Selections: purpose, 'hazing' and are they doing it right?
December 12, 2017 at 2:29 pm #83594
^ Best title I could think of, not sure it is the right one though! ^
An aspect has been entering my universe recently and it has prompted me to write this post. I don’t normally discuss myself or my career in any great detail but I am prompted to say some things in order to use my experiences to make my point. Also, something about my broken back recently came together in my mind, which is weird because it shows how you don’t necessarily join the dots over the years, until it comes to you in a flash. So there are going to be various strands to this post, confessions if you like.
So, this is about what I see in the military in terms of ‘selections’ in various units, for example Ranger, Special Forces, and how I see that bleed across to things like GoRuck, and what I think is wrong with it. You could say this is none of my business, I have never been in any of those units, and I have never done those selections. Fair enough. Also, this does not in any way detract from my respect for these units, I am just a little leery of some of the methods. Why? Because a lot of it seems to me more like ‘hazing’ and simply trying to get people to quit, rather than constructive selection. In fact, looking at these things now at age 44, recovering from back surgery, I can’t help think I would just walk away if someone tried to force me through one of these ‘welcome party’ hazing sessions. You really have to want it to suffer it!
At one point, in a former life, I was a Para Company platoon commander. So, for two years, I trained recruits through Parachute Regiment basic training. This included getting them to P Company (Pre Parachute Selection) and through parachute training, final exercise etc. Unlike US Army Basic Training with a Drill Sergeant per platoon, we ran things as a platoon staff. Thus, just like a rifle platoon, we had sections (squads) of recruits. I was the platoon commander, we had a platoon headquarters and corporals who were the section commanders / instructors. I was responsible for booking, planning and leading all the training and exercises in accordance with the training program. We had changed the whole dynamic of training so that rather than ‘beasting’ recruits to make them fail, we would lead them through the training and try to get them to achieve the standards. I had no time for pointless ‘beasting,’ bullying or hazing. Often it was “that is what happened to me when I was a Joe.” These are kids we were trying to train to meet standards and go on to serve. Yes, we would punish Joe, but usually by something more ‘constructive’ such as ‘whistle fire and movement.’ It had to be something training related. The point is that selection and training standards were hard enough, and we wanted to lead them to success. We never lowered standards, but we did not want to fail people pointlessly due to ‘smoking’ them for hours with pointless exercise. But this seems to be a tradition in the US Army.
I went through a number of selections in my career. Parachute Regiment Basic Training. Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Selection as a Parachute Regiment Officer. Pre-Parachute Selection. Infantry Platoon Commanders Course (like a sort of professional qualification Ranger School, if you wish). UKSF selection. There is a thread here, as I mentioned above, about my back, that I only put together recently, in a flash of inspiration. I guess it is sort of critical to the whole thing, but I never realized it. I had fallen off an obstacle during a race at Sandhurst. Flat onto my back into what I thought was water, but was actually only a couple inches deep. Hurt like a bastard. Next morning was church parade. I recall asking the platoon Color Sergeant if I could make my own way to church. He laughed at me and made me march in formation. The pain went away and I went on to without thinking about it. Had I actually fractured the lamina (the sticky out bits from the vertebra that hold the spine in place) in my L5 – S1, but the spine had not actually shifted at that time? I will never know.
Now, P Company, or Pre Parachute selection, never involved any of these ‘hazing’ or ‘welcome party’ events that you see on things like GoRuck, which are imported from the military equivalents. In fact, what surprises me about GoRuck, having recently spoken to someone who did a GoRuck ‘tough’ event, is that it is not really about the rucking. Yes, they may walk 10 miles over the course of it, but it is more about the ‘smoke sessions’ at the stops. Excuse me while I quit (or never sign up). P Company events were hard enough without the need for this, and because they were designed PT sessions, there were clear metrics, not based on the whim of a ‘smoke’ session. The way it worked is that there is a ‘beat up’ prior to test week. For recruits, this is part of their training, for those coming in from the rest of the army for the ‘all arms’ selection course, it is several weeks long. This is where officers for the Parachute Regiment join after Sandhurst. So yes, I did P Company twice in my career, as enlisted and officer. The beat up is designed to get you fit enough for test week, but also to exhaust you prior to it. It is a balance between not trying to get injured. So on these work-up tabs (ruck marches) you would, for example, go to ‘the land of nod’ which was a steep valley with multiple trails up the sides and do a ‘work station.’ Up and down the trails with and without rucks. Basically it is hill-repping to a design, to get you fitter for test week. I will tell you this: for someone who personally did P Company twice, and then took recruits through the beat up and event several times over two years (we did all the PT events with Joe, as an example of leadership), P Company is fucking hard.
