(Stars and Stripes)

Head to Google or social media and search for Special Forces preparation courses, and you can find a slew of companies offering programs to help you pass Special Forces Assessment and Training. But are these courses worth the money?

In most cases, no, according to retired Army Special Forces Lt. Col. Dr. David Walton, former director of Special Operations Education and now a national security professor at the National Defense University. In this week’s episode of Military Matters, Walton returns to the show to discuss with co-host Jack Murphy his new book, “Ruck Up or Shut Up: The Comprehensive Guide to Special Forces Assessment and Selection.”

“A lot of that industry, particularly around Special Forces Assessment and Selection, is really under informed,” Walton said. “You can't expect people that don't know anything about selection to prepare you adequately for selection. They don't know what the standards are. So how do you prepare a guy?”

While Army Special Forces keeps selection standards secret (“We don't wanna talk about what the standards are because then the guys will start gaming the course too much,” Walton said), what makes up the grueling SFAS course has been written about and studied extensively, including by Walton. “Ruck Up or Shut Up” puts together the available information in narrative form and offers candidates, Special Forces members or anyone who’s curious a history of Army Special Forces and the Green Berets, as well as how to prep for SFAS.

As the title suggests, rucking is an important factor — perhaps the most important — in preparing for assessment and selection. In fact, rucking performance is “the number one predictor of success” in SFAS, according to Walton.

“If you think back to your time at selection, every important decision that you made, you made with a ruck sack on your back,” Walton said. “I mean, it just — it melds to your body. It becomes one with you; it becomes like a parasite that's permanently fused to your traps and back. And so you better learn to love it and you better learn how to be a good rucker. The data shows us that.”

You can find Military Matters on Twitter @stripesmmpod.

Follow Jack Murphy on Twitter @jackmurphyrgr and Rod Rodriguez @rodpodrod.

A transcript of the episode can be found here.

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Brian McElhiney is a digital editor, podcast editor and occasional reporter for Stars and Stripes. He has worked as a music reporter and editor for publications in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Oregon. One of his earliest journalistic inspirations came from reading Stars and Stripes as a kid growing up in Okinawa, Japan.

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