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Special forces looks at recruiting off the street amid shifting demands

dimsum

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OTTAWA — The Canadian Forces are considering whether to recruit elite special-forces soldiers straight off the street rather than forcing them to follow the traditional route of first spending several years in the military.

The idea, which is still being debated, comes as Canada’s special forces — and the military as a whole — look at radical new ways to attract and retain people with the skills and experience needed to fight tomorrow’s wars.

That includes not just computer experts, for example, but also those with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and language skills, as the special forces aim to operate more effectively in different parts of the world.

“This is not about achieving set quotas or anything else,” Maj.-Gen. Peter Dawe, commander of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, told The Canadian Press in an exclusive interview.

“From a hard-operational perspective, do we have the right mix of people with the right sort of background, education, language, ethnicity, gender … that will allow us to do what our government expects us to do and will expect us to do in the future?”

Canada has about 2,000 special-forces members whose units include Joint Task Force 2, the Canadian Special Forces Regiment, a special helicopter detachment and a unit that specializes in responding to biological, chemical and nuclear incidents.

The government’s defence policy calls for an additional 600 special-forces members amid a realization of the growing importance of special forces to modern militaries.

Canada currently has about 120 special forces soldiers in Iraq and smaller teams working with counterparts in several other countries, including Belize, Jamaica, Niger and Malaysia.

More diverse special forces would make it easier to make connections in different parts of world, understand the environment, interact with power brokers and figure out a way to respond to changing circumstances, Dawe said.

At the same time, he said expectations within society are changing as young people look at different opportunities available to them, which requires the Forces to make it as attractive as possible to join.

Anyone who wants to join the special forces is required to have at least two years in uniform, though they are often required to attain other qualifications that require more time.

Dawe said some “really hard-charging, high-achieving individuals like varsity athletes and super-talented folks out there on civilian street” are interested in the special forces, but they don’t want to spend several years in the regular military before applying.

“So one of the things we would like to look at is whether there is scope to accelerate that, because there is a qualitative dimension that we might not be exploiting or tapping into as well as we could.”

There is precedent for such a move, Dawe said, pointing to Australia and the U.S. as examples where “accelerated” recruiting has been successful.

At the same time, “inculcating future members of the Canadian Armed Forces, doing that properly, making sure they understand what they are joining and why are joining it, is important,” he said, noting recruits will still need to meet the same standards and go through training.

“You have to make sure you strike a good, healthy balance there in terms of making it as efficient as possible without discarding those important enculturation gateways that have served us so well historically,” Dawe said.

The move toward new ways of recruiting comes as special forces undergo a shift from its primary task of fighting terrorists to face new threats, including the nebulous new type of conflict known as hybrid warfare.

Hybrid warfare is a strategy that uses propaganda, misinformation and cyberattacks to complement conventional military forces or non-conventional forces such as insurgents and proxies. Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is widely seen as a prime example.

While Canada and its allies have struggled to address this new threat, Dawe argued his forces are part of the solution as they put more emphasis on better collecting information — particularly in “murky” environments.

“We just have to make sure we’re not bringing a hammer or even a scalpel to the party,” he said. “You have to bring a whole bunch of ability to illuminate the threat, figure out what it is and what you’re going to do about it.”

— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.

https://theprovince.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/special-forces-looks-at-recruiting-off-the-street-amid-shifting-demands/wcm/71e967a8-e935-408f-9564-54ca0dea1857
 

OceanBonfire

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Edited. Same article but from different sources posted less than a minute later and moved into the same thread by a mod.
 

Inspir

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They might get more applicants but will they actually get more recruits. Selection is not exactly a walk in the park. US Army does it, wonder what there success has been with it?
 

CBH99

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In an interview with Tim Kennedy on the Joe Rogan postcast, he talked about how badly the US Army SF recruiting currently was - and they've been recruiting straight off of civi street for years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OFevGcLHTU


Not able to get enough of the RIGHT CANDIDATES in the door to fill all of the billets, and that's with them recruiting from Army AND the civilian market. 

My guess is, it'll get some people in the door that might not have otherwise pulled the trigger and applied.  And a few of them will be solid.  (I know quite a few former members who wish they had applied for something "unique" and/or stuck with it.  I think being able to apply to something you believe your well suited for, and not having to do a few years of regular service first, isn't necessarily a bad thing.) 