Land of Nod:
Fast forward to UKSF selection. This is what many will know as ‘SAS selection’ and was the inspiration / model for CAG / Delta selection. So there is no SFAS in the UK, no equivalent of what Special Forces do here, which includes the smoking shown on that ‘two weeks in hell ‘ TV show about SFAS. Let’s look at that a little. Below is a video clip of SFAS.
2 weeks in hell:
So let’s make something clear – Special Forces is an actual unit, candidates for which go through SFAS and then the Q Course. SOF, or Special Operations Forces, is a catch all for all SOF units, including SF. This is something that the US has had to do simply because we have a unit called SF, whereas other nations often use ‘Special Forces’ as a catch all for what is SOF in the US. Complicated enough? So Rangers, for example, are in SOF but are not SF. Terminology is different in the UK.
Now, you can tell me that any of these ‘smoke sessions’ are hard. That is true. Anyone can take anyone in a mud hole and destroy them until they either pass out or quit. This is why ‘smoking’ is used as a punishment in the military, it is a sort of grown up spanking if you like. It happens in basic training where whole platoons will get ‘smoked’ around the accommodation bays, doing a bunch of exercises. So yes, you can harass someone to see if they will quit or not. You can make things hard. But you are not supposed to be just making things hard, punishing or hazing people, you are supposed to be selecting and training. Thus, in my opinion, any sort of selection test should be a lot more constructive, or useful, in its purpose.
Below is something I found online about a civilian ‘UKSF Experience’ which gives you an idea, and me goosebumps:
UKSF selection is 5 weeks long, followed by continuation. I can’t recollect all of it, but I will give you an idea. Week 1 begins on a Sunday, and is a really long week. The first event is the army 8 mile Combat Fitness test, but it is run in the hills of the Sennybridge training area. As an officer you have to start at the back, and it is done as a ‘run away.’ This is where the PTI goes off like a bat out of hell. There are a lot of ‘runaways’ on selection. So you spend the whole 8 miles trying to catch up. My running fitness was actually pretty poor when I got to selection, compared to many of the super athletes, but my endurance was pretty good. I hadn’t long before returned from Afghanistan where as the 2 PARA anti-tank commander I had been running a maneuver support group (MSG) in support of SF operations. In that first week there are actually a number of ‘clean fatigue’ runs without rucks. The closest you get to a ‘smoking’ is the work stations which is where you stop at a hill and are made to do man carries and such up and down it. Then they do ‘run-aways’ where you are dying to catch up. That first week finishes on the Friday with the ‘Fan Dance’ which is over and back the highest feature in the Brecon Beacons, Pen-y-Fan, having to be completed in under 4 hours. Again, the whole thing is basically a run-away. I caught up with the DS (directing staff i.e. cadre) on the summit of the Fan on the way back, after struggling up ‘Jacobs Ladder,’ which is a series of rock steps up to the summit. So that whole first week is basically a pre-selection and if you do not pass the Fan, you are off.
After that, it goes into a series of DS-led tabs. You go as a group and the idea is to teach you / train you what the pace is to pass, which is a 4 km/h pace worked out as the crow flies point to point. One of you will navigate a leg, one will carry the med bag as well as your ruck. There are also work stations sewn in among this, where you get to hideous places such as I recall ‘bow tie wood,’ where you ran around it and then there was an obscene grassy slope that you had to go up with and without rucks. So this goes on in weeks roughly 2 and 3 with you gradually getting down to pairs and then individual navigation. At some point there was a ‘Black Tuesday or Thursday’ which went overnight with several tabs. The challenge of the terrain at Brecon is that it is not only steep hills, where you are trying to maintain a 4 km/h pace as the crow flies, carrying a 55lb ruck plus food and water and deactivated SLR (FN), but you have to pick your ground carefully as there is a lot of ‘tussock grass’ which is a nightmare to walk over. We called it ‘baby heads’ for some sick reason. Ankle turning is a constant threat. I would tape my feet completely and then wear soft ankle braces inside my boots. So you are struggling up the mountains and then trying to run down as fast as you can to make up time.
