The Ultimate Special Forces Soldier: Team Players with Brains and Brawn

All graduates of the Special Forces qualification course are military free-fall or HALO parachutists, while many others will receive follow-on training to become combat divers or proficient mountaineers, depending upon the type of team to which they are assigned.

All graduates of the Special Forces qualification course are military free-fall or HALO parachutists, while many others will receive follow-on training to become combat divers or proficient mountaineers, depending upon the type of team to which they are assigned.

If all you’ve ever wanted is to serve your country and join an elite team that carries out difficult and often dangerous missions by land, sea or air, the Army National Guard’s Special Forces could be for you.

But it’s definitely not for everyone.

You’ve got to be a top performer from a physical and mental standpoint, and you’re going to carry out missions that you cannot talk about. In fact, the Special Forces Soldier On Your Guard interviewed for this blog does not want to use his real name. We’ll call him Staff Sergeant (SSG) Jones, and with 6 years of experience as a Soldier, and 4 years as a Green Beret, he has more advice to share.

Having the right combination of smarts and physical endurance is “just enough to get you into the door. From there, you really have to have a burning desire to win and to achieve. But it’s tempered with the understanding that winning isn’t an individual event. It’s a team event.”     

The most important thing, he says, is the Soldier’s ability to work with others, especially in challenging environments.

“In order to function effectively as a team, you can’t be labeled as an individual. That just won’t work.”

SSG Jones took a roundabout route to joining his Special Forces Unit in Florida, enlisting at age 32 after selling a business he started. Having had no prior military experience, he enlisted as an 11B Infantryman under a contract called REP 63, which guaranteed him the right to try out for Special Forces. (You can read more about the process and requirements for non-prior military to join the Green Berets on our website).

Inspired to join the military in some capacity after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, SSG Jones, whose civilian career is in aerospace finance, researched other special operations branches in the military before landing on the U.S. Army Special Forces, and ultimately through the Guard.

“Rangers and Seals are primarily a direct action force,” he says. “So they’ll operate out of a base, go out and conduct a mission, such as a raid, and generally come back in a fairly short order.”

Special Forces, however, are trained to persist behind enemy lines. SSG Jones says his team will embed with indigenous forces and guerrillas in difficult environments to train them.

“We’ll work with the guerrillas and develop the battlefield ourselves, create our own mission sets and execute those missions,” he says. “There’s really no other Special Operations unit that can do quite what we do, spending months at a time embedded with these foreign organizations.”

To be able to communicate effectively, each Soldier is proficient in a foreign language. Part of the Special Forces qualification course is six months of intensive language training, where SSG Jones learned Arabic. Soldiers are also expected to maintain not only their language skills afterward, but their skills in general.

“We do a lot of follow-on training, so the training never really ends. The qualification course may end, but you’re really expected to build upon what you’ve learned.”

Even within the Green Berets there are different teams of 12, Operational Detachment Alpha, ODA’s or “A-teams” for short, and each Soldier within that ODA will have a specialty. SSG Jones, who serves on a dive team, is an 18C Special Forces Engineer Sergeant. These Soldiers excel at engineering tasks like demolition and construction in austere environments, while others specialize in intelligence, communications (from satellites to Morse code), medicine (trauma and general care), and weapons.

Check out this short video for a closer look at what Special Forces does.

Because part of the Guard’s mission is to serve the community, Special Forces can also be called up for stateside missions. The Green Berets are especially suited for the task because they are rapidly deployable, says SSG Jones. During a recent hurricane, some men on his team did search and rescue missions by boat.

And while SSG Jones can’t give specifics on his missions overseas, he can share, as an example of his team’s capabilities, that he completed a training mission that involved underwater infiltration of a military port where the team dove from a civilian fishing boat, set up demolition charges, and exited the area on a different fishing boat undetected in an area with heavy shipping lane traffic. Plus, the entire mission was conducted with a partner force in Arabic.

“It’s fun and it’s exciting,” he says, of his Special Forces work.

But it’s a serious job for dedicated Soldiers, so SSG Jones encourages anyone pursuing a green beret to “make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. I think Hollywood and video games have made special operations, in general, seem really sexy.”

In reality, the road to becoming a Green Beret is rough.

“Probably 90 percent of that road is being cold, wet, and miserable or utterly exhausted and sleep deprived, and on the verge of a heat injury,” says SSG Jones. “So for the Soldier who thinks it’s all about jumping out of airplanes, diving, shooting bad guys, and talking yourself up at a bar … it’s probably not the right profession for you.”

What Special Forces really needs, he says are “strong, tough, intelligent Soldiers who are willing to put the mission before themselves.”

So if you’re interested in joining a team that puts the mission of serving the country and community above all else, there are plenty of ways to do that in the Guard, where you’ll serve part-time. The Guard offers more than 150 careers, from infantry and armor and field artillery to engineering and transportation. You can check out all of the possibilities on our job board and be sure to take a look at the Guard’s outstanding benefits like money for college.

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STEM Careers in the Guard: A Spotlight on Math

On Your Guard is wrapping up its look at STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, careers offered by the Army National Guard. These jobs require problem solving skills and the ability to think critically. They are also typically high paying careers that are in demand in the civilian workforce.

Here’s why that last point is so important: the vast majority of Guard Soldiers serve part-time. As a result, many Soldiers capitalize on their skills training and the Guard’s education benefits to go to college and build successful full-time civilian careers.

This week, we’ll take a look at Math careers, which cover jobs in the military intelligence arena.

