EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (USASOC) – Special Forces soldiers who placed second in an international special operations competition credit the intensity and variety of their preparation for their success.
A team of Green Berets from the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) recently placed second among 17 teams at the Fuerzas Comando competition held July 23 to Aug. 1 in Tolemaidia, Colombia. This was the highest a team from the United States has ever placed at the competition, one of several multinational exercises sponsored by the U.S. Southern Command.
The event brought special operations teams from 17 different countries together to test their physical and mental stamina with grueling events. The friendly rivalry, though many times intense, promoted military-to-military relationships within the region.
“I’m really proud of this year’s U.S., Team,” said Army Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, the commander for Special Operations Command South. “It’s evident in their performance, attitude and achievement that they were well prepared and took this competition seriously. It was an exciting competition to watch, and I’m extremely pleased with what they accomplished.”
“Our goals this year were to place on the podium and dominate the competition wherever possible,” said a participating U.S. team member.
The team fielded by the 7th SFG (A) and headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base in Northwest Florida trained when temperatures and humidity in the region mimicked what they would experience in South America.
“We began with a selection of personnel to be trained by conducting two separate Upper Body Round Robin fitness tests and a stress test that involved shooting,” said the noncommissioned officer. “With 10 personnel to be trained, we began a vigorous PT [physical training] and shooting program in order to prepare for the specific events of the competition. As the competition neared, we selected the best personnel to compete based on their performance.”
Many of the events during Fuerzas Comando pushed competitors to their physical and mental limits. To test his accuracy after a physically demanding task, one event required a competitor to pull an evacuation sled loaded with a 140 pound mannequin to a shooting range before engaging targets at various distances in different positions.
“We made a concerted effort to focus on cardiorespiratory and endurance capabilities. The other countries competing are usually better at traditional cardiorespiratory events whereas the U.S. team has more power and strength,” said the NCO about how his team altered their traditional training to improve their performance during Fuerzas Comando.”
“Throughout our train up, we tried to focus on potential weaknesses while ensuring we would still do well in events that are our strengths, like shooting.”
The team’s strengths in pistol and rifle shooting led them to dominate in the critical tasks and pistol qualification events, gaining them much needed points to pull ahead of the pack and close in on the Colombian team who was in the lead. The sniper team also scored big during the “Snaps and Movers” event, one of many requiring precision shooting over long distances.
“The most difficult event was the 18K [kilometer] road march. Traditionally, the U.S. team does poorly in this event and has never finished in the top five positions. Colombia had conducted the event the night prior and beat Guatemala, who was a favorite to win the event,” said the NCO.
“We knew the time to beat and wanted to take this event away from the Colombians and really show the other competitors what makes us who we are. Every person on the team pushed their bodies to the max. We had to dig deep and leave nothing in the tank.”
“We won the event and beat Colombia by one minute. After our surprise win in the road march, all the other countries immediately had more respect for us,” he continued. “They were even rooting for us to win the competition and would cheer “USA.”
“Everyone in 7th Special Forces Group is proud of the men who represented the United States at Fuerzas Comando. Their training in the Florida heat and humidity was intense, and they never stopped thinking how they could better prepare themselves for the challenges of the competition,” said Col. Robert Kirila, deputy commander of the 7th SFG (A). “Their success is a direct result of the hard work and dedication they invested during the months of training leading up to the event.”
The rivalry between the U.S. and Colombian teams was intense throughout the competition, ending with Colombia leading the U.S. by 210 points.
After the competition, and as a means to increase partnerships and understanding between the forces, members of the U.S. and Colombian teams conducted a Military Free Fall Jump from 15,000 feet over a drop zone in Colombia.
In the Fuerzas Comando competition, there is a lot to be said about experience said the NCO regarding advice he’d give to next year’s participants.
“Most of the competitors from other countries have competed in multiple Fuerzas Comando competitions and train almost year round for it.
“It’s imperative to understand the lessons learned from previous competitors,” he concluded.