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    Servicemembers and civilians travel to Dania Beach to attend SOCOM Athlete's Hell-Day Event



    Story by Sgt. Spencer Rhodes 

    107th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    It's Veterans Day morning at Dania Beach, with over 40 participants gathered in a loose formation. None of the arrivals are here for a cookout. No, they're here for Hell-Day. A Hell-Day organized by SOCOM Athlete, a company founded by Jason Sweets, a former Air Force special operations Paratrooper (PJ), is an event that helps prepare anyone who desires a career in special operations by emulating the various selection tryouts held by each military branch's special warfare entities.
    It's not going to be easy; it's not going to be fun, but excitement shows on every face. They've come to prove something to themselves and the many Green Berets in uniform watching them, serving as the event's mentors and instructors alongside Sweets.
    Special operations personnel as instructors have become common in Hell-Day events across the country. Regardless of the branch, Sweets says these instructors provide invaluable mentorship to students, teaching critical leadership skills, proper training techniques, and a warrior mindset while enforcing the standards seen in special operations selection courses.
    This event included four Green Berets from the Florida Army National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, one retired Marine Special Operations Command Recon Master Diver, and a Lt. Col. who had served as both a Green Beret and an Air Force PJ.
    Before the day started, however, Sgt. 1st Class Mark Johnson, a Green Beret with 3-20th, took a moment to speak with the formation of participants. It's important to him that those attending understand the expectations and what they're looking for from participants.
    "This is going to be a rough day. It's going to be hard, but it's supposed to be hard. The kind of guys we're looking for are the king of guys that, when it gets hard, you're not feeling sorry for yourself," said Johnson. "There's going to be a moment that you want to quit. There's going to be a moment when you're tired or hungry. You've got to kill that feeling. If you can successfully do that, then you may have an opportunity in special forces."
    SOCOM Athlete hosts these events at select locations across the country, usually on or near a military a base.
    "Hell-Day events provide attendees with memories for a lifetime, providing a safe, challenging, and inspiring day of special operations training …," said Sweets. "The event includes a Fitness Test, Pool Training, Challenging Physical Evolutions, Rucking, Log PT, Team Problem Solving, and more. Hell Day, students are taught to work together as a team, where leadership and effective communication are paramount for success. Students build memories of a lifetime with like-minded individuals, and often come back to attend the event several times."
    After pool training, the 41 participants arrived at the beach, where their mettle would show the most. Exhaustion was setting in for everyone; cramps were becoming more frequent. Those ready to push themselves beyond that exhaustion would begin to distinguish themselves from the rest of the group. The beach training had three groups go from stage to stage, whether it be log PT, carrying boats to the water and back, or doing a downed-pilot exercise: all dependent on teamwork to go smoothly.
    In between the stages of the day, whether it's the PT test, the pool training, or the beach exercises, students had small amounts of time to speak with instructors. Johnson explains that aside from giving tips on preparing better, they often try to set realistic expectations for what being a Green Beret entails.
    "As a candidate for Special Forces, people should temper their expectations about how much direct action they will be involved in as a Green Beret. We see too many candidates that, to us, are expecting to be a Call of Duty character. Green Berets are unconventional warfare commandos," said Johnson. "We sneak in behind enemy lines, work with resistance forces to degrade the enemy, and then sneak back out if conventional forces haven't arrived by then. Yes, part of that job is direct action. Yes, part of that job is kicking in doors. But more than that, you need to be able to have a conversation, build rapport, have empathy, and intuit cultural differences with ease. If you can't do those things or they don't interest you, you will not make it to the point where you learn how to do CQB [close-quarters battle]. We need warrior scholars. Soldiers who are looking to be the next Lawrence of Arabia, not the next Soap MacTavish."
    At the end of the day, when students have ruck marched the last 3 miles back to the pier as the final stage of their gauntlet, they're fed and offered the chance to ask the instructors more questions.
    During this period, those who feel ready are signing the sign-up roster for the Special Forces Readiness Evaluation (SFRE), the army's tryout process that the 3-20th will hold this December. Those who do well at the SFRE can enlist in a special forces contract and attend the selection process at Fort Liberty, NC.
    "The SFRE, which serves as the 3/20th's entry examination for all applicants, has doubled in class size since partnering with SOCOM Athlete. SFRE classes have gone from upwards of 20 candidates to now 40-50 candidates," said Sweets.
    One of the squad leaders for the event, Ben Lindenbaum, who flew from Denver, Colorado, where he had already participated in one hell-day event, said his first time had been extremely challenging and exposed him to weaknesses in his training regimen. He encourages anyone on the fence to take the plunge and attend a SOCOM Athlete Hell-Day event.
    "I passed up a lot of hell day events in the past because I was nervous about how I would stack up, but I think it could be a great opportunity to be a great catalyst to picking up the pace in your training outside of the event, and really dialing in everything you have to, to secure a career in special operations," said Lindenbaum.

    *for operational security purposes, names of participating Green Berets have been altered.



    Date Taken: 11.21.2023
    Date Posted: 12.18.2023 09:52
    Story ID: 458296
    Location: FT LAUDERDALE, FL, US

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