By Buddy Blouin
Becoming a part of the U.S. military means joining the strongest force in the world, but for some, their military careers go even further. Entering the world of Special Ops is no easy task and for troops looking to advance, the Special Forces Qualification Course (SF Q Course) is the first step. For those who make it, and the Special Forces Qualification Course failure rate is extremely high, they gain the necessary skills to dominate warzones through specialized skills across both specific and wide-ranging terrain. The result is a lethal force fine-tuned for battle and almost impossible to stop.

Related: What To Know Before Joining Special Forces Training

How Long is Special Forces Qualification Course?

The length of the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) may vary for a number of reasons, but it’s safe to say that a year is a good starting point. Those enduring this training will be subjected to a number of phases that can depend on the route taken and the branch of service. Some Q Course Special Forces training can last 53 to 63 weeks, if not more.

Breaking Down the SF Q Course

Breaking down the Special Forces Qualification Course schedule can help better showcase the timeline troops can expect to undertake. Overall, how your experience will be can vary for a number of reasons, but primarily, you’ll be training at Camp Mackall and Fort Bragg for the duration of the SF Q Course. Here’s an overview: The Special Forces Preparation Course is 6 weeks and is meant to equip you for the rest. Here, you’ll be training to get not only physically conditioned for your journey but also to develop specific related skills while being tested on your aptitude for acquiring these baseline skills. The Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) then takes place, giving way to the first phase of the Special Forces Qualification Course. This is a 24-day training session at Camp Mackall where there are several long-distance land navigation courses. You’ll need to navigate difficult terrain without help while carrying heavy equipment, and moving within the course time limits. Additionally, team challenges are also conducted at this time ranging from intense physical training to mental challenges. Breaking things down further, the Army Special Forces Qualification Course actually touches on skillsets from the various branches. These courses come in different phases and each has its own module: Course Orientation and History is Phase I and lasts 7 weeks. The course consists of six modules:
  • Module A – Introduction to Unconventional Warfare
  • Module B – Introduction to Special Forces
  • Module C – Airborne Operations and Refresher
  • Module D – Special Forces Planning
  • Module E – Operational Culture and Regional Analysis
Note: You must complete the United States Army Airborne School before going on to Phase II. Language and Culture is Phase II and it can last between 18 and 25 weeks. Candidates will focus on a variety of language skills during this phase, how to deal with different cultures, and a variety of other geopolitical-centric skills. Phase III is arguably one of the most infamous portions of training known as Small Unit Tactics & SERE Training. This lasts 13 weeks and will involve mastering a variety of technical skills, survival skills, field training, etc. MOS Training is Phase IV and here is where the timeline gets a bit messy. It can last as little as 14 weeks or as many as 50+ weeks. This depends on which course direction is taken, as this portion of your training will divulge specific skill sets. This includes other potential courses such as the Special Operations Forces Officer Common Core or the Maneuver Captains Career Course, along with the following:

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18A – Special Forces Detachment Officers:
  • Module A – Special Forces Mission Analysis and Planning
  • Module B – Adaptive Thinking and Interpersonal Skills
  • Module C – SR/DA
  • Module D – Foreign Internal Defense/Counterinsurgency
  • Module E – Unconventional Warfare
  • Module F – Advanced Special Operations
  • Module J – MOS Cross Training
18B – Weapons Sergeants:
  • Module A – Light Weapons
  • Module B – Heavy Weapons
  • Module C – Tactics
  • Tactics FTX
18C – Engineer Sergeants:
  • Module A – Demolitions
  • Module B – Construction
  • Module C – UXO/IED
  • Module D – Reconnaissance
  • Module E – Engineer Field Training Exercise
18D – Medical Sergeants: 250 days of advanced medical training broken down into two stages. The first is the Special Operations Combat Medic (SOCM) Course and the second is the Special Forces Medical Sergeant Course (SFMS). 18E – Communications Sergeants:
  • Module A – Course Orientation
  • Module B – Computer Applications
  • Module C – Communications Procedures
  • Module D – Radios Common to the Army
  • Module E – Satellite Communications
  • Module F – Communications Planning
  • Module G – High-Frequency Communications
  • Module I – Field Performance
Finally, the apex of training comes during Phase V, which is known as UW CULEX (Robin Sage). This is a 4-week portion of the Special Forces Qualification Course in which 15 counties in North Carolina become the ultimate test for students to apply their skills. It’s a comprehensive test that even involves an invasion. Yep, you’ll have to execute a mission while invading the fictional People's Republic of Pineland and demonstrate skills while interacting with and against fellow students, military personnel, and even civilians within the North Carolina communities.

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The final phase, Phase VI, is Graduation, which lasts one week. Making it this far will be an accomplishment unlike any other where you will formally finish your process, attend a graduation ceremony, and join an elite group of warriors.

For Special Forces, Practice Makes Perfect

The ability of the United States to prepare for its military operations helps our Armed Forces execute at a high level. This is showcased in the training, preparation, and high standards, seen in areas such as the Army Q Course. But there is more to it than just training to reach such high standards, you also have to maintain them. Tests to ensure that those operating as Special Forces maintain their skills are important also. However, taking things even further is the ability of the U.S. military to train for specific Special Force operations. This has been leveraged in various missions, including the use of the Harvey Point Defense Testing to help prepare SEAL Team Six for its raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound. There have been other examples in which U.S. Special Forces have used various locales to rehearse their operations down to minute details. But each one results in a prepared, well-organized group of fighters thanks to the dedication, skill development, infrastructure, and intel provided.

Tips for Passing the Special Forces Qualification Course

As you can imagine, passing the SF Q Course is no easy task. The Special Forces Qualification Course failure rate is around 75%, so being prepared is critical. Here are some great tips that can help you achieve what most cannot:
  • You’re going to need to be mentally tough. That means being capable of doing the hard tasks even on a bad day.
  • Prepare to run. Prepare to run fast. Prepare to run long distances. Training for different types of running will go a long way in preparing your body for the challenge. You’ll also want to get ready to do this with a heavy rucksack filled with equipment.
  • You’ll also want to gain strength. This means training your legs but also your back, core, and anything else that has a muscle. Train for both strength and endurance.
  • Apply your physical training to other disciplines than running and working out. This means being prepared for repetitive movements, standing all day, swimming, etc.
  • Knowing how to navigate is one of the first things you’ll have to prove in the SFAS process and doing so effectively can also help you save time. In a world of GPS, it’s still important to know how to use a compass and read a map.
  • Mix up your workouts. Things such as Crossfit can also be helpful as ways to challenge your body in new ways. A sentiment that becomes all too normal during the SFAS process.
For those accustomed to better weather, getting acclimated to the elements will also help, as the Special Forces Qualification Course will require you to face diverse weather conditions and terrains. Overall, it's a good idea to ensure that you're in the best shape of your life, both mentally and physically, before taking on this extreme challenge.

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