There is no starvation on selection. You stay at Sennybridge camp and extra rations are authorized so breakfast and dinner are huge. You spend all day out on the hill and are snacking during the day as you move, so you have to try and get as many calories in you as you can. There is also mainly no sleep deprivation other than being on a 4-ton truck at 0500 heading out to where you are getting dropped off for that days tab.
The way the tabs work is that you do not know where you are going or how long you have. You are given a grid reference and have to make best speed to it. You are not allowed on roads except 100 meters from a checkpoint. You get to the checkpoint and you are given your next grid. You do not know what to expect at the checkpoint. I used to call it getting ‘bad-copped’ where you would arrive and the DS would rip you apart. Once a DS watched me come onto the road 100 yards from his land rover, run all the way towards him, then tell me I came on the road too soon, send me back and then back to him. Bad-copped.
Prior to test week, you go up to Elan Valley for a series of tabs. Elan is hell. It is not as steep as Brecon, but it is a wasteland /moorland which is hard to navigate and a hell of marsh and tussock grass. I noticed that by looking at the contours, you could almost see higher features which acted as ‘islands’ standing out of the bog, and by running around the ‘shore’ / divide between them and the bog, you could make time. There was a lot of mist, and a lot of hard navigation. Following sheep tracks was also a good idea if you could. Elan was another watershed. I mentioned above that I was not really that fit when I went on selection. There were guys there who were cardio gods. But there is something about selection – it is designed that it will take you beyond the physical. You will likely get an injury and have to deal with it. I noticed that as the weeks progressed, I used to get a cramping pain in my traps where the ruck straps lay. It would get unbearable and I would have to stop every now and again and bend forward to relieve the pressure. I did wear a waist strap for selection – the rules were such that you had to have web pouches, but you could attach them to the waistbelt of the ruck, so that is what I did, and that is where my canteens and ration snack pouches were. So you would see these guys fade away. They would be gone. It was called ‘VW’ which is voluntary withdrawal. A lot of them were much better runners than me. They also often had large egos. But they would be gone. This may give you insight into why I look askance at these larger than life ‘special operations’ characters you see in the media and the Instagrams. looking the part. Gone. Lost to Elan. I recall passing an officer from my battalion, senior to me and fit as a gazelle, knelt down in the tussock grass doing a notional map-check, gone. Nothing I could do for him as I tabbed on past.
Then, you get to test week. You are fit, but exhausted and partially broken. Test week starts with two big tabs in Elan Valley: Elan North and South. Horrific and really hard to make the time. After that, there are two tabs in Brecon. This is where the back popped up again. I was on a tab called Iron Man. These are about 8 hour long marches in the mountains so you are going all day. At one point, I fell while running down the hill. Much later, I discovered that I had broken the aluminum internal frame in the back of the ruck on that fall. As I was heading up Fan Fawr I noticed a pulling pain through my butt cheek. Now I know that as sciatic pain. I thought nothing if it, completed the tab, and got back to my bunk. I lay on my bunk prior to dinner and then went to get up. I could not, my back was in agony. I eventually made it to the medic. There is some memory confusion here. He examined me and thought maybe I had slipped a disk. Name of the game is to complete selection. He gave me something that was either co-proxamol or co-codamol, one or the other, because later they were switched and the other one sat much better with me.
