…I do not think it means what you think it means.
This might be a little bit of beating a dead horse, but since the horse keeps trying to get up again, I’ll keep beating it until I get tired or it stops making noise.
Everywhere you look these days, in the firearms, training, and gear industries, everything is “tactical.” While the dictionary definition of “tactical” is “relating to military tactics,” it apparently actually means “covered in velcro and MOLLE, in either black (though that seems to be getting passé in true Tactical Timmy circles), flat dark earth (tan, for you non-tactical people), sage (green), MultiCam, ATACS, or, if you are truly cutting-edge, Kryptek.” Every other training company, or new firearms company making yet another AR, or gear company making something else out of Cordura with lots of MOLLE is now named Super Ninja Spartan Viking Operator Tactical. It has become nothing more than a meaningless buzzword.
This might just be one more element of pop culture to point and laugh at, but it has unfortunately seeped into the military culture as well. Are you a tactical operator? Guess what? Anything involved directly in the winning of battles is technically “tactical.” The rest of it is “strategic” or “logistical.” That ball cap with velcro on it? I don’t care what you call it, it’s just a ballcap with velcro on it. Don’t try to church it up as “tactical.” You might think it sounds cool, but it just makes you sound like an idiot.
The addition of the adjective “tactical” to every piece of kit that’s the right color or has MOLLE on it might not have gotten as out of control in the military as it has in the firearms and gear industries, but the substitution of gear for actual field acumen—“tactical skill,” to use the appropriate use of the word—has gotten out of hand. The amount of gear that is now “mission-essential” is staggering. The up-armoring nonsense is only one facet of it.
The prime example of the kind of faddishness that has taken over the industry is the camouflage boondoggle. I hate to admit it, but the Marine Corps started it. Marpat is a decent pattern, but it quickly became more of a fashion statement than anything else, especially when the Marine Corps refused to allow any other service to use it. Since then, all sorts of completely useless patterns have been fielded, more are being thought up every day, and the Army has spent millions of dollars on developing a “new” pattern. Meanwhile, our Soldiers and Marines are working in the field in ways that render camouflage pointless. When you’re walking upright across an open field in daylight with 2/3s of your body weight on your shoulders, it doesn’t matter what color or high-speed, shit-hot pattern your gear is.
Instead of naming every widget and piece of gear to hang off the infantryman “tactical,” maybe we should explore actual tactics instead.
Previously published on SOFREP 04.09.2014 by Pete Nealen.