Young Bodied vs. A Mature Mind

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Pipeline age: Young bodied vs. A mature mind.
The vast majority of SOF candidates are young, motivated, and healthy males.  They are able to be molded physically and mentally by the rigors of any selection-based program.  Their bodies have less mileage on them and they have a higher threshold for withstanding the wear and tear.  However, mental maturity hasn’t fully taken suite upstairs.  Many young men are unsure of themselves and where they are going in their lives.  They feel lost and are searching for purpose.  They have a fire within, but they haven’t found exactly what fuels that yet. They are taught to direct this drive and passion for the cause; a young moldable operator is born.
On the other side of the fence, we have our “elder” candidates.  Twenty-four was considered an “older dude” during selection.  If you’re thirty, you’re considered ancient to these young bucks.  Thankfully, I fell somewhere between the younger guys and the older guys.
I turned twenty-two on one of the most grueling days during the Retrainee Assessment in 2013, I wasn’t fully aware of what was expected of me because I felt like I was still young minded.  I came from a dental technician background which provided literally zero preparation for a leadership role, especially within the SOF community.  As a retrainee, I held rank and was selected to lead the younger guys through the pipeline.  I was in a Team Sergeant role as an E-4, expected to not only have accountability of 30 other guys, but advising a O-1 who just graduated college about how we need to run things.  I was also newly married during this period, so I had quite a bit on my plate than your average twenty-two year old.
I learned quickly that our instructors weren’t being harsh on us for no reason, they were pointing out flaws in our methods, causing us to think in the “right” way.  Your normal problem solving doesn’t work here, you must learn how to adapt to an everchanging scenario and create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to mitigate mistakes.  You have to be able to depend on each other, no one will make it by themselves.  For a young leader, it puts you in a tough position because you are close with your teammates and you become friends; which is fine, but only if your friends/teammates understand the difference between your leadership role and your friendship role.  Unfortunately, many of the younger guys take advantage of this and it can damage a team if it gets out of hand.  I found that the closer I became with some of my guys, the less weight my word had to them. On the other side of that, I had friends who respected my role and did whatever they could to make my job easy; that’s the difference between mental maturity.
There is no way I could have been mentally prepared for that sort of role stacked on top of what all comes with going through the pipe at eighteen.  I am a scatter brain now, but I was even more-so one when I was a teenager. Personally, I needed those extra years to prepare physically and mentally.  I’m sure I would have been able to make it through as another sled dog at that age, but leadership takes something only experience through age allows and if you have to worry about making it physically, you’re in no position to lead young men who are in exceptional physical condition.  Strong leaders lead from the front; they set the pace and the standard.  That’s the expectation.
Much of what goes into play with who makes it and who doesn’t is mental resiliency, preparation, and a little bit of genetics.  Those who can recover quicker from the thrashings and withstand the volume of activity stand a chance.  Those who can’t get swept away with the tide of those who don’t make the cut.
Many ask what age someone should enter the pipeline and my answer is this:  There is no magic age, it’s all based on the individual attempting. There were some eighteen-year old’s who were placed in leadership roles and performed flawlessly.  There were many who failed miserably.  Same with the guy’s that were twenty-eight.  Age doesn’t matter so much when the individual is prepared.
I also noticed that many of the older guys had a different mindset about the pipeline.  They have already had some life experience and they realize what it is and its purpose.  They seemed more level-headed and calm about everything.  The younger ones were quick to go into a frantic state when stress was dumped onto the team.  They took it more personal, to them, this is the biggest life event so far. How could they not be freaking out? You begin to see the clear line of who is meant to continue on and who is not.  They begin to dwindle as the courses become more and more stressful. You’re not able to hide in the shadows and just perform, more is expected out of you as a team member.  No free rides.  No grey men.  Those who took everything in stride, stayed positive, and focused on their next task are the ones who will continue on to earn their spot in the community.



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  • Another great article. 👍🏽👍🏽

    Mike B on
  • I see this same trend of younger recruits and older generation in firefighting and EMS and I’m glad you touched on it. I think it’s a valuable thing to consider as a dynamic to teamwork and cohesion. Thank you!

    Emma on
  • Thank you for taking my suggestion and giving me the boost I needed. Thanks for being an ear to every one.

    Jones A on

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