Individually, they’re SEALs, Rangers, Special Forces, Raiders, PJs, and Controllers. But collectively, we tend to call them operators. Technically that term should be reserved for those who’ve made it into the ranks of the elite Tier 1 units, but it’s become so commonplace we’re not gonna fight it.
Either way, they’ve got the sexy gear, the most baller missions, and their beards have inspired even hipsters to add a little face-armor to their look. We don’t get to hear much about what they do when they’re out bangin’ hammers, but every once in a while a picture will leak and we get a peek behind that top-secret curtain.
So without further ado, we’ve compiled a list of the most operator photos of the Global War on Terror. These guys, regardless of unit, have come to define the public image of what it means to be an operator. Here’s our top 15 most operatin’ operators, in no particular order:
1. That one special forces guy that you’ve seen everywhere but have no idea who he actually is. We salute you, famous special forces guy.
2. The Army Ranger doin’ a little aerial recon in Afghanistan. T-shirts and beards go together like whiskey and ice!
3. That one Australian dude with a righteous mustache who is *very* happy about that thug life!
4. Rob O’Neill, the SEAL who popped Bin Laden, right after sticking a bayonet throw ... into bin Laden’s face.
5. A U.S. Air Force PJ out on a little mountain walk in Afghanistan with ol’ glory strapped to his back. He’s just so ... beautiful!
6. Marine Raiders, aka the original Sons of Anarchy. We’d like to think that at least one of them said “autobots, roll out!” during this mission.
7. Tom Spooner, a former Delta operator, out operatin’ in Iraq. We *almost* feel bad for the guys on the wrong side of his rifle.
8. That one SEAL who casually hangs out around raging infernos with a drum of ammo in his carbine. Because sometimes 30-round mags just aren’t up to the job.
9. A majestic Special Forces operator in the wild. Notice his freshly pressed khaki pants, single grenade on his belt, and complete lack of fucks.
10. This is Jason Dahlke, an Army Ranger who was killed in action in Afghanistan while bringing the fight to the enemy. He was damn good at his job and looked good doing it. One for the Airborne Ranger in the sky!
11. If James Franco joined the Marines and became a Raider, this is what he’d look like. Notice the hand tats, custom BDU pants, and ammo drum.
12. We don’t know who this guy is or what unit he hails from, but this one just about brings a tear to our eye. In the world of special operations, this pic is a work of art.
13. I’m a little biased because I took this photo, but “Able” was definitely operatin’. Here we see him ordering up a round of bombs and close air support just as easy as he’d order a Big Mac, all while ISIS was peppering his position. The only thing he was annoyed about was that he couldn’t wear his Crocs out on this mission.
14. The operator all other operators want to be like when they grow up. This tea-drinkin’, brass-ball-swingin’ SAS trooper stormed a hotel under siege all by himself and then walked out victorious a short time later — no prisoners taken.
15. Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Kapacziewski, the Army Ranger who lost his leg in combat, got a prosthetic slapped on, went back into combat, got his new prosthetic leg shot off, but still kept charging toward the probably terrified enemy. RLTW!
16. The only thing scarier than this Special Forces operator’s beard is that pissed off look in his eyes. This guy is definitely king of the 1,000-yard stare!
17. This is Special Forces operator Nick Lavery. Nick took shrapnel from an RPG, got shot in the face, and got shot in the legs four times over the course of four deployments. Then, in the most operator move he could make, he went back for a fifth deployment, sans leg!
Honorable Mention: Spc. Matthew Tattersall was never an operator, but this paratrooper gets an honorable mention for doing his last jump in the Army with his pet Siamese fighting fish “Willy MakeIt” in tow — and having the presence of mind to snap a selfie during their descent! Enjoy that DD-214 bro, you’ve earned it!