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Progress Report from Q Course

TLDR20

SF Medical Sergeant
Verified SOF
Joined
Jan 7, 2009
Messages
5,817
Location
DMV
#1
This is an excellent write up from one of our members who is in the Q course. He was a little bit apprehensive about posting it himself, as he didn't want to be seen as a spotlighter. I think this is very good info, that comes nowhere near G2. If he can do it so can you!

AAR - One Year In The Army For An X-Ray

I'm writing this post at the request of @TLDR20 to hopefully help future 18X candidates prepare themselves for the road ahead as they prepare to enlist and eventually enter the beast that is SWCS. I started the enlistment process in November 2014 as a 265 lbs redshirt senior defensive lineman that could barely run a 10 minute mile, finally enlisting in March 2015 and shipping late July 2015.

To say I had a long way to go is an understatement. Luckily, thanks to sites like this one I was able to make contact with men who had been there and done that and was put on the track to success. First and foremost, let's put this out there: Selection, the Q Course, SOPC... it's all a cardio game. If you are like I was - fat and slow, you need to work on that, and the only way to work on that is to ruck and run. By March I was down to around 225 lbs, but my PT was still awful. I did a PT test with my college's ROTC program at that time and scored 59 pushups, 49 situps, and a 15:33 2 mile, and I sure couldn't do 6 pullups.

After this PT test I was able to speak with one of the cadre who was a 1st Group 18E and he gave me a list of workouts and really hammered into me the importance of being a team player and PT. These workouts he gave me were a plethora of Military Athlete and Stew Smith workouts to prepare myself for OSUT and the Q. I still have these workouts if anybody wants them, so just PM me (TLDR20 has my contact info) if you would like to look at them. As a former college football player, I had NO idea how to workout for a SOF pipeline and these workouts really gave me a solid baseline to improve my physical conditioning with. I'd highly recommend them to anyone who is lost on how to workout for this pipeline.

OSUT

I shipped to Fort Benning and spent 11 days in a boredom hell at 30th AG. At this time I met a lot of other 18Xs that would be in my OSUT company (we had over 120 X-rays in my company). We snuck in workouts in the bays at night and ran a 1 mile run the last day before we went "down range" to OSUT (I only ran a 6:45 and was smoked). Most of my friends were complete studs and I figured I would just have to be the guy who tried hard and was a team player to make it because I was always going to be way behind on PT.

OSUT is very, very easy. The Drill Sergeants' hands are tied and they can't do anything to you besides 10 reps of exercise and yell and break things. It's a new army, and while I don't have hands on experience of how it was before, I can confirm that PT and discipline is pretty lacking on Sand Hill. Thus, the PT is a joke. Luckily, most of my company was 18Xs whom are usually older and more mature, with most of us having college degrees, so a lot of the immaturity was cut down significantly.

So, if you want to prepare yourself for the journey ahead, you better do PT on your own at night. On APFT 1 I only scored 60 pushups, 55 situps, and a 14:32 run. After this, I did a lot of 20 minute AMRAPs (as many rounds as possible) every night of things like 15 pushups, 15 situps, 5 burpees, etc. I also made sure to make friends with motivated people who were in better shape than me to learn from them and push myself. By the end of OSUT I dropped down to about 200 lbs (lack of food mostly) and was at 71-75-13:15 on my PT test. Most of this progress was due to working out with the guys in the bays at night. Make sure you're doing some good jailhouse PT and making the right friends! The guys who hung out with the "shit bags" tended to go away throughout the course, so make smart choices in who you associate with and give your all in everything you do.

Airborne/Airborne Hold

After OSUT I went to Airborne Hold for about two weeks just sitting around and doing details during the day. If you end up in Hold, don't be that guy who never volunteers for a detail, as a lot of the guys you're in Hold with are the same guys you'll go to Selection with, and nobody wants to get 19 day'd because they were an ass 3 months ago and pissed off the wrong guy and got peered during team week. Plus, life gets boring at Airborne Hold so the details help break the monotony of watching the same movies over and over and burning cell phone data. Also, you'll get released most days around 1500 and you're allowed to workout and go to the gym, so if you're not taking advantage of this freedom you're really just screwing yourself. Trust me, you'll want to be in the best shape of your life before you arrive at SWCS for SOPC Hold.

Next came Airborne School. Airborne is a super easy course and for the first two weeks you have the great fortune of having Audie Murphy Gym (an AWESOME crossfit-style gym) and Smith Gym within walking distance, along with a 1 mile track around the 250 foot towers. Make sure you take advantage during these two weeks and slay your body because you won't have any time in jump week for anything besides sitting in the harness shed, jumping, and sleeping.

