Decades of war have put a huge physical toll on Special Operation Forces (SOF) and there is a resource that can help rebuild and strengthen our Nation’s most experienced assets. These men and women stepped up to the challenge of some of the most difficult missions during the last 20 years of war, often at the cost of continuous damage to their bodies. The wear and tear of training, a high operational tempo, and putting others first, all take their toll. Whether it be parachute landings, deep dives, long-range movements with heavy loads, chemical exposure, or traumatic brain injury; all are commonplace in the Special Operations community. Operators are in a unique position because being the tip of the spear places an enormous volume of stress on people’s bodies and minds. Even to get into the community one must have a higher-than-average resilience to mental and physical stress. Part of the selection and training process for all SOF is to weed out those that will not last. Every block of training during this time puts the body under severe stress with grueling physical evolutions, starvation, sleep deprivation with candidates expected to also perform daily in the classroom learning to do the job that they will employ once finished with their training. All SOF have individual requirements for entry and strenuous selection courses with equally difficult training pipelines meant to identify those individuals that will be able to meet mission requirements.
At some point, every person’s body breaks, operator or not. No one is immune to the effects of a 120lb rucksack or an airfield seizure with a parachute landing onto a concrete runway. This is where EXOS comes in to save the day. EXOS is a company designed to increase performance through nutrition, mobility, strength, endurance for the world’s most elite athletes. I had the opportunity to spend 4 weeks utilizing the Accelerated Return to Duty program with the gracious support of SOCOM’s Care Coalition and the Green Beret Foundation. I had been trying to get back to operational strength for years following injuries sustained in combat that worsened long-term chronic injuries. Like many of my peers in the program during my treatment and training, we all had tried over and over to get back in the gym, hit the trails for a run, put the rucksack back on, and consistently we would end up injured unable to work out or train for weeks losing any gains we might have made. EXOS utilizes a system in which a pre-program screening is used to find any deficiencies in the patient’s movement and mobility then bases the physical training and physical therapy on that information.
EXOS is not a silver bullet nor did I leave the program back in my 20-year-old body. I did however learn how to warm up like an Olympian, completed 4 weeks of hard training without severe pain, lifted more weight than I had in the last 4 years, got back to a 20 mile per week running program, and increased my mobility. We owe it to our brothers and sisters in arms to invest in their future and the sustainment of our force by putting greater funding toward great programs like EXOS and the SOCOM Care Coalition. We at SOAA believe Congress must fund programs like EXOS and Thor3 at greater levels if we expect SOF to continue its calls to arms in defense of our nations.