Massif Rocks!

Operator Overload

Over the years, I’ve sat by and watched folks go off on full on rants over use of the term ‘Operator.’ Apparently, I have a high threshold for BS because it never seemed to set me off like it did my friends. I took a ‘whatever’ approach to the issue. But lately it seems like everyone and their brother wants to be an ‘Operator.’ Why, just today I perused a website created by a cabal of ‘tactical operators,’ whatever the hell that is. This isn’t a bash on my brothers in blue but the term has become especially prevalent in the LE community, distastefully so.

On the other hand, I know a whole bunch of real deal ‘Operators” of the SOF kind who earned the title. The funny thing is, they don’t run around using it. In fact, if you ask them if they were an ‘Operator’ they’d probably say refer you to the friendly buck Sergeant depicted in the photo at the top.

Recently, a new trend has started that makes fun of the term ‘Operator.’ How can you not laugh when someone says, “Do you even operate bro?”

So, how about we, as a community, police ourselves up a little bit? It’s gets a little intense sometimes. And seriously, could someone tell me what a ‘tactical operator’ is?

BTW, I’m a former US Army EW/SIGINT Voice Intercept Operator. How’s that for a lolz?


91 Responses to “Operator Overload”

  1. Danke says:

    Smooth operator still kosher?

  2. Scathsealgaire says:

    My dad used to be an “Operator”, when he was a House Surgeon. 😀

  3. Badjujuu says:

    “tactical operator” is a LE individual from some small County 60 miles south of Chicago dressed up in the most high speed gear/uniform the department can afford. He will have more attachments on his AR than Robocop. A Tactical Operator rolls around the local streets in a Max Pro brought back from Afghanistan. The vehicle is repainted in panty dropping colors with all kinds of Military style tabs/logos.

    • SubandSand says:

      Just about spit my soda on the screen. Oh, Illinois Police state.

  4. Erik says:

    How can you expect an Operator to Operate on Operations if they can’t even call themselves Operators?

    • Ivan says:

      but..but.. my command maintanence form for the m1a2 says i am operator…do-does this make an operator? `~`

  5. Kreiger says:

    From Inside Delta Force:

    “We settled on the name ‘operator’ to designate an operational member of the unit (as opposed to a member of the support staff) due to some legal and political situations. We couldn’t use ‘operative’ because the name had certain espionage connotations from the CIA. The term ‘agent’ had some legal issues.

    An agent carries a legal commission to perform certain duties and a governmental authority empowered by a state or federal Constitution issues that commission. In our case, we would perform our duties under the authority of the federal government as administered by the Department of Defense and the Department of the Army.

    But in the military, only officers carry legal commissions from the President and are confirmed by Congress. Sergeants, who are noncommissioned officers, are authorized to perform their duties by virtue of appointment by the Secretary of the Army. Sergeants therefore cannot be agents of the government. And since almost every operational member of Delta Force is a sergeant, we needed to choose a different name for ourselves.

    Hence, operator.”

    • MAJ Michael says:

      In my civilian gig, I am a federal agent, working in management. I have, in the past, spent a good deal of time sussing out legal implications of the term ‘Agent.’ Agent/Special Agent is not defined under USC; it’s a term of art. Generally, under USG usage, it is used to identify those Federal officers who are empowered to enforce portions of USC.

      Use of the term Agent can also mean someone who is empowered to act on the USG’s behalf, eg contracting agent, Class A Pay Agent, etc.

  6. Badjujuu says:

    “Too many police departments today are infused with a more general militaristic culture. Cops today are too often told that they’re soldiers fighting a war, be it a war on crime, on drugs, on terrorism, or whatever other recent gremlin politicians have chosen as the enemy. Cops today tend to be isolated from the communities they serve, both physically (by their patrol cars) and psychologically, by an us and them mentality that sees the public not as citizens police officers are to serve and protect, but as a collection of potential threats.”

