FORT KNOX, Ky. -- Though the Special Operations Recruiting Battalion's mission is relatively small -- just 5,239 this year -- finding enough qualified Soldiers can be challenging because many do not fully understand the job, according to the SORB's senior enlisted leader.
"Often times [we] find chains of command believe the SORB is recruiting their best and brightest Soldiers," Command Sgt. Maj. Ryan Razon said. "This simply is not true. We recruit great Soldiers from all units. Additionally, we recruit for an Army mission, and it's our obligation to ensure we fully support the Army's objectives, not just our own units."
He said events like the third annual Staff Sgt. Joshua Mills Commando Competition held Sept. 8 at Fort Bliss, Texas, help clear up misperceptions about special operations recruiting and help the battalion build positive relationships with other units.
"It shows the different divisions and units that the SORB cares about the development of their Soldiers," Razon said. "We're good stewards. My Soldiers expose their Soldiers to some specialized training.
"Not only do we recruit Soldiers and put them in special operations, but we also give back in the form of training and development [to include] training on land navigation and communications training to signal battalions, and we often offer training on psychological operations and civil affairs to deploying units."
Organized by the Fort Bragg, North Carolina, based battalion, the Fort Bliss competition, in its third year, serves as a recruiting tool for special operations, while honoring the life and sacrifice of Green Beret Staff Sgt. Joshua Mills, who was killed in Afghanistan in September 2009 when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device while returning from a successful mission.
Almost 50 Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division participated in the grueling competition, which started at 2 a.m. with a 7-mile ruck march interlaced with challenges that included water can and ammo carries. Participants then moved on to a stress shoot, an obstacle course, and an observation exercise. The regiment replicates the selection assessment qualification course Soldiers have to pass to qualify for Special Forces.
"It allows recruiters to interact with Soldiers of these different units and gets them to gain an appreciation for some of the challenges they may face if they decide to go [Special Forces] and peak their interest in some of the different missions," said Lt. Col. Mike Mourouzis, SORB commander.
"At the same time, it allows us to honor somebody who gave the ultimate sacrifice that was from the area, and keep his spirit alive through this kind of challenging event."
Nineteen-year-old Pfc. Colton Griffey, 1st AD Sustainment, said he competed in the event because he's always striving to push himself to the next level.
"It was pretty strenuous and tough, but it's something I'm going to train harder for and prepare myself for, because I plan on dropping my packet next year," Griffey said.
Twenty-one-year-old Spc. Jacob Newquist with the 1st AD Armor Regiment signed up after hearing the competition was in honor of a Special Forces Soldier.
"I've always looked up to them. They are the best, and it's something I strive for," Newquist said. "It's been exhilarating and pretty stressful, but I look forward to talking with these recruiters."
Though Tommy and Celeste Mills, Staff Sgt. Joshua Mills' parents, lost their son while he was serving his country, they remain ardent supporters of the Army's Special Forces mission and attend the competition every year in a show of support for Soldiers who have those aspirations.
"We are extremely proud [of our son], but one of the things we hope these young men recognize that aspire to the same thing, is that they can do it -- it's a matter of heart and dedication, but they can do it," Celeste said.
The Mills' 7-year-old grandson, Malaki, Joshua's son, is already talking about following in his father's footsteps.
"To say that it grabs at your heart is an understatement, because you've already experienced the worst thing that can happen to a family," Celeste said. "And now, you realize that this very precious only child of your son is interested in the same thing. But again, my thought goes back to the idea, if he aspires to be the best that he can be, why would I ever not want him to do that. To me, that's what Special Forces is - the very best there is. And if you can meet that challenge head on and become a part of it, by all means, there's no greater service."
SORB is conducting the Sgt. 1st Class Duane Thornsbury Competition at Fort Stewart, Georgia, Nov. 16, during Marne Week, a team building and esprit de corps exercise for the 3rd Infantry Division.
Assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group, Thornsbury died during a combat mission in Iraq in September 2009 after a non-hostile vehicle rollover.