Now, this is the next part I'll address: Jump Week. I am terrified of heights. Well and truly terrified. Even after Airborne I still get the butterflies and fart incessantly every time I'm in line for a roller coaster. Just don't be the guy who freezes in the plane. Everybody else is doing it and surviving to live another day. Just do what you were taught and jump. It's easy. I may have been scared, but I sure as shit wasn't going to dishonor myself and my family and be the guy who quit in the plane in front of all of my friends! F*ck that. If you're afraid of heights like I am, don't even worry about it. You WILL jump.

Fort Bragg Reception

I graduated Airborne and took the bus ride up to Bragg in early December. By surrounding myself with the right people and working hard I was 195 lbs and in the best shape of my life, running a 34:27 5 mile in the second week of Airborne School. I don't say this to brag, as I am far from a stud, but rather to motivate you that no matter what your current physical condition is, you can ALWAYS improve with some time and discipline to get where you want to be!

Next came reception at Bragg. Things may have changed since as I hear now X-rays report straight to SWCS, but when I went through we stayed at the Reception Barracks and had two tired E7 Green Berets herd us through processing into post. This week was super easy and I had tons of free time each day. The hardest part was the shit bags that made our cadre's lives hell. We did a PT test, which they are super strict on and the situps are done on a decline. A ton of guys failed, including guys who were getting inflated "300s" in OSUT. The average score was in the 240s and I actually had one of the better ones at 278 (situps killed me). After this week of leisure, however, the fun was just about to begin...

Student Company/SOPC Hold

After inprocessing and the PT test we were sent down the street to report to SWCS and Student Company. This is where probably 90% of the attrition will be for X-rays. SOPC Hold is hell, and the only way to make it better for yourself is to either quit (which most end up doing) or go into it in the best shape possible so that you aren't one of the guys at the back of the pack being singled out by the cadre. The cadre in SOPC Hold are all senior E7s that while they may be former X-rays themselves, really don't appreciate 20 year old kids showing up thinking they're just going to waltz into a long tab and green beret.

My first full day in SOPC Hold was the day before Christmas Block Leave. We started the day with 115. We ended the day with 95. I'm not sure how in depth I can really get about the stuff that occurs in Hold, but I can tell you the quitting/injury rate is insane, and there is indeed a place called "The Pit." After your time in Hold is up you will never want to hear the words "across the street" ever again. It sucks, plain and simple. Despite what your recruiter told you, SF doesn't want nor need you, so you have to earn your slot each and every day or else it will be you last as an X-Ray. Don't draw attention to yourself, put out, and don't EVER be in the back 50% or let the cadre beat you on a ruck or run.

SOPC Hold is where the value of having a good group of dudes that you call friends around will pay off. While all of the shitbags from OSUT and Airborne are VWing all around you, you and your boys who were born for this shit will feel a crazy sense of camaraderie that will carry you through. You help your boys and they help you and you get through each day, one day at a time. Seeing each shitbag quit also motivates you in kind of a sick sadistic way, as seeing their failure just assures you that you are that much stronger than them and you are headed to the right place. My airborne class graduated 115 X-Rays. Of this number, only about 35 ever even made it to SOPC. I was fortunate and was only in SOPC Hold for two weeks while many of my friends spent 5 VERY painful weeks there (benefits of open slots in the SOPC class ahead, a high PT score, and a name near the beginning of the alphabet). My best advice is to show up in shape, never quit, help your buddies, and don't spotlight yourself.

SOPC/SFPC

After Hold came SOPC, or what they call now SFPC (Special Forces Preparation and Conditioning). SOPC was an amazing course and the first time we met cadre who actually seemed to care about us and respected the fact that most of us were there for the right reasons after not quitting in SOPC Hold (it's no secret to the cadre at SWCS what occurs in Hold).

SOPC is 3 weeks and split up into two weeks of conditioning, and one week of land nav practicals. We would usually do either a hard run or ruck in the morning, followed by classes on things such as nutrition/land nav/etc. until lunch, and then a hard afternoon crossfit-style WOD like a Murph. The cadre at SOPC are physical beasts and crush PT. Take advantage of this time to get better, and don't forget to do recovery stretching and get plenty of sleep and food. Your legs will take a beating in SOPC. My class started with 80-something dudes, and while we only had 7 VWs, we had a ton of med drops that resulted in our class only graduating 66 guys.

Also, SOPC used to be a really chill course, but there's a new cadre sergeant as NCOIC who is ratcheting up the pain and now they have things like locker inspections and more smokings and stuff. You may not appreciate it, but grow up - you know what you signed up for. The NCOIC there now is actually an AWESOME guy, and while he will make you pay for mistakes and you may hate him at the time, he's doing it for a reason. He is a former X-ray himself and he just wants to see selection rates go up to where they once were for X-Rays (over 90%, currently closer to 50%). Attention to detail is key in avoiding pain, as this attention to detail is also what will make or break you at Selection. Again, work hard, be a team player, don't spotlight yourself, and stay motivated. The last week is land nav practical exercises which are great for getting your confidence up going into SFAS, and then you finish the course with a 12 mile road march. SOPC is an amazing course, and if you get to this point, don't waste the opportunity!