    By Radley Balko, Senior Writer, Investigative Reporter, Huffington Post

    • Matt says:

      I have never bought into Balko’s libertarian premiss. He draws people into his legalize drugs ideals by selling anti-police rhetoric. Simply because the police have some tools similar to military tools doesn’t make them “military”. The police must obey not just the U.S. Constitution but State Constitutions, state laws, case law, policy, etc. Indeed they have to work in increasing liberal communities. In reading Gen. Petraeus’ dissertation on COIN I was struck by how it plagiarized modern policing.

    • Craig says:

      I would also add that many officers, at least in larger cities, don’t live in the areas that they patrol. Perhaps if they were to patrol their own communities and have that sense of belonging to where they patrol, the incidents of police brutality and otherwise poor policing would be limited. An officer is less likely to be a jerk to the people he interacts with while working when those same people are the same people he goes to church with or golfs with. Likewise, people would be less inclined to be leery of the police when they know the officers personally from daily regular interactions when the officer is not working, apposed to the officer being some stranger who lives three communities over.

      Example, LAPD officers living in Simi Valley and patrolling Long Beach, happens all the time.

      • Freeman says:

        Officers living outside of the communities they patrol was the result of many targeted killings and corruption that resulted from local gangs being able to threaten local officers into compliance.

        • Joe momma says:

          bingo bango!

          Bad guy goes to jail for being bad guy. No if ands or buts about it. I don’t want to take my kid to grocery store on Rdo and see this guy stocking shelves or cutting deli meats.

          I’ve been small town cop. And have lived in every small town I worked in. I didn’t really have problems with it, but as I promoted up and became the guy putting people away for bigger and bigger crimes, it sinks in. When your pov is keyed up with gang markings. Or when wife is grabbing to go food for dinner and dude with nice face tattoo says “aren’t you sgt so and so’s wife”….

  7. Kyle says:

    I’m an Heavy Equipment operator in the Marine Corps, I wear a “Bro do you even operate” patch on my flak for the lolz

  8. Blehtastic says:

    I operate my tactical communications device to read tactical operator websites while my tactical rear end operates my operational sofa station. I’ve got my operator sweatpants on with tactical drawstring feature sets to hold my Concealed Device close at hand when command’s strategy enables me to operate the trash bags down to my tactical curbside waste removal station. Command maintains eyes and ears on political realities that may affect future strategies through communication stream “the bachelor”, which, thankfully, is above my pay grade, while I maintain my tactical edge with operator training streams from preeminent contractor, FPSRussia. Now it’s time to operate my logistical ethanol source after a long day of tactical operations.

  9. Kaos-1 says:

    I’m either suffering from a case of déjà vu or SSD is running out of stuff to post. I swear SSD posted this same exact post about a year ago.

  10. Fox says:

    Oh you mean “One-up-erators?” Copyright ©2014 Fat Bearded Guy Tactical.

  11. Old Army Guy says:

    I guess I don’t understand the fuss. I seem to recall just about every TM (that’s a Technical Manual for those that don’t speak Army) for a weapon was titled ‘Operator’s Manual’. You know, like…


    RIFLE, 5.66 MM, M16A2 W/E (1005-01-128-9936) (EIC:4GM)
    RIFLE, 5.56 MM, M16A3 (1005-01-367-5112)
    RIFLE, 5.56 MM, M16A4 (1005-01-383-2872)( EIC:4F9)
    CARBINE, 5.56 MM, M4 W/E (1005-01-231-0973) (EIC:4FJ)
    CARBINE, 5.56 MM, M4A1 (1005-01-382-0953) (EIC:4GC)

    or TM-9-1005-317-10


    The term ‘Operator’ in this context meant the guy, you know, operating the weapon. If someone induced a weapon malfunction, we’d call it an ‘Operator headspace and timing error’.

    But now if you use the term ‘Operator’ in the context of employing small arms, people think you are designating the user of said weapon as some sort of high speed ninja unworthy of the title.

