Military Selection and Psychological Testing


Military psychology can be described as the study of behavior of people working within the Armed Forces’ context. Military selection is a branch of military psychology. The ways in which military selection procedures are implemented, have been influenced by two important kinds of involvements.

First of all, military historical events have played a crucial role (Jones, 1991; Steege & Fritscher, 1991). During the First and Second World War there was a need to test large numbers of candidates in very short time-spans, in order to assign them to the jobs in which they would function most efficiently during military operations. Until World War I psychological tests were
individual tests, usually taking more than an hour. This individual test situation is
similar to an interview situation, with a psychologist asking questions and a candidate
answering these questions.
Modern individual tests are the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), developed by David Wechsler. This time consuming kind of testing was not very practical for selecting thousands and thousands of military candidates and group tests were developed. These group tests allowed testing of many persons at the same time and are called large scale test procedures. Examples of modern large scale procedures are the Armed Services Vocational Assessment Battery (ASVAB) and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). During the Second World War group observational exercises formed an innovation in military selection and are since then a traditional instrument in many military selection procedures.

Second, changes in society have played an important role (Grdić, 2000; Steege &
Fritscher, 1991). Technological knowledge has made it possible to make the large scale
selection procedures more efficient (see the section on computer based testing).
Furthermore a lot of societal changes resulted in a different view on the relevant
competencies with regard to the military (Dandeker, 2000). The fall of the Berlin Wall
made an end to the Cold War and introduced the world into a period of Humanitarian
Operations and Peace Keeping Operations (Langholtz, 1998). Downsizing of the
military, the civilianisation of the military way of life, the end of the conscription (by
law prescribed military service) in most of the West European countries, and recently terrorist attacks, have influenced the way in which the military recruit, select, train and deploy in operations (Dandeker, 2000).

In this reading military selection will be introduced, Excellent reviews of military psychology, military selection procedures and instruments useful for military selection may be found in books, such as Cronin (2003), Dillon (1997), Gal & Mangelsdorff, (1991), and Wiskoff & Rampton (1989). To start, the nature of military selection will be highlighted. The reader will then be briefly informed about the general approaches in military selection policies. Following that, several assessment instruments are looked at into detail. An introduction to assessment methods with regard to Humanitarian Operations comes next. Throughout this reading the focus will be on psychological selection.


Military Key Competencies

Two characteristics of military selection have been mentioned already; it is large scaled and influenced by societal situation. An important aspect is the relation between the tests used during the military selection procedure and the purpose of the military selection. Indeed, in every testing procedure one must consider carefully the relation between the means (tests) and the final goal, or objective (a good functioning recruit). In order to obtain a good idea of the selection objective in this case, it is useful to answer two questions: “What are the competencies or abilities a recruit must have to do well in the military context?” and “What are the key differences between a military employee and a civilian?”

The answers to these questions result in the following competency profile of a military employee.
  • The recruit must be able to overpower people physically;
  • The recruit must be able to live with the permanent threat to be killed, injured or taken prisoner;
  • The recruit must be able to obey unconditionally in response to orders from above;
  • The recruit must be able to deal with the fact that at any moment in time orders
  • could be given to be sent out abroad within very short notice.
This basic profile is the same for the three specific categories in the Armed Forces:
soldier, non commissioned officer (NCO) or officer.

Selection Scope

Military selection is a rather broad selection in contrast to selection in the civilian
sector. In the civilian sector selection is focused on a well defined function. Military
candidates are selected for a personnel category and a general training, and will occupy
several jobs during their life time career. Consequently, selection objectives are not so
distinct in comparison to civilian selection objectives.

Peace / War

The question is, must the selection be focused on operations during peace time or
must the selection focus on good functioning in war time? The best recruits in peace
time operations are not necessarily the best at war time. A war time aircraft pilot
should be prone to take risks, but at peace time such a kind of a pilot would put people
in danger or cause much accidents and financial and material damage.

Modern Military Missions

Modern Military Missions (MMM), sometimes called Military Operations Other Than
War or MOOTW (Gridć, 2000), have come into practice during the past decades.
Some specialists thought that this kind of operations needed the same approach from
the traditional military intervention tasks, but the first missions have proven the
opposite: traditionally trained soldiers could not deal with all the aspects of modern
operations. For instance, Canadian and Belgian Armed Forces have been confronted
with misconduct of their troops during their first Peace Keeping Operations.