Next day, fuck me. It was ‘point to point.’ This is hideous tab that involved criss-crossing the Pen-y-Fan range. I started the day having to walk up and over the Fan. Agony. I really started to struggle because the pain was too much to make up time running downhill. I was sort of hopping and jumping. I made several of the legs and on the penultimate leg down to a spur on the north side, by the time I arrived at the CP there was no water left in the jerry cans. I was out of water and suffering. I was in pain. Dry, I ended up taking the whole packet of pain meds. I had to head back over the hill to point 642. I was dying by this time. I went down into the valley and then up the steep trail straight up the side of the valley to point 642. I could see the DS looming at the top watching me the whole way. When I got there, he asked what was wrong and if I was going to continue. I told him I was out of water. Bless that man, but he traded my empty for a full water bottle. I walked away from point 642 and knew that to get to the dam for the finish point, I had to go through ‘VW valley.’ This is a famous V-shaped valley with no trails, just big grassy slopes and no forgiveness. Hence, ‘VW valley.’ However you look at the map, there is no way to avoid it. As I walked away from his tent, I started to down the water. I started to froth white at the mouth and vomit. Looking back, if that was paracetamol in those pills, and I had taken the whole packet, I was probably lucky I vomited it out. I was unable to run down into VW valley but I made it through and made the finish point. The chief instructor looked at me. I was over time and that meant a red card. Another red card and you were off. Returned to Unit (RTU). He looked at me, and I looked at him, and I saw it in his eyes. He thought I was done. I must have been a sorry sight. Fuck that.
Next day was ricochet tab. In once sense this was a relatively easy day, because the march was only about 5 hours. I had seen the medic and got the medication changed to the other one, and I was not in so much pain. I did not know how I was going to pass ricochet, but somehow I did. Why was it only a 5 hour march? Because Endurance started that night. So it was back to the barracks and then we were set of that night between 0100-0300 from the dam at the east side of Brecon. I set off up the hill in the mist by headlamp. As dawn was breaking behind me I was walking over Pen-y-Fan. I think endurance is about 40 miles (60km?) and you basically traverse Brecon one way then come back by a slightly different route. You have 20 hours to do it, so it is at a slightly slower pace. I made it to the turn-around point and started to make my way back east. At some point as I neared Fan Fawr I stated to go hypo-glycaemic. I literally started to feel myself shut down like a robot, vision closing in, literally starting to fold to the ground. I ate an energy snack and came right back online. At some point, I caught up with ‘Locky.’ He was a corporal from 2 PARA who I knew. We started to walk together. You would pass people but you were not allowed to collaborate, although that went out the window a little on Endurance, where you ended up with long lines of orange visibility panels on rucks snaking over the same route. We would tab together and then separate going in to the CP. We would then meet up again on the other side. Locky wasn’t eating anything, and I was concerned at this, given that I needed to eat or shut down. I didn’t know how he was doing it. We hit VW valley again, opposite direction to my point to point route, to go towards point 642 again. We struggled to the top. I think I used my SLR as a walking stick – definitely not allowed. We flopped to the ground at the top of the hideous slope. I tried to feed Locky. He sat there with half chewed energy food dribbling down his chin. Fuck. I could not get energy into him.
The last part of Endurance is around the Talybont reservoir. You are sort of following the curve of it around to the dam that the tab started at, on the opposite side. The ground slopes down on trails through forest, and the reservoir is miles long, and seems to go on forever, never seeing the dam around the bend in the hills as it trends to the left. Locky started to panic a bit at this, thinking that we would never make it. I had no idea how he was still going, running on empty. We were running down the trails through the woods. Eventually, we got to the dam and over it. We had made it in 16 hours and change. We had passed selection. Locky ended up in a squadron.
After that, you moved to Hereford itself. As officers, we did officers week. That is a sleep deprivation event for a week. At night, you get dropped off and do close target recce in civilian clothes on real farmhouses. You come in and write patrol reports. During the day, you do combat estimates on various problems and get torn apart in the auditorium in front of everyone who happens to be in Hereford for officers week. For one problem, a Northern Ireland style arrest op, I thought it would be a better idea to wait for all the suspects to get into their vehicles, all nicely contained on the way to the hit, before stopping and arresting them. Not so according to two NCOs who crucified me from the front row, all in favor of an assault on the safe house. There was no winning, no right answer. Another, I made the mistake of over-thinking a problem, distracted by the additional information provided in my sleep deprived addled brain. I should have known better, as a Para officer – the answer to the Sierra Leone based problem was a TALO assault (Tactical Airlanding) onto the airfield, not some madness involving red-herring French Aircraft carriers off the coast or some such thing. As I was briefing, looking at the stupefied faces of the Hereford Ops team (this was closed doors), the light came on, and I apologized, begged forgiveness for stupidity, and reverted the plan. Fuck. Idiot.
