A question I’m frequently asked is something along the lines of:
“How do I avoid bad peer evals during team week?”
Although this is a valid concern, I can assure you it needs to be rephrased. Instead of focusing on “avoiding bad peer evals”, shift your focus to identifying the traits of an asset, and taking the necessary steps to cultivate such traits. Although there have historically been instances of candidates getting through team week on false bravado, in most cases, the cadre will see right through it. Your fellow teammates will too.
Even if you’re able to mozy yourself through team week, if your goal is just to “avoid negative peer evals”, eventually, your true personality and character flaws will catch up to you. Your goal prior to attending selection should be to become the person worthy of operating on an ODA, rather than to simply “avoid pink slips”.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of SFAS is that you can complete the entire thing and still not make it. This is known as a 21 day non-select. Although it’s unfortunate for those who fall victim, the fact that it can happen is a very good thing - it's the final security measure to weed out those who don't belong. Unlike many other SOF selection processes, “just not quitting” is not not enough.
Generally speaking, Team Week is the demise for 21 day non-selects. If you perform poorly during gate week, you’ll likely get dropped before land nav. If you perform poorly during land nav, you’ll likely get dropped before team week. Although your overall performance from start to finish is most important, if you make it to the end and don’t get the “selected” stamp, it’s may be due in large part to your lack of ability to be a team player.
There are multiple characteristics that embody a good team player. But it mostly boils down to fitness, willingness to suffer, confident decision making, communication skills, and your overall mental attitude.
If you show up fit, you’ll still be able to put out during team week. Physical fitness is non-negotiable. Your goal should be to still feel (relatively) fresh during team week and still be able to display your fitness at a high level. This is easier said than done - everyone is depleted to a degree by the time they reach team week.
Gate week is relatively non-fatiguing. Yes, you need to move fast under a ruck and while running, complete the Nasty Nick Obstacle course, and perform in the Combat Readiness Assessment (CRA). But these are relatively short events surrounded by a lot of down time and classroom time. Although you certainly shouldn’t take it lightly (some people overlook it), it’s hands down the easiest of the 3 weeks.
Land nav, however, tends to be where your physical preparation (or lack thereof) begins to show itself. Day after day of walking through the woods with a heavy ruck on is one thing. The mental stress of being fully in charge of your fate (finding or not finding your points) is another factor that cannot be overlooked. But regardless of what you’ll read on Reddit, if you show up to SFAS primed to perform, it is possible to enter team week fully physically capable of completing the events. Not without struggle, of course, but still able.
Many candidates are able to get to team week. But getting through it requires another level of physical fitness. So goal #1 should be to show up physically ready. You could be the best teammate in the world in regards to interpersonal skills, leadership and decision making, but if you can’t pull (or carry) your own weight (metaphorically speaking, you’ll have to carry significantly more than your own weight in reality), you won’t make it.
In the military, there’s a common unwritten rule that states, “never volunteer for anything”. I largely agree with this rule. In most cases, volunteering for things is a “joke’s on you” scenario. The Military has a way of using people for undesirable tasks without showing any appreciation. This is widely agreed upon as truth amongst those who have served.
But during team week, the opposite is true. Volunteer for everything. Take the extra shift on downed pilot, carry the heaviest part of the log. Be the last guy to rest when you stop. Be the first guy to stop resting when you get going again after a break.
Regardless of your leadership skills and/or interpersonal skills, if you keep your mouth shut and always take the hardest, most grueling task on the team, you’re going to be highly regarded as a good teammate. This is a mindset. If you can be counted on as the “Strong Ranger”, you’re setting yourself up for success in most cases (unless you have significant character flaws).