There are three ways in which the basic military selection could be organized. A first
option is to make all the candidates go through the same tests, regardless of the kind of
job they are applying for. We can call this the uniform procedure. A second option is to
assign the candidates to different test levels dependent on the kind of job they are
applying for. We call this the diversified selection policy. A third option is a blending
of these two policies.

Uniform selection policy

All candidates – whether they apply for soldier, NCO or officer – take the same test
batteries. A test battery is a set of instruments, measuring qualities in the same domain.
For instance, a cognitive test battery is composed of several sub-tests measuring
different cognitive qualities, such as mathematical reasoning, verbal reasoning and the
use of memory. All the military candidates go through the same basic cognitive test
battery, the same medical and physical tests and the same basic personality test battery.
For instance, USA candidates all take the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT)
which produces an index for train ability (Sager, 2004). It is assumed that as all recruits
start with the same basic training they are all expected to possess the same basic

Diversified selection policy

Each candidate applying as a soldier takes the soldier test battery; each candidate applying as an NCO, takes the NCO battery; and each candidate applying for an officer training, takes the officer test battery. It is assumed that within the different categories candidates have the same qualities, but between the categories candidates have to rely on different qualities. The former Dutch and Belgian Systems were organized in that way.

Mixed selection policy

In practice many military procedures are partly uniform and partly diversified. The
Belgian Defence Forces are using such a mixed system. The uniform selection part
comprises two stages. In several local test centres spread all over the country, all the
candidates perform the same first stage of the selection, representing a computer based
cognitive test battery. In the local tests centres the candidates receive job information
and career information. Furthermore an appointment is made for the second stage in
the selection procedure. This second stage takes place in the national selection centre
located near the centre of the country. Candidates have to pass medical and physical
tests, they complete a personality test and they fill in an autobiographic document. In
addition they are interviewed by a trained selection officer.

A psychologist combines all the information, gathered during the two stages and gives each candidate a final score. The day is closed with an orientation interview during which the candidate is informed about career prospects and the next steps in the selection. In the Belgian system, the diversified part is tailored to the personnel category or to specific jobs. NCO candidates and officer candidates must do a separate supplementary test day. NCO candidates are assessed with a technical test battery composed of a mechanical comprehension test, a technical reasoning test, an electrical comprehension test and a test of English as a second language. On their part, the officer candidates perform the officer test battery, consisting of high level cognitive tests and group observational exercises on their second testing day.


Three distinctive kinds of selection are discussed in this section: the administrative
selection, the medical/physical selection and the psychological selection.

Administrative selection

For all the military selection procedures candidates must meet certain legal criteria.
These are like a minimum and maximum age, a certain educational level or nationality. With regards to the nationality criterion rules are changing. In Belgium it is for instance allowed for people originating from the European Union to join the Belgian Defence Forces. This first administrative selection is the responsibility of administrative support personnel.

Medical and physical selection

The candidate must also meet criteria with respect to physical conditions like length,
and the absence of color blindness and backbone problems. For example, an army driver should be able to get into his car or tank and to drive it without any physical complaints. Candidates with very long or short legs would not be able to meet this criterion. Medical and physical selection is mainly the responsibility of medical doctors and physical trainers, although psychologists may be of help during neuropsychological and psycho-pathological screenings. Internationally recruiters observe a worsening of the physical fitness of recruits. This is due, in part, to modern way of life. So criteria are to be revised to become less strict. In this area of selection a gender specific issue arises as well. The question is whether the selection criteria must be the same or not for men and women.

Psychological selection

This psychological selection assesses the candidate’s abilities in relation to mental, social and motivational criteria. Furthermore it is assessed whether the candidate will feel at ease within the organizational climate or organizational culture. Psychological selection is performed by trained selection officers, psychologists, military specialists having experience in certain jobs, and high ranking officers who often decide on acceptance or rejection of applicants as members or presidents of a selection board. Six categories of assessment tools can be identified which will be addressed in the following section.