It was after that when the story takes a turn. I was still injured and I could not go onto continuance with that group. Luckily for me, the stupid phase of never giving up was over and having shown our worth by passing selection, someone was then able to actually look out for me. So I went sideways in the community, allowing me time initially to heal while working from the ops room, and then eventually back into the field. I ended up in Northern Ireland. Surveillance and reconnaissance. With a solid background as an infantry guy, with a good pedigree as a paratrooper and multiple deployments in Northern Ireland with the Paras, I was an asset for some areas of operations. Others, requiring the ‘grey man,’ not so much – that was actually a criteria for some things. Things were not so formally established in that role as they are now. Northern Ireland is/was a nasty place and you cannot afford mistakes. Spending time down in ‘Bandit Country’ in South Armagh and various other places is no joke.
My ambition in life had always been to be a Captain in the Parachute Regiment and also attempt UKSF selection. I had achieved that but had not gone where I had visualized to go in my mind. Due to spending another year on ops in Northern Ireland, I had missed the Iraq war. Yes, I had deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11, but I had visualized being in a Squadron myself for something like Iraq. But I was born in Northern Ireland, did a bunch of deployments there, and due to the back, ended up back there. Seemed the place had my name on it! Enough! So I cooked up a scheme and resigned. My plan was to be a professional yacht captain. That lasted a very short time and I ended up in Dubai. That was 2004 when things really started to kick off in Iraq after the invasion. I got picked up by a company that was run by ex-SAS guys with an initial contract to go into Iraq, train up a platoon of South Africans, and run convoy operations for sensitive equipment from the Turkish and Syrian borders into Kirkuk. That was the start of my unplanned five year adventure in Iraq and Afghanistan, which led to my American wife and coming to America.
I ultimately had spinal fusion surgery last year after discovering that I had a broken L5-S1. In summer 2014 I had piled in hard onto my back in a Parachute jump, hitting hard into the FLS at Camp Makall. The FLS is yellow landing strip that I had thought was sand, but turned out to be some sort of hard yellow concrete that looks like sand. Having jumped at places like Bragg over the years I was used to the sandy landing zones. As such, I did not try to steer to avoid it and hit feet, ass, head, stunning myself. It took me a year to go and get an x-ray and realize the back was actually broken.
This has been a long and rambling post. I have said more than I usually say. The reason is that there is much out there that I do not like. Anyone can make something hard, and make you quit or die, but there has to be a purpose and a structure. I do not like GoRuck, even though this post is not about GoRuck, or designed purely to be a hit against it – I see what appear to me to be hazing sessions. Ask yourself this: are the cadre doing it with you? Are they leading you through it, or just subjecting you to hazing based on the fact that they are ‘Been There Done That’? On any selection I have been on, or taken part in, the cadre have led us. They may not have done every event, but there were there, leading the tabs over the hills. If we bring in something like the Velocity Challenge that was discussed, it will not involve senseless punishment, but clear events with objective and metrics, within a scenario.
December 12, 2017 at 3:37 pm #83595PinkyParticipant
good and interesting post. I’ve done a couple of goruck events (2 x 12 hour, 24 hour, “nasty” (nasty nick set up on Massanutten mountain ski slope) and maybe one other one of the same type. Anyway, my experience was that it depends on the cadre as to what the “challenges” are along the way. most all of mine were something like carry a railroad tie or partial telephone pole all night/day, then do stuff every couple miles. they did all start with a welcome party, but none of them seemed to have meaningless smoke-fests as the challenges.
For example, we had a force recon marine cadre for one of them and every challenge was doing a recon of something with his crappy flip-phone camera (solve a puzzle as to what, get there, provide photographic evidence, return in a certain amount of time). That made it at least interesting vs. just doing some dumb activity just to smoke us.
The last one was several years ago, so maybe they ran out of ideas or creative cadre. From what I gathered from it, the simple, stated goal was “you can do more than you think you can, you just need the motivation. Your mind is what is limiting you.”
