November 2, 2021
Cpl. Dae Hyeon Choi

Special operations is known for its physicality – operators are able to adapt and overcome scenario-based challenges in any environment. But how does the mind play into that?

U.S. Special Operations Command– Korea is exploring the importance of exercising the brain as much as operators train their physical health through a program called Brain Headquarters. This program is intended for special operations forces to improve their psychological, cognitive, and emotional behaviors to fight more tactically and strategically on the battlefield.

Brain HQ is the part of the Preservation of the Force and Family program at SOCKOR. The overall program provides support uniquely designed for special operators and SOF employees.

Service members are provided with battlefield practice scenarios through computer-based training. Participants are given options to choose sessions based on what they want to focus on. There are options of exercises focusing on brain speed, attention, and memory categories.

“Brain HQ’s main objective is to provide the participants opportunities to enhance and measure their level of response when it comes to speed of attention or concentration as well as monitoring the ability to sustain cognitive effort,” said, Dr. Richard Sohn, SOCKOR psychologist. “There’s also opportunities to enhance short-and long-term memory, visual and spatial reasoning or navigation, and decision-making speed and accuracy.”

One of the exercises involves the participants being given a scene of constantly moving targets to increase the ability to identify targets faster. Brain HQ’s model foundationally is that cognitive skills are learnable skills, and this natural ‘plasticity’ allows service members in SOF to re-wire the brain for better functioning.

“Brain HQ training is specific to cognitive and emotion skills,” said Sohn. “The training is based on repetition as similar scenarios are provided over and over. Participants are able to see their scores over time as they become familiar with given scenarios like combat situations.”

These brain skills are just as essential as the physical skills. Strong mental focus provides opportunities for service members to perform better and accomplish the missions.