A long time ago, in a boot camp far, far, away, I met a guy named Colin.
Today, SSG Colin Hargreaves, 18D Medical Sergeant, 7th SFG (that stands for Special Forces Group; yes, the soldiers with the green berets) and I still maintain contact.
I asked him if he would share his fitness boot camp experience with me and how it, if at all, helped him on his journey to become a Green Beret.
Tom: When did the idea of going to Special Forces enter your brain?
Colin: While in college, the idea of leaving school to join the military crossed my mind many times. Instead, I chose to finish school and earn my Bachelor’s degree. After college, I worked in a cubicle for 2.5 years and realized that an office was not my calling. I applied to the Army’s OCS (Officer Candidate School) with hopes of becoming an Infantry Officer. For one reason or another, I was not selected to attend OCS. At this point, I could walk away, wait 6 months and reapply, or enlist. While greatly disappointed, I was able to discuss my future with my trainer, Tom, and after many discussions with him and my recruiter, I learned about a way to enlist that would guarantee me a spot in The Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) Course. With the coveted Green Beret in sight, I signed my life away.
Tom: Why did you join boot camp?
Colin: Between applying for OCS, getting denied and deciding to enlist, a few of my office mates had found boot camp and recommended it to me. They had told me that the trainer (Tom) was a former Army Ranger and Infantry Officer and this was music to my ears. I contacted Tom, and ‘enlisted’ for my introductory class.
Tom: What were your initial thoughts 10 mins into class and then at the end of class?
Colin: 10 minutes in? 5 MINUTES in, I asked my co-worker….what did you get me into?
Let me preface this by saying that I considered myself to be in pretty good shape having played high school and college sports, and being somewhat of a gym rat. Tom broke me. Never before had I pushed my body to complete failure then be asked to keep going despite being spent. By the end of the hour class I was trying to ignore Tom’s questions of what I thought of the class because I just wanted to leave, drink more Gatorade and really, just lay down.
Tom: Years later, you look back at where you are now and what got you here and what role this class played in that journey?
Colin: My description of Day 1 may scare you. With that said, just do it. Your body will adapt (and it will get stronger/fitter). You may start some workouts and exercises with scaled easier versions but will be so proud when the prescribed workout isn’t enough. Then your trainer will hand you a medicine ball or weighted vest or after the workout you will find yourself asking others in class if they want to go for a run after class.
I tried a wide variety of fitness programs to prep for the military and elite units/training and without a doubt will testify that Tom’s class was the most well-rounded and beneficial. In addition, I appreciated the mental “motivation” Tom provided me, which helped me numerous times during my military training. For example, Tom once whispered in my ear, so no one else could hear, that the character of a man is defined by giving 100% even when no one is looking. Instantly, I stopped shamming on my pushups and pushed harder because I could, and he knew it. This motivational speech came back to me during the last day of my 19 day SFAS assessment. The final event was a road march along a designated route of unknown distance, with an unknown time standard. History tells us that it is generally 25 miles carrying a 70lbs rucksack, your kit, and your weapon. It is, by far, the single toughest event. About halfway through, everyone just wants to stop, take the ruck off, and quit. It really is simple to do. Just quit. The pain stops and you can go home. But, the only way to get through it is to remember your training, remember why you want to finish and allow nothing to stop you. It’s funny, because at that moment, I remembered Tom’s face, with his unforgiving eyes hidden by his sunglasses and I thought about the idea of telling Tom “I quit” or “I stopped” or “I gave up” and I realized doing that would be far worse than to just keep walking. Three years later (which is how long Special Forces school lasts), the coveted Green Beret was taken off its ivory pedestal and handed to me, with a “Welcome to The Regiment, Sergeant” to go with it.
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Sergeant’s Fitness Concepts is not about helping you graduate from Special Forces or Ranger School or even helping you to join the military. However, we are about being fit and healthy which transfers to so many aspects of your life. In addition, learning how to test your limits and become comfortable with being outside of your comfort zone, understanding what your body can and cannot handle, will give you an incredible amount of confidence to move towards your goals and accomplish them, no matter what they might be. Finally, being part of an organization that understands what it takes to be successful and hold you to the necessary standards, is what matters to us.