Numbers will go up, but nothing crazy - just an extra tool for the SOF recruiters.
 

OldSolduer

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If I’m wrong correct me but I think the USN SEALs recruit off the street as well.
 

IRepoCans

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It'll probably function something like the 1st and 2nd Commando Regiments of Australia's SOCOMD with their direct entry scheme being an accelerated infanteer pipeline with a SF selection preperation course prior to the selection and training course(s). Similarly our premier CT unit, much like their SASR will probably still require applicants to be existing members of the CAF.

Either way just as mentioned in the posts above, it's only one of many tools available for the command to force generate its members. I wonder, however, if they'll extend this to non-Operator trades/specialists?
 

daftandbarmy

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If you want more SF troops, maybe we just need to fix the selection and training process, like this guy did in the US Army SF, instead of looking outwards for a solution to our internal problems:


"With SFAS selecting at about a 50 percent rate at that time, the same percentage of candidates failing the SFQC was unacceptable. Decker was told, to fix it, in the SF way,… just get it done. And did he ever. He made sweeping changes to the way the SFAS course was run and while the selection rates of SFAS plummeted to 30 percent or below, the successful completion of the SFQC from candidates selected from Decker’s SFAS classes skyrocketed to 80 percent. That’s exactly what the command was looking for."

https://specialoperations.com/30998/interview-brian-decker-pt-1-got-selection-course-back-track/
 

blacktriangle

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IMHO, if someone can pass the selection and course, why not?

Being in a regular unit to start will teach you some stuff, sure. But you also run the chance of pissing off potential high performers with sweeping unit lines or dog and pony shows. When entire platoons worth of Pte decide not to renew after their BE because of BS, you are bound to lose a few guys that probably had the right stuff.

I know of one guy that tried for a certain CANSOF unit a couple times...his unit dicked him around with the paperwork first time despite PSO and recruiters pushing. The second time, he was smart enough to get around them, so guess what? They deployed him with suspicious timing. He did the tour and got picked up by another organization outside the CAF. I've also seen CANSOF come to a previous unit of mine begging for supporters/specialists. The unit had people sitting around doing SFA. CANSOF was told "we can't support this".

And yes someone that truly wants it will eventually get it...but I'm willing to bet some find greener pastures before truly catching their stride in the CAF.
 

Cloud Cover

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I think this is a really good idea, but I would go one step further and stop filtering out perfectly good candidates because they do not meet identity quotas or are from the wrong part of the country.
 

daftandbarmy

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standingdown said:
IMHO, if someone can pass the selection and course, why not?

Being in a regular unit to start will teach you some stuff, sure. But you also run the chance of pissing off potential high performers with sweeping unit lines or dog and pony shows. When entire platoons worth of Pte decide not to renew after their BE because of BS, you are bound to lose a few guys that probably had the right stuff.

I know of one guy that tried for a certain CANSOF unit a couple times...his unit dicked him around with the paperwork first time despite PSO and recruiters pushing. The second time, he was smart enough to get around them, so guess what? They deployed him with suspicious timing. He did the tour and got picked up by another organization outside the CAF. I've also seen CANSOF come to a previous unit of mine begging for supporters/specialists. The unit had people sitting around doing SFA. CANSOF was told "we can't support this".

And yes someone that truly wants it will eventually get it...but I'm willing to bet some find greener pastures before truly catching their stride in the CAF.

And another great idea I've heard from others, who know more about this stuff than me, is that we should make the SOF role 'not so special' by rotating the task amongst Infantry Battalions (or something like that). CSOR was started up kind of like that, as I understand it.

If SOF is so important, then make it a mandatory task instead of leaving it to the whims of individual unit leaders to decide whether or not we can deploy that nationally, and internationally, important capability. Field Marshall Slim famously noted that any 'conventional' infantry battalion in the 14th Army could do what any special force could do, albeit assuming the right selection and leadership, so why not leverage that.

Going direct to civvy street seems a last gasp, work around effort for a smaller sibling organization being strangled for resources by it's bigger brother.



 

IRepoCans

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daftandbarmy said:
And another great idea I've heard from others, who know more about this stuff than me, is that we should make the SOF role 'not so special' by rotating the task amongst Infantry Battalions (or something like that). CSOR was started up kind of like that, as I understand it.