1. Aptitude tests.

One of the most frequently used psychological testing tools is the aptitude test, sometimes called cognitive, mental ability or intelligence test. For military selection purposes test performance is measured using time limited test versions. Performance on the tests items is important, but so are speed and reaction time. Aptitude test batteries typically contain sub-tests giving indications about cognitive qualities such as numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, spatial ability,
mechanical comprehension and general reasoning. In order to classify military candidates, scores can be calculated separate per sub-test, or scores can be grouped in a total score. Such a score is called a composite score, reflecting a general level of cognitive functioning and ability to learn.

Rather than focusing on factual knowledge, these kinds of tests are based on reasoning factors, relatively independent of school related subjects and knowledge. Knowledge tests, or academic tests, are traditional measures of cognitive ability and better suited to get an impression of scholastic knowledge. Aptitude test batteries may be similar for all personnel categories (uniform
procedure). Nevertheless it seems reasonable to introduce additional aptitude tests for
both officer applicants and NCO applicants (diversified procedure), because their
training includes, in most cases, an academic education, requiring abstract thinking.
Other reasons for additional tests are the need to measure leadership potential and
specialized technical abilities (see sections on assessment of officer candidates and
NCO candidates).

2. Traditional measures of cognitive abilities.

Unlike aptitude tests, academic tests and academic qualifications are meant to give indications about knowledge in specific domains. Therefore academic tests are sometimes called knowledge tests. These tests can be seen as traditional examinations, such as an essay or open ended tests. The Belgian Defence Forces are using such kinds of tests during the officer candidate’s
language examinations (testing both mother tongue and second language). Academic tests may also be constructed as large scale multiple choice test batteries (see the section on computer based testing). Academic qualifications (educational background) are widely applied as criteria in military selection (for instance in the USA, The Netherlands and Belgium), and some Armed Forces use application forms as a source of information (Harding, 1997; Jones, 1991); for instance, the US Armed Forces uses this for the selection of officer candidates.

3. Biographical data.

This group of techniques gives information on a candidate’s past, experience and personal details and does that in the form of questionnaires. A diversity of names are used for this such as bio-data, Rational Bio-data Scales, autobiographic data, Biographic Inventory. Examples of information collected through these questionnaires are: age, gender, birth place, home address, father’s level of education, and mother’s age. Researchers try to make predictions based on this type of information. Following Harding (1997) the bio-data procedure is more used in military
settings than in civil sectors and it is mainly applied as a screening device or as part of
an assessment centre (see section on officer selection).

4. Interview.

Three types of interview can be used; unstructured, semi-structured and structured. Literature gives evidence in favour of a well–structured interview. During an unstructured interview the interviewer does not have a clear and well defined outline of which questions to ask, whilst a structured interview is characterized by a standard assessment form and rating scales. Using a structured interview approach ensures that the interviewer will ask each candidate the same questions. This makes it possible to compare interview results between candidates. Interviewing takes a central place in most military selection procedures. This face to face contact is an important moment for feedback, both for the interviewer and the candidate, this in a process
dominated by objective tests and technology. Certainly at the level of the non officer applicants it is necessary to see the candidate, because often there are no other observational moments included for these categories of applicants. For this reason it is quite surprising to know that there is actually little monitoring and supervision of the interviews in military selections. An exception is the much elaborated monitoring system implemented by the British Royal Air Force, which will be discussed later, in the section on Air Crew Assessment.

5. Assessment scales or questionnaires.

Assessment scale information may be obtained from three different standpoints. People can evaluate their own abilities (self assessment). In self assessment scales, applicants describe themselves directly or indirectly.An example of a direct way of self assessment is the answer to the assignment: “Give a description of you using ten adjectives”. An indirect self assessment is used when the candidate gives a self description through the eyes of a friend and through the eyes of an enemy. People can be evaluated by their bosses (supervisor assessment). Many armed forces organize selection boards in order to evaluate candidates wanting to be promoted. In such cases, it is a custom to depend on personal records and supervisor ratings. This is an illustration of supervisory assessment.

Moreover, people can be evaluated by their colleagues (peer assessment).
During an interview or a debriefing session following group exercises, the candidates
may be asked to describe the most influential person during the exercises. This is an
example of what is called “peer assessment” and might produce substantial information
because team work is a crucial issue in many military contexts.