Regardless of that, i agree wholeheartedly that events that are measurable and meaningful are what is needed vs. just smoking people for no apparent reason.
I enjoyed your mini autobiography
December 12, 2017 at 8:02 pm #83596JohnnyMacParticipant
Thanks for sharing Max. I knew there was rucking in some of the UK selection but I didn’t realize that it was almost all rucking!
I guess having not participated in a GoRuck event, I can’t say “what it’s like” but I have trained for one. The GRTs I know and have trained with seem to be genuinely good people. You see positive attitudes/joking from some and, at least, silent suffering from rest, all while working through a physical beat down. The world is a better place with less sniveling in it.
With that said, I echo Max’s opinion for the most part, but it’s probably that we “just don’t get it”.
Here’s an interesting description (https://tackelbox.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/gorcuk-red-light-blue-compete/)
I’ll leave you with this photo from it:
And some highlights from the link:
“Elephant walk”, we had to do it until the 25 or so people on my team were in complete sync with our steps in a circle. The cadre talked about how we need to think outside of the box to accomplish this since it was hard to see each other, we tried counting but didn’t really work then he talked about how when deployed it’s amazing how the environment around you can help. There was construction going on and some type of piledriver or something that was banging at a steady rate off in the distance so we yelled out to use that as our timing to get everyone synced.
We missed a “time hack” so they made us get into the fountain at Marshall Park and sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as punishment.
December 12, 2017 at 8:08 pm #83597
Yet, I really didn’t want this to become about GoRuck, even though I mentioned it.
December 12, 2017 at 10:25 pm #83598BrushpopperParticipant
@Max this is very interesting in the differences between your training in the UK (which is amazing to me) and the training our military does here. Not having any experience with either, and having no basis to say which is better, I’m sure both have their merits. I like the idea of building someone up, while not lowering the standards, and giving them the opportunity to pass if they are physically capable. The idea of just hazing and trying to make people quit doesn’t appeal to me, you could be missing out on some capable people who may actually be physically capable, but got smoked to hard or injured doing pointless activities that are designed to deride you. I’ll be reading this one again.
December 12, 2017 at 11:27 pm #83599Joe (G.W.N.S.)Moderator
…I am just a little leery of some of the methods. Why? Because a lot of it seems to me more like ‘hazing’ and simply trying to get people to quit, rather than constructive selection.
I agree and while interesting doesn’t translate into something I can use to develop a Group.
If we bring in something like the Velocity Challenge that was discussed, it will not involve senseless punishment, but clear events with objective and metrics, within a scenario.
This would be something that would be helpful in building our Groups. A shared common experience that helps build camaraderie while establishing standards.
I enjoy a difficult challenge, but won’t be paying someone to haze me! At least I got paid to experience it as a young military guy, didn’t know any better, and I volunteered.
The U.S. Military tends to be cyclical regarding this issue. Originally there’s a valid point to a particular exercise, however it’s purpose gets lost through turnovers and becomes a beat down administered by lesser leaders/instructors.
These so-called leaders/instructors repeat through route, vice purpose.
Finally someone is disabled or dies before legitimacy is returned only to be repeated.
We can’t afford such nonsense.
December 13, 2017 at 7:26 am #83600Sam BradyParticipant
I attended a live fire CQB course two years ago. I was partnered up with a US Marine LTC who was responsible for MARSOC at the headquarters level. He was one a Captain commanding in MARSOC at one time. Naval Academy graduate and very smart in my view (not really a fan of WP or Naval Academy BTW). He was telling me the biggest problem he had was with the NCO’s charged with selection and training. Most seem to think it was there job to allow the smallest number thru the training cycle instead of trying to develop good candidates thru the training process. There is a very fine line between foolish harassment that only injures good candidates and stress that inoculates the candidate.
December 13, 2017 at 8:18 am #83601zeerfParticipant
There is a very fine line between foolish harassment that only injures good candidates and stress that inoculates the candidate.
I have had this thought many times from first-hand years ago to reading and hearing what others have mentioned.
Finally someone is disabled or dies before legitimacy is returned only to be repeated.
We can’t afford such nonsense.
exactly what I was thinking also Joe
December 13, 2017 at 9:26 am #83602
Too much personal information? I feel a little violated today. I am usually way more discrete.