    Well, the conventions of language change over time I guess…

    • Jon OPT says:

      It’s not context.

      The term Operator is a proper noun when used as a title.

      These manuals use operator as a noun, not a title.

      Jon, OPT

  12. Sean says:

    OAF Nation 😛

    • Josh says:

      They post some funny stuff on Facebook, but they need to get control of who gets access to that page. It’s bringing the entertainment of it all down greatly.

      Seems to me that it’s now a lot of call of duty kids and butthurt non-SOF yapping about shit they have no idea about. Though that has entertainment in itself, it just got old quickly.

  13. JohnC says:

    Well, I was waiting for the NCAA, but:

    A tournament pitting the 32 “tactical-ist” words (based somewhat objectively on, inter alia, (1) the comparative frequency in the marketing literature in my in-box, and (2) and sharpest change (“trendiest”) in popular usage). Feel free to judge harshly: I spent all of an hour on this. This pictures (obviously) aren’t mine; so if you like ’em, buy the merchandise. The images are much clearer in the downloaded PDF compared to being viewed online.

  14. Bill says:

    God, not Balko again.

    I can operate a manual can opener.

    No use of either word “tactical” or “operator” is permitted on my range, with the sole exception of “operator error.”

  15. S. M. Hewitt says:

    I was once, back when the world was young and my knees still worked, also an EW/SIGINT Voice operator…AND was a Special Forces trained dude WHILE a SIGINT collector…so was I an “operator’s operator”?

    For my money, “operator” to describe those engaged in the deadly dance of tactical operations is legit, but it is a bit of an antiseptic sort of word…like using “terminate” for “kill”, or “service a target” when you’ve just killed a bad guy.

    Which leads me to my preferred term: good guy. For those who split hairs, this also applies to female service members.

  16. red2429 says:

    “Recently, a new trend has started that makes fun of the term ‘Operator.’”

    I am not sure this new trend is so new. People have been making fun of the term “Operator” for years. Along with all the other “Cool Guy” and “Secret Squirrel” terms that are out there.

  17. RedDeadZed says:

    If used at all, I think “operator” should be reserved for military SOF. Cops shouldn’t use it. SWAT officer is appropriate. They haven’t earned the title “operator”. I feel the same way about cops wearing Multicam. They haven’t earned those stripes. Stick to black, blue, or hell use something like Multicam Black or ATACS LE

    • SSD says:

      How about it just gets reserved for actual Operators.

    • Joe momma says:

      Oh for fucks sake this earning shit again. Operator is a word as stated about that has been adopted as meaning high speed. But also as started above, it’s been used along time to simply designate the one handling the equipment. In LE weapons and other aspects, you have operator and instructor. Patrol rifle operator school for the patrol officer to learn to operate a rifle. Taught by guys who are patrol rifle instructors….
      And the “earning multicam”. Well I don’t think it’s fair that regular soldiers are issued multicam since they didn’t earn it by spending hard earned money and waiting months to buy directly from crye before multicam was wide spread and available by others!

    • Arrow 4 says:

      Really dude? Cops can’t wear multi cam?

      • RedDeadZed says:

        That’s what I said, yes. It gives the vibe that they are trying to look like something they aren’t.

        • joe momma says:

          What are they trying to look like that they aren’t?
          this is just retarded. i just deleted a very long rant, but will go with something shorter. so why can’t LE wear multi cam? so they can’t wear woodland. or black cause “super secret navy seals wore black before”. LE should be limited to a form of navy blue pants and light blue shirts with shiny metal badges and revolvers in clam shells because weapon mounted lights are for military only and no patrol rifles, they should stick to shotguns… oh wait, those are for bird hunting, so thats a no go…..

        • Jon OPT says:

          Isn’t looking like something you aren’t the point of wearing camouflage?

          Also, every Soldier in OEF is wearing Multicam, even the desk jockey, non-shooters. So I am not seeing your logic.

