So, former 3/75 Ranger and author Nick Irving just nailed a major television deal. Release the OPSEC hounds! Surely there is tomfoolery afoot! Any veteran of a special operations unit that has done work in the limelight can verify that “stepping out of the shadows” is one of the hardest things you will do. Whether it is writing a book or becoming involved in the entertainment industry, you not only open yourself up to the public at large to rip you apart, but also your fellow brothers and sisters in arms.

How much heat you take largely depends on how you go about your business. For example, we have all seen what happens when you blatantly disregard non-disclosure agreements. But even if you do everything “right,” you will still catch a little shrapnel. You will be asked, “Whatever happened to the silent professional?” or, “Since when do (insert any SOF unit but NSW) write books/make movies?” You will, at times, seriously contemplate whether what you are doing is worth it all. As someone who has written two books, have a third nearly done, and writes for four different online publications regularly, I can say I have felt that heat and sympathize with guys like Nick Irving, Leo Jenkins, Jack Murphy, and a host of others who have had it much worse than me.

But the question begs to be asked: Are we supposed to be “quiet” professionals, or “silent” professionals?

First, let’s lay down some context. Writing books or making movies is not a post 9/11-generation issue. Earnest Hemingway, a World War One veteran, became world renowned as a journalist and author. A plethora of World War Two veterans wrote books and made movies (Audie Murphy anyone?), and it continued from there. If you served in the past two decades, chances are you probably have read one of the many Vietnam memoirs that have been published, and one of those books may have even influenced you to join in the first place. With that being said, just because it’s been done before doesn’t mean its right. Right?

While I was serving in 1st Ranger Battalion, I was very much against anything that put us in the limelight. We were told not to tell people we were Rangers, not to talk about work, and to generally keep our mouths shut. The 75th Ranger Regiment very appropriately has the reputation as the most OPSEC-aware unit in the Special Operations Command. I thought it was stupid that 1/75 marched in a parade on St. Patrick’s Day, that we held our change-of-command ceremonies in a public park, and that we invited local news to our awards ceremonies.

I thought it was completely against everything we had been taught as young Rangers. I mean, I was once smoked for over three hours and had my phone/computer privileges taken away on my first deployment (Iraq) for two weeks because, get this, I told my dad we used Remington 870s over the phone. Gasp! And I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that Regiment had it’s own Facebook page, especially after seeing Rangers RFS’d (Released For Standards) over accessing that website overseas. So, to say that I had OPSEC pummeled into me is an understatement.

I first started to consider different opinions when then Regimental Sergeant Major Rick Merritt visited us in Salerno on my fifth deployment. As is the routine with any visiting VIP, we gathered both strike forces into the JOC for him to talk to us. In the course of his speech, he talked about how Regiment had a PR problem, and we needed to fix it. He talked about the need, not the want, but the need for Regiment to appropriately balance PR and OPSEC. It directly affects everything from recruitment to funding, and everything in between.

That was the first chip in my “don’t-talk” ethos. Shortly after that deployment, I left 1/75 to be a detailed recruiter up in Syracuse, NY. I saw firsthand the massive disconnect between the military and the rest of America. I saw how parents viewed our service and us. I saw how prospective recruits viewed the Army, and more specifically, Army SOF units. To say that it was disheartening would be a severe understatement.