AFSOC Special Tactics Officer Selection: What Place Accelerometry & Salivary Cortisol?

Research Paper Title

Accelerometry and salivary cortisol response during Air Force Special Tactics Officer selection.


Special Tactics Officer (STO) selection is conducted to select officers to enter the combat controller training pipeline. The aims were to determine physical activity patterns, estimate energy expenditure, and identify whether return and/or unsuccessful candidates demonstrated differences in cortisol responses compared to non-selected and/or first-time attendees.


Participants completed the STO selection, consisting of 5 days of physical and mental challenges. Participants were equipped with ActiCals®, and saliva samples were collected throughout the STO selection.


Average activity counts were 684 ± 200 counts∙min−1, with no group differences. Estimated energy expenditure was 4,105 ± 451 kcal∙day−1. Cortisol was elevated following extended physical training but returned to baseline during rest. Return candidates had significantly lower cortisol responses compared to first-timers, 0.43 ± 0.06 μg∙dl−1 versus 0.76 ± 0.18 μg∙dl−1, respectively, p < 0.05.


An individual’s salivary cortisol response to the stresses incurred during the STO selection has the potential to be incorporated into the entire picture of a candidate’s performance and ability to handle stress.


Cuddy, J.S., Reinert, A.R., Hailes, W.S., Slivka, D.R. & Ruby, B.C. (2013) Accelerometry and salivary cortisol response during Air Force Special Tactics Officer selection. Extreme Physiology and Medicine. 2: 28. Published online 2013 Oct 1. doi: 10.1186/2046-7648-2-28.


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