          Jon, OPT

  18. Matt says:

    I’m a tactical operator: I operate my iPhone and it has a flat dark earth Magpul case. No one will see my iPhone sneaking up on them.

  19. Billy says:

    I’m actually old enough to remember when a REAL “operator” was a lady who operated the switchboard. An yes, the original OPERATORS were all female.

    So if a HSLD modern operator is getting his panties in a wad over the use of the term, OPERATOR, perhaps he should consult with those now, very experienced, and wise, female operators operating from the 1930s-1960s.

    • Matt says:

      Sometimes I used dial 0 for an operator during early morning shift just to chat. It was a riot.

  20. Darkstar says:

    Our leadership referred to us as “Operators” once during a briefing when we got downrange and that it’s what separates us from the majority of the AF. They were referring more to that we were on the “Operations” side of things and actually flying the missions rather than being Maintenance or Mission Support. It still made me cringe none the less…

    • SSD says:

      I first heard an Air Force Ops Group CC refer to pilots and missileers as ‘Operators’ as far back as 1994. I found it odd then.

    • Tim says:

      I’m a Boom Operator on the KC-10 so can I be called an “operator”?

      Just kidding of course. I’m fairly certain I’ve heard the leadership downrange refer to our aircrews as operators for the same reasons. I don’t think I cringed, but I did shake my head.

  21. My buddy Ken Hackathorn suggested awhile back that the US Tier One units should change to something different than operator since that term has been overused and abused – I agree

  22. z0phi3l says:

    Let’s not kill the use of the tem, it makes it real easy to spot the fakes, since usually is one of the first words out their mouths, helps me start poking holes in their stories

  23. Fred says:

    I am a genuine MOS-Qed Operator… 12N- Construction Equipment Operator.

  24. SSGCMW says:

    Can’t hear the word without thinking of a song:

  25. DanW says:

    No different that every manufacturer slapping the word “Tactical” on their product just to drive up the price

  26. Arrow 4 says:

    I think there is a bit too much LE SWAT bashing going here. Yes when I first went to SWAT in 1999 we often thought of ourselves as “Operators”. I don’t know how the trend started, but with no context for what Delta or ST6 guys were doing it seemed to fit.
    Also back then, for someone on a full time SWAT team and running 120+ missions a year up an to and including legit hostage rescue missions…I dare say we had a lot more real world experience than most folks in the military SOF world prior to 911. Many military “Operators” trained with LE SWAT guys and took lessons learned from that training into the battlefield after 911.
    Today the balance certainly tips for the true military SOF guys, but as we withdraw from much of the war on terrorism…the LE SWAT guys will continue to conduct missions. Personally I think too many people use the term, on the other hand too many people get butt hurt over the use…let it go and do your job.

    • joe momma says:


      • Fox says:

        “120+ missions a year” (Hey fish- getta load ah this guy!) Not here to widen the bridge between LE and Mil, but Soldiers have a WAAAAY different job than police. Must I mention the difference in pay, time deployed, and PT? Not meant as an insult- more of an reinforced argument. Patrolmen, Fireman and SWAT have my respect for the risks they take, though they do not compare sir. Besides-we are on SOLDIER systems daily.

        • Arrow 4 says:

          There are not as many differences between LE SWAT and the military as you might think…and yes I know about the differences in pay, etc. I took a $35K cut in pay when I deployed to Baghdad with a SOF unit. I know about time deployed, etc. but it sounds like you have little knowledge of what being a cop or SWAT cop is like. Overseas people try to kill you, hmmm, people here at home try to kill you…overseas you deal with death and buddies getting killed…here you deal with death and buddies getting killed. I have experienced way more carnage here at home then I saw in Iraq. No it was not the same. In many ways being a soldier is more difficult…But when a soldier is back stateside he is out of the combat zone, as a cop you are never out of the combat zone. In many ways being a cop is more difficult then being a soldier. Having been in both roles I don’t understand the need to try and place one over the other.