6. Personality tests and questionnaires.

Having indications of the nature and personality structure of a candidate is very useful in view of the candidate’s adaptation skills to military training, military jobs, the military way of life and the prospective behavior in operations. In other words, personality selection aims at making
statements about the level (or correspondence) of a candidate’s fit into the military
organizational culture.Pike, Hills & McLennan (2002) present a profound literature review on personality and military leadership and discuss an overview of results based on research with
personality inventories like the NEO Personality Inventory Revised (NEOPIR), the California Psychological Inventory (CPI), the Inwald Personality Inventory (IPI) and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). The NEO and the CPI are developed to assess normal populations and may be used in basic selection procedures.

The IPI and the MMPI are developed to detect psychopathological cases and might be integrated rather in medical test batteries or may be used for a more profound individual research on the basis of a first screening with CPI and NEO.The CPI has been used extensively in military research and selection (Gough, 1999).The CPI is part of the Belgian Defence Forces’ basic test battery and is implementedby the U.S. Navy to select special agents. The NEO is popular with the Air Force selection teams (for example U.S.A. and Belgium). In the mid1950s five recurring personality factors were detected by researchers working for the U.S. Air Force. These factors became known as the “Big Five”, which were the five factors used in the NEO. The Swedish military are using the CTI (Commander Trait Inventory). The CTI is a test for officer candidates, measuring cognitive style, and is based on Jung’s personality theory.


Officers are expected to possess an outstanding level of abstract thinking and need to
be able to lead people under difficult circumstances. Hence they are assessed more
thoroughly in these domains than non officer candidates. Recruitment channels are also
more elaborated than for other personnel categories. For comprehensive information on
officer selection the reader is referred to Harding (1997), Jones (1991), RTO (2000)
and RTO (2001).

Different entrance levels

In general there are five principal ways to enter into Armed Forces as an officer
  1. Via a Military Academy.In most countries there are several Military Academies, one for the Army, one for the Navy, and one for the Air Force.
  2. Candidates might enter through a contractor position.In case of a shortage of graduates coming from the Military Academia, which forms the basic way for officers’ recruitment, short time careers are sometimes presented on a contract basis for a limited time period to maintain a young cadre.
  3. Via recruitment on basis of some specialization. If the Armed Forces need specialists – such as lawyers, psychologists, medical officers, dental officers – people having the required educational background can be recruited, or suitable candidates can be hired and subsequently sponsored by the military to study at civilian universities.
  4. Via reserve officer training.Most countries have active troops and reserve troops. Reserve troops are composed of people who are not professional military, but who are trained by the military to support the troops on active duty in case of conflict.In the USA reserve officers selection criteria consists of physical condition, academic achievement, degree of extracurricular activities and good moral character.A central issue are the cognitive abilities, which are measured by two scores the Scholastic Aptitudes Test (SAT) and the American College Test (ACT).
  5. The fifth way to become an officer is the possibility offered to NCO military to apply via internal recruiting and selection channels.
Preparation of military officer candidates

Prospect candidates can prepare themselves by visiting Preparatory Military Schools
either organized by private institutions or by governmental ones. In Belgium the
Preparatory Division to the Royal Military Academy is organized by the government
and offers a one year guidance consisting of classes in mathematics, several languages,
geography, history and a military and physical basic training. In the USA different
private and public College Preparatory Military Schools exist for future officers to

Screening for academic potential

Frequently used tools to screen for academic potential are traditional examinations and
large scale testing procedures. In Belgium, as part of the selection procedure, officer
candidates have to pass language and mathematics examinations, organized by the
Royal Military Academy. Moreover they must take a high level cognitive test battery organised by the national military recruitment centre. In the USA high school students applying for a Military Academy are required to take the SAT or the ACT and must be physically fit to pass physical tests. There is also a system of recommendations. Also in the USA, selecting candidates for Officer Candidate Schools (OCS) is based on test batteries such as the Officer Selection Battery (OSB), the Air Force Qualifying Test (AFQT) or the ASVAB. In the Officer Candidate Schools (OCS) college graduates are prepared for a military career and officer performance is important, more than cognitive ability, because these graduates have already proven their cognitive abilities at school.

Screening for leadership potential

Assessment Centre Approach.

