Selection Class 000, Part 3: Let’s Make a Deal, St. Augustine, Florida

Right after the Welcome Party, I asked Webb what the chances were that he would still have his ponytail at the end of Selection. 100% he said, and it came fast and furious with a big fat I dare you…there’s nothing you can do to separate me from it. When I pushed him a little bit on how I would go about it, he said “they’ll be fine.” And I just smiled.

My drill sergeant once told me, in a very colorful way, that pain and embarrassment are the holy grail of motivators. And then he proved it for 4 months straight. The bounding inchworm inspires an obsession of avoidance that would make him proud. Wet and sandy wet and sandy and the promise of 500 meters of this kind of hell can change a person’s priorities. Hey Webb, tell ya what — let’s make a deal. No more inchworms if you give me your ponytail. Cut it off he said, as if a pauper rejoicing as he struck gold.

We as Cadre are experts at finding and then exploiting weaknesses. And we come by it honestly. Life on a team is kind of like running in a pack of wolves. Show any weakness and the pack will exploit it, usually for humor’s sake. If you’re scared of snakes, it’s only a matter of time till your locker is full of them. That kind of stuff. Webb’s only real crime was that he took the bait. Especially since he didn’t know the stakes. But great on him for putting his teammates first – I was proud of him, and a little surprised it happened so quickly. Looking back now, it’s a small price to pay for a priceless story. And I’m pretty sure he agrees.

Before we knew it, a lost ponytail seemed trivial. Fruity Pebbles was in her element, and nobody doubted she would finish strong. And even though Special Operations units do not allow females to try out, she made us think twice about that policy. And then she quit.

OK she didn’t quit, but her reaction when she reads that will be priceless. No doubt I’ll get a note from her about redemption at the next Selection, which I hope happens. Injuries are a part of life and a part of Special Operations training, and fortunately I learned that first hand. Fortunately because mine served a higher purpose. When I was in the Q-Course, a bad jump (out of an airplane) left me with a broken nose, a cracked tailbone, and a concussion. And I ate that humble pie on the bench for 6 months, learning all the while that I’m not invincible and I’m even not that great. And humble pie was good for me, and it’ll be good for Fruity Pebbles. I have no doubt she’ll come back stronger than ever, and I’m looking forward to that day.

Charlie Mike means Continue Mission, and that’s what happened. Despite the losses.

Zodiacs weigh 322 lbs and love the water. So the candidates spent some time moving them there.

Bickering is a major no-no and it comes with a price, namely some form of motivation to not have to pay that price again. When you’re tired, the tendency is to lose your temper on your teammates. But when chaos descends, you have to realize that your team is all you have. The Special Operations community is the type of environment where if you lose your cool under pressure, that’s the last time anyone ever really listens to you. So we don’t allow it in Selection or the Challenge.

There is value in testing someone’s ability to endure long, laborious movements. The body has time to complain and the mind is receptive. The trick is to know that the mind controls the body, never the other way around. And so your body does whatever you need it to do.

At this stage in life, their bodies needed to take them to the beach to construct a Zodiac shelter. These 30 minutes would be the only opportunity we gave them to rest for the entire Selection.

Next week, Part 4 of Selection Class 000. Any truth teller could predict that when they woke up, fun things happened. Like paddling to a game called it pays to be a winner.


  1. Dan Montgomery says:

    Great stories! Keep ’em coming. I’m signing up as soon as my orders clear and I know my schedule.

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