How to Handle Getting 'Rolled' During Tactical Training

First Phase BUD/S candidates participate in log physical training.
First Phase Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL candidates participate in log physical training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California, July 14, 2016. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Black/U.S. Navy photo)

For military, police and fire department tactical training programs, finding worthy recruits usually requires many hours of work by recruiters, testers, medical professionals and many others. When recruits are struggling during boot camp, basic training and even spec-ops selections, instructors don't usually kick people out without giving the recruit a few attempts to succeed at the task that's giving them trouble.

The challenges that most often interfere with the recruit or candidate process involve injuries, a failure to meet standards, illness or other medical issues. In most cases, rehabilitation and retraining is the first choice. The most common terms used to describe getting pulled from training are being "rolled" to the next class, joining Rehab Platoon or getting "recycled."

Mindset Is Everything: It's a Blessing to Be Rolled

If you are rolled to the next class, that means the instructor cadre sees something in you and feels they can get you healed, improve your performance and teach you what you need to know before you join the next class. While it's common to be a little depressed once your fate is decided, your goal is to get over that feeling as quickly as you can (in hours, not days or weeks) and take your recovery seriously.

Now more than ever, your ability to recover, de-stress and learn quickly is required for you to succeed. Here is a link to a recent podcast on Getting Rolled at SEAL Training that a friend and I did that prompted this more in-depth article, listing the things you should be focusing on while in "rollback land."


The long days and nights with high-stress events are over while you focus on your healing or improving your performance in an area you failed. Make sure you focus on your recovery by pursuing it in all areas listed below.


You may be limited to chow-hall food, but if you can get to the commissary or grocery store, get real foods to supplement your chow-hall meals. Wise choices in the chow hall will also go a long way. Avoid processed foods and go all natural when possible, as this will help you deal with stress in the future by building or maintaining a healthy gut.


Never underestimate the importance of catching up on sleep. Regardless of the reason why you were rolled, it likely was a stress response to the challenges you were going through at that time. Sleep is the tool that will most quickly help you get back on track. Build up your resilience by focusing on good quality sleep each night. See more about restorative sleep.


If you were injured, you must learn to work around the injury, if possible. You still need to maintain upper-body strength if your legs are injured or do plenty of non-impact cardio activity if running injuries cause your rollback. You have an opportunity to recover from the high miles and little to no recovery of the selection process, take advantage of the time to stay or improve upon your cardio conditioning even if you cannot run.

If you're ill, getting better sleep and food is your top priority. You may have suffered a bad experience with digestive issues. A common ailment at SEAL training is called VGE (pronounced VEEge), which stands for viral gastroenteritis.

VGE causes a massive loss of fluids from both ends of the body and wipes out your gut health as well. The sooner you can hydrate and keep liquids and food down, receive electrolytes and restore your gut health, the better.

Take the time in rollback or recycle land to stay hydrated and eat natural foods to rebuild the gut so your body can use and process food for needed energy. Restoring the gut can take 2-12 weeks in healthy people, but hydrating and getting electrolytes can change how you feel in minutes.

Restoring the Gut

Eat foods that will help you control the inflammation of stress and aid in optimal bioavailability. Choose high-fiber vegetables and fruits like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, beets and bananas, plus fermented foods like pickles, cabbage, kimchi, kombucha tea and unsweetened yogurts. If you are allowed to take probiotics and prebiotic supplements, they will be helpful at this time.

Here are more ideas for healthy gut rebuilding. "A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, improved mood, healthy sleep, and effective digestion, and it may help prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases," according to Healthline.

Work On Your Weakness

Regardless of your health, you need to start focusing on your weaknesses as soon as possible. You get a second chance if you fail at something. The expectation is that you will take the test again with the next class and absolutely crush it because of the weeks you get to solely focus on any weakness you have.

Make sure you also maintain your strengths while you prepare, as everything will be tested again soon. Many people fail to meet the standard of some event that is difficult to practice on your own, such as swimming skills, land navigation or shooting accuracy. Your job while in rollback land will be to practice the deficiencies that got you placed there as often as possible.

My own rollback story was in week 20 of the 26-week program that is Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training. I was able to heal a knee injury that came from an accident beyond my control (tripped during a fireman carry drill). I came back stronger and faster; even though I could not run for more than a month, I could bike and swim and do upper-body exercises.

Soon, I was good to go to join the next class and crushed those final weeks, thanks to solid trainers, progressive workouts and advice from instructors whose job was to get me back into training. Though it was not the way I wanted to get through training, it was a learning experience that taught me the importance of many things I took for granted.

It does not matter how tough you are, you still need to sleep, eat well, hydrate, add electrolytes and work on strong gut health with natural foods to be at your best.

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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