My Biggest Professional Regret

I recently pulled an all-nighter for a class I had no hope of passing. Spent 36 hours awake to bring my grade up from a 35 to a 39. It was stupid--I'm in no condition to recover from these things at this age. And I had a new class coming up that day, which I would totally be too tired for. But I've resolved to myself that if I can help it I would always go down swinging.

I saw Tim Kennedy post about how to get ready for Special Forces Assessment and Selection, and it brought me back right about exactly 10 years ago. I had some fun times and some shit times in the Army as a regular old grunt, and if I had to do it over I totally would. My one regret though is bitching out of Selection.

I was a little older when I enlisted and was a good test-taker, so I scored high enough to secure an 18x contract--Special Forces candidate. I trained like crazy for 8 months leading up to shipping out to Basic Training, but I only trained myself. I was never a good runner; with my imposing 5'2, 130-pound frame I was often carrying over half my weight in gear and barely made it through Infantry School. I also barely made the minimum weight for my chute to open in Airborne School. By some miracle though I found myself in Bragg waiting for the next SF Preparation and Conditioning slot, a course you go through before you're green-lit for SFAS, while falling out of every run and road march we had to do in retention.

SFPC came and I was able to get through most of it. Some of the cadre even seemed to be nice to me, particularly ones who were stationed in the Philippines. Runs were individual and interval-based, meant to improve you rather than a circle-jerk for the already good runners, and most of the training was bodyweight, which I owned. I passed Land Navigation (barely), but was still a shitty rucker. This was when I realized I was not ready for this.

The final road march was an individual 12-miler which you needed to finish in under 3 hours. I came in last, just under 4, and everyone had already showered and eaten, hanging out in their bunks. I was just waiting to be handed my no-go and eventually orders to a regular Infantry unit.

I got a 'go' and was green-lit for Selection. Cadre was just as surprised as I was. We'd be given a weekend break then get straight back to it. But I was already mentally checked-out halfway through that 12-miler. The last thing I wanted was to go back out there. I went to the admin office and did a VW (voluntary withdrawal). I reasoned to myself that I'm not ready and that this way I would be able to go back to try again if I wanted to. (In the end it didn't matter, because they still sent me out there to do a detail that ended up lasting even longer, as I ran into the guys I went to SFPC with dropping out one by one.)

Objectively it would not have made a difference. There was no way I would have been able to make the timed runs and rucks during the first week. But what eats at me to this day is the fact that instead of giving myself the opportunity to fail, instead of going down fighting, I took off with my tail between my legs, telling myself I'll get them next time when it was obvious that I would not. It would have been nice to get a glimpse of what I was made of, and how I responded to impossible odds. One moment of weakness 10 years ago shattered my self-confidence, and it has ever been able to recover. I'll always be a quitter.

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