Old 01-23-2004, 20:52   #1
The Reaper
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Rucking Advice


Of the last SFAS class (and this is a continuing trend), almost 20% said that along with more rucking, more land nav training, more upper body workouts, more rope climbing, etc., they wished that they had prepared their feet better.

This is a significant number, and is worth addressing. I am posting it here because for some reason, newbies come here first and ignore the SFAS Forums.

Once you are infiltrated into the SFOA, most SF teams are foot mobile. There are exceptions, but regardless of whether you are parachuted, airmobiled, HALO, SCUBA, or even vehicle infiltrated, the average SF guy has to be prepared at all times to move by foot, for very long distances with heavy loads. 25 miles per day, cross country is not an unreasonable, and while the pace will vary, depending on the tactical situation, admin movements should average 4 mph or better. To do this, you and your feet have to be in shape.

Long range ruck movements are an evaluated task at SFAS, and tie into several other evaluated events. I would go as far as to say that while it is possible to complete SFAS with poorly conditioned feet, and members of this board have done it, it will significantly complicate the process. It slows you down, hurts like hell, and is likely to earn you some bad peers from your buddies when you are dragging your bad feet at the rear of the formation or are at sick call. Most other Phases of the SFQC have significant foot movement requirements as well.

You MUST walk long distances prior to arrival at SFAS in order to be successful. Studies show that arriving candidates who have not walked distances over 4 miles at the time in preparation for the selection course have almost ZERO possibility of making it. You must ruck, you must go at least 8-10 miles at least occasionally, you must learn to move out and maintain a good 13-14 minute mile pace on dirt or sand while walking, and it helps to do at least some of it cross country.

Loads in excess of 55-65 lbs are unnecessary in training and cause needless injury. At the same time, while starting rucking with light loads is okay, you do need to do some serious time under an ALICE pack with heavier loads in the 45-55 lb. range.
Tactical is not the same as admin rucking. Pace depends on the terrain and environment. Depends on the mission. Depends on the conditioning and load of the men rucking. Depends on the time you have available.

Personally, unless my feet are bothering me, I prefer move at a 13
minute/mile pace, to take breaks in the 60-90 minute range, and take the time to powder up, eat something, check gear and weapons, make commo, change socks, etc.

If you are humping alone, you set the pace and the breaks. If you are with someone else who is in charge, try to adapt to their schedule unless you really need a break.

I will say this. If you are trying to keep a 15 minute per mile pace going, every minute you sit puts you over 100 meters behind where you need to be. 10 minutes sitting means you have a klick to make up. If you do a consistent 14 minute/mile pace, you can break for about 4 minutes per hour, or 8 minutes every two hours. At a 13:00 per mile pace, I can take 8 minutes per hour, or 16 every two hours. Do not forget to allow for a safety margin in
case a ruck strap fails, you break a shoelace, you get a hot spot, the road gets muddy, etc. As an example, on a 12 mile ruck, I like to go at a 13:00 pace and move out for 90 minutes, take a 10 minute break, and have a 14 minute cushion for the last 6 miles, just in case.

At SFAS, you need to move as fast as you can, as long as you can, till someone tells you to stop. I would not go if I could not move out at a 13-14 minute per mile pace, with a heavy ruck and deep, sandy (or muddy) roads. On an ODA, the load will be much heavier, and the pace may, or may not be quicker.

It is possible to do 13 minute miles without running, but you can't improve them by using a computer. Find someone who can WALK, and go with them for a few weeks. At least find another slow guy, and push one another. There are only two ways to ruck faster. Take longer strides, or more of them. Immutable laws of time and physics apply, even in the Hoffman Triangle.

All events at SFAS are subject to evaluation against a standard which you will generally not be told. You will also be put in ambiguous situations, where asking a ridiculous number of questions, failing to follow instructions and generally making a nuisance out of yourself will get you eliminated as well.

If you cannot maintain a 15 minute mile average pace, including breaks, over sandy and unpaved roads with a 55 lb. ruck, LBE, and weapon, you are going to have a short and undistinguished career in SF. Every grunt in the 82nd has to do that, and many of them want to go SF and be held to HIGHER standards.

Do the math. 12 miles in less than 180 minutes. Take one five minute break every hour to check feet. 165 minutes. Allow a little extra time cushion so you are not at 11 miles with 4 minutes to go because you had to take a nature break, say, 15 minutes. 3:00:01 is as bad as 4:00:00 when 3:00:00 is the standard. 150 minutes, divided by 12 miles, is 12:30 miles.

Best score in my Infantry Basic Class was 1 hour and 35 minutes for 12 miles, along a paved road. Yes, he ran, and it is not recommended. Average time on my ODA was 2:30, cross country, with a heavier load, no one was over 2:45. Step out, lean into it, move with a purpose, and swing those arms.

As with all tasks at SFAS, perform all tasks exactly as instructed to the best of your abilities, whether you think you are being evaluated, or not. Don't be late, don't be light, don't be lost, and most of all, don't ever quit, if becoming SF is really your goal.

If you stick it out and are not selected, you got full benefit from the training, better understand your weaknesses, and know fully what to expect next time.

Good luck.
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