Don't Ignore These 3 Weaknesses When Preparing for Military Service

Staff Sgt. Gary Likiak instructs students in the Marshall Islands before they take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
Staff Sgt. Gary Likiak instructs Ebeye Gem Christian School students in the Marshall Islands on April 21, 2022, before they take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. (Master Sgt. John Phillips/U.S. Army photo)

Many people on a challenging journey tend to double down on their strengths and ignore their weaknesses. We tend to gravitate toward what we are good at doing in life. However, depending on your plans, only focusing on strengths to make them "the best" only matters in a few things.

In a military fitness (tactical fitness) journey, this mindset can lead to failure, as your undeveloped weakness will be quickly exposed when you are tested.

Plus, I firmly believe that you also benefit from improving resiliency and mental toughness when you do things you do not like because you suck at them. By practicing these things, you will not only experience a whole new area of success (eventually), but with these failures that are common in the beginning, you will be mentally and physically tougher.

Typical Weaknesses that Plague Us During the Transition from Civilian to Military Service

1. Academics

If you know you are not the best student, you cannot ignore the first test you will take when becoming a recruit -- the ASVAB, a standardized test. Even if you are a good student, you need to practice a few Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery tests to ensure you can score the needed grades to get the jobs you are most interested in doing in the military. If you know this will be a weakness, get the book, take an online course or find a tutor to help with questions with which you struggle.

2. Physical Fitness

Depending on the job you are interested in doing, the physical fitness standards will vary greatly from the branch of service to the specific job. If you are trying out for more competitive programs in the special operations side of training or eyeing the Marine Corps or Army, you must address any weaknesses.

These programs will be tough. You will ruck, run and do high-repetition calisthenics, load-bearing drills and obstacle courses; you may even need to swim. Address these activities long before you join the military. The more you prepare, the more durable your body will be to the stresses of the training, which will be helpful to avoid typical overuse injuries.

3. Mindset

Any tough job in the future will require a mindset of not settling for the minimum standards of fitness, academics, and tactical skills development. Exceeding the standard is the standard for the more physically strenuous and academically challenging jobs in the military. By working through challenging weaknesses, you will find confidence in your abilities, which will go a long way throughout your life as you start moving toward any goal.

In Summary

1. Address any weaknesses you have prior to embarking on the next long-term goal. Just because you are of the age to serve does not mean you are ready or equipped to perform at your best.

2. Embrace your weaknesses on your military journey. Focusing only on your strengths can lead to failure when tested in both academic and fitness/tactical training.

3. Improve your resiliency and mental toughness by facing the things you don't like and aren't good at doing each day of training -- math, English, running, rucking, treading, push-ups, pull-ups, lifting weights, etc.

4. Practicing and developing areas that need work can lead to new areas of success in the long term. It may drive you in entirely new directions and open doors for you that you did not even know existed.

In the complex journey of life, individuals often tend to emphasize their strengths and overlook their weaknesses. It is human nature to lean toward activities in which we excel.

However, when embarking on a military journey, solely focusing on our strengths and striving to make them the best can lead to disappointment. Our undeveloped weaknesses will be quickly exposed and tested during the recruitment process or basic training/selection.

By consistently practicing these areas that require improvement, we not only have the potential to experience success in new areas, but we also become mentally and physically hardened through the hard work common in the initial stages.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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