SFAS

Here it is, the moment you've been waiting for... Selection! To be honest, when I think of Selection I mostly think about Team Week. Gate Week is pretty easy if you're in good shape and don't say you like burning animals on the psych eval. The hardest part is that you can't sleep until the cadre tell you to, and if they catch you sleeping you will get a spot report which could have a negative outcome for you at the end when they make selection decisions.

I was the February class, so land nav kind of sucked for us because we spent a week out in the woods sleeping on the ground in the middle of a "Polar Vortex" of rain, sleet, and snow. Get used to being cold if you're going around that same time period. On the plus side, there's next to no foliage, which makes land nav MUCH easier and faster. And of course, snakes hate the cold which is fine by me. My biggest advice on land nav is just don't use the roads. Seriously. The roads are lava. Don't do it. We lost 30 guys to road kills in my class, including a good number of my friends.

If your point is in the middle of a fork of two huge fingers of a creek, and besides taking a two mile detour your only option is to either bust it, or walk that nifty little road right to the point - stop and think. The cadre put that point there for a reason. They know there's a road that goes right to it, and they know that draw is Jurassic Park, and they also know you don't have time to take a 2 mile detour around it. If you were cadre looking to road kill somebody, where would you sit? That's right, in the draw off to the side of the road waiting to catch candidates running the road to avoid going through 800 meters of jungle. I came out of the first day of the STAR completely torn to shreds from one point in particular, but I got my 4 points. It sucked. That's the point. They're testing your character. Seriously. Don't walk the roads. Also, Scuba Road really isn't that bad. I did it four times in one hour in February and lived to tell the tale (dropped my waffle top in the drink and went searching).

You'll do so many land nav PEs for 4-5 days, twice a day leading up to the STAR. There's no reason you can't find 4 out of 8 points and secure your spot in Team Week. Just do what you were taught, don't use the roads, and the rest is gravy. There's honestly so much terrain to use out at Hoffman that a lot of guys only use their compasses for cardinal directions. Land nav is long and tiring, but it's not hard.

Team Week, however, is the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. Downed Pilot was the worst thing I've ever had to do, and the only way through those four days are to work as a team and just put one foot in front of the other. Be the first guy to lend a hand, the last guy to take a rest, and encourage/motivate your teammates. Give your input when you need to, but also don't be that obnoxious guy that thinks he knows everything. I got through Team Week by just being a bull and picking up the heaviest thing and trying my best to motivate the guys around me. Other guys were brainiacs. Others were knot-tying gurus. Find your role on each of your two teams you'll have in Team Week, and do it quickly. Next, just be a team player and don't quit and PUT OUT. People know who the guy(s) is/are that isn't/aren't putting out, and that guy never gets selected after peer reviews.

Also, Team Week is designed to suck. Sometimes you have a telephone pole and some lashings and there's really no easy way to "out-think" the event. The event is designed to suck and has no easy way out. Just muscle that thing forward and suck it up. It's supposed to be a gut check. At the end of Team Week you'll do LRM/The Trek, which is a 20-30 mile forced road march. It really sucks and your feet will most likely be numb/in pain for weeks after, but it's the last thing and then you're done with the hard part of Selection.

One more thing - ignore the mind games cadre will play on you. They'll say and do things and write you up for a spot report, or pretend to and squiggle in their notebooks. All of this is to see how you react and if you'll quit. Have a good attitude, be strong, and don't quit. I got two spot reports in team week (got caught running back for my weapon and my entire team slept through a formation). It sucks and you'll feel like you just screwed yourself and you're not going to get selected. It will make some people quit. My mindset was I'd rather die than look my father in the eye and tell him I'm a quitter. At the end of the day, pretty much everybody has a spot report or two so don't psych yourself out into quitting. Quitting is never the answer. Ever.

After the Trek, the cadre will let you sleep and the 19 day non-selects will be announced. The following day you'll do the DLAB, and the day after that is when they'll do the 21 day non-selects and you'll receive all of your briefs from every SGM in SWCS welcoming you to the Q Course.

BLC Hold

There's not much to say about this. If you're an X-Ray, you'll sit around for about 6 weeks going to two formations a day and getting released to do whatever. You best be working out each day and not getting fat and out of shape. This is the easiest time you'll ever have in the Army as the cadre back at SWCS won't mess with you if you just got back from Selection unless you screw up. Your days of pain in Hold are over.

