Conceptualizing Special Operations Tactical Athletes. Who are those guys?

Conceptualizing Special Operations Tactical Athletes Who are those guys? Association for Applied Sport Psychology 28th Annual Conference, New Orleans,...
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Conceptualizing Special Operations Tactical Athletes Who are those guys? Association for Applied Sport Psychology 28th Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA Craig M. Jenkins, Ph.D. ABPP LTC, US Army Board Certified Health Psychologist

Gary Denham, M.Ed. US Navy, Retired (SEAL)

Disclaimer: The material presented are the opinions the presenters’ and do not necessarily reflect the policies of the Department of Defense or USSOCOM, nothing presented will be sensitive in nature. All studies cited are open source and published, my portion was cleared through Public Affairs channels. This Brief is UNCLASS

There is the myth….

…. and there is reality

SOF Core Activities  Direct Action  Special Reconnaissance  Unconventional Warfare  Foreign Internal Defense  Civil Affairs Operations  Counterterrorism  Psychological Operations

 Information Operations  Counter-proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction  Security Force Assistance  Counterinsurgency Operations

 Activities Specified by the President or SECDEF

http://www.socom.mil/Pages/AboutUSSOCOM.aspx

Unit Types  Guys on the ground  People who get them to work  Information and Influence

 Other Support

• • • •

Humans are more important than hardware Quality is better than Quantity Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced Competent Special Operations Forces cannot be created after emergencies occur • Most Special Operations require non-SOF assistance

Key Human Dimensions  Intellect  Cognitively style  Physical ability

 Hardiness  Moral compass  Attitude

Intelligence  Better than average to superior range

on IQ measures  There is a range but rarely is a guy purely “average”  Language

Cognitive style  Functional intellect  Decisive  Cognitive flexibility  Social intelligence and cultural

attunement

Physical Ability  Endurance  Strength  Coordination

 Flexibility

Hardiness  Difficult to overstate but

relates to performance

Stress and Survival School

Morgan, C., Wang, S., Rasmusson, A., Hazlett, G., Anderson, G., & Charney, D. (2001). Relationship among plasma cortisol, catecholamines, neuropeptide Y, and human performance during exposure to uncontrollable stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 63(3), 412-422.

Adrenaline During Survival School

Morgan, C., Wang, S., Rasmusson, A., Hazlett, G., Anderson, G., & Charney, D. (2001). Relationship among plasma cortisol, catecholamines, neuropeptide Y, and human performance during exposure to uncontrollable stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 63(3), 412-422

NP-Y During Survival School

Morgan, C., Wang, S., Rasmusson, A., Hazlett, G., Anderson, G., & Charney, D. (2001). Relationship among plasma cortisol, catecholamines, neuropeptide Y, and human performance during exposure to uncontrollable stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 63(3), 412-422

Dissociation Prior to and after Survival School Stress 20 18

Elite General

16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0

Pre

Post

Morgan, C., Hazlett, G., Dial-Ward, M., & Southwick, S. M. (2008). Baseline dissociation and prospective success in Special Forces assessment and selection. Psychiatry, 5(7), 52-57.

Resilience & vulnerability Morgan, et al. Resilient individuals  High  High NP-Y  Galanin  DHEA  Testosterone

 Low  HPA axis  LC/NE activation  CRH

Vulnerable Individual  High  High Estrogen  Dopamine  HPA axis  LC/NE activation

 Low  Low NPY  Galanin  DHEA  Testosterone

Discomfort  Regularly operates with discomfort Environmental (hot, cold, wet, dry) Discomfort tolerance (heavy awkward gear, noisy) Fatigue

“….embrace the suck!”

Moral Compass  Integrity  Does the right thing in ambiguous

situations

Creeds…

Attitude  Confident  Positive perspective  Achievement focused

 Challenge and

excitement seeking

Other Characteristics  Frequently married with children  Low debt, and good credit  Low rates of psychopathology

Attributes that Describe Men Entering the SEALs Training Program Extremely Well 1.00

Gallup marketing survey invited 1,200 students from classes 263-274. 33% responded resulting in a total of 391 individuals responded – 216 HWCs and 175 DORs.

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Copyright © 2009 Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Leadership A piece of spaghetti or a military unit can only be led from the front end. General George S. Patton

Identity

 SOF is an Identity

The Long Haul…  Operators can stay in the organization for as long as

20 years.  Experience is important and pays off on the mission  Leadership is investing in long haul efforts

Injury  Never really thinks he will become injured  Aggressive in rehabilitation Must outline the limits of activities Must ensure he understands the progression

SOF Conceptual Model For Resilience ASSESS AND SELECT •Volunteer •Intelligence •Motivation •Physical Ability •Personality Attributes •Resilient •Stress hardy

TRAIN •Tough, realistic training •Smart and relevant to utilization •Consideration of OPTEMPO/PERSTEMPO impacts •Targeted training for personal/family problems

MONITOR •OPTEMPO / PERSTEMPO •Deployment length •Predictability •Longevity and stability •Leadership (command climate)

TREAT •Organic SMEs •Concentric circle model •Coordinate treatment •Monitor readiness for commander

“Get AND keep the right people”

“Optimizing Performance”

“Keep Them Healthy & Make Them Stronger”

“Help Them Up When needed”

OPTIMIZING PERFORMANCE •Organizational climate, unit morale, team dynamics, individual performance, operational readiness, combat effectiveness, retention, recruitment, reduction of operational risk, reduction in buffoonery (UCMJ), stronger families, etc.

Whole Person Performance Enhancement Model Mission Physical Mental/emotional Spiritual Family/Relationships Unit

PHYSICAL

Performance and Resilience Programs Southwick and Charney from Yale conclude, based on interviews with former POWs SF instructors as well as civilians who have persevered through great adversity, that following factors are important for resilience:  Realistic optimism  Facing fear: an adaptive response  Moral compass, ethics and altruism  Religion and spirituality  Social support  Role models  Physical training  Brain fitness  Meaning, purpose and growth . Southwick, S. M., & Charney, D.S. (2012). Resilience: The science of mastering life’s great challenges; Ten key ways to bounce back from stress and trauma.

Program Recommendations Johns Hopkins’ recommendations for evidence-informed programs outlined, integrated, multicomponent interventional models.  Importance of leadership  Foster group cohesion and identity  Identification with higher ideal  Realistic Training  Family integration

 Pastoral integration  Build confidence and hardiness Kaminsky, Michael, McCabe, O. Lee, Langlieb, Alan M., and Everly, George S. An Evidence-Informed Model of Human Resistance, Resilience, and Recovery: The Johns Hopkins' Outcome-Driven Paradigm for Disaster Mental Health Services. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention 7, 1 (2007): 1-11.

Sport and SOF Similarities  Competitive  Focus on excellence  Practice (training)  Conditioning (mental, physical…)  Confidence  Drive  Injuries do occur  Own languages

Sport and SOF Differences  Defined activity  Sport season  Can be individual or

team  Narrow leadership needs  It is a game

 Spectrum of activities,    

often ambiguity Everyday is game day Always team Leadership potential for most Ultimate concerns (existential)

RECAP…..

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