Surgical, precise, fluid, dynamic, tough and always ready describes the professional operator, executive, or adventurer. Limited only by the constraints of physics and his own humanity, the professional operator carefully chooses every piece of gear he carries. The responsibility for remaining both agile and quick leaves no room for any gear which only serves a single purpose or can only function in a certain environment. Everything carried must pull more than its own weight.
Two Trips to Africa Before This Occurred To Me
The principle is obvious but the personal exploitation of it is not. Deploying with the SEAL teams, I always had as much space as I wanted, but now, when I head out the door to places like Ethiopia and Sudan, I’m restricted to bringing only what I can easily carry. Traveling light is a requisite for sustainable adventure.
I had just returned from a flawless trip that pulled me through the hot deserts of Africa and then lobbed me onto the Southern coast of Italy. Each trip challenged me to be a different person, but the responsibility to heft my gear around reminded me that I was peerless.
In Sudan, my priority was personal security, shooting and exploration, whereas Italy required a lot of foot movement, photography and the attendance of multiple formal events. I’ve always understood the notion of being efficient while traveling, but it was this trip that brought it all together for me. Oddly enough, it was a pair of sunglasses that I got from Oakley’s SI division that really brought the principle home.
Why a pair of sunglasses? Because this particular pair is a rare breed – ballistic vintage aviators that both protect (ballistic standards) and look good in a suit (my standards). They just kept showing up for me.
I Didn’t Expect to be Shooting Assault Rifles in Sudan
As with any trip, the unexpected occurs. I had actually brought the Crosshairs on the trip with me because I was hoping to get some unique shots of them for a simple gear review. I hadn’t planned on wearing them that much.
It was on my third day in Sudan when I got an offer to go shooting. I immediately said “yes” and then instantly thought, “Man, I need to get some good “Eyes & Ears.” I wasn’t going to risk anything so far away from medical care.
I’ll admit that I’ve worn a ton of eye protection while shooting that was not close to ANSI standards. It wasn’t until I witnessed the testing process in the Oakley labs that I realized how dangerous some of these shades really are.
To be honest, I hadn’t even considered using the Crosshairs at the range because I thought of them as “dress glasses.” It wasn’t until I was heading out the door for the range that I remembered that they were ballistic.
As I reached for the Crosshairs, this time for their ballistic protection and not their looks, the importance of everything serving more than one purpose struck me. I had sunglasses to keep the bright sun out and look good, but now I also had a certified pair of ballistic lenses to keep me safe.
Later, I found myself, now in full PSD (personal security detachment) mode, in a very crowded local market with my two young children, and I thought, “Why would I ever walk out the door, range or no range, without protecting one of my greatest resources?”
Italian Suits and Italy’s Elite
The conditions and threat level were much more mild, but the need to perform was still obligatory. It was time to keep up with the Italian elite.
Okay… so I know it’s still odd to talk about fashion on a Special Operations site, but times have changed. Embassy duty, intelligence work, corporate briefs and a bevy of other requirements have thrusted the modern day operator into the world of style and presentation.
It was at this point of the trip that I think I appreciated the glasses the most. You see, there are multiple shooting glasses to choose from when you’re heading to the range, and even more to select from when heading out on the town, but these are the only glasses to choose from when you might be doing both.
So I dug through my suitcase one last time to pull out my dress shoes, tie and new Italian suit. I remember feeling the sense of enjoyment that comes from both putting on a nice suit as well as realizing that you’ll be back home soon. Travel can be stressful, but staying light, efficient and feeling good about your kit makes all of the difference in the world. I got in my suit and grabbed my new everyday glasses on the way out the door, and that’s when I thought, “There’s just not enough space to bring anything that doesn’t work for everything.