BLC

BLC is your E5 requirement and is an extremely well run course with awesome cadre out at Camp MacKall. It's set up similar to SOPC with hard PT twice a day, with the morning usually being a ruck or run with your hut's cadre sergeant. Soak up the knowledge from your hut leader as it will set you up for success. The biggest thing here is to keep working on your PT, pass the exams (easy), and study your TACSOP/Ranger Handbook as SUT is HUGE for the FTX and your final class ranking. If I could do it again I would have studied that TACSOP waaaaay more.

The first two weeks are classroom and PT events such as the PT test, 5 mile run, 12 mile ruck, the personel recovery event, and some SOCEP events (SOCEP are performance psych people that work with ARSOF). The last week is FTX prep/SUT stuff, followed by the 36 hour FTX, which is AWESOME training. You will move out on foot to do missions around Camp MacKall as a hut and leadership switches every hour or two. Be a team player and help out with stuff like the 240, and do NOT ND (obvious, I know). We lost a few guys to NDs that had to come back in the next class. Also, make sure you know how to operate the 240 with blanks as that thing is a malfunction machine. If you do POPS wrong and it NDs on you, you could be toast. Mostly, do the right thing, be a team player, and know your job. This FTX is a great refresher before you hit IUW/SUT if you're a B/C/E.

SOCM EMT

This is where I am now. I spent another 5 weeks after BLC in Hold down at the JSOMTC (the medic training center) doing random details before I started SOCM in June. EMT is done down at the Kitty Hawk EMT building over on Pope Airfield. The cadre there are for the most part former SF medics, with a couple SEALs and CA folks. The information comes at you fast and furious, with a lot of guys failing the first exam. I got an 83 on the first exam. The material in EMT isn't that hard, but the exam questions are. There's something called "G2" which will be your best friend, and after EMT 1 my exam scores have all been in the 90s. Make sure you study and practice your PMSTs (practical exercises like splinting, back boards, trauma patient assessment, etc.). EMT is honestly not that hard, but it is loooooong days and a lot of info with 2-3 exams a week. Prepare for this and do your best! I've honestly learned so much about medicine in only one month of training. It's insane. The classes for the most part are actually very interesting and the cadre give you plenty of breaks, so just work hard and prepare yourself for the onslaught that is A&P. This upcoming week is the final and NREMT-B exam, and then I'll be done and moving on to A&P.

I hope this thread will be of help to any aspiring 18X guys out there. I know I was looking for info like this when I was in the enlistment process, from a guy currently in the course, and I hope it has been helpful. If you have any questions for me I'll try my best to respond either here or by email/PM. Best of luck, and remember to work hard, never quit, don't spotlight yourself, and be a team player!
 

Remani

Verified Military
Joined
Sep 4, 2016
Messages
5
Location
San Diego, CA
#2
I leave to begin my 18X pipeline in just barely over 2 weeks, and reading this has made me feel more motivated than anything I've gone through in the Marines to just drop all the silly excess mental preparations I feel like I've been building up to for the last several months. This gentleman clearly had some physical struggles before going in and he just pushed himself to be the best version of himself - that's more motivating to me in my current situation as a prior-service than anything else I could've read.

Thanks for posting this, TLDR20!
 
Joined
Feb 8, 2017
Messages
43
#7
WOW!!!! I was having one of "Those Days" trying to motivate to get my workout started, and this was perfect! I'm not even enlisting for SF, but what a fantastic write up. Thank you for posting.
 

TLDR20

SF Medical Sergeant
Verified SOF
Joined
Jan 7, 2009
Messages
5,817
Location
DMV
#9
This is an update from me on this young soldiers path:

This dude failed CTM in the medical course. CTM is hard, really really hard, I know because I spent two years teaching it. The powers that be decided to send this young stud to SUT and SERE and let him try his hand at Trauma training in the course again. He took that opportunity, and is currently in SERE.

As a teaching point, never get too hung up on the little things. This young man was so focused on minutiae he couldn't get fast enough to pass his clinics. In basically all military training time is the stressor that bullets aren't. You have to do something under a time limit that seems impossible, whether it is setting up a demo charge, planning an ambush, moving x distance, etc, etc.

Luckily for him he gets to come back and try again, as he should as he cruised through much of the course. I worked with him in person during his Trauma Patient Assessment phase and I know this young man will be a great medic, he is smarter than I ever was at that point.

After he is back from his extended stay at McKall and he has a few hours I will ask him to do another write up of the parts of medical course/SERE he can talk about and SUT.

Keep at it young dudes. Don't quit.
 

Docboats

SWCC
Verified SOF
Joined
Jul 13, 2017
Messages
28
#10
CTM is a beast. I failed my first attempt, which made that second attempt so much more stressful.