A diversity of tools is used to screen for leadership
potential: personality questionnaires, group observational procedures (United
Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark and Germany), interviews, and evidence of
extracurricular activities and leadership positions (USA). In some countries several of
these tools are combined (tests, questionnaires, interviews, group observation
exercises) resulting in an overall evaluation and a summary score. This is the so called Assessment Center approach.

Group observational approach.

In this sort of exercise an assignment is given to a small group of candidates and trained observers watch how the candidates are interacting to arrive at an acceptable solution. The trained observers can also be called assessors. Group exercises are extremely expensive tools, because of the amount of time it needs and the fact that it is quite labour intensive.
To start with, observers have to be trained and monitored before they can observe such exercises. Subsequently, the whole of the exercises take a few hours during which observations, evaluations, decisions and reports are to be made. And in ideal circumstances at least two observers per exercise are required. This is why group exercises are mainly restricted to officer candidates. This kind of exercise is however extremely useful for two reasons. The first reason is that such exercises give valuable information about social behavior and leadership aspects, which are the two main competencies to have for officers.

Furthermore the obtained information is very complementary to the paper & pencil or Computer Based Testing results because the candidates are obliged to show suitable
behavior to produce concrete and observable results. Large scale test techniques and
interview techniques are of a nature that allows candidates to think about an answer
and possibly to answer in a social desirable manner; candidates can say how they will
behave, but this is not proof that they actually will behave that way. The occurrence of
social desirable answers – presentation of information in such a way that the
information falls together with what the candidate thinks the tester expects as a
solution – is reduced while performing group exercises, because group exercises urge
the candidate to do what they are saying. Daily observations learn that saying what
your doing does not always equal doing what you are saying.

Defence Forces in Switzerland, United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium organize
group exercises for selection purposes. Depending on which competencies are to be
analyzed, the composition of different sets of exercises is possible. An example is the
Leaderless Group Discussion during which the group is asked to solve a problem
without a leader being appointed by the observer. This is a totally unstructured
exercise, designed to see which one of the candidates will emerge as a (natural) leader.


Two approaches are used to select candidates who are able to lead and command
soldiers in a direct hierarchical way.
  • Internal selection
Assessment of the candidates is for the largest part based on the applicant’s service
employment as a soldier. Board members evaluate the candidates along a set of factors.
The time served in a grade and in the military service, past personal evaluations and
decorations received form one part of this evaluation. Scores on knowledge tests in
relation to the job context, and examinations on leadership and social skills are used in
the appraisal procedure as well. Candidates are prepared via career development
courses followed by training in an NCO School.
  • External selection
After having completed the basic selection procedure, NCO candidates
complete additional tests aimed at evaluation of their potential to start training in an NCOSchool.
While at the NCOSchool, general class room subjects, military subjects and
physical outdoor activities are taught. Where NCO education consists of technical and
non technical branches, it might be useful to estimate candidate’s chances to complete
a technical or a non technical education. In that case the results of a technical test
battery could be of assistance to determine the candidate’s suitability for one of the


The purpose of this section is to give an overview of specific instruments used to select
pilots and air crew and to inform the reader about the reasons why these specific
instruments are used only to select pilots. Hilton and Dolgin (1991) and Hunter and
Burke (1995) are good starting places for an introduction in military pilot selection.
  • Pilot selection
Need for pilot selection. Mastering a military aircraft is one of the most demanding and
dangerous jobs on the force. The fast flying machines are very expensive, pilot errors
may cause accidents with material and human costs and resources can be wasted.
Additionally, training programs take al lot of time and are very expensive. These are
reasons why Armed Forces should concentrate on a well organized
selection procedure for pilots, separated from the procedures for non pilot functions, which have been described in the sections before. Many of the pilot characteristics hold also for other air
crew and ground branch personnel. Therefore the same principles may be applied to
non pilot air crew when deemed appropriate. A pilot must have reasoning skills, the
ability to react rapidly, a good sense of coordination, the ability to stay calm in dangerous circumstances, a good physical resistance, and the ability to feel at ease in
small groups and to interact in a sociable way. Most of the pilot test batteries are Computer Based Test batteries.
  • Pilot test battery example.
In order to illustrate how a pilot selection test battery might
look like, the Turkish Pilot Selection test battery – as it was used in 1999 – will be
discussed. The selection is built on six steps, after each step a candidate can be
rejected. To begin, a pilot candidate must take the University Entrance Examination
(UEE), which represents a measure of academic qualification, such as the AFOOT (Air
Force Officer Qualifying Test) in the USA. The second step is a general medical
examination. The third step comprises an autobiographical examination, sports tests,
psychological tests, an unstructured psychological group interview, a Leaderless Group
Discussion, and a decisive final interview. A Selection Board decides based on the
results of these tests which candidates can continue. The fourth step is a profound
medical examination. The fifth step is a very important one because in this step the
candidates need to make 14 flights during which they will be observed. The candidates
receive a theoretical and practical training as well and they learn to fly with an
instructor. In the final sixth step they must succeed in a solo flight in order to move on
to a months Basic Military Training, of which there is a possibility to fail as well.

