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Lessons Learned from the Special Forces Dive Qualification Course

I few months ago I learned a valuable lesson from a buddy of mine, Cadet Jeffery Reffert, who was in the middle of his Cow (Junior) year at West Point. Although still very new to the Army he committed to writing down his lessons learned and experiences from year of school and every major leadership course that he attended. After after his recent summer training he wrote a great article on unconditional positive regard titled “Leadership Lessons From a West Point Cow

Making a habit of writing down these leadership successes, failures, and lessons are critical for ones continued personal and professional development. While you can learn from reading about them in a book, the best lessons and experiences are your own; write them down do you don’t learn them twice.

Below is a great example of personal lessons learned from a buddy of mine, Dalton Phillips. He washed out the first time, learned those tough lessons and then came back the second time to crush it.

I hope his experience can benefit you.


A junior officer lacking confidence because he or she is afraid of being perceived as wrong may be natural, but it is not an acceptable behavior to carry forward. 

I learned this lesson the hard way from a rather unique opportunity. The Special Forces Combat Diver Qualification Course in Key West, FL was a dream of mine since I had seen the surviving the cut documentary in early high school.  The Maritime Assessment Course, colloquially known as Pre-CDQC, was undoubtedly physically and mentally draining. However, I had an easier time overall due to my preparation. Little did I know it was the lack of confidence I had mentally, not physically which historically comprises over 90% of failures (i.e. swimming, breath hold), that would be my downfall.  Fast forward to Key West, and I have no issue with the physical gates, and breath holding is a game. It comes time to perform a set of procedures on equipment that is foreign to me. I had little confidence in my ability to perform which led to an inability to clear my mind of doubt which caused mistakes and ultimately cost me my time in Key West.  Now, I give details of my experience to convey my mistakes and to show how I approached being a soon to be LT was completely unacceptable.  The men there expected me to show confidence and lead in all aspects, and I did not.

Key takeaways: You are your own greatest stumbling block.  Trust your training. Officer’s take charge regardless if the solution is best.

Persevere—the only reason I completed the course.


 Dalton Phillips

Dalton Phillips is originally from Huntsville, Alabama and attended Hazel Green High School.  His favorite hobbies growing up include street skateboarding and football.  More recent hobbies include theological studies with my Christian friends, endurance sports, fishing and diving.  Dalton recently graduated from The University of Alabama with a degree in Operations Management and currently serve as the Tactical Intelligence Officer within 2-1 Cavalry 1SBCT 4ID. 
As always, Roll Tide.

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