You have to find that concentration happy place. For me it was drinking a beer and listening to AC/DC when practicing iterations for hours on end. Training and relaxing at the same time definitely helps me to stay out of the black when shit gets weird. That way when it was test time I would run up to my patient already humming "thunderstruck."

Hope he comes back and crushes it.
 

TLDR20

SF Medical Sergeant
Verified SOF
Joined
Jan 7, 2009
Messages
5,817
Location
DMV
#11
CTM is a beast. I failed my first attempt, which made that second attempt so much more stressful.

You have to find that concentration happy place. For me it was drinking a beer and listening to AC/DC when practicing iterations for hours on end. Training and relaxing at the same time definitely helps me to stay out of the black when shit gets weird. That way when it was test time I would run up to my patient already humming "thunderstruck."

Hope he comes back and crushes it.
When did you go through?
 

TLDR20

SF Medical Sergeant
Verified SOF
Joined
Jan 7, 2009
Messages
5,817
Location
DMV
#13
Most recent progress report from this young man:


Year Two In Review
Hello again. I'm writing this review at the request of TLDR20 to hopefully help some guys out without giving away too much and creating G2. As TLDR20 has mentioned, I am currently through Phase II of the Q Course (SUT/SERE) and am awaiting reinsertion into the SOCM course. I'm super excited for the opportunity to return and hopefully finish what I started, but before I get too far into that I'll go through everything in chronological order. Thanks to everyone for the kind words and support as well!

Clinical Fundamentals
This block is the first big road block that most face in the SOCM course. Clin Funds is split up into 3 1/2 weeks of Anatomy and Physiology and 1 1/2 weeks of Patho Pharmacology. There are a ton of diverse instructors in this block of instruction. Most are former SF, but there are former Navy SARCs and such in this block and the ages and experiences/personalities vary amongst the cadre. This is a good thing because you can learn a ton from your cadre's varying experiences, but also take caution that some instructors have their unique pet peeves that you need to be aware of. The best thing you can do to avoid issues here is take the time to read ahead and try to answer your own questions before going to your instructors.

As for what makes this block tough, the biggest thing that seems to get guys is the pin tests. During A&P you WILL be studying every day, often past midnight in the cadaver lab. Nothing about A&P is particularly difficult, but especially if you have a non-science background it is a TON of information crammed into a minuscule time period. The pin tests themselves can be tricky with the way things are pinned and attention to detail of how each question is written is paramount. Make sure as you study you follow the ELOs however, and you should be alright.

Each week you will have a written exam, pin test, and physical exams test, and you cover new information each day. It is both a marathon and a sprint each week to get the information down in time for the next set of exams and should not be underestimated. However, if you actually put in the time each night and find a GOOD study group (1-to-3 dudes, not much more) to work with, you have the key to success. Class when I went through was typically 9-5 each day with a lunch break. I'd usually go to my room and eat after class and change and then I was back in the lab by 6:30 and often stayed until after midnight. Finding time for PT is also paramount in this block so that you don't get out of shape set yourself back for the Q, which happens to a lot of guys who end up failing the gates in SFOC upon returning from SOCM.

After A&P is Patho Pharm. This block is short, fast, and furious. The PA that took over when I went through made some changes to make it easier after my original class went through, but do not underestimate this block because you wanted to celebrate early after passing A&P. The Patho Pharm exam is the hardest exam I have ever taken in my academic career, including college. Essentially, you'll be tested on something like 200 drugs that you have a week to learn. Focus on the drug families, the drugs of choice, and the dosages of the major drugs. The PA did a great job of making sure we knew what to expect for the exam, so take ample notes and study like you're still in A&P and the odds are in your favor to pass.

Clinical Medicine
This block is another heavy academic block where your days will be spent chugging energy drinks and taking notes as powerpoint after powerpoint comes at you on a daily basis. Clin Med is broken up into two sub-blocks, Clin Med A and Clin Med B. Clin Med A is traditionally much more difficult than Clin Med B. This is in large part due to the A1 Exam, which is more or less every disease you can think of and their characteristics and treatments. A2 if I recall correctly is more your sports medicine instruction on things like broken bones and dislocated joints and so on. The recipe for success here is the same as in Clin Funds - study hard in your study group and you should be fine. For me personally, I didn't need to study quite as much in this block as I did during A&P, but during the A Block I definitely was still putting in a few hours a day, but I was at least getting more sleep. On the plus side, the B Block is relatively chill and if you make it to this point you will have a lot more free time as it really is a less challenging part of the course.

