No one wants to think about the glaring possibility that you may not make it. It’s something that no one wants to admit they think about but truthfully nags at them on a daily basis when prepping for assessment. “What if I don’t make it?” Battlefield Airmen (BA) selection is unrelentingly merciless. Wash out rates range from 40-80%, dependent on the AFSC you are striving for. With such high rates, it is inevitable that many will not have what it takes– and that person could be you.
When I went through, I told myself that it would never happen to me. I put immense pressure on myself by telling all of my friends and family that this was my destiny. My mantra was: As far as the Air Force was concerned; it was Battlefield Airmen or BUST.
I also jedi mind-tricked myself at selection. I told myself that I couldn’t quit; there was no way out: I pictured it similarly as if I was in a prisoner of war camp and there was no escape from the selection course. I looked at those that quit as killed off and only the strong survived. (In actuality, the ones that did quit and sounded the horn would never be seen from again- so my analogy of being killed off- although drastic wasn’t that bizarre).
There are two main reasons candidates fail at selection:
1) You fail (ie: injury & evaluation failure)
2) You quit (ie: failure to train & ‘sounding the horn’)
Obviously #1 doesn’t feel as bad on the psyche as #2. No one wants to admit they’re a quitter. I’ve run into many guys over the years that have come and gone through indoc unsuccessfully. The excuses never run dry; especially for the quitters. Regardless of your selection exit strategy, it still sucks.
After facing defeat, it is normal for guys to go hide in a hole and never want to come out. Self pity reigns supreme for months on end while you try to rationalize your failure as a human being. I know this because I was once a #1. (If you would like a background, click here.) And by all means you should go into your dark hole, cry it out a few times and have your pity party! Get it out of your system. Because what happens next will define who you are more than anytime before.
YOUR REHAB PLAN
If Battlefield Airmen selection did not go as planned, its time to pivot and drive to another goal. This can be difficult to accomplish coming from the self pity state mentioned above, but YOU HAVE TO DO IT. Don’t lose sight the mental and physical sacrifice you made to get to selection in the first place- you have the dedication in you to go far. You have to now find a way to re-invigorate that drive somewhere else.
For non-prior service Airmen that failed out of selection right out of BMT- there’s great news: you can try again and succeed. I did. I also know many that have done the same. My advice is take a few months off after selection to cool down, chill out and regain that desire (if you are inclined to head back) and slowly ramp up training again to come back stronger than ever. We can talk more about that gameplan in a later post.
For those that do not desire to head back to BA selection or are ineligible, your path is more difficult. You had dedicated months, if not years, to being a special operator. And now you won’t be. That’s a hell of a hard pill to swallow. Some wither away and are unhappy the rest of their careers due to this failure- I’ve seen it. The challenge is to re-energize your lust for doing something different; something special.
How do you find your new niche? Its not easy. You have to dedicate the same drive and dedication you used to physically prepare yourself for selection to do your search for your new passion. Instead of daily ball-busting workouts, there needs to be daily trips to the library. Replace your iTunes playlist with podcasts such as Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, etc. Start looking at similar type job placements: No luck being a PJ? How about the Search & Rescue team at a Nat’l Park. Couldn’t snag your CCT slot? Go cash in doing Air Traffic Control. Or go do something completely different. It doesn’t matter what it is you want to do, as long as it gets you excited every morning.
Do not let your selection failure define you. Either go back and kick the course in the nuts once and for all -or- use it as your opportunity to be great elsewhere. Now go kick ass and do great things.