          • CJ says:

            well, some good news, your stateside “combat” zone is shaping up!

            last year had the fewest LE firearm deaths in the line of duty since 1887! also had an overall reduction of line of duty deaths.

            Auto accidents still the number one LE hazard.

            I really worry about police who view their cities and towns as “combat zones”, honestly says a lot about their mindset and how they view the citizens around them.

            gives me a good idea of where i, and my rights, might stand in their eyes.

            • Arrow 4 says:

              CJ you are right to worry about LE attitudes towards civilians to some extent, but the change in attitudes comes from younger officers who have not learned to respect the constitution, limited Govt. and the rights of citizens. That says more about our educational system than it does our L.E. agencies. It is also a lack of true leadership from L.E. supervisors, not what equipment they have or don’t have. Much of what the military does today is low intensity operations in semi-permissive environments, again not too much different what much of our L.E. face today. Unfortunately there are lots of areas of the country where it can feel like a combat zone, though not it the broadest of terms as my comments may have come across.

              • joe_momma says:

                “but the change in attitudes comes from younger CITIZENS who have not learned to respect AUTHORITY”

                Didn’t have too many officers getting shot in the face on family disturbances or traffic stops when your great grandparents were kicking around. LE had a job to do, and the public respected that. But this a general flaw now. When sir, ma’am, and thank you went the wayside, so did common sense and decency

            • joe_momma says:

              And that statistic is purely deaths. not injuries from shootings. This has drastically changed with body armor and advanced drama care in todays medical world. Just throwing it out there

    • Wow Everyone relax says:


  27. Alan Covey says:

    Actually, I think of this. Yes, I know I’m old.:

  28. Greedo says:

    Much ado about nothing. I am on a FT SWAT team and use the term “operator” and “officer” interchangeably. If someone takes offense at that, then they can file a complaint. But I have had the great opportunity to work with and train with lots of people from the special operations community from CAG and Devgru to SF and Recon. None of those dudes ever gave two shits about what anyone else called themselves because it didn’t diminish what they did. And at the end of the day, they all recognized that once they left service, they were civilians like everyone else.

    • Steve says:

      So I suppose you’d have no issue with a non-sworn security guard calling himself a cop, or police officer, or law enforcement officer, correct? Those guys using your title doesn’t really diminish what you do.

      • SSD says:

        I see what you did there…

      • joe_momma says:

        as long as they don’t have it on a patch…..

      • joe_momma says:

        but peace officer is a title. if the guy unloading airplanes calls himself a Navy Seal thats one thing. If a security guard calls himself an “officer” or “cop” then thats different….

        • Greedo says:

          I don’t have an issue with some security guard calling himself a cop or otherwise working in law enforcement. Again, it doesn’t affect me at all. Where I take issue is when said security guard tries using the title for personal gain or illicit activity, ie. conducting traffic stops or looking for handouts. The bothersome part of this whole ridiculous topic is the vitriol that spews from some people which implies that the military is somehow superior than law enforcement if comparisons were even necessary. To wit, the poster who stated that law enforcement should not be entitled to wear multicam because they haven’t “earned the right.” I wasn’t even sure if that was meant to be serious or satire. Does that mean FBI HRT hasn’t “earned the right” to wear multicam? After all, they’re just law enforcement. What about the US Marshals or DEA? DHS? Exactly what constitutes “earned the right”?

          • joe_momma says:

            exactly! but also, to put DEA/DHS/FBI and any other fed LE agency on a platform above local, county, and state LE is also bothersome. I started with local and am now state. I have work with every major three letter govt agency. they have their HSLD units just as most large municipal and state agencies do. little off topic at this point, but i fell that those not in the know believe that feds are somehow superior to local, state, etc. I’ve worked with these guys and have watch FBI guys fumble with merely placing handcuffs on a person or DEA put on a vest backwards, and leave it! every level of LE has the “POG” as well as has the “Operator”. so off topic, but just had to throw it out there.

            but yes, to compare military to LE is whole or in the big picture is impossible.