Aside from the constant powerpoints, studying, and exams, you will also do one IV a week for practice before you get to the trauma blocks, and you will likely get two morning rotations to a sick call location on post to get some SOAP note/clinical practice. I actually really enjoyed the sick call rotations, where a lot of the times the PAs and docs let us actually see the patients and practice what we had learned up to that point. A lot of my classmates got to work on heat cats and give IVs and various other "cool" stuff like that. Other times you'll get something more routine like pink eye. I was lucky in that one of my patients I got to see was a potential Cauda Equina Syndrome case from a parachute accident, so I got to learn a ton from the PA about nerve injuries on that day. Overall, it was a good experience and all of the patients I saw turned out to be okay afterward, so it was always a good day.

Trauma I
Finally, here you are for the famed trauma blocks at SOCM. Trauma I is overall a pretty chill section of the course where you learn a lot of the information that you will need for the rigors of Trauma II. The first week will be focused on ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Saving), which is your code procedures for cardiac arrest and other arrhythmias. It's a pretty straight forward algorithm, and the written exam isn't too bad, however it is easy to make a mistake during your hands on exam, which is why you will usually see a handful of guys retests, and perhaps a couple have to recycle as a result. Definitely do not underestimated ACLS.

After ACLS will come your pediatrics and dental blocks. PEPP (pediatrics) is two or three days and pretty easy. Dental is a while longer and you will need to study a bit for the written exam. You'll have a bunch of COLs (dentists) come in to teach this block and you will give lidocaine injections to each other for hands on practice. I hate needles and I didn't find this part too bad, so don't stress over it. By the end of Trauma I and TPA in Trauma II you'll not think twice about needles, so no worries.

After dental and PEPP, you'll be doing trauma lectures in the mornings and your trauma PMSTs in the afternoons. Most of your days will be over by 3:30 and you'll get a ton of IV, splinting, bandaging, intubating, trauma pharm, and IO practice on each other and the mannequins. At the end of the block you'll test out on each of the PMSTs and take a final exam. Most everybody makes it through alright, but it's not unheard of for somebody to fail the final, so make sure you study and especially practice your splints and bandages, as getting under 3 minutes for those is where most guys struggle. Once you get through Trauma I, the mini vacation is over and Trauma II looms overhead...

Trauma II
This block is probably the most notorious and storied part of the entire SOCM course, and for good reason. The block is entirely hands on and high stress. The cadre will watch you like hawks as they know that the odds are that if you make it through here, some day you most likely will be treating their buddies down range, so it's a very serious atmosphere for a good reason. Trauma II is split into three parts, two of them being graded: Trauma Patient Assessment (TPA), Trauma Surgical Skills (TSS), and Combat Trauma Management (CTM). I'm forced to be mute on the subject of TSS and CTM, but just think of CTM as TPA+ with reduced time standards. CTM is where I failed my first time through and is largely considered to be the most challenging part of the SOCM course.

However, Trauma II kicks off first with a week + of TPA. TPA is an algorithm that encompasses actions on the X, in a security halt, and later on a more thorough examination that encompasses most if not all of the skills taught in Trauma I besides perhaps intubation on a mock trauma patient. TPA is very challenging and was probably the first time in my SOCM experience where I legitimately feared that I may fail. You will once again be putting in tons of hours after class and on the weekends to try and get your times under the time standard. My biggest advise is to keep calm and not panic if you're something crazy like 15-20 minutes over on time at the beginning because you WILL get faster, and quickly, with practice. Focus on doing good medicine and the rest will work itself out. It was during TPA that I met with TLDR20 and practiced TPA the weekend before I tested out, and between this extra practice and the work I did with my group of guys on the weekend, I was able to pass on test day.

It's during Trauma II that you will likely see a huge paradigm shift of "power" in the class where the book smart guys start to struggle, and the hands-on wizards start to reveal themselves. The top GPA guys in my class for the most part all failed either TPA or CTM, so you can never get comfortable or cocky in your abilities. You need to keep calm and find that balance between doing good medicine and not wasting time so that you can pass your clinics. Obviously, after I passed TPA I went on to TSS and then CTM where I failed. I really wish I could say more to help guys out so that they don't repeat the mistakes that I made, however, this is a topic that I really can't touch upon, and if/when you get to SOCM you'll understand why. My best advice would be to keep calm, focus on doing good medicine, and remain confident. If you can do that, you'll at least put yourself in the best position possible to be successful.

Upon failing my retest for CTM, I went to the board and was relieved from the course with the opportunity to come back upon completion of Phase I and II of the Q Course. My best advise for if you have to go to the board is to speak with confidence, own up to your mistakes, have a plan of action to fix your deficiencies, and be ready for some tough questions. I had never been to a board before, and it was a pretty rough experience for me, and likely a big part of the reason I was sent to the Q Course before being allowed to return. So, if you find yourself at the board and not having experience with them, make sure you find a senior guy to help square you away beforehand.

