It used to be a career ender when SF wasn’t a branch. I pinned on my crossed arrows while attending Infantry Officer Advanced at Ft Benning, after having already commanded an A-Team. That didn’t go over well among the grunts.

SF is a world apart from the regular army. The soldiers are mature, self-starters. Leadership is working with your team to accomplish the mission. Your team sergeant is far more experienced than you; usually your XO is, too. Inherent in that is often a problem — both are senior, who really is #2? One of the things that are sorted out on a team by team basis.

However, a mistake many young officers make is being buddy-buddy with everyone and not implicitly accepting that ultimately, the team leader is the Leader. I saw captains destroy their careers and screw their teams up by not shouldering the responsibility that comes with the rank. You’re on a first name basis with your team sgt, in private, but in public its professional. There are lines and as an officer, the buck stops with you.

All that being said, as has been pointed out, you only get one shot at a team. I think that’s stupid. I would have gladly remained a captain for the rest of my career and done alternating assignments on staff, teaching etc and then go back to a team. Thus, as noted, if you want to stay operational, go enlisted. You can become a warrant later and also be an XO if you want.

Understand this too — putting in a decade on a team is like being a professional athlete in terms of damage to your body. Bad knees, shoulders, etc. never mind operational injuries, are common. Studies are now suggesting flash-bangs and breaching charges are causing, in effect, mini-concussions. My wife doesn’t buy that excuse when I forget something, but, what was I saying . . .

A big difference in SF from the regular army is that command at higher levels is not a tactical command. Very rarely (northwest Iraq is a rarity) does Special Forces operate at B Team (company level) in a tactical environment. So the major B-Team commander ends up running an SFOB perhaps, but doesn’t really do tactical stuff. A C-Team commander, BN level, deals with high level stuff, but, again, not much tactical. I had some great commanders at those levels, but I could tell they weren’t as enthused as when they were with troops.

On the other hand, I think there are a lot of other opportunities. Delta is always there to try out for. Other classified units. There are guys who just disappear for a tour of duty — wherever.

If you want to be an SF officer, go Infantry as a branch, go to Ranger School, do your platoon time, which is on the ground with soldiers (I did mech Infantry which is a real good learning experience) and then go SFAS. Maybe you’ll make it.

For an officer, I believe 18A is by far the best MOS.

West Point grad; Special Ops Vet; NY Times bestseller of over 80 books; for free books and over 200 free downloadable slideshows go to

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