U.S. Army Special Forces Characteristics

Soldiers going through training in a boat.
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The U.S. Army Special Forces is an elite group of soldiers selected after a highly-competitive selection process. As a Special Forces soldier, you take part in five types of Army missions: counter-terrorism to preempt terrorist attacks; direct action to destroy weapons and recover personnel; foreign internal defense to train forces from other countries; special reconnaissance to gather intelligence; and unconventional warfare, otherwise known as guerrilla warfare. The Army also sends Special Forces troops on humanitarian missions. To become an SF soldier, you must meet the toughest standards in the Army.

1 Elite Physical Condition

Special Forces soldiers are in top shape. To put this in perspective, the general physical training test given to Army troops contains three events: push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run. The SF test contains nine events. These include push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, dips, bench press, rope climb, kip-ups, shuttle run and five-mile run or five-mile march while carrying a rucksack. To pass the general Army PT test, you must score a minimum of 180. To pass the Special Forces PT test, you must score a minimum of 900. The maximum score for the general PT test is 300. While there is no maximum score for SF, the Army considers 1300 as a high score.

2 Highly Intellectual

It's widely known that SF soldiers must be mentally tough. However, they must also be extremely smart. They need the ability to build rapport with key people of other cultures who possess valuable intelligence. In addition, each SF soldier must master a foreign language. During missions, SF troops must understand and rely on advanced technology to effectively communicate in covert situations. All SF soldiers receive in-depth training in a difficult specialty that includes operations, intelligence, weaponry, communication systems, medical skills and engineering. Training also includes resistance, survival and escape techniques. A postsecondary degree is not required to join the U.S. Army Special Forces as an enlisted member, but the Army prefers at least one year of higher education. To become an SF soldier, you must be between the ages of 20 and 30, have 20/20 or corrected 20/20 vision and be a U.S. citizen. You must score at least 107 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, known as the ASVAB. Your score on the combat operation portion of the ASVAB must be a 98 or higher.

3 Strong Moral Character

While all Army solders are required to act in an ethical manner, SF soldiers are held to a higher standard. Special Forces soldiers have a minimum of a secret security clearance and must honor the need for confidentiality. They are known as the "Quiet Professionals", often conducting missions they don't discuss. They are expected to represent the United States with integrity and possess strong moral values. An SF soldier must also exhibit courage, perseverance, personal responsibility, professionalism and adaptability. The Army states that SF soldiers cannot be "mass produced" and selects only a few applicants from many submissions.

4 Training Requirements

Perhaps the strongest characteristic of an SF soldier is the ability to pass the entry test. This process lasts in excess of a year. You'll begin with airborne training, then complete the Special Operations Preparation Course, where you'll spend 30 days undergoing intense physical conditioning and land navigation exercises. If you pass, you'll enter the Special Forces Assessment and Selection and hone your survival skills. Finally, you'll enter the Special Forces Qualification Course. Here you'll advance through five phases, including Small Unit Tactics, MOS Training and Collective Training, where you'll participate in a simulated combat mission. Next you'll attend Language and Culture Training where you'll sharpen your foreign language skills. Finally, you'll enter the last phase -- graduation.

Michelle Dwyer is a U.S. Army veteran writing fiction and nonfiction since 2003. She specializes in business, careers, leadership, military affairs and organizational change and behavior. Dwyer received an MBA from Tarleton State University/Texas A&M Central Texas and an MFA in creative writing from National University in La Jolla, Calif.