Cognitive ability

The Royal Air Force (RAF) of the United Kingdom, the Royal Norwegian Air Force,
the Turkish Air Force, the Swiss Air Force and the Portuguese Air Force, use five
sub-tests (or some of them), mentioned in the next section, to assess pilot aptitudes.
  • In the Control and Velocity Test candidates must track moving targets using a joystick.
  • The Instrument Comprehension Test is a measure of general and spatial reasoning
  • on the basis of aircraft instruments.
  • There is a test measuring the coordination between hand, eye and foot.This is an example of a psycho-motor test, in which candidates are asked to use a joystick and rudder pedals to keep a dot as close as possible to a fixed cross on the computer screen.
  • The fourth sub test is a test of short-term memory, Digit Recall, in which the candidate must memorize sets of numbers. Once a set has disappeared the candidate is asked to reproduce it, using a key board.
  • There is the Vigilance Test, which is a test of attention power and capacity.The candidate is presented with a matrix of numbers on a screen. Candidates are asked to accomplish a continuous routine task and, each time an arrow appears, an occasional priority task.

Tests. Many researchers mention the importance of the relation between personality
and job performance. This applies also for pilots. Several Defence Forces use the
NEOPIR (USA, Belgium). The Turkish Air Force uses the 16 Personality Factors
(16PF) Questionnaire, developed by Catell. A British selection officer once said that he
would rather fly with a calm pilot possessing less psycho-motor skills, than with a
nervous, unstable person possessing impressing psycho-motor skills, illustrating the
importance of certain personality traits nicely. In all pilot selection procedures,
interviews are frequently used.


In many cases candidates pass two or three interview boards, composed of
interviewers with flight experiences and psychologists specialized in military aviation
psychology. A remarkable system is the one implemented by the RAF. Selection of
RAF pilots does not depend so much upon personality tests but is based on extensive
interviewing (45 minute interviews) and group observational exercises. One officer
conducts the structured interview whilst another takes notes and awards scores. The
candidate who passes the interview progresses to the next stage, the group exercises.
The whole interview procedure and the two first group exercises, which will be
mentioned in the following part, are monitored through a television system.

This offers the opportunity to monitor the behavior of interviewers and to let new interviewers
observe and score the interviews without disturbing the actual running interviews.
Group observational exercises. The Turkish Air Force organize a Leaderless Group
Discussion for pilot candidates and the RAF procedure uses a set of group exercises as
mentioned before. Once the interviews are finished the RAF selection officers continue
with the Group Discussion and the Planning Exercises. These are two verbally oriented
exercises. The day is closed with a Physical Fitness Test. The next day group exercises
are held in a large hangar and these exercises are of a more adventurous and practical
nature than the foregoing exercises. There is one leaderless exercise and there is also
the Command Situation Exercise, in which each candidate has the occasion to be the
leader of an exercise during 15 minutes.

Flight skills

Flight skills can either be tested in an artificial situation or measured in real
circumstances. A first way of measuring flight skills is with psychological tests that
make manipulation of joysticks and rudder pedals necessary (see section on cognitive
ability). An additional way to test artificially is to use simulators, which allow
observing a sample of behavior under job-like conditions. Germany (Instrument Coordination Analyzer or ICA), Canada (Canadian Pilot Selection System or CAPSS) and The Netherlands (Pilot Automated Selection System or PASS) are testing pilot candidates in simulators. MICROPAT (Micro Computerized Personal Aptitude Test) has been developed for British rotarywing/ helicopter pilot candidates (see also the section on computer based testing). In contrast, some countries, like Turkey, prefer to observe the candidate’s flying skills during real, although simple flights with an aircraft in the air.


