Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS)
Conducted at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, SFAS is the first phase in the training process of United States Army Special Forces soldiers. The course lasts three weeks, during which time candidate's land navigation and leadership skills, physical fitness and mental fortitude are evaluated under extreme sleep deprivation. During the course, Special Forces candidates are allowed one to two hours of sleep per night on average and may also voluntarily withdraw themselves from the course at any time.
In the first week of 'Selection' as it is commonly referred to, candidates are given simple arithmetic and language tests, psychological evaluations, and roster numbers which they will wear on bright engineer tape on each pant leg and over the name tags on their uniforms. Classroom instruction is given on the use of compass and protractor during this time as well.
Cadre consisting of eight to twelve senior enlisted Special Forces soldiers assess the candidates through two timed marches ranging from six to twelve miles wearing an ALICE pack or 'ruck-sack'. Ruck weight minimum is 55 lbs dry, and candidates are required to carry six quarts of water and a 'rubber duck'- a replica of the M-16A1 assault rifle as well. Rucks are weighed before the march begins and after completion. Candidates also complete two timed runs ranging from eight to twelve miles around Camp Mackall and through Mackall Airfield. Agility and balance are assessed in the mile long 'Nasty Nick' obstacle course that includes several obstacles that require the candidates to climb 30 ft. ropes. If a candidate does not properly negotiate an obstacle, the grading cadre will ask him if he wishes to attempt it again. Failure to complete the obstacle course will result in voluntary withdrawal from SFAS.
During the second week candidates will begin practicing land navigation, hiking routes six to eighteen kilometers long regardless of weather or visibility through extremely dense jungle and marshy swamps. Candidates are required to stay at least fifty meters away from roads at all times and are only allowed to cross at a 90 degree angle. Cadre patrol roads on ATVs and horseback to ensure candidates are not cheating. During the practice candidates follow their compasses to white posts marked with grid coordinates and punch pins to prove the lane was completed. During the hours of darkness, Chem-Lite markers are taped to the posts for identification. Candidates are strongly urged to keep track of everything issued to them while negotiating the land navigation course. Loss of equipment or of the rubber duck usually results in failure of the course.
During the third week, the remaining candidates will complete a long range individual movement within a 48 hour time frame. Six points in the training area will be navigated to, the sixth point being Camp Mackall itself. The long range individual movement or 'Trek' is 80 to 120 kilometers and because of the large area to be covered, candidates are required to carry a PRC-24 radio and report to certain channels every six hours. Candidates must also have three MREs with them at all times, the minimum required dry weight, water, and weapon.
After completion of SFAS, candidates who are selected may choose whether or not they wish to proceed to the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC).
54b has alerted me to the fact that not every cycle of SFAS is the same, and that some of the events that I participated in did not take place during his time at Camp Mackall and vice versa.
A 'Team Week' might take place during the third week of Selection in lieu of the 'Trek', during which candidates are split into groups and execute a series of seemingly impossible tasks as a small unit. The benefit of team events is that they give the cadre a chance to see how well a candidate can function with others during times of extreme duress and sleep deprivation. 'Team Week' is just a teaser-taste of things to come during SFQC.