Before kicking off, for clarity purposes, the term “paradigm” in this article is used with the definition provided by Thomas Kuhn:
“…the entire constellation of beliefs, values, techniques, and so on shared by the members of a given community.”
What does it mean to be a silent professional? Does it mean moving in to do a hard-hit without uttering a word? Does it mean not blowing OPSEC on your precious twitter account? Does it mean not bragging about aspects of the job that would make others uncomfortable? Or does it mean just shutting your suck long enough for the first sergeant to give yet another sexual harassment brief?
What it means is subject to interpretation, no doubt, but what isn’t — the demand of being one that is placed on service members, particularly ones who are in combat occupations.
Before getting our dick-skinners in the meat and potatoes of the issue, let us explore the obvious. The term “professional” simply means you’re getting paid to do a job. The term “silence” implies not speaking. Put it together, as it stands, makes for an interesting conclusion: Don’t talk about your job.
So you aren’t supposed to talk about your occupation; the thing you‘re presumably passionate about, and go through great lengths to be good at?
Is that actually the case? And if so, why!?
The immediate reflex: to think of acts that expose vital information that dampers mission success, operator safety, and so forth (e.g. #AboutToGoKillBinLaden, some grunt making YouTube videos about sensitive unit locations, or CAG posting selfies somewhere off the grid). But past these, (things that rarely if ever happen, mind you) chastisement for not being silent professionals is still a common theme. But what is it the service members are actually doing that receives this reaction?
The best way to address the issue is to start by looking at what behavior receives the most criticism. It seems there are two distinct categories, one while in uniform, one once out of it: (1) making money from wartime-related images, deeds, or skills in the free market, and (2) being vocal of one’s job-efficiency while in military service. I will respond to both in turn.
(1) Defend the free market, but don’t play in it?
Consider this: Many who join the military do so for their country, pretty straight-forward. Granted this is a spectrum, and the degree of such widely varies; from almost non-existent to draped in the flag. Whatever the degree—the country still benefits from their service.
But a country isn’t just a population and the land it occupies, it is also a framework and ideas. It isn’t just Mom and the home town that gets defended; it’s also the cultural identities and way-of-life that ultimately makes a country what it is. With specific regards to the USA, one such feature is Free Enterprise. So strong in fact, the USA‘s capitalist ideation is embedded into our very notion of personal freedoms.
Then why the hell not market ones talent, experience, and story to the consumer? Despite the inevitable controversies surrounding American Sniper, the sheer financial success of the book and movie undeniably asserts there is a market.
It seems this discontent comes primarily from within the communities themselves. Akin to punk rock, the moment money is being made the person has unequivocally “sold out”. A job well done should be good enough, it’s violating some code of silence, and even it’s an exploitation of sorts; all have been lobbed. But circumstances have finally beckoned the most simplest of questions, “why is that?”
It is rather intuitive, the difference in someone violating common sense OPSEC and someone merely telling it the way it is: I can do this, and really well. Beyond the obvious violations of safety, and civil concerns of libel and slander, taking issue with the defenders of America participating in a cherished American ideal is absurd.
(2) Bow to the gunslinger, bitches
The military; this thing with mysterious inner workings —-well social media blew the lid off, for better or worse. Fat asses ready to burst out of their camouflage uniform, rampant stolen valor, you name it; all on the computer screen, with clever hashtags and occasionally the subsequent law suit. For so long these less-than-stellar realities had been concealed, but not anymore. So if that’s the case, why not expose the good as well —the righteous: bearded, trigger-pulling, mortar tube filling, machine gun spraying, danger-close fire mission calling, door-kicking, dick-dragging, rifle-toting light in the otherwise substandard, scared of the grenade range, fat-body darkness? And what better way than through specific units, specific stories and specific individuals?
Some may retort this corrodes the notion of unity, putting a dangerous injection of individuality back into the fighting man; something the entry-level training ferociously aims to beat out. But to those sensible critics, one must only look to the reward system already in place: medals, ribbons, citations, and the like. Despite the machismo that may rally against such a notion (and Holy Chesty Puller there is), people psychologically operate on a system of behavioral recognition. Reward for behavior is a universal human condition. Denying it can, and is, ultimately counter-productive. If you disagree, ask yourself “why are awards instituted to begin with?” That is not to say someone saves a comrades life for a medal, but the medal later recognizes the individual for his actions; thus establishing a precedent…and securing him many drinks at the bar later.
The notion that showcasing ability equates to unprofessional is foundationless, made all the clearer when simply asking “why?” Ideally one’s warfighting ability is proven on the battlefield, and sometimes it is. However for many of the military’s hard-hitters, the homogenous, clean-image over efficient-performance, results ultimately in a culture of not silent professionals —- but silenced professionals.
– Mr. Blonde