BAGHDAD, Iraq -- "'Stay humble, stay hungry and stay hard.' A mentor told me these words to help me get through the selection process and they have been echoing in my mind ever since."

Capt. David Webb, an operations officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, said those words lit a fire of drive and determination for him. They further cemented the idea that he would be a Special Forces team leader.

Webb, who will begin his Special Forces Assessment and Selection March 1 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said he set his sights on the Special Forces while he was deployed to train a Nigerian ranger company in 2014.

"I had the unique experience on my very first deployment in Nigeria to work with an operational detachment, especially with a team leader," Webb said. "I got to really understand what Special Forces do."

The 26-year-old Newark, Delaware, native said SF is an opportunity to travel to different countries to embed with and train foreign armies.

"That's the opportunity that I want," Webb said. "I want to help people. I want to be a part of the organization. I want to be a part of the unconventional warfare."

When he returned from Nigeria, he had a new personal mission.

"I wanted to see if I had what it takes to become a Special Forces officer," Webb said.

Webb found his opportunity after speaking with Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bracco, commander, HHBN, 1st Inf. Div.

"Dave is a very physically fit, intelligent young officer," Bracco said. "He asked me about going to SFAS last year right after I took over and I have been helping him out along the way here. I think he will do well there."

Webb found out three months prior to his current deployment with the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command -- Operations Inherent Resolve in Iraq that he would attend the assessment and would leave Iraq early.

"The biggest pointers I give folks before they go is don't quit, don't vote yourself off the island, let the assessors do their work, be persistent and give it all that you got," Bracco said.

Bracco added Webb has been persistent. Prior to the deployment, Webb trained every morning at 5:45 a.m. for about four to six months with other SF selection candidates under qualified SF instructors at Fort Riley.

"They gave us insight on how to take care of yourself," Webb said. "They told us about good workouts, how to train your body, how to eat properly, how to climb ropes and how to put your ruck together."

The training and preparation included long heavy ruck marches, fast ruck marches, long runs, unknown distance runs, unknown time runs and mission essential fitness, he said.

"I'll run a 5k once or twice a week or a five mile," Webb said. "I'll put my ruck on and just start running. That and eating healthy and keeping the right mind set… that's how I've been prepping."

Even in a deployed environment, Webb still prepared.

"It's hard here (given the small space) at Union III, but Dave is one of the most physically fit guys I've seen running around here," Bracco said.

Webb did an 18-mile road march and won it in about 3 hours with a 35-pound ruck sack and his rifle, Bracco said. He also won the 5k Thanksgiving run.

"He knows it's not about being the strongest or the fastest," Bracco said. "But it's about being the most consistent."

Webb said he is keeping an open mind about what to expect.

"They try to keep it 'hush-hush,' so you're not supposed to really know what you'll go through," Webb said. "But I am confident I will knock it out of the park."

Webb said earning his SF tab is important to him for all of the right reasons.

"Honestly it's not about the tab or the green beret or being Special Forces," Webb said. "It's not about having a beard or having long hair although that is pretty cool. Honestly, it is something that I want to do. That means everything. It's very important to do what you love and it's important to do what you want to do."

And Webb said he is passionate about the opportunity.

"It's an opportunity to show them who I am and show them the qualities I bring to the table," Webb said. "I'd like to give those qualities to the team."

Following the 21-day selection process, if Webb is selected, he will carry those qualities to Fort Bragg and go through the 75-week qualification course as a team leader.

Even though Webb has a clear vision for the long road ahead of him he will embrace his past with the "Big Red One."

"It's kind of bittersweet leaving here, being the second time I've been at Union III," Webb said. "I've been at Fort Riley for four years. It was my first duty station. It was a great experience, and I lucked out big time."

The missions Special Forces Soldiers undertake range from counterterrorism missions to unconventional warfare, according to the U.S. Army website. Special Forces Soldiers may also be deployed to foreign regions to take part in humanitarian efforts.

"I was just promoted in October and this is my third time I have been sent to fight for the 1st ID, the Fighting First," Webb added. "It's humbling. The biggest thing that I will take away from this division is pride."