To some Green Berets, whose forte is counterinsurgency, his words seem to be the first step in lowering standards for the Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) process at Camp Mackall, near Fort Bragg, N.C., the heart of Army special operations.
On Day One, Green Beret candidates are subjected to long runs and marches carrying 50-pound rucksacks, navigation tests in austere terrain and water survival. The graduates then move on to team events in which they must lift and carry heavy, bulky items over several miles.
“Those who cannot keep up with their teammates are dropped immediately,” an active-duty Green Beret told The Times.
Survivors then go on to even more demanding challenges in the next phase — the qualification course to graduate with the bestowal of the famous Green Beret.
Can women pass such training?
“The challenge for women is not the Army physical fitness test,” the Green Beret said. “They can pass the current men’s standard without too much difficulty if they are in good shape. The challenge is the miles upon miles they must endure with that 50-pound rucksack while trying to keep their body from falling apart.”
This officer agrees with Gen. Dempsey. He said there are soldiers who can excel as a Special Forces warriors yet fall short of some of the more daunting Camp Mackall challenges.
“I would argue that the SFAS standards are far harder than they need to be even for recruiting men,” he said. “But the selection programs follow an archaic tradition that overvalues physical fitness and undervalues quality soldiers who are not necessarily built for such a test.”