Training of the US Army Special Forces Communication Sergeant (18E)
Sullivan, James C.
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Special Forces are the best trained and equipped force in the world. The United States Army Special Forces are world renowned for producing some of the most skilled, elite Soldiers on the battlefield today. These specially trained and equipped Soldiers don’t materialize on their own. Each Soldier goes through a rigorous and demanding training course to become one of the best. Although this training outpaces any in the regular Army, it is not without its own shortcomings. Large amounts of time and resources go into training a Special Forces Soldier. Each man may spend anywhere from eighteen months to two-and-a-half years in training at the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS, or SWCS for short) before they graduate and become green berets. This is certainly true for the Special Forces Communications Sergeant. The goal at SWCS is to train Special Forces Communication Sergeants, or 18E’s as they are commonly referred, that can operate on a Special Forces Team, or Operational Detachment Alphas (ODA), with minimal additional training. Training received by the 18E on special operations communication systems at SWCS is believed to not allow the 18E to arrive at his first ODA and execute his duties without substantial additional training. Because of the fast-paced changes of today’s technology and the ever increasing information requirements from the front lines of Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, the training received by the 18E at SWCS must keep up with the times. This field project took several approaches were taken to determine if in fact SWCS has fallen behind in training 18E’s for duty. First, a close look was taken at the current syllabus, or Program of Instruction (POI) to find what communication systems and techniques are taught in the 18E course. Second, interviews were conducted with current members of ODA’s who gave their impression of new 18E’s who join their team shortly after graduation from SWCS. Third, a survey of three hundred ninety one graduates from the fifteen most recent classes, dating back to 2010, were contacted via email and asked to voluntary participate in a survey of their communication knowledge upon arrival at their first ODA. All individuals have had some time operating on an ODA as an 18E, Special Forces communicator. Seventy six of them responded to the survey. The research clearly shows both the strengths and weaknesses of the 18E course in SWCS. It is very apparent that the 18E course is teaching some of the right things, however it is clear that there are many topics and systems used by 18E's on the ODA that are not being taught. Keeping up with the latest tactics, techniques, training, and equipment is essential for the United States Army if we are to remain the world’s premier fighting force. Training of the Special Forces Communication Sergeant is no different. Identifying the shortfalls is only the beginning. Additional research is required to discover ways SWCS can keep up with the ODA’s in terms of training and equipment so they can truly produce 18E’s that can make a difference on today’s battlefield.
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