How to Enlist in Army National Guard, Then Join Special Forces

National Guardsmen recon a landing site.
Two New York Army National Guard infantrymen recon a landing site in advance of an inbound F470 Combat Rubber Raiding Craft during a training exercise in Buffalo, N.Y. (Alexander Rector/New York National Guard)

Not many people realize there are many different ways to become a special operations soldier. The active-duty route is the most recognized way to become Army Special Forces, Army Ranger Regiment, Navy SEAL, Air Force PJ, MARSOC -- the ground-force members of the Special Operations Command.

Depending on the service, a civilian can join the military and go straight to special-ops training after boot camp (Navy SEAL/Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen), or spend time in their perspective military branches for a few years and transfer into the special-ops selection pipelines. There are also reserve components to these units, like the 19th and 20th Group of the Special Forces -- which can be entered through the Army National Guard as a civilian or as a former military member.

If you have heard of former special operators who were Navy SEALs or Marine RECON who got out of their service and joined the Army National Guard in their state and attended Army Special Forces Training in Fort Bragg, N.C., it is not fake. This really happens. Many former military and civilians alike join the Army National Guard and prepare themselves for Army Special Forces training. This is the Army Special Forces training. And they earn the actual Green Beret; this is not a reserve course.

Civilian to Army National Guard to Special Forces

So if you are a U.S. citizen (under 35 years old) with no prior service and thinking about serving as a special-ops soldier, there is an option for you that does not require you to give up your career. (There will be long periods of time away from work and home during training/deployments, however).

The non-prior service Special Forces enlistment contract in the Army National Guard is called the REP 63 contract. The active-duty version of this contract is the 18X (18xray).

All candidates must have at least a high school education and not have any drug- or alcohol-related violations, though waivers are possible depending upon the situation. The ASVAB and physical fitness test scores should be above average -- 50 points on the ASVAB, with an absolute minimum of 110 in the General Technical section, and at least a 240 on the Army physical fitness test (APFT), though closer to a 300 will help if the billets to training are competitive. You must be eligible for a secret security clearance.

Special Forces Training Timeline

When you sign up under the REP 63 contract, you are not guaranteed to become a Special Forces soldier. You are guaranteed the opportunity to try out for the SF training pipeline.

Your performance will determine whether you get selected. It is incumbent upon you long before you sign the contract to be prepared for SF training.

Do not think the training pipeline is there to prepare you. The pipeline of training is there to test you, and you have to prepare for this journey long in advance. (Special Forces Training Prep)

Army Special Forces candidates usually will attend the following courses. If they have prior service or have attended many of the following schools already, the road to Special Forces training will differ. That road begins with the "tryout" weekend at a National Guard facility:

  • Special Forces Readiness Evaluation/Assessment Drill (SFRE/SFAD) (three days)
  • Infantry (11B) One Station Unit Training (OSUT), which is Army Basic Combat Training (BCT) and infantry Advanced Individual Training (AIT), Fort Benning, Georgia (15 weeks)
  • Basic Airborne Training, also at Fort Benning (three weeks)
  • Special Forces Preparation and Conditioning (SFPC) course, Fort Bragg, N.C. (three weeks)
  • Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) program (three weeks)
  • Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) (62 to 98 weeks)

Regardless of whether you go active-duty Army or join the National Guard and try out for the above training program, it requires commitment. Just because it is "reserve status" does not mean it is easy or involve less travel for training and deployments.

This is a challenging course that allows you to become an Army Special Forces soldier and earn the Green Beret. Once you are operationally proficient, opportunities to deploy with your group or augment other operational detachments are available.

If you are worried about losing your job after training and deployments, it is against the law for an employer to fire you. See the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)

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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