SFOC
Upon being relieved, I spent a few weeks in OT doing details around the schoolhouse before heading back to SWCS to start the Q Course. I was given the choice to reclass to another 18 series MOS or take the reinsert after SERE and keep 18D as my training MOS. I decided I would take the long road as I have a real passion for medicine and I refused to give up without giving it everything I have, and thus the first step on the path was Phase I of the Q Course, SFOC.

SFOC (Special Forces Orientation Course) is a roughly 5 week course which mainly consists of gates, land nav, some orientation classes, and two weeks as a guerilla on the Robin Sage detail. While it is only an "orientation" course, something crazy like 75% of the total attrition from the Q Course occurs during this first phase, according to the cadre. Thus, it should not be underestimated.

The first week consists of gates, which consist of the SF Physical Assessment (2 minutes pushups, 2 minutes situps, 5 mile run, and pullups), 30 foot rope climb with a 25 lbs vest, and a 12 mile ruck march with a 55 lbs dry rucksack. The ruck is a killer and should not be underestimated, especially in the summer months. I've had numerous buddies fall victim to heat injuries and outright failing the ruck. It is no joke. Out of everything in the Q Course, the thing that probably fails most guys is this ruck, so take it seriously. After Gate Week, the second week is land nav. Again, a lot of guys fail this land nav course. The distances aren't as far as at Selection, but the terrain is pretty rough and those draws are no joke. I messed up the first night and was forced to go 5 for 5 the second night. Luckily, I pieced it together and got 5 on the second night, but land nav is definitely another high attrition portion of the course and should not be underestimated.

After land nav, you'll do a few days of Robin Sage prep and then go out to Sage for two weeks as a guerilla. Sage was a pretty cool experience where I learned a lot. It's nice because when you go out there and live the Sage experience for two weeks, it's like you're getting the answers to the test before you go through it yourself. I lucked out and got a lane with a really awesome G Chief and XO that mentored us SFOC guys. Also, my buddy that went through the Q right away instead of taking the 18D route was on my lane in Sage, along with some other guys I met at BLC, so I was able to learn a lot from those guys as well. Upon returning from SFOC, I had a week to get my packing list together before heading out to SUT.

SUT
SUT has a reputation all its own in the Q Course, and for good reason. While no phase in the Q Course is truly "easy," I would consider SUT's reputation to be similar to that of Trauma II over at SOCM. According to one of my cadre, this 6 weeks is the last time that Q Course cadre will really get to evaluate you for ARSOF attributes before being handed a Green Beret, so they take their job very seriously in the way that Trauma II cadre do over at SOCM. It is important to remember that you are not only being evaluated on your knowledge of small unit tactics, but also how you operate as a member of a team while in the midst of the suck. If you can learn, be a team player, and have a command presence, you can do very well at SUT. The course itself starts with about 4 weeks of training from a couple range days at the beginning, to squad and platoon patrolling, OPORDs/WARNOs/FRAGOs, ambush practice, and finally some raid and recon stuff at the end. The last week-and-a-half to two weeks of the 6 is Evals, where the training wheels come off and the cadre evaluate a different set of leadership each day with a new mission. The stress is ratcheted up and the cadre will put you into various unique situations to see how the leadership react. Make a decision, stick with it, and roll with the punches.

Unfortunately for me, I came into SUT with very limited tactical experience as an X-Ray and really struggled to exhibit confidence and leadership in my first go round. I made it to the end of the 6 weeks and learned that I had been recycled for failing my patrols. The major reasons for my failure were attention to details (such as trooping the line keeping guys awake, double checking sectors of fire, etc.) and overall confidence. A lot of your classmates have been living SUT as members of the infantry for years in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there is a large minority of your peers who will have Ranger Tabs. As an X-Ray, your lack of experience really comes to light during SUT. Having said that, some X-Rays pick it up really fast and are wizards with it... I was not one of those individuals. I often describe my first class of SUT as trying to learn a new task, but in a foreign language that I did not speak. SUT has a baseline framework/language that one must understand first before comprehending how to do the task to the cadre's standard. For the experienced guys, they come to the course with a distinct advantage because they speak the language of SUT (such as knowing what an ORP is, what it's used for, responsibilities, and what it generally looks like), so all they need to do is learn the new SOPs and help the younger guys along. It is because of this dynamic of super experienced and inexperienced guys working together that SUT exists in the first place - to give everyone in the Q Course a common building block moving forward onto a team some day. Luckily, I learned my lessons that first class and passed all of my patrols the second go around. I definitely benefited from seeing the material twice and am actually grateful in a weird way for recycling, as now I know SUT that much better for when I hopefully get to Sage and a team some day.

