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Old 10-10-2013, 15:45   #14
Quiet Professional
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Clarksville, TN
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The preferred method to qualify a Special Forces soldier has always been selection, school training, testing, and graduation from the "Q[ualification]" course operated at Fort Bragg, by the John F. Kennedy Center. But in the 1970's the Center simply did not have enough quotas to accept all soldiers from the six National Guard and US Army Reserve Special Forces Groups, while maintaining a full course load for active components.

There was a period of time (before Special Forces was a branch of the United States Army, and instead was considered an "Additional Skill Identifier") when a USA Reserve or National Guard soldier could:

1 - Be or become airborne (parachutist) qualified, and;

2 - Enlist or be assigned into a Special Forces unit, and;

3 - For some of the MOS's (Military Occupational Specialty*) of a special forces unit, learn some of the classes requisite to Special Forces Qualification by correspondence course, and;

4 - Serve in the T.O. & E. slot (also known as duty position or billet) of the duty position and participate in at least one graded exercise of at least two weeks duration during which the soldier would be evaluated in the actual position sought, and;

5 - With the recommendation and concurrence of the chain of command, be awarded the Special Forces Additional Skill Identifier (in other words, earn the "Full Flash" status of a Special Forces Qualified Soldier).

The entire process amounted to a form of "on the job" training, and was only available for what we called the "soft skill" MOS's: Light Weapons, Heavy Weapons and Combat Engineer. The "hard skill" MOS's: Medic, Communications, Operations and Intelligence, still required that the soldier seek a quota and attend the active duty school.

It would never be referred to as a "paper Tab" since there was no Tab at the time. When we referred to it at all, we called it "OJT" for "On the Job" training, as in: "Lt Bloodworth, this drill I want you to take all the OJT's to the classroom and give them a block of instruction on the Diana Cryptosystem one-time pads and the trigraph."

The quality of the soldier depended of course on the quality of the instruction the soldier received "on the job" and the standards imposed by the unit. If well done, the soldier was the equal of a soldier who had been through JFK Center. Yet he might be dubbed having earned a "paper flash" by the "true schoolhouse graduates."
By the way, the two week field exercise leading to qualification was under the direct supervison of an Active Component Special Forces Group, in the case of the 11th USAR Group, that was the 10th Special Forces Group, from Ft. Devens, MA. I dare anyone to call them soft on standards.


The expression "Full Flash" meant the soldier was Special Forces qualified, was awarded the Additional Skill Identifier, and could literally wear the "full flash" sewn on his beret. He might have earned his qualfication at the Q course, or he might be a "paper flash" but he was fully qualified (and would later be awarded the Special Forces Tab.)
By way of contrast, an airborne qualified "candidate" for Special Forces would sew on the "recognition bar" (official name); "striker bar" (slang, based on the resemblance to the striker bar on the side of a box of matches); or "candy stripe" (a demeaning term for 'non-qualified' with a feminine twist, ala the "Candy Striper" young nurse assistants).
Here's one of my "Candy Stripers", and one of my "Full Flash" soldiers, circa 1979. 11th Special Forces Group, USAR, Winston-Salem, NC.
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Last edited by CSB; 10-14-2013 at 13:16.
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