If you dream of donning the coveted Green Beret or flying helicopters with the Army's elite Night Stalkers, now's your chance.
This year alone, the Army is seeking about 5,000 candidates for special operations to include: 3,000 candidates to try out for Special Forces; more than 950 soldiers to serve in civil affairs and another 800 for psychological operations.
For more information on how to apply call 910-432-1818 or visit www.sorbrecruiting.com.
Officers who want to go Special Forces, civil affairs or PSYOP, must act quickly. The deadline to submit a packet is March 20.
Special operations grants soldiers access to some of the military's best training, including the combat diver course.
Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika/Army
"That's on a case-by-case basis," he said. "When I brief officers, I say do not bank on getting a waiver. They're very rare."
Some of the benefits of going special operations:
• Higher promotion rates. The average promotion rates for Special Forces, civil affairs and PSYOP soldiers from staff sergeant to sergeant first class are "more than three times greater than their conventional Army counterparts," officials said.
A recent update to the Army's enlisted promotions regulation includes a provision that specialists and corporals who successfully complete the Special Forces Qualification Course will be automatically promoted to sergeant.
In addition, sergeants who have been recommended for promotion in their previous military occupational specialty will be promoted to staff sergeant on the "first calendar day of the following month upon successful completion of all phases of the [qualification] course," according to the regulation updated Feb. 2.
• Special pays and bonuses. Special operations soldiers can qualify for a variety of special pays, such as language pay, which can be worth as much as $1,000 a month, according to SORB.
Other special pays include jump pay ($150 a month), special duty assignment pay ($375 a month), demolition pay ($150 a month), dive pay ($220 a month), and High Altitude Low Opening pay ($75 a month).
• Deployment opportunities. Special operations soldiers work in 65 countries around the world. Their deployments average four to eight months at a time, so while they deploy more often, it is for shorter periods of time.
It includes a 10-month resident program at the NDU Satellite Campus on the JFKSWCS campus on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
A 'unique calling'
Spec ops soldiers are eligible for HALO pay.
Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Donald Peterson/Marine Corps
"It's a great job," he said. "I really don't want to get out if I don't have to."
His advice to aspiring special operations soldiers?
"If you're out there, all you have to do is try," he said.
Serving in special operations is a "unique calling," said Lt. Gen. Charles Cleveland, commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, in a statement.
"Regardless of what the future might bring, what problems might exist, we will always be able to deliver the nation with world-class, unequaled special warfare and surgical strike capabilities as long as we remain true to our first principles," he said, "to have the right people, aggregated into amazing teams, rallied behind a unique commitment to the nation."
"You have a lot of new, young soldiers out there who just aren't aware of the opportunities special operations brings," he said. "That's one thing we're trying to educate people on. Special operations isn't for everybody, but we want to empower soldiers and leaders out there with the knowledge that a career in this profession is available to them."
In fiscal year 2015, the Army is looking for about 3,000 candidates to attend Special Forces Assessment and Selection, officials from the Special Operations Recruiting Battalion, or SORB, said.
Recruiters are seeking about 2,000 active-duty enlisted soldiers, 1,540 new recruits (for the 18X program), and about 400 active-duty officers.
On average, 37 percent of SFAS candidates will be selected to enter the Special Forces Qualification Course.
The Army has increased the GT score requirement for Special Forces from 107 to 110.
Photo Credit: Army
Among the 18X population, about 61 percent are selected to enter the qualification course.
Among the active-duty enlisted population, only one in every eight recruits will earn the Special Forces tab, he said.
"It's not as simple as the GT score or a specific score on the ASVAB," he said. "It's how well-rounded an individual is in everything they do. There are some intangibles."
The SORB is looking for more than 950 candidates for the civil affairs field this year.
Of those, recruiters are seeking 737 active-duty enlisted soldiers and 225 officers.
There are nearly 1,000 candidates needed for civil affairs.
Photo Credit: Army
On average, 64 percent of active-duty candidates will be selected to enter the Civil Affairs Qualification Course.
"We maintain high standards, and when these guys walk across the state, they're proud because they've accomplished something," he said.
This year's recruiting goal for PSYOP is about 800 soldiers — 642 enlisted and 158 officers.
PSYOP also will institute a minimum GT score of 107 at the end of February.
One of the focus areas this year is to try and increase the number of female candidates, said Sgt. 1st Class Roberto Flores, a PSYOP recruiter assigned to the SORB.
"A lot of females in the military don't understand that there are special operations opportunities available to them already now," he said.
On average, 64 percent of active-duty candidates will be selected to enter the Psychological Operations Qualification Course.
Flores has served in this career field his entire career.
"We're looking at the thinking athlete, a problem-solver, someone who can think outside the box, can approach something and have a different view of it," Flores said. "We're looking for somebody who wants to join our ranks, that individual who's hungry and wants to do something different."
160Special Operations Aviation Regiment
Night Stalkers insignia
Photo Credit: Army
Among officers and warrant officers, the regiment is seeking pilots for the AH-6 and MH-6 Little Bird, MH-60 Black Hawk and MH-47 Chinook, he said.
So far, three female pilots have successfully qualified to fly for the regiment, and they primarily fly the MH-60.
Enlisted candidates must have a GT score of 100 or higher, and they complete an administrative assessment before they are offered a chance to attend the six-week Enlisted Green Platoon.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Raymond Smiley has served as a Night Stalker for about 21 years, first as an enlisted soldier and later as an MH-47 pilot.
"It is hands-down the best aviation unit to be in," Smiley said.
During his time with the regiment, Smiley has deployed dozens of times, including to Iraq and Afghanistan.
One of his favorite tours was early in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
"The people, the camaraderie, the missions, we were very, very busy then," he said.
Smiley also participated in Operation Anaconda on March 4, 2002, high up in the snowy, 10,000-foot mountains of eastern Afghanistan. The deadly Battle of Roberts Ridge cost seven American lives.
"It was very long, very intense couple days of flying," Smiley said. "I was lucky enough to not be shot down."
Smiley said he is proud of his fellow Night Stalkers and their actions during that operation.
"When you have guys on the ground, that's one of the things I love about this place, we're going to go do it," he said. "We're not going to disobey orders or go out and do cowboy stuff, but we're going to do what it takes, and we did. We got everyone off that mountain."
Smiley said he hopes to finish out his career as a Night Stalker.
"I wouldn't want to go anywhere else," he said. "I'm very fortunate to have a job that I enjoy getting up and doing every day."
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.