Tactical

How to navigate the 3 phases of special ops recruit preparation

Article by Stew Smith
(Photo By Jorden Weir)

In a recent, article discussing the Three Phases of Tactical Fitness, many recruits find themselves stuck in phase 1 of tactical fitness (Testing Phase) for far too long. To achieve exceptional PT scores, it may take a recruit 6-12 months or more depending upon your athletic background and training history. Typically, if you join the military unprepared for this test, this period of time has the added pressure of Spec Ops Mentors and Recruiters with the time crunch of the Delayed Entry Program (DEP).

Here are two scenarios the recruit can choose to be a part of:


1. Turned 18 – time to enlist

If your goal is to turn 18 and enlist, great! Thanks for considering military service for a future career – we need more Americans like you. However, are you "really ready" to go from high school kid to special ops recruit / candidate? If you have not taken the physical screen test (PST) yet (on your own) and are crushing the events, then NO you are not ready to start this process. If you continue on this journey you will likely either not ever pass the PST prior to your ship date or just barely pass the competitive standards, get selected for Special Ops (SO rating in the Navy), and soon ship to boot camp. Great right? Well, you prepared well enough to get TO BUD/S but have you prepared at all to get THROUGH BUD/S? Have you turned 1.5 mile runs into fast 4 mile timed runs? Have you turned 500yd swims without fins into 2 mile swims with fins? Have you continued your PT but added strength workouts to prepare for log PT, boat carries, rucking, and other load bearing events? If you have not spent a significant amount of your time in this THROUGH cycle (Phase 2 Tactical Fitness), then you will likely successfully make it into BUD/S for about two weeks on average. Quitting and injury typically follow – statistically speaking.

2. Crushed PST many times — ready to enlist

If you have taken the PST countless amount of times, have worked on a strategy for optimal performance and are hitting the advanced competitive scores, it is time. Take the PST and crush it the first time. Now you have a standard of above average passing standard that you can maintain while you focus more on getting THROUGH BUD/S with faster / longer runs, longer swims, rucking, strength training for the load bearing activities at BUDS. You may even have time to practice some land navigation, knot tying, water confidence, or even take a SCUBA course. The goal of the time you have in DEP now is to focus on your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. And when you start to enjoy your prior weaknesses, you are ready. You will still have to ace the PST regularly so make your warmups be calisthenics / testing focused and the added longer runs / swims / rucks and lifts to follow. See Tactical Fitness or Tactical Strength for ideas.

To ALL recruits: exercise patience

Marine Corps Sgt. Joshua Morris executes a Romanian deadlift during a High Intensity Tactical Training Level 1 instructor course.(U.S. Marine Corps photo by George Melendez)

If a recruit would take 6-12 months before talking to a recruiter and joining the DEP, the recruit could be fully prepared to crush the PST on day one. Because if you do not get competitive PST scores to be put into the system, you will be in test taking mode until you pass. When you pass the first time, you can start preparing for phase 2 of tactical fitness (getting THROUGH the training). However, making sure you can crush the PST even on a bad day is a requirement as you will be taking the test at both boot camp and Pre-BUD/S, and BUD/S Orientation. If you fail the PST at Boot camp, Pre-BUDS, or BUD/S Orientation, you go home.

Tactical Fitness Phase 2 requires you to focus on the specifics of your future spec ops selection. This is what you need to be spending most of your time prior to boot camp doing. Longer runs, rucks, longer swims with fins, and high rep PT, weight training to prepare for the load bearing of boat carries and log PT and grinder PT.

When you think about tactical fitness you cannot confuse the three phases of the journey (To, Through, and Active Duty Operator).

Phase 1: recruit

Focus your training on testing to get into the training program you seek but also worked on any weaknesses you may have (strength, endurance, stamina, run, swim, ruck, etc...). This may take 6-12 months at least, make sure you place this phase in front of your recruiter visit.Tactical Fitness Phase 2 requires you to focus on the specifics of your future spec ops selection. This is what you need to be spending most of your time prior to boot camp doing. Longer runs, rucks, longer swims with fins, and high rep PT, weight training to prepare for the load bearing of boat carries and log PT and grinder PT.

When you think about tactical fitness you cannot confuse the three phases of the journey (To, Through, and Active Duty Operator).

Phase 2: student

Preparing to become a student in a challenging selection, Boot Camp, academy type program requires specific training for those challenges. Focus on weaknesses as a week within your selection training will expose them.

Phase 3: operator

You will not even get here if you are not adequately prepared for Phases 1 and 2. Do not rush it – get ready first THEN charge forward fully prepared.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.