know about it, and quickly. Our bodies are flooded with stress response hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.


Our bodies will respond to this release of hormones with a series of physical signs. Our heart beats rapidly, our breathing becomes shallow, our palms start to sweat and our hands shake, our pupils dilate and our bodies tense up. This is a primal response to stress in order to ready our bodies for the freeze, posture, fight or flight reaction.


As this arousal response happens and our bodies react to stress and the subsequent release of these hormones throughout our bodies, we find it hard to focus and think clearly and with clarity through the situation.


What we must do is breathe. Breathing deeply a number of times will allow you to begin calming yourself and focusing on the situation at hand. You will be able to stabilise your brain and start thinking clearly again.


You very rarely, if ever, have to act immediately in an emergency or stressful situation. Take the time to take a few deep breaths. This will calm you and enable you to make more effective decisions, be less reactive and allow you to deal with, or survive, the situation as you best can.


8. Humour

While serving overseas within Commandos, I learned how humour could be taken to another level. A disturbingly darker level.


We used to play rock, paper, scissors to see who would lose their legs on that particular deployment. Pretty morbid I know, but it was a humorous way to pass the time.


And it certainly didn’t stop at rock, paper, scissors. There were charts and scoreboards, pictures and artwork. All morbid and tasteless and very disturbing to an outsider. But it worked. It helped to distract from the stressful situation and relieve tension. It was funny, disgusting and liberating.


When you’re in a challenging or stressful situation, try and find the lighter side if possible. It certainly doesn’t have to be morbid or tasteless like a bunch of soldiers, but it may just ease the tension and hopefully allow you to get through a particularly tough situation with smile.


Special Forces Myths busted, cont…


4. Engaging the enemy while standing– This is a great scene inPredator. The entire team stands together in unison and unleashes a whole lot of hell on an unseen enemy! While this looks cool, it usually doesn’t happen. You’re not taught this and natural instinct and training will throw you to the ground to fire your weapon from the prone position. Now, I say it usually doesn’t happen because I actually did this once. We were patrolling one afternoon in Afghanistan on a very hot day and were contacted by the enemy. I was quite fatigued by this point as I was carrying the 7.62mm Minimi machine gun. When the contact was initiated, I didn’t fling myself to the ground, I didn’t even take a knee. I simply turned towards the threat and began firing my weapon. It was a great way to unload some extra weight and feel cool in the process 😛


5. The ability to construct elaborate traps– The Green Beret team inPredator certainly had a lot of skills, one of which was the ability to construct a brilliant trap for the Predator using only the jungle and some smarts. I’d be hard struck trying to build a trap for a small rodent let alone an alien killing machine. We weren’t taught these skills, although I’m wondering why the hell not?


6. The ability to construct high-powered bush weapons– Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) was awesome. He was a brilliant leader, had huge muscles, smoked cigars and could craft a deadly weapon out of easily acquired jungle materials. Although I can build a pretty accurate slingshot, I’m not sure it would have the power, cyclic rate of fire or effective range to bring down anything bigger then a wasp.


Comments? Let me know!


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About the Author

Rhys Dowden is the owner of Operator Edge, a company through which he provides to his clients extensive mental conditioning along with military, self-defense, and strength training.

Growing up in Queensland, Rhys enlisted in the Army as soon as he was 18 and then served a little more than four years in the Royal Australian Armored Corps.

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