Army recruits who want to become Green Berets must endure a three-week test of endurance, pain and intelligence — just to qualify for equally brutal training.
There are usually only 4,000 active-duty Green Berets. (
Tony Schwalm is a retired lieutenant colonel with the US Special Forces, which are more commonly known as the Green Berets. In “The Guerrilla Factory,” Schwalm takes us through every step of the grueling assessment and training process required to become an elite Special Forces soldier by recounting his own hard-fought experience.
To even get to the test, you must already have done very well in Army training and qualified for Airborne training. You also need to be male (no women are allowed) and have a high-school diploma; at least a year of college is preferred.
Becoming a Green Beret involves two stages, the first being a three-week assessment period known as the Special Forces Assessment and Selection course, which is designed to “weed people out.” Schwalm calls the SFAS “a three-week gut check to see if one had the physical and mental capacities required,” and also, “a crucible of contrived hardship that mixed physical exhaustion and mind numbing tasks in a slurry of ambiguity.”
If you’ve ever wondered whether you have what it takes to become a Green Beret, here’s just some of what’s required to make it through the SFAS as laid out by Schwalm, who passed the test in 1988. (The Navy’s version of Special Forces, SEALs, have their own, different test).
Soldiers — there were about 300-350 who started the test with Schwalm — endured on anywhere from three to five hours of sleep per night, and many of the tasks were measured against criteria they were kept unaware of. In between the physical tests listed here, participants also took numerous written psychological tests, as well as tests in math and reasoning.