Operator vs Operative / The origin of Operator

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Operator vs Operative / The origin of Operator

Post by jimothy_183 » Tue May 17, 2011 1:11 pm

Just posting what I know of about these two terms. While the terminology can mean different things in different areas as far as I can tell the meaning of these 2 terms has been made standard in the western english speaking militaries and police forces/departments.

I don't know if you might think that this is a waste of time but I thought it would be good to clear it up.

That being said however I find that there are still people who don't know the difference and use the two terms interchangibly, not here necessarily but certainly in other places.

I would like for someone to substantiate (or disprove) the information that follows.



Definitions

Operator: A member of a military Special Operations unit.

Operative: A spy, secret agent, or detective.



Now that that's out of the way I will move onto the origin on the term operator.

As far as I know the term operative was made before the term operator. But in an article which I read 2 or so years ago (can't find it any more) it said that the term operator was created back when delta was still a new unit. Since they worked extensively with the CIA they needed to distinguish between the members of delta and CIA "operatives" to prevent confusion and so they began calling delta members "operators".

This is apparently how the term operator came to mean a member of a military special ops unit and/or LE SWAT and an operative being a member of an intelligence agency.



In a wikipedia article about delta there is a section that has parts that agree with and others that disagree with the article I mentioned before. And yes I know it's wikipedia but still. And here is the quote:
Wikipedia wrote:
The Term "Operator"

Inside the United States Special Operations community, the term "Operator" describes one specific individual – a Delta Force member who has completed 1st SFOD-D’s selection for "Operators" and has graduated OTC (Operators Training Course). “Operator” was first used by Delta Force to distinguish between “Operational” and “Non-Operational” personnel assigned to the unit. Other Special Operations Forces (Special Forces, Rangers, PJs, and SEALs) also use specific names to describe their jobs (Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Pararescue, CIA Operatives, FBI Agents); "Operator" is the specific term assigned to Delta’s direct action operational personnel: Delta Force Operators. However, since the early 2000s other Special Operations Forces have also adopted the term “Operator.”
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Re: Operator vs Operative / The origin of Operator

Post by jimothy_183 » Thu May 31, 2012 10:45 am

http://sofrep.com/4650/three-sof-phrases-that-i-hate/ wrote:
Operator

This is a term that was coined by Delta Force back in the day, because apparently there were some legal issues with using “operative” as it might be confused with certain CIA personnel. Operator was used in the place of Soldier to describe the assaulters, snipers, and other maneuver elements in Delta. Today, this word gets thrown around like it is nobody’s business. Everyone is an operator now. I was glad that in the 75th we always knew that we were Rangers and not Operators. When I was in SF we always cringed when some instructor at a training course referred to us as Operators. We were Special Forces, not Delta.
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Re: Operator vs Operative / The origin of Operator

Post by Ryan » Sun Nov 03, 2013 2:51 pm

:) Great piece Jimothy. A good read for the collection on the term here: http://sofrep.com/29133/operator/
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Re: Operator vs Operative / The origin of Operator

Post by tacticalguy » Tue Nov 05, 2013 4:09 am

Good breakdown, Jimothy.
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Re: Operator vs Operative / The origin of Operator

Post by Ryan » Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:58 am

"We settled on the name "operator" to designate an operational member of the unit (as opposed to a member of the support staff) due to some legal and political situations. We couldn't use "operative" because that name had certain espionage connotations from the CIA. The term "agent" had some legal issues.

An agent carries a legal commission to perform certain duties and a governmental authority empowered by a state or federal constitution issues that commission. In our case, we would perform our duties under the authority of the federal government as administered by the Department of Defense and the Department of the Army.

But in the military, only officers carry legal commissions from the President and are confirmed by Congress. Sergeants, who are noncommissioned officers, are authorized to perform their duties by virtue of appointment by the Secretary of the Army. Sergeants therefore cannot be agents of the government. And since almost every operational member of Delta Force is a sergeant, we needed to choose a different name for ourselves.

Hence, operator. If that sounds sort of convoluted, it's because it is. But if you work for any governmental entity, it will make perfect sense to you."

- Inside Delta Force, Eric L. Haney.
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Re: Operator vs Operative / The origin of Operator

Post by jimothy_183 » Fri Dec 20, 2013 9:07 am

case closed, good job Ryan.
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