Green Beret Trainer Faults ‘Careerism’ Among Senior Officers for Weakening Special Ops

Standards lowered to produce first female Green Beret

A US Army Special Forces Range

A US Army Special Forces Ranger / Getty Images

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An Army Green Beret officer has issued a public but anonymous rebuke of senior leaders for weakening America's special forces by lowering training standards due to careerism and push to integrate women into the elite force.

"Our regiment has a cancer, and it is destroying the [Special Forces] legacy, its capability, and its credibility," the officer wrote anonymously in an email widely circulated within the U.S. Special Operations Command.

The officer is based at the Army Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and the email accuses leaders of "moral cowardice" by lowering training standards and weakening the capabilities of special operations commandos.

The email touched off a debate among current and former Special Operations troops.

A spokesman for the Special Operations command referred the Free Beacon to an Army statement on the email.

The critical email is titled "Careerism, Cronyism, and Malfeasance in SWCS: The End of SF Capability" and is addressed to fellow active duty and veteran Green Berets.

It states that the training school "has devolved into a cesspool of toxic, exploitive, biased, and self-serving senior officers who are bolstered by submissive, sycophantic, and just-as-culpable enlisted leaders."

"They have doggedly succeeded in two things; furthering their careers, and ensuring that Special Forces is more prolific, but dangerously less capable than ever before," the officer said. "Shameless and immodest careerism has, in no uncertain terms, effectively destroyed our ability to assess, train, and prepare students, or to identify those students that pose very real risk to operational detachments."

The officer, one of the Green Beret trainers, also accused the Army of lowering standards to pave the way for the first female Green Beret.

"Regardless of one’s opinion on the topic, a universally accepted truth recognized by all parties is that if women yearn to join the force, they should meet the same standards achieved by those men they wish to serve with," the officer said.

Instead current leaders want to lower training standards "enough to ensure that any woman attempting this path will have absolutely no issue achieving it."

"They have said time and again that they want to maintain the standards, but have continuously lowered, and now eliminated them."

"The cruelty of the situation is that any woman with the fortitude to attempt this training would most definitely have wanted the standards to remain the same," the email said. "It is a point of pride to know you are every bit as capable as the best of the best, if you can do it. But they have been robbed of the ability to earn that achievement."

In January, the first female who attended the Special Forces Assessment and Selection program was medically dropped for a severe injury during a prolonged rucking event.

Two Army officers in charge of the training sought to gain promotion by increasing the number of Q-Course graduates and to lower standards in order to produce the first female Green Beret.

"Being able to say they graduated the first female Green Beret is a milestone no officer (devoid of principles, that is) can possibly pass up," the officer said.

In response to the email, the Army appears to be launching an investigation intended to identify the officer who wrote and sent it.

Army Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, commanding general of the Fort Brag training school, known as the Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, defended the process for selecting Green Berets and rejected a number of the claims in the email.

"Let me be clear, I would be proud to serve with each and every one of our Special Forces Qualification Course graduates, and I stand behind the quality of every soldier we are sending to the operational force," Sonntag said in response to the email in a message to the men and women of the school.

Special operations commandos have been the leading edge of the global war on terrorism and are engaged in operations and training throughout the world.

Sonntag said no fundamental Special Forces standard has been removed, and that no academic or character performance standards were adjusted.

He also insisted commando students must meet standards before joining the operations force.

The general also suggested that the email comments are being investigated.

"Some of the comments in the email warrant further evaluation, and we are doing that through formal inquiries and a number of existing institutional forums," he said.

There are five active duty Special Forces groups of about 1,400 commandos. Main units are 12-man A Teams led by captains.

The officer said the recent lowering of training standards will produce systematic and severe effects on the commando forces.

Dozens of graduates every year are incapable of being "value added" to commando forces and the number of poorly prepared recruits will increase.

The problem is the decline of standards for passing the Army Special Force Qualification Course, known as the Q-Course.

Army leaders "have created a new era of Special Forces that are; increasingly incapable of actualizing SOF attributes; markedly and demonstrably weaker; and quantifiably projecting measurable risk and liability onto the teammates with which they serve," the officer said.

Unqualified commandos are getting through the course as the result of "cronysim, nepotism, or malfeasance," the officer said.

The recent change in course standards is due to a command ideology that has produced a climate where meeting yearly graduating quotes and political agendas are a priority.

"This moral cowardice started in the preceding command, and is shared by every current commander and sergeant major at the group and SWCS level," the officer said.

One example was a commando student that failed to graduate five times and was unable to meet the requirements and still was passed.

The email was concluded with: "Help us fix this mess. The regiment’s legacy depends on it," and signed "A concerned Green Beret," and included the Green Beret motto, De Oppresso Liber (To free the oppressed).

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Bill Cowan, a Vietnam war veteran and special operations expert, said the email exposes a culture among certain leaders indicating the drive for promotion overrides professionalism to the detriment of the mission. "It stinks," he said of the leadership problems.

The email included examples that showed the angst among trainers is not limited to the author but to others in the training units.

"They were clearly writing about issues that reach broad and deep and illustrate the ‘sickness’ that pervades too much of today’s military, not just in the SOF community but elsewhere as well," Cowan said.

Cowan said the email should not lead to an investigation of who the author is but to the creation of a commission to look into the email's claims.

Sonntag said no fundamental standard for assessing future Green Berets has been removed or adjusted even as the qualification course has modified multiple times since the Sept. 11 attacks. And he said the training remains among the most difficult in the U.S. military. So far in 2017, 541 soldiers have completed the Green Beret qualification course out of more than 2,000 who sought to be selected for the program.

The officer's email was first reported by the website SOFREP, a forum for special operations veterans.

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