Speaking of character, those with glaring weaknesses usually don’t fare well amongst their peers. A man of weak character is a man that can’t be trusted. You’ll want to ensure you don’t have glaring weaknesses, because team week is designed to bring them to the surface. Being a man of good character is a must. The following are examples of strong character traits:
-They do what they told themselves OR others they were going to do. Always
-They have integrity - they do the right thing for the situation, regardless of who knows about it
-They have confidence in the decisions they make, and they make them quickly
-They’re able to delay gratification comfortably
-They have the ability to see things from other people’s point of view
-They’re good listeners. They listen to others more than they talk about themselves
-They can collaborate with others to attain a goal
-They figure things out, but will ask for help when they need it
-They’re willing to help others who need it
-They de-escalate hostile situations with a calm, collected approach
-They’re not afraid to call someone out for poor performance, but they do so tactfully
-They’re stoic, even keeled, and not easily bothered
-They don’t lack emotion, but they don’t wear it on their sleeve
-When a leadership decision hangs in the balance, they step up and make it
-They make light of shit situations. They don’t show that they’re struggling, even if they are
-They're able to think critically. They’re not just “yes men” and blind direction followers
-They know their strengths and weaknesses. They leverage their strengths and make their weaknesses strong enough to not be glaring weaknesses
-They don’t bitch, moan or complain
-They’re willing to admit when they’re wrong, and willing to change their mind
-They embrace discomfort and often become more motivated when things get hard
-They ask well thought out, contextual questions
-When something is wrong, they not only address it, but also offer a solution
-They do not give up or quit. They keep moving forward
-They don’t cheerlead. They’re not “Spotlight Rangers”
-They try things and fail a lot. But they use failure to learn and improve
-They’re clear communicators. Able to communicate with a variety of different personalities
-They can compartmentalize - this can be a flaw or a strength - but at SFAS, the ability to live in the moment and not think about the past or future is a massive advantage
If you possess the majority of these character traits, and you’re fit and capable, everyone will want you on their team.
If you know you lack one or more of these character traits, it’s not a death sentence. Chances are, you do lack one or more of them. No one is perfect and we all have flaws. The hardest part is the humility required in order to identify and admit that you’re lacking in something.
If you’re not aware of your weaknesses, don’t feel bad about it - most of us do not possess the self awareness to fully know our character flaws. We usually know our strengths, that’s human nature. But we’re often completely oblivious to our weaknesses.
This is only a problem if you don’t do the extra work to identify yours. Deep introspection is one way to identify your flaws, and I highly suggest doing it.
You can sit and think.
You can journal.
You can evaluate your performance in social and/or professional situations.
This is all great. But it’s usually not enough. You’re likely going to miss something.
The best way, in my experience, to truly identify your character flaws is to ask someone close to you. You can ask your spouse, best friend, sibling, mom, dad. You can even ask a few different people with whom you’re close and able to trust. This requires a great deal of humility, which is coincidentally something type-A individuals struggle with.
Once you’ve swallowed this piece of humble pie, you’ve gotten through the hardest part - the rest isn’t easy, but it’s easier. It's now time to go to work on improving your character flaws. This process is time and effort consuming, and you’ll have to put yourself in situations of discomfort. We don’t grow and improve while comfortable.
Many people are under the assumption that our character flaws are set in stone. That they're the result of nature and/or nurture - you’ve got what you’ve got. This isn’t the case. Just like literally anything else in life, we can improve our character. There are several ways to do this, and in 2023 it’s never been easier.
We have the luxury of abundant, readily available information for self improvement on the internet. You’d be hard pressed not to find a plethora of books, podcasts, articles, studies, and practical exercises you can do to improve your character.
Could you get away with not doing this? Sure. I didn’t do it and I was fine. Many candidates can get by on their natural character traits. But if you truly want to enter selection with peace of mind and confidence that you’re indeed the right guy for the job, may as well take advantage. This exercise will help you far beyond team week at SFAS. Improving your character will improve your life.
So, instead of thinking “how can I avoid getting poor peer evals” or “how can I show I’m a good team player”, think “how can I ensure I’m still operating at a high physical capacity AND how can I build my character”. Team Week success boils down to strong character and physical fitness.
Because you've put in the work required to develop and display these traits, they're not a just facade to get you through team week, they'll also result in future success as a Green Beret. If you continue to bolster your physical fitness and maintain your strong character traits, everyone will want you on their team.