If SOF is so important, then make it a mandatory task instead of leaving it to the whims of individual unit leaders to decide whether or not we can deploy that nationally, and internationally, important capability. Field Marshall Slim famously noted that any 'conventional' infantry battalion in the 14th Army could do what any special force could do, albeit assuming the right selection and leadership, so why not leverage that.

Going direct to civvy street seems a last gasp, work around effort for a smaller sibling organization being strangled for resources by it's bigger brother.

Kind of like the SFSG role seen across the pond then?

But, as I understand it CSOR has moved quite far away from the role it original was envisioned to fill with its establishment; I guess the question is to determine which capabilities / skills (which I believe you defined in another thread as quite common-place wartime skills) can be rolled into light forces of the Army and those which require a specifically selected group to conduct.

Be interesting to see what they'll do with individuals who do not make through the process? Do they return to civilian life? Or are thrown into a line battalion?
 

Old Sweat

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daftandbarmy said:
And another great idea I've heard from others, who know more about this stuff than me, is that we should make the SOF role 'not so special' by rotating the task amongst Infantry Battalions (or something like that). CSOR was started up kind of like that, as I understand it.

If SOF is so important, then make it a mandatory task instead of leaving it to the whims of individual unit leaders to decide whether or not we can deploy that nationally, and internationally, important capability. Field Marshall Slim famously noted that any 'conventional' infantry battalion in the 14th Army could do what any special force could do, albeit assuming the right selection and leadership, so why not leverage that.

Going direct to civvy street seems a last gasp, work around effort for a smaller sibling organization being strangled for resources by it's bigger brother.

Slim's observation, and I second guess him with a lot of trepidation, applies to units such as commandoes, rangers, and Chindits. All these operate on the same basis as regular infantry, that is in sections, platoons, and companies usually on our side or close to the FEBA in time or space. Specialized SF operate in small detachments often deep in hostile or disputed territory, and a good many excellent soldiers are unable to function in that environment. Psychological screening can often identify individuals who can serve in that environment, but there still is a lengthy training regime.

While stilll serving, and I retired in 1994, I recall a number of battalion commanders claiming any infantry battalion could perform the hostage rescue mission that was the main role of SF at the time. I fear this said more about their lack of knowledge than a latent capability lurking in our infantry battalions.
 

mariomike

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From the OP,
Dawe said some “really hard-charging, high-achieving individuals like varsity athletes and super-talented folks out there on civilian street” are interested in the special forces, but they don’t want to spend several years in the regular military before applying.

I bet there are. There's some "really hard-charging" prospective applicants who, I am sure, would love to go straight into Special Operations in other organizations ( eg: Emergency Services ).

But, I can't see them ever  allowing that to happen.

Good luck to the CAF with that.













 

CBH99

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I had a buddy in my regiment years ago, and he just wanted to go SF.

He did a year at the regiment, and realized it really wasn't for him.  He even managed to get selected for being a diver, did some cool courses, but just really didn't enjoy the mandatory PT (he was super fit, and preferred to train on his own) - amongst other regimented parts of life that come with being in a combat engineer unit.


He inquired about applying for SF, and was told by his chain he needed a minimum of 3 years in.  Attended the JTF2 recruiting session when they visited CFB Edmonton, made some inquiries, and the JTF recruiters told him to apply regardless - they needed people, were busy as hell, and they actually weren't too concerned with the 'mandatory 3 years' part.

He tried to apply, but his CoC killed it.  Anything he could do to get himself more qualified as an applicant, his CoC killed it.


Eventually, after about 1.5 years in, he went around his CoC entirely and applied directly to the SF recruiters.  They handled the application & file directly, and didn't seem to care at all what his CoC wanted.

Long story short, he went off for selection.  Passed with flying colours (although he said he thought for sure he was going to be rejected, and wasn't very confident he had performed very well) - and disappeared into the SF world about a month after.  Haven't seen or spoken to him since.


^^ There really are some people who are good applicants, who just don't want to sit around battalion for a few years first.  So this idea of recruiting right out of the civilian world might just get a few people in the door that might not have otherwise bothered.  (And you bet, US Army SF & Navy SEALS both have direct entry plans from the civilian world.)
 

Retired AF Guy

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If the SF community started publicizing some of their real world missions (albeit sanitized) they might get more people interested in joining.