December 13, 2017 at 10:21 am #83603wheelseeParticipant
Going down a rabbit hole, for a reason.
Reserve Police Battalion 101 (book by the name of Police Battalion 101) was a German force made of bakers, butchers, bankers, etc in WWII in the Eastern theater (mainly Poland) serving under the SS.
Their claim to infamy is having the highest kill rate of civilians (read Jews and other “undesirables”) before the concentration camps were formed. The Col (?) had a problem as “soldiers” guarded the prisoners, walked them to the killing fields and executed them. The psychological impact presented the problem. Eventually the Col figured out a way to get the job done with minimum psychological impact on his men – a group to hold, a group to walk/transport, and a group to kill. The ratio worked out to 3:5:3 (stay with me, these numbers are important). 3 would engage in conversation with the prisoners and treated humanely (these held the prisoners in the group), 5 were indifferent but still treated humanely (these were used for transport), and 3 were psychopathic, even sadistic (these were used for the actual killing).
How could this happen?? Was this limited to the German people (remember – bankers, butchers, etc NOT soldiers)? Fast forward to 1971. The Stanford Prison Experiment (funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research) took graduate students and divided up into guards and prisoners (done randomly). The primary rule was – can’t touch the subject (prisoner or guard) but psychological abuse was allowed. The experiment was stopped after 6 days (August 14-20, 1971) due to objections. Remember the ratio above (3:5:3)?? The same ratio was found in the Stanford Prison Experiment. See also the Milgram Experiment at Yale in 1961 (authority figures telling subjects to deliver electrical shocks to innocent subjects). See also The Third Wave Experiment in Palo Alto CA in 1976 (high school subjects). See also the BBC Prison Study in 2002 (a bit different findings but highlighted the importance of tight control of guards).
Recent (fairly) events at Abu Ghraib highlighted the findings. Philip Zimbardo, the original researcher for the Stanford Prison Experiment, was on the defense team for SSgt Frederick, and wrote the book “The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil” detailing the case.
Application for Max’s post?? You may have heard the phrase, “power corrupts; Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The BBC Prison study highlighted the importance of leadership in the emergence of tyranny. If the training cadre doesn’t have a firm grasp of the training goals, abuses can slip in.
This is NOT limited to military but to ANY training. Many years ago, I was taking an ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) class and was grouped with ICU nurses (I was an ED/Trauma nurse with EMS field experience, and had been an instructor for years, though no one at this class knew it). Our instructor was a local EMS Chief. His scenario to the ICU RNs (he knew their work background) ended up being a field rescue scenario with 2 of them (RNs) “dying”. I spoke up stating this was an ACLS class NOT a rescue class and what ICU RN would be in that situation. I knew what was coming and received the tongue-lashing and one of the most difficult scenarios I’ve ever had, going double-digit steps beyond “normal”. I again called him out on it and wrote the same in my review. (Yes, I did pass but was told I was not welcome at any future class).
Think back to those ratios again (3:5:3). This may be over-generalizing but three of every people you meet will be friendly, open to conversation, and maybe more. Five will “do their job” but will probably hang out at the fringes in social events. However, three will sweet-talk you and plunge the knife, figuratively or even literally. Your line of work may skew the numbers a bit but you let your guard down at your peril.
December 13, 2017 at 10:22 am #83604
There is a lot more to the SF community in the UK than most realize. Some of it is in the public domain and I will post that here. Most know only of ‘the SAS’ when thinking of British Special Forces. Some of these units were formally ‘established’ (as the military term goes) after my time in the British Army. For example, the SFSG (Special Forces Support Group) was formally established by putting 1 PARA and some Commando Units officially into it. I was in 1 and 2 PARA in my time and the SFSG was not established. But as I mentioned in my post above, we would do what would become SFSG roles anyway, such as on deployment to Afghanistan. It was that need and ongoing operations that led to the idea to formally estbalsih it. Some of us were dong it anyway.
Another example is the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, which was formally established in 2005 after my time. So I definitely was not in it, it would have been physically impossible without a time machine.