Staff Sergeant (SSG) Anthony Goindoo started his military career in the active duty Army as a 35P Cryptologic Linguist. He has since transitioned to 35N Signals Intelligence Analyst Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), but can do either job because the two are so closely related. In fact, he says, the only difference between the two intelligence jobs is that 35P involves the language element.

In both jobs, Soldiers use databases to acquire information, he says. 

“They analyze that information and put it in an easy-to-present packet to provide to, essentially our customers – which are brigade and battalion-level staff.”

In a deployment situation, SSG Goindoo explains, all the different intelligence sections, such as human, imagery and signals intelligence, come together and give what’s called an intel summary. With that, he says, “You have generally a complete picture of certain situations.”

After 5 years in the Army, including a deployment to Iraq, SSG Goindoo decided to transition to part-time military service in the Florida Army National Guard to start a civilian career. Plus, he could live at home in Florida and be with his family, and still be able to deploy should the need arise.

SSG Anthony Goindoo, Florida Army National Guard

SSG Anthony Goindoo, Florida Army National Guard

“I was ready to leave active duty, but I wasn’t quite ready to give up the uniform. It becomes a part of your life,” he says. “While I sometimes miss active duty camaraderie, at least once a month I can get that camaraderie back.”

So once a month, on his Guard drill weekends, SSG Goindoo is not perfecting his intelligence skills because it would require the use of a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), which is an enclosed area where classified materials can be handled in a secured environment. Also, his MOS duties cannot be carried out in the United States. Intelligence gathering is strictly limited to deployment operations overseas, he says.

So instead, SSG Goindoo focuses on things like basic Soldier skills and professional development as a non-commissioned officer.

Those skills have helped him in his civilian career as a police officer for the City of West Palm Beach.

“The general skills that the Army puts in a Soldier – discipline, hard work, the never give up attitude, that applies to law enforcement every single day.” Plus, he says, “Having the intelligence background, having my degree, having my clearance, those things all paid off.”

He’s hoping to move into an intelligence unit within his police department so he can apply his MOS training into his law enforcement career by analyzing data — looking at where and at what times certain crimes are happening to create a larger picture.

For anyone who’s considering the 35P or 35N MOS, SSG Goindoo recommends that Soldiers have a strong command of the English language because they will need to be able to articulate themselves verbally and in writing.

“You need to be able to put your thoughts down on paper because you need to present your ideas to someone who doesn’t know your capabilities. You need to express yourself clearly and be confident about it because you’re going to be standing in front of somebody who is significantly more ranked than you.”

That scenario can be particularly nerve-wracking, Goindoo says, because a general or a colonel may not have as high of a security clearance as the private or specialist who’s providing the intelligence report. Situations can occur where the analyst is not able to share certain information with a higher ranking official.

SSG Goindoo cautions that a lot of an intelligence analyst’s time will be spent in a SCIF rather than out in the field.

“This is a critical thinking job, and a lot of peoples’ lives and their well-being depends on how well you can interpret the information that you’re getting.”

And being good at the job can lead to good paying jobs in the civilian and government sectors.

“As an analyst, the job opportunities are endless,” SSG Goindoo says. “Your job is very much in high demand.”

So if you have the aptitude for, and an interest in, a career in math, be sure to visit our job board to check out these Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs):

15Q Air Traffic Controller

13D Field Artillery Automated Data Systems Analyst

Guard careers in closely related fields, like Engineering, Science, and Technology might also be of interest to you. One way to narrow down your options is to contact your local recruiter.

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Translate Your Language Skills into a Part-time Opportunity with the Army National Guard

Photo: Foreign Language Opportunities in the National Guard It should come as no surprise that accurate communication is an essential component to military operations. Orders are given and taken. Information is gathered and reported. Documents are read, speeches are given. This occurs everywhere from the barracks to the classroom, to the mess hall and the battlefield.

Sometimes this communication is difficult enough to understand in plain English. Poor communication leads to misunderstanding. Misunderstanding leads to distrust. Distrust leads to conflict. And conflict is one thing a Soldier would just as soon avoid.

Now imagine the plight of a Soldier trying to establish understanding with villagers in Afghanistan or intelligence officers trying to understand the motives and intent of foreign military leaders. In the military especially, open lines of communication can mean the difference between constructive discourse and destructive conflict.

That is why language specialties are so important in the Army National Guard. There are two primary career courses for National Guard foreign language specialists:

  • Interpreter/Translator – After specialized training, Soldiers in this Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), known as MOS 09L, talk with and interpret conversations between commanders, officers, and foreign nationals. This often occurs in overseas communities where the National Guard is deployed in support of U.S. operations.
  • Cryptologic Linguist – Whereas the Interpreter/Translator deals mainly with face-to-face conversations, the Cryptologic Linguist – also known as the Cryptologic Communications Interceptor/Locator – is concerned primarily with intercepting foreign signals and reviewing foreign broadcast and print media for key indicators that can help commanders and officers determine effective strategies that mitigate risk. Cryptologic Linguists also question prisoners of war, enemy deserters, and civilian informants in their native language.

Understanding cultures and being able to read the attitudes in societies where U.S. operations take place is vital to the U.S.’s interests around the world. And without the linguistic talents of those fluent in languages native to those societies, the commanders and officers are left at a significant disadvantage. If you or someone you know can put your linguistic talents to work protecting U.S. interests around the globe, don’t hesitate to contact a National Guard Recruiter today.

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