FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - (Sept. 30, 2010) -- Soldiers of the 988th Military Police Company took the first step towards a green beret at Gerlach Field, Thursday, with the Special Forces Army Physical Fitness Test. The test is your standard physical fitness test; two-minute push ups and sit ups, followed by a two mile run, however it is conducted in the Army Combat Uniform.

"We do the test in uniform now so that Soldiers are prepared when they get to Fort Bragg, (N.C.), for Special Forces school," Sgt. 1st Class William Bernal, Fort Riley, (Kan.), Special Forces recruiter said. "We want to make sure they are prepared for anything they encounter there, so we go hard in the selecting process here."

Bernal, who visits Fort Leonard Wood quarterly to test Soldiers wanting to become Special Forces, says that one of the first steps is the physical fitness test, in which a score of 240 must be achieved. Prior to that, the Soldier must be Airborne qualified. The Soldiers then move on to an intensive physical, applications for a security clearance and a language aptitude test, and if all goes well there, they are cut orders to attend the intensive 19-day assessment and selection process at John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg. Upon completion, they will go on to be trained on various tasks and skills for more than a year before becoming one of the elite Special Forces Soldiers.

Among those involved in the preliminary process was Spc. Paul Pavelko, who is back for a second time after deploying in the middle of the selection process the first time.

"This has been a goal for me for as long as I remember," Pavelko said. "I know that it will be difficult mentally and physically, but I know that it will be worth it."

Spc. Kyle Thorton echoed those sentiments. "You accomplish one goal when you join the military, but now I want to take it a step further and prove to myself that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to."

For Pvt. Alexander Maggiore, accomplishing this goal is both for himself as well as for others.

"I want to break the expectations that people have set for me," said. "People hear you are trying to go Special Forces and they are skeptical, but I know what I can do, and I know I can do it."

These thoughts sum up the feeling among the Soldiers with dreams of being Special Forces. They are prepared for the challenge, as best they can be, because they know that while long and arduous, no feeling will compare to when they remove the black, and don the green beret.

(Editor's note: Jasmine Walthall is the assistant editor of the Fort Leonard Wood GUIDON.)