Those in SOF are people, not war machines. They aren’t mere blunt instruments and just professional killers.
It takes a whole lot more than just your ability to be and fit and shoot to make it in SOF. But, I’m not sure everyone sees it that way. Sometimes, civilians most easily comprehend our backgrounds by making a broad stroke. Personally, as an 18D – SF Medic I just become a ‘medic.’ It’s especially annoying because to defend yourself it’s difficult not to downplay the role of medics in the infantry. The reality is that was my de-facto specialty and responsibility, but not reflective of the nature of your only role on an A team. This isn’t band of brothers where I sat in the back, disgruntled, smoking cigarettes, and would appear with a tourniquet. Everyone has a role, and everyone has a gun in the fight. But so much of our national security is broken down into comprehensible pieces by our civilian population.
Recently, I watched ’13 Hours’. I liked it. One thing became clear to me. Contractors – who were ex-SOF – were seen as blunt instruments and one-dimensional people. Maybe that’s how everyone sees us, and perhaps, it’s partially right. We’re told we’re special, it’s right there on your uniform – you see it. That feeling of specialness leads to a lot of disappointment in the civilian world. Nobody has to care – and many don’t. Everyone is looking for the fantasy version of things and the idea of the warriors in Call of Duty. People have false images of the tip of the spear that when they meet anyone from SOF and discover they’re human, they assume you aren’t quite the SOF they believed existed.
At some point, we became obsessed with direct action and a Call of Duty lifestyle. But the events in Call of Duty are worst case scenarios. In that alternate reality, everyone is going to have a gun in the fight because it’s all-out war.
I dated a woman in D.C. who thought an ex-boyfriend was an assassin, but on the side. She went to tell me that there were operations that had to be denied. The bona fide was that he rode the metro to Pentagon City with her, once. Went on to hint that I didn’t know about them. It’s not just her; this is widespread in D.C. and elsewhere. She’s never worked or been exposed to any level of national security. But there we were. Americans and the general public need to view SOF as people, like anyone else, not superheroes.
After listening to the recent IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) Presidential forum, it became clear that SOF isn’t considered boots on the ground. Is SOF somehow more expendable than other troops because of our level of professionalism and utilization at war? Yes, everyone in SOF volunteered and made it through rigorous training, but many have families and came from the conventional military. Whenever we consider troops in open battle, we should holistically. Granted, most in SOF jump at the chance to have an impact and get into the fight. But it’s the policy-makers decision to consider the best way to do it. Because thinking of SOF as a war machine is an attempt to absolve decision-makers from responsibility. The general population is complicit and begets foolish and unnecessary national security programs when due diligence of thought is not given.
Featured image courtesy of marvelcinematicuniverse.wikia.com.