I arrived at Bragg in June 2012. I’d been in the Army approximately 14 months, about the average amount of time from MEPS to SOCM. I in-processed post very quickly (a few days) and went straight into the first block of training. Be prepared to spend a few weeks in ATOT (Awaiting Training Or Transfer), which is the schoolhouse’s ‘reception’ platoon. Here you can find yourself doing anything from playing a casualty for the SOCM students to mowing the lawn. If you do find yourself in ATOT use the free-time you have to study and to work out. You’ll regret it if you don’t. Once SOCM starts, it’s a wild and furious ride with few respites to catch your breath.
There are six blocks in SOCM: EMT-Basic (yep, you have to go through EMT-Basic training again, even though you did it all in AIT); Anatomy & Physiology (A & P); Clinical Medicine; Trauma 1; Trauma 2; and Trauma 3. After which you spend 4-weeks on a clinical rotation at one of the 4 clinical sites (Virginia, two sites in Florida, and Michigan).
Each block of instruction is 6-weeks long and has its own cadre. There’s some pro’s and con’s to this. SOCM is a very close-knit environment. Class sizes are around 70 students or ‘operators’, which, over the course of the 10-month program will diminish to between 30 and 40 students. Each class will have a mixture of Special Forces (Green Beret’s) or ’18-delta’ students (some will be ‘legacy’ students – who have already completed some or all of their SF training; some will be ‘spiral’ students – for whom SOCM is the first part of their training after Selection); Navy SEALs; Civilian Affairs; and the 160th Night Stalkers.
SF make up the majority of the students. Their military bearing is different to the Ranger Regiment. Over half your class could well be Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO’s). They’ll slap you on the back and will talk to you as an equal. They’ll tell you not to worry about standing at parade rest when you talk to them and basically have a very different standard of military bearing. And that’s okay. For them. For the Area of Operations (AO) that they will be going to, that’s okay. For Rangers, it’s not okay. You have to strike the delicate medium of blending in with them, without losing track of your military customs and courtesies. Otherwise, you will develop bad habits that will be hard to lose when you get to your destination.
Physical fitness standards will vary among your fellow class mates. Much as I am loathe to admit it, the SEALs are generally in the best shape of anyone. Although Rangers and SEALs have our differences, they’re definitely a good yardstick to measure your own performance by. If you can compete with them in the physical events, you’re probably doing okay.
PT itself at SOCM is cadre-led. Sometimes your Ranger Liason will run PT just for Rangers. Sometimes the cadre of the particular block of training you are in will run PT. More often than not, PT will have a mixture of some kind of medical training. Think: buddy-carry’s; litter PT; log PT; laps of the schoolhouse and then starting IV’s on each other or splinting each other; and then more log PT… If you’re in good shape, none of the PT you do will be too challenging. I think I can recall about three smoking sessions during my entire time there where I actually came away thinking: That was hard. Some of the time you will be able to PT by yourself and other times (Trauma 2) you will not have much time to do any PT at all.
My advice: make the time. Get up earlier. I had an average of 4-hours sleep per night during the entire SOCM course. I got up on average at about 3:30am and did an hour’s PT on my own and an hour’s studying before the morning accountability formation. Develop good study habits. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a gnarly old sack of leather like myself who hardly sleeps – I would encourage you to get at least 5-hours sleep per night. But you really don’t need a lot more than that. If you’re sleeping for 8-hours you’re just plain lazy.
Block 1: EMT-Basic. Don’t underestimate this block. Almost everyone I know said the tests for this block were some of the hardest tests they’d ever done. It’s set up that way. You may think you know EMT-Basic. I’m sure you will at this point. But the type of questions that are in the tests are not just testing your knowledge of EMT-Basic, they’re testing your ability to think critically. You’ll have multiple choice questions where many of the answers are ambiguous and often at least two of the answers seem to be correct. You can almost always rule out two answers as flat-out wrong, but you may find yourself unsure which of the two remaining questions are correct. Rest assured, if you feel stupid, you won’t be the first – I went into it thinking I’d ace every test. I got an average of 85% GPA throughout this block and one exam I only just passed (76%). Use quizlet to study for these tests. Here’s a link to some of the study sets online:
As a general rule-of-thumb, quizlet is one of the best study tools for SOCM. Lots of students have passed through the course and have made quizlet sets to help them. They will have study notes handed down to them from other students in their pipeline and incorporated those notes into their own. Use them. If you are struggling to find a set of quizlet study notes for a particular test, just include the search word ‘SOCM’ and whatever block you are searching for, e.g. search quizlet for: ‘SOCM’ and ‘Anatomy & Physiology’.
Here is a link to my quizlet profile:
On the left, under ‘Sets’ you will see links to over 150 study sets, most of them for the SOCM program. Some of them I just ‘imported’ from sets that other students had written (so I can’t claim credit for them all, but my goal was to try to put as many SOCM quizlet sets in one place as possible). Read them with a critical eye as some of the information may have changed, but the majority of it should be solid.
The schoolhouse will provide you with an online account to the Moodle website, which hosts all of its slides and speaker notes – this will be your primary source of study reference and it is excellent. Many of the lectures are on MP3 format, so for instance, you can listen to a lecture on thermal burns while working out. As I mentioned, SOCM is all about optimizing your study-time.
If you’re daunted by all this studying – you should be. You’ll have formal tests and practical exams on average about twice a week throughout SOCM. Many of the tests are ‘GO / NO GO’. If you fail one block, you go to the Academic Review Board (ARB) where the cadre and Program Director will decide whether to give you a second chance. Many people fail the CTM block. I failed CTM. I was one of the few students to be given a second chance. The ARB will assess you on your GPA and your PT score (make sure it’s as close to 300 as possible, mine was 294 in SOCM, but my Ranger peers were scoring 300’s).
Pass this block and don’t fail anything. Also, be seen to have a good work ethic. The cadre of different blocks all talk to each other and rest assured, if someone sees you doing something good they will probably take note and may mention it to another cadre member.