By Harold Wayne Hamlin
The third story of an 11-part series sharing the very personal story of one Long Range Recon Green Beret and his time in Special Forces training.
Due to Sims’s ego, I knew he wanted Room Rep badly. I didn’t want it. I knew I didn’t want to have to make all the meetings and other crap stuff officer’s egos dream up to do for self-importance.
Ralph and I were sitting on my bed talking about the testing tomorrow when there was a knock on our door. “Sims said, “It’s open.”
A man stuck his head in and said, “Room Rep meeting in 5 minutes in the Building Rep’s room number 52, second floor.”
Sims immediately took his notepad and rushed out the door to go to the super important meeting. Ralph and I smiled at each other. Two birds with one stone. We got rid of the little jerk and we were free to go and do anything we wanted to do.
Walter had no clue what Ralph and I were grinning about.
I ask Ralph how to study for the Special Forces test. I had been thinking of everything I could on how to make sure I passed that test. I didn’t want to come all this way and not pass.
Ralph said, “Wayne there is no way to study for a test like they will give us tomorrow. All we can do is relax and clear our minds. 25% of test-taking is just calming your mind and thinking about the question. Usually, with multiple-choice type tests, like we will be taking tomorrow, you can eliminate two of the choices immediately.”
Ralph smiled, “Liz told me that the book said to put a checkmark by the answer sheet of any the questions you did not know, then to move on. You then come back and review those questions you were not sure of.”
I said, “Do you think I can get Liz to get in uniform and take the test for me?”
Ralph laughed, “I have already asked her. She said she would need to use three uniforms to cover her!”
There was not one test but five tests of one hundred questions each for the Special Forces Entrance examine. Someone had asked about lunch during the test. He was told, “If you have to have lunch, you can leave and go pack your bags.”
On a break, Ralph told me, “Calm down Wayne. Do not let them stress you into becoming a bad test taker.”
I admired Ralph, “I said you are smart Ralph.” He replied, “Hey, it is not me. Liz read the books on test-taking.” I said, “You got to love that girl.” Ralph got a big grin, spread his arms wide, gave two thumbs up, and said, “I do. With all my heart.”
We took the tests until almost 9:00 pm. The tests covered OCS (Officers Candidate School), and various aptitude tests for career tracts within Special Forces.
It surprised me when I saw the posted test scores. I made a 455 out of 500, Ralph was 487, Walter had 500 out of 500, Sims had a 392. The average out of 60 men was 392. For an old boy who was happy with Ds and Cs in school, I was very happy.
Everyone was in awe of Walter. Within two weeks Walter left us. The rumor was he went to OCS and then straight to the Pentagon to work as an aid to General Omar Bradley.
I must give credit to Liz through Ralph. I know at least 10, maybe 15, questions I got right were a result of Liz coaching us on how to take tests.
I was so proud to be issued my Green Beret. The patch on it was white, the training patch showing that I was just a ‘Green Beret in the Making’ but I was so proud.
Special Forces was a game-changer. The Training Staff doubled teamed us like we were wrestlers. Half a day of classroom, then more than half a day of physical training.
Each of us had an individualized training schedule. Some days Ralph and I would be together other days we were not. Ralph and I, by chance, were teamed together on a Map – Land Navigation exercise. We were given a map and a sheet of paper with compass headings on it between 10 points.
From the starting point, you were given a compass heading and were told how far you needed to travel on that heading to find a stake with a number on it. Once you found the stake you wrote the number down, checked off that point on the sheet of compass headings, then you did the same for the next point until you found nine stakes. Each of the nine stakes was out in the woods by itself. When you found one, there were no other stakes around. They wouldn’t make it that easy on us!
Ralph and I were a good team. We had no problem finding our stakes. I was borderline too prideful in how skillful we were.
The last compass heading was the longest of the course, a quarter of a mile. Ralph, the Puppy Dog, would stop and look at plants in the woods and tell me the medicinal value of each plant. I would have to yell at him to come on. I wanted to make a perfect score on, not only on this test but all my tests. I was only competitive with myself. My only interest was achieving 100%.
Ralph kept his compass heading also and we compared notes. We agreed that we were dead on.
When we reached stake number 10, the final stake in the course, I was in shock. The bastards who set up the test had cheated. We were sunk.
To be continued in the November edition of the Caprock Patriot.
Submitted by Harold Wayne Hamlin, Lubbock, TX. Harold was a Sergeant in the US Army during Vietnam, serving 16 missions with as Long Range Recon Green Beret while serving with the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) and Command and Control North (CNN); where he was awarded a Purple Heart. Harold is also a retired Lubbock Fire Fighter.