Not many people realize there are many different ways to become a special operations soldier. Of course, the active duty route is the most recognized way to become Army Special Forces, Army Ranger Regiment, Navy SEAL, Air Force PJ, MarSOC – the ground force members of the Special Operations Command.
Depending on the service, a civilian can join the military and go straight to special ops training after boot camp (Navy SEAL / SWCC), or spend time in their perspective military branches for a few years and transfer into the special ops selection pipelines. However, there are also reserve components to these units like the 19th and 20th Group of the Special Forces – which can be entered through the Army National Guard as a civilian or as a former military member.
Even former military special ops member from another branch of service. If you have heard of former special operators who were Navy SEALs or Marine RECON who got out of their service and joined the Army National Guard in their state to later attend Army Special Forces Training in Fort Bragg, it is not fake, this really happens. Many former military and civilians alike join the Army National Guard and prepare themselves for Army Special Forces training. This is THE Army Special Forces training. And they earn the actual Green Beret – this is not a reserve course.
Civilian to Army National Guard to Special Forces (REP 63 contract)
So, if you are a U.S. citizen (under 35 years old) with no prior service, and thinking about serving as a special ops soldier, there is an option for you that does not require you do give up your career (though there will be long periods of time away from work and home during training / deployments). The non-prior service Special Forces enlistment contract in the Army National Guard is called the REP 63 contract. The active duty version of this contract is the 18X (18xray).
Here are some more of the requirements (See link for full details from National Guard / SF page)
All candidates must have at least a high school education and not have any drug or alcohol-related violations though waivers are possible depending upon the situation. The ASVAB and PFT scores should be above average (50 points on the ASVAB with an absolute minimum of 110) in the General Technical (GT) section and at least a 240 on the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) though closer to a 300 will help if the billets to training are competitive. You have to also be eligible for a secret security clearance.
For more information on if you meet the medical and physical requirements, see Chap. 5, AR 40-501, Standards of Medical Fitness for Army Special Forces and Airborne.
Special Forces Training Timeline
When you sign up under the REP 63 contract, you are not guaranteed to become a Special Forces soldier. You are guaranteed the opportunity to try out for the special forces training pipeline. It is then up to you and your performance that determines whether or not you get selected. So, it is incumbent upon you long before you sign the contract to be prepared for SF training. Do not think the above training pipeline is there to prepare you. The pipeline of training there to TEST you and you have to prepare for this journey long in advance. (Special Forces Training Prep)
Army Special Forces candidates will usually attend the following courses, if they are prior service or have attended many of the following schools already, the road the Special Force training will differ, but the road all begins with the “try out” weekend at their National Guard facility:
- Special Forces Readiness Evaluation/Assessment Drill (SFRE/SFAD) (3 days)
- Infantry (11B) One Station Unit Training (OSUT) which is Army Basic Combat Training (BCT) and infantry Advanced Individual Training (AIT) Fort Benning, (15-weeks)
- Basic Airborne Training also at Fort Benning, GA (3 weeks)
- Special Forces Preparation and Conditioning (SFPC) course – For Bragg NC (3 weeks)
- Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) program (3 weeks)
- Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) (62 to 98 weeks)
As you can see, regardless of if you go active duty Army or join the National Guard and try out for the above training program, it requires commitment. Just because it is “reserve status” does not mean it is easy or involve less travel for training and deployments. This is a challenging course that allows you to become an Army Special Forces Soldier and earn the Green Beret. Once you are operationally proficient, opportunities to deploy with your group or augment other Operational Detachments are available.
If you are worried about losing your job after training and deployments, it is actually against the law for an employer to fire you. See the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)