Some in the firearms self-defense community talk about “civilian operators” and “civilian warriors.” Something has always struck me as not quite right about these labels. I previously wrote about and expressed some reservations with Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s idea of sheepdogs and his equation of them with civilian warriors. But I heard a reference to “civilian operators” again recently on a podcast. It continues to rub me the wrong way. Why?
Perhaps it comes down to this: what does the typical individual with a concealed handgun/weapons permit AND who carries regularly (a small fraction of those with permits) look like? What is their daily life like? What is their scope of responsibility? Is that person well-characterized by the terms “operator” or “warrior”?
To take just one example, consider a middle-aged, middle-class white guy (the core of the concealed carry nation in my experience) who each morning puts a Ruger LC9 in his Crossbreed Super Tuck inside the waistband holster, tucks in his dress shirt and throws on his suit coat, drives his European touring sedan through the suburbs to his office park and spends his day in his office looking at a computer screen. To me this guy is no more a warrior than the guys from the cubicles in “Office Space” beating down a printer with a baseball bat are gangstas.
My unease made more sense to me yesterday when I was able to spend a couple of hours at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum near Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The museum exhibits information and artifacts about the United States Army airborne and special operation units through their history and conflicts from World War II to the present. Walking through the well-done museum exhibits you learn about some of the well-known divisions like the 82d and 101st Airborne, the “Red Devils” and “Screaming Eagles.” You also get some of the hidden history of lesser-known divisions like the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion (the “Triple Nickles”), an all-black airborne unit during World War II. Seeing this, I could not help but think, these are warriors, these are operators.
During my visit, the museum had a special exhibit running on “The Battle of Mogidishu,” which I know something about from the movie “Black Hawk Down,” various documentaries about the incident, and the recently released DVD from Panteao Productions on “The Battle of the Black Sea.” As dramatic as those videos are, however, there is something much more immediate and moving about standing in front of artifacts from the battle. Looking at the rotor from one of the wrecked
Super 61 Black Hawk helicopters (Super 61) and the tactical vest of the medic who triaged the wounded there I could not help but think, these are warriors, these are operators.
The museum also displayed the names of the 73 individuals who have awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions while they were in airborne or special operations units. Seeing these names I could not help but think, these are warriors, these are operators.
All of the men and women who live by the motto of the Army Special Forces, “De Oppresso Liber” (to liberate the oppressed); or of the Air Force Pararescue units, “These things we do that others may live”; or of the Marine Corps, “first to fight”; or of the Navy, “Non Sibi Sed Patriae” (not for self, but country); or of the Coast Guard, “Semper Paratus” (always ready) — whether they would describe themselves this way: these are warriors, these are operators.
After finishing this blog entry, Exurban Kevin of the Misfires and Light Strikes blog pointed me to a recent post on the Gun Free Zone blog, on “The Warrior Mystique and Its Non-Application to the Average Citizen,” which offers some very interesting reflections on civilian “warriors” similar to these. Check it out.