  29. anotherMatt says:

    a slight tangent, but within the same AO….where I work the “buzzword of choice” is “Battle rhythm” used to put an exciting edge on the day to day requirements of what is really not much more than the processing of the mythical “TPS reports” of Office Space.

    I do not have the heart to reveal….because they mean well….that from my experience (Co Cdr, Det Cdr, S-3, Bn Cdr) “Battle Rhythm” really just means the meetings & briefings schedule.

    • SSD says:

      I’m really surprised some new buzz word hasn’t replaced it.

    • Jon OPT says:

      “Battle rhythm” is an old term, we were using it in 07. It’s probably just being over used by a new guy. You should replace it with “micro-optempo” .

      The one that cracks me up is “delta” used to refer to a change, its a scientific term, but when told the new manning for something has a delta of four people I start looking around for a chemistry set. Just me, but pretentious people actually add humor to my day, they create a delta in my battle rhythm, which helps me be a better operator…

      Jon, OPT

  30. Wow Everyone relax says:

    Dear SSD,

    I am confused on what a operator is? Who cares? Peole read you’re website to find out products that are out on the market. You guys do a great job! Please stay focused on what you do so well and dont get sucked into stupid debates over what is an operator, best pistol round, what services is tougher, etc……

    Thank you

  31. imitation is the sincerest form of flattery says:

    All right guys I’ve been/am on both sides of the coin. I know a ton of cops who are trained by tier 1 units and I know a ton of tier 1 units that are trained by cops. Everybody wants to be somebody else, who cares what the hell you call yourselves. Do your job and let the little girl discussion shit be! Momma he called me a name!

    On the other side of the coin, LEO and Military operations are a world apart. But don’t any of you dare bitch and moan about LEO’s and their wanna be attitude. We keep you/your family safe domestically, while you keep us/our family safe on foreign soil. Everybody has a role to play!

    Finally SSD rocks on all aspects but this post is getting old! Leave the operator wanna be bashing and totally crazy blog to operatorasfuck on facebook! Thats some funny stuff!

  32. Chance says:

    “Hey, that is OUR word!”

  33. Qball says:

    I just love the COP bashing and anti-police sentiment that is building on SSD. You military kids deserve your pretty mutli-cam and cool words. I promise I won’t use them. Never was a fan of the term ‘Operator’ anyhow. I always think of an old lady in glasses plugging in phone lines.

  34. Alan Covey says:

    How’bout a replacement?: Show’ho Seems to be plenty of that on the web this week. “Look at my stash.” “Look at my swag from Vegas.” Yea, that….

  35. Riceball says:

    Back when I was in the Corps during the early to mid 90s I was a 7242 and we were referred to as operators, direct air support operations operator, at least on paper we were and this was before I was aware of the term Operator being used for SOCOM types. In terms of being a 7242 being called an operator was pretty spot on since we essentially acted as sort of a 911 operator fielding calls from the ground and getting them the air support they wanted/needed and we formed the ops or operations platoon in our squadron. Even though we were officially called operators we mostly referred to ourselves as DASCateers because we worked in the DASC (Direct Air Support Center) and as I said previously, the term Operator hadn’t really come in to vogue yet.

  36. Resabed says:

    Perhaps it is time to demystify the term altogether. I’ve been in plenty of “tactical operations”, I’ve pulled plenty of triggers, yet I am not an “operator” by merit of administrative vagary. SOF do a hell of a job, and their training and skill is beyond reproach. The same can be said of any infantryman, tanker, Marine, or scout. So why is one idealized, and the others marginalized. I would put to you that destroying a T-72 that is 3750 meters away takes just as much technical competence and dedication as fast roping into a village and shooting a dude in the eye. In the end, all of us just “operate” equipment, so what’s the big deal?