Just my thoughts.
 

brihard

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mariomike said:
From the OP,
I bet there are. There's some "really hard-charging" prospective applicants who, I am sure, would love to go straight into Special Operations in other organizations ( eg: Emergency Services ).

But, I can't see them ever  allowing that to happen.

Good luck to the CAF with that.

Given specific backgrounds, you might be surprised. I’m aware of limited cases of CAF vets with certain profiles being fast tracked into police tactical stuff. In that case it *is* a ‘hands and feet skills’ thing, albeit one where they have already proven themselves through very rigorous selections in their former organization.

As specialist organizations continue to apply scientific rigor to selection criteria, and learn what really is important to ‘bring’ versus what they will ‘learn’, there are more examples of organizations realizing that traditional ‘farm team’ approaches may not be 100% the answer.
 

Cloud Cover

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Brihard: like the sniper who went to EPS? That didn’t work out so well, but I’m hoping it was a “ one off” 😀
 

brihard

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Cloud Cover said:
Brihard: like the sniper who went to EPS? That didn’t work out so well, but I’m hoping it was a “ one off” 😀

I think I know who you mean, but I don’t know the story. No, I’m thinking about another instance. It’s rare, but it happens.
 

mariomike

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Brihard said:
I’m aware of limited cases of CAF vets with certain profiles being fast tracked into police tactical stuff.

Brihard said:
It’s rare, but it happens.

That may be. Perhaps they were using the internal Relative Ability Process? ( Selection on the basis of qualifications, experience, education or equivalency and the ability to perform the work satisfactorily. When these factors are relatively equal, seniority shall govern. )

That's how I got my position on Paramedic Spec. Ops.. It would have taken me many years otherwise, as I was still low on the seniority list. 

But, that was a long time ago, and due to arbitration, the Relative Ability Process is extremely rare now.

I'm only familiar with Metro Toronto. I've been retired for ten years, and a lot has changed since then.

But, the police, fire and paramedic departments are still unionized. The Collective Agreements have never given CAF members special consideration to be fast-tracked into Special Operations.

That would include the Police / Paramedic Emergency Task Force ( ETF ) aka Tactical.

Likewise, having served in the Navy wouldn't fast track an applicant into the Police / Paramedic Marine Unit.

I was in Special Operations in the Emergency Support Unit ( ESU ). That's the bus and truck division. Being an MSE Op didn't get me special consideration or a "fast-track" into it.

The only way was ( and still is, as far as I know ) by the "Senior Qualified Process."

ie: The City assesses applicants ( already serving on the police, fire and paramedic departments ) in order of seniority, until enough candidates have been identified to fill the posted position(s).

There would be grievances from members with more seniority if current/past member of the military received special consideration.

Q: I am a current/past member of the military. Do I get special consideration?

A: Although we appreciate your service in the military, all current and past members of any military service will proceed through the Constable Selection System like any other candidate.
http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/careers/uni_faq.php#q28

Modified - mm







 
 

Jarnhamar

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[quote author=CBH99]

He tried to apply, but his CoC killed it. 
[/quote]

Happened to me a few times.

-Hey sorry we found your application at the back of the OCs desk. Too late to do anything about it now, maybe you can try next year.
-Sorry your application was approved and you had a spot on selection but someone dropped the ball and forgot to contact you to tell you.
-we'll send you on this course out of area  but don't worry we contacted them and they're aware of your selection stuff and you'll be given time off for the pt test. (no one contacted the course staff and they shut it down when I asked after arriving)

And
-bpso had a nervous breakdown and dropped half her work load you won't be able to apply this year


Lots of guys I know have similar stories, lots of them worse.
CoC gives guys a hard time, tries to guilt them or coerse them not to apply, threaten to ostrasize them or threaten not to give them any courses. CoC looses paperwork (with no repercussions). Drags their feet on applications and people miss key timings.

Seems like many units care more about their own manning than benefitting the CAF as a whole.

The vandoos on the other hand, I've heard, take soldiers who apply for SOF and put them in their own training platoons to concentrate on preparing themselves for selection. Maybe it's to increase the amount of French soldiers in the SOF community? Seems to work.

SOF might have better recruiting levels of the regular force and reserve stopped being dick heads about selection. Attracting more members to the CAF would benefit everyone, too.
 
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