Predicting success on a special forces selection course: Validating standards

Rob Marc Orr, Andrew P. Hunt, Daniel C. Billing

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Selection of personnel for employment within the Australian Army Special Forces (SF) involves the successful completion of a physically and mentally demanding selection course.Candidates fail to complete the course for a variety of reasons including; withdrawal on own request (WOR), failure to meet training requirements, failure to meet physical fitness standards, and injury. The broad impacts of candidate failure range from the financial costs of selection, transport and potential medical treatment to the loss of future manpower for Special Operations Command (SOCOMD) and return of injured or disenchanted members to their originating unit. Previous research investigating physiological predictors of success on the Commando Selection and Training Course (CSTC) has proposed pass/fail standards for several assessments on the revised Special Forces Entry Test (SFET). The aim of the present investigation was to validate these SFET standards in a different population of candidates, (Special Air Service Selection Course (SAS-SC)) as a means of predicting SF selection course survivability.Ninety two (of 97) candidates completed the revised SFET and commenced SAS-SC 01/11. The physical capacity assessments of the SFET were vertical jump height, sit and reach test of flexibility, push-ups, 7-stage sit-up test, heaves, agility test, the beep test (VO2max), yo-yo test, 5-km pack march (40 kg load) and a 400-m swim. The proposed SFET standards (developed from a previous sample of SFET candidates before commencing the CSTC (01/11)) were push-ups (=66 repetitions), 7-stage sit-up (= Stage 5)and 5-km pack march (=45 min 30 s).Theoretical application of these standards to candidate SFET results yielded the following:13 candidates failed all three standards and were predicted to fail the course; 33 passed one or two standards respectively and 13 candidates passed all three standards. The list of candidate names was secured by the investigators who had no interaction with course staff or candidates during the course.Of the thirteen candidates predicted to fail, twelve actually failed the course and one candidate passed. None of the twelve candidates that failed proceeded past day 9 of the 21 day course. Reasons for failure were: 7 WOR, 4 poor fitness and 1 injury. The single candidate who was predicted to fail the course yet passed (false negative classification), failed to meet the proposed SFET 5-km pack march standard by eight seconds. Given these results, the proposed SFET pass standard for the 5-km pack march was adjusted to =45 min 45 s. A post hoc review of both the Commando Selection and Training Course (CSTC 01/11) and SAS-SC 01/11 employing these amended standards yielded a slight increase (< 1%) in false positive classifications, and removed all false negativeclassifications.One proposed reason for the false negative classification identified in this study was the potential for between course variations (including diurnal and course content) between the CSTC 01/11 and SAS-SC 01/11. With this influencing reason expected to continue, there is the potential for false negative classifications to be made in the future when employing SFET pass/fail standards. A mitigating strategy currently being investigated by SOCOMD is the use of a mentorship program which provides SOCOMD with the opportunity tocapture future candidates who fail the SFET yet demonstrate sufficient potential to warrant reapplication. In conclusion, the mentorship program and amended SFET standards provide SOCOMD with the opportunity to ‘talent scout’ potential future candidates.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2011
EventDefence Human Sciences Symposium 2011 - David Warren Auditorium, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 16 Nov 201117 Nov 2011


ConferenceDefence Human Sciences Symposium 2011
Abbreviated titleDHSS
OtherThe Defence Human Sciences Symposium (DHSS) is the principal Australian forum for those interested in research on defence-related human sciences and the application of human sciences research to enhance defence capability. This year the Symposium will be held in Melbourne on 16 and 17 November 2011.

The DHSS Organising Committee has received over 70 high quality abstracts in a diverse range of human sciences.


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