SRR had its roots in 14 Intelligence Company (The Det) which was specific to Northern Ireland and worked in an organization called ‘Group’ along with SAS elements to conduct surveillance, renaissance, arrest etc operations in Northern Ireland. It was a symbiotic relationship with the SAS troop providing the muscle and more ‘dirty side’ surveillance and observation type operations (think crawling around hedgerows setting up OPs etc) and the Det providing the super secret surveillance in more of the public domain. This is where I mentioned that one of the selection criteria for Det operators was being a ‘grey man’ for surveillance purposes. Unmemorable.
December 13, 2017 at 10:40 am #83605
December 13, 2017 at 11:58 pm #83606First SergeantModerator
Max, thanks for that.
After completing OSUT and jump school I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to volunteer for a LRS company.
At that time you had to complete LIP(Long Range Indoctrination Program). If you didn’t complete the course you could be transferred down the road to a mech infantry unit, God forbid. That transfer was at the recommendation of the NCO’s running the course.
During the 3 week course you were taught vehicle recce, HF commo gear, HF commo theory and the basics of working in a 6 man team. And a lot of rucking and PT.
The NCO’s running the program were some of the most professional NCO’s I ever worked for. One was a Grenada Raider, another was a Vietnam USMC Force Recon vet that got out and rejoined the Army later, and a couple of others. Those guys did everything with us. To include the final 12 mile ruck march. They never did anything to just fuck with you. If you screwed up something, you would pay the price. All of it had a purpose. Nothing was done just to fuck with you.
Once I got on a team, things changed. Some of the NCO’s in the platoon fucked with Joe’s just because. Some of them were just sadistic assholes, others did it because it was done to them when they were young privates.
Even though I didn’t realize it at that time, those NCO’s running the program had a huge impact on me for the rest of my career. The other one’s also had an impact on me.
My point is that I agree completely with Max. Everything should have a purpose. Nothing should ever be done just to fuck with someone.
@Sam Brady – I have seen of a nd heard of things like that happening in the Army also. Guys think they have become the “protector” of whatever and no one else is worthy.
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December 14, 2017 at 3:06 am #83607A_A_Ron2gunsParticipant
Oh man, I remember log PT.
I honestly don’t understand the goruck stuff. I’d never pay someone money to make me do log PT. Fuck that noise. I got paid to do it and it wasn’t fun.
December 16, 2017 at 12:31 am #83608D CloseModerator
I just recently read an article in Marine Corps Times regarding the CO of a recruit training unit getting relieved.
One of their guys committed suicide after being hazed by a DI who had been banned from training recruits. On the other hand, reading of the relaxed standards in certain branches due to desired outcomes is disheartening. I am a beleiver in the idea that men must be tested before combat. I always hope that the test has something to do with the rigors of what is required in a fight. Stress is an important part of that too. Can’t be too soft on the lads you know.
The GoRuck reminds me of the Donovan book “The Way of Men” we’ve discussed before. It is a replacement for real tests that many will never see in their lives. The mental fortitude one builds lifting logs or boats, or curled up in a hole during E and E training has value. We need to know what we are capable of and our brothers need to know as well.
Great story Max. I enjoyed it and thanks.
December 16, 2017 at 8:50 am #83609hellokittyParticipant
Thank you Max and Scott for sharing with us.
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December 19, 2017 at 12:50 am #83610AnonymousInactive
Just got back from Syria three weeks ago and just renewed my forum membership a few days back.
This thread made me recall some of the discussion within my own unit while I was overseas. My unit in the YPG was the International Tabur, and since we were the only combat-centric Westerner unit in YPG we had a lot of veterans from the US and Europe. (It was a real privilege to train with such a diverse group of experienced guys.) More than once the veterans in our unit would trade stories on their military lives and training and a number of the European vets seemed a bit surprised at the amount of hazing that goes on in the US military based on how the US vets described their experiences as compared to theirs.
Just interesting to see the same discussion pop up here now that I’m home.
December 19, 2017 at 7:57 am #83611JohnnyMacParticipant
Just got back from Syria three weeks ago and just renewed my forum membership a few days back.
We’d love to hear about your experiences! If you feel comfortable sharing.
December 19, 2017 at 8:35 am #83612
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