MMM (Modern Military Missions) require complex competencies and another
selection approach than Armed Forces used to apply. These subjects are addressed now
  • Competencies for Humanitarian Operations.
Starting from the experiences of the first Humanitarian Operations (HO), Armed
Forces have realized that other skills than the traditional military ones have become
more important (Chua Hon Kiat, 2003; Grdić, 2000; Langholtz, 1998; Sager, 2004). In
HO the situation is much more complex, although war skills remain a central issue.
Much more attention should be paid to communication and interpersonal skills. A
military employee should be able to operate in a multinational job context and must be adaptable and flexible. Furthermore it is important to know how to deal with civilian and local populations other than military encounters. Much self control and independent thinking is needed in situations in which a rapid decision must be taken whether or not to use a weapon.
  • Adapting the Selection for HO.
Little by little Armed Forces have changed their selection and training approaches to
anticipate future missions. Slop and Krysl (2004) discuss the adaptation of the Austrian
way to select people for HO. The objective of the psychological selection is to make
sure that military candidates are able to perform their duties under stressful situations,
to integrate successfully into a military community and to make sure that they form not
a danger to themselves or to others. Four selection criteria are used: intelligence and
social intelligence, accuracy and concentration, stress resistance, and social integration.
An impressive number of tests and tools are used: cognitive tests, life inventories,
personality inventories, tests measuring performance and concentration, and
observation of group dynamic interaction under stressful conditions. For NCO candidates
and officer candidates, there is the Cadre Aptitude Test (CAT), which takes
a whole day. Following the CAT there are physical tests. Candidates then take some
more test batteries under stressing conditions up to 24 hours without sleep. The final
test is an interview led by a psychologist.

The Slovak Army select people for HO amongst their mainstream military personnel.
They pick candidates who have achieved high standards during a profound training and
who are in physical good shape. A third component of the selection is the
psychological screening which sheds a light on stress resistance and group cohesion
skills. Furthermore the Slovaks find it useful to give future participants in HO a lot of
information about the operations area. Overall, the best performing candidates are
those who show mental readiness with regard to the operations.


Historical events, cultural contexts, societal changes, and available resources influence
the military competency profile and selection policy. The special character of military
selection lies rather in the specific competencies required and the policies made than in
the used assessment instruments. Analysis of the instruments reveals that the number
and complexity of the selection instruments used increases for higher hierarchical
positions: soldiers are tested with simpler psychological tools, officer candidates, on
the other hand, are often tested with elaborate assessment centre–like exercises and
tools. Most large scale military test batteries and pilot test batteries are of the CBT type
and will continue to be in the future. A good policy in selection is to keep an eye on the
future. Several tendencies continue to be or appear to be important in order to
accommodate recruitment and selection policies.

First, future military missions and appropriate competencies should be studied and adapted continually.

Second, more and more it becomes clear that in future robots will be deployed on the ground but also in the air. But for the moment, the impact this has on selection is not quite clear.

Thirdly, changing life style in youth, such as computer and internet literacy, has a negative
impact on their physical condition but a positive impact on some psycho motor aspects.
Both computer and internet have the potential to become mighty tools in recruiting and
selecting military candidates.

Fourth tendency is the policy to postpone exclusion during selection and to make a final decision only at the very end of the selection or even at the end of the initial military training. And finally, equal opportunity and diversity will play a more important role. In this vision of permanent adaptation, it is important that selection policies, instruments and procedures will be developed on the basis of an interaction between research and lessons learned in military operations.

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C. George said...

Thanks for post; I find this very interesting. What is your background/education? Have you worked in the field of military psychological screening?
I am curious about the combat arms and specifically infantry and what psychological attributes are required to "qualify" as an infantry soldier? attributes such as aggression, courage and heroism? Possible coping mechanisms to handle anxiety, fear, and stress?
Also, are the fight or flight and tend and befriend reactions taken into account? What (if any) type indicators do the military services use to measure this?


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