The biggest thing I'd say to help someone in SUT is to TAKE CHARGE when you are put in charge. It doesn't matter if you're a junior PFC or SPC, if you are in charge you tell that Ranger Tabbed CPT or SSG to move his ass if you need to. The cadre can be forgiving of small mistakes if they see leadership and violence of action on the objective, and likewise the opposite is true if they see a lack of confidence. If one were looking to try and prep for SUT, I'd say to look up the patrolling and ambush sections of the Ranger Handbook and the SUT Handbook by Paul LeFavor. About 90% of SUT is patrolling, react to contact, and ambushes. You will touch upon raids just before Evals and might get a couple of raids during Evals, but SUT is very ambush-centric. If you can master movement and setting up an ambush, be a team player, and display leadership, SUT really shouldn't pose a huge problem for you. In my two classes of SUT, I only saw four guys get relieved from the Q Course for their patrolling failures, so if you're feeling stressed, try not to let it get to your head. If you're a good dude and work hard, you likely will recycle at worst, which is fine - you can build on that. Don't let yourself get stressed out about getting relieved, because once you do that everything else will seem that much harder. Just go out there with the right mindset and crush it so you don't have to do the 12 week program like me.

SERE
I'm pretty limited in what I can talk about in regards to this course. Most of the course is actually unclassified, but I don't have my notes right in front of me and I'm not 100% on which parts were classified or not. Thus, this will be a rather vague course description. I can say that the course is three weeks out at Camp MacKall, and it really, really sucks. You will learn a ton about yourself and your team of guys, but it is not a fun experience by any stretch. Having said that, at the very end it makes you proud and makes it all worth it. This course is not very difficult and you should not be worried about failing, however, you WILL be extremely uncomfortable and have to gut through it. I will say that it was a very professionally run course, and one that I will never forget. As for what is taught in this course, the acronym SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape... so, expect to learn about evading capture/recapture, escaping captivity, resisting exploitation, and how to survive with little-to-no supplies in the outdoors. I'm not going to risk going more in depth than that in case I say something that I shouldn't.

Return to SOCM
Now, upon completing SERE I am awaiting my return to SOCM. I am just as motivated as ever to finally accomplish what I set out to do and become an 18D, and I am so grateful for this second chance to come back to the schoolhouse and give it another shot from the trauma blocks onward. Thank you again so much to any and all members here who have helped me out over the last couple years of my journey, and please, if I wrote about something that should have been left unsaid, let us know so that we can fix it as it was not my intention to write about things that should not be written about. To the guys following behind me, I hope this has been helpful as you prepare to go through the various phases of the course, and good luck!
 

Ooh-Rah

Marine
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Joined
Sep 12, 2012
Messages
7,252
#15
Wow. Thanks so much to @TLDR20 and our mystery writer/member for posting these learnings. I had no idea how much went into turning a soldier into SF, and it does not appear he is even near done yet.
Very very eye opening, and an even higher respect level for those who pass through these various SOF Selection opportunities.
 

TrainerAsh

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Joined
Dec 14, 2015
Messages
9
#16
This is probably the most detailed description of the pipeline for 18D I've yet to read. I understand that the main focus would be on learning to treat acute trauma, but I'm just curious; it seems like some of the subjects are only touched upon very briefly (the writer mentions pediatrics, dental, etc.) Is this because this is deemed to be not as important/less likely to be needed, or will the soldier receive further training in these subjects upon reaching an ODA? I'm wondering what rough percentage of time is spent towards the combat medicine side of things vs skills/knowledge that would be used to help "win the hearts and minds of the people."

Thanks for keeping this thread up to date. It's very eye-opening and informative.
 
Joined
Feb 8, 2017
Messages
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#17
Amazing update!! Thank you! Good luck to you as you go back through it again, and looking forward to hearing of your success!
 

policemedic

Verified SWAT
Joined
Jul 29, 2008
Messages
4,914
Location
A galaxy far, far away
#18
This is probably the most detailed description of the pipeline for 18D I've yet to read. I understand that the main focus would be on learning to treat acute trauma, but I'm just curious; it seems like some of the subjects are only touched upon very briefly (the writer mentions pediatrics, dental, etc.) Is this because this is deemed to be not as important/less likely to be needed, or will the soldier receive further training in these subjects upon reaching an ODA? I'm wondering what rough percentage of time is spent towards the combat medicine side of things vs skills/knowledge that would be used to help "win the hearts and minds of the people."

Thanks for keeping this thread up to date. It's very eye-opening and informative.
Without regard to the SFMS course, all aspects of medicine are important. Got a troop with a dental issue, or leishmaniasis, or a sick working dog? You'd best be able to step up and do work.