Why do SEALs make OCRs and Special Forces make Team events?

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If you have been around the OCR world for a little while you may have noticed a trend.  Ex-SEALs produce races, while Special Forces make team building events.  BattleFrog and Bone Frog Challenge (Navy SEAL founded organizations) are OCR forced and based on individual achievements.  Meanwhile, Green Beret Challenge and GORUCK (Special Forces founded organizations) focus on building teams and in most of their events there is no winner, just fishers and non-finishers (although it appears GBC may have changed their format).  The answer to why two of America’s Special Operation Forces create dissimilar events lies in the selection process that creates these two elite fighting forces.

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In case you are not tracking, here is a quick recap of the difference between the two.  SEALs are Special Operation Forces for the US Navy.  Although they do Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) operations they specialize in attacks or operations where infiltration or exfiltration comes from the sea or seaboard platforms.  Special Forces (sometimes called Green Berets) are one of the Army’s Special Operation Force units.  Special Forces specialize in Unconventional Warfare, which in simple terms is overthrowing a bad government or occupying power.  The best example is post-9/11, Special Forces were the first military units on the ground that linked up with the Northern Alliance and helped to overthrow the Taliban.

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Now that you have a basic understanding of the two organizations, the answer to the question lies in how each unit selects their members.  Although SEALs use team building events such as portage (bringing zodiac boats through rough surf), log based physical training and zodiac carries to develop teams and tire out trainees, the larger theme is “It pays to be a winner”.  Throughout their selection process “Indoc”, Hell Week and BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training), the ability to successfully complete individual tasks is stressed more than the team.  This builds more of an individual focus.  (If you want to know more about SEAL training check out the Discovery Channel documentary Navy SEALs BUD/S Class 234 and Dick Couch book Warrior Elite.)

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Special Forces on the other hand place a larger emphasis on team building.  Although Special Forces selection is about half individual based (land navigation, runs, rucks, written tests) there is also a week of team events.  If you have been to a GORUCK or Green Beret Challenge, those are very similar to SFAS (Special Forces Assessment and Selection).  The big difference is the ones at selection have more weight in the contraption, the movements are longer and you are also carrying a 50 lbs. backpack, 10 lbs. rifle and 10 lbs. load bearing vest/suspenders in addition to the contraption.  To complete these team based events it requires a mix of intelligence, perseverance, physical ability and ability to work well a team.    (If you want to know more about Special Forces selection and training check out the documentary Two Weeks in Hell and the Dick Couch book Chosen Soldier.)

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Bottom line is the divergent companies are a direct reflection of their selection processes and the people they produce.  Companies like BattleFrog and Bone Frog Challenge are individual competitions, whereas GORUCK and Green Beret Challenge place a heavy emphasis on building teams.  In my opinion, and I may take some flak for this, Navy SEALs on average tend to be in better shape and a little younger than Green Berets.  However, Green Berets tend to be better team players, a little older and a little smarter than SEALs.  Between their initial selection and the culture that surrounds each of the organizations, a different product is created.  These are also generalities, so not every SEAL or every Green Beret will reflect these aspects, but many of my coworkers and I have found them to be true.  Both selections produce different soldiers for different missions, which brings civilians different challenges for their weekend fun.  Support veteran run organizations and sign up for one of these challenging events today.

 

Photo Credits:

It Pays to Be a Winner picture from onebendre.com

Special Forces Crest from Buzzerg.com

Hobie Call BattleFrog picture from NBC News.

Green Beret Challenge Coffin picture from Mud Run Fun

Bone Frog Monkey Bar picture from New England Spahtens

GORUCK log carry picture from Itstactical.com

 

Operator OCR

Operator OCR is an active duty member of the US Military’s Special Operation Forces.Due to mission requirements, he prefers to remain unidentified by true name.A combat veteran with numerous years spent operating in a combat zones, he enjoys racing OCRs in his free time.You may recognize him by face or name, since he is often, but not always, on the podium of races.

“If you are going to win any battle, you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do… the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

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Comments

  1. @Dylan

    You have a point, but you are off base. SEALs are definitely more competitive and more individually driven than any other SOF group, this includes SF, PJs, CCTs, and everybody else. Yes they are largely about the team as well, only in the sense that you want to perform at 110% always so the team does not suffer. In the end it is still about being a winner all the time. I think that the other SOF units do not put that pressure on people as much, and this is better for overall morale. SEALs talk a lot about being stressed out and constantly feeling like you have to be better than everybody else. That is a hard life to live for so long.