FINALLY! FWS is updated! Sorry about the length of time it has taken to push out this blogpost, but things have been crazy at my job teaching social studies. Anyways...the term "mercenary" is a loaded one that brings to mind an soldier without a nation or moral compass, who fights for those who will pay. Money is his only guide and war is his stock-and-trade. The battlefield is their workplace, and death is often the retirement. Since the Battle of Kadesh in 1247 BCE, the practice of paid professional soldiers has been a common feature of war. During the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the global community became keenly aware of that ancient practice being alive and well in the 21st century with the specter of the modern Private Security Contractor and their employer, the Private Military Company (PMC). When the US and their coalition allies were preparing to invade Iraq for the second time, defense companies like DynCorp, Erinys, and KBR were able to set the foundations for the massive military forces along with the occupation and reconstruction of the country. When the war was over in Iraq and peace soured, other types of private defense companies, those that supplied private professional military contractors, were hired by nations and companies to operate in these chaotic time. At their apex, over 20,000 military contractors were operating in Iraq in all types of roles. In this blogpost, FWS will be exploring and explaining the mercenary and the modern private military company.
While the word "Mercenary" is the broad term for a soldier that fights for money, it is not generally applied to the modern interruption of those old soldiers of fortune: the private military contractors. According to interviews with several major private military companies, the private 'security contractor is very different than the mercenary, and they are quick to point the differences. These private warriors are employed via a large company that operates like a business and (mostly) within the law. While typical mercenaries normally fight for the sole purpose of money and adventure.Also, these classic mercenaries were often individuals or units, while the PMCs are similar to corporation. Both of these groups recruit from the ranks of ex-soldiers, PMCs recruit from a wider net to form a more complete package than just hired guns. PMCs normally offer a complete range of services to a client, ranging from personal protection, logistical, helicopter pilots, to training staff.
An Historical Perspective on PMCs
The Modern Mercenary: Private Military Contractor
Companies like DynCorps are publicly trained on the US stock exchange and these companies offer a place of ex-service members to go an use their talents surrounded in a familiar culture. We also have to remember that most PMC outfits are not being contacted by evil doers and Bond villains. Most PMCs work for large international companies like oil companies providing protection and security. Also, the public opinion, military contractors of modern warfare are more favorable than the old mercenaries.
The Positives of PMCs
While PMCs are not without controversy, these are some of the positives of private military companies. For one, they give place for veterans to use their skills in a similar manner to what they did in military service. Often, PMCs give respect to these ex-soldiers and utilize their skills and talents. Some of that is in civilian-friendly roles, others are not. PMCs allow warfighters to fight, to be back in the field. After all, some military organizations push out warfighters after a certain age or bureaucracy stands in the way of action. At times, PMCs are the more effective tool of offensive actions in a military situation. They plan a mission and conduct that mission according to their training and mission profile. While we like to think that the military does the same, it is not so. Bureaucracy and politics prevent some missions from being carried out or conducted in a different manner than originally laid out, like the DELTA force mission to kill UBL during the battle of Tora Bora. At times, PMCs allow for a different approach to be taken in mission, analyzing intelligence, or supplying forces in the field. At times, the military or government bring in contractors to find a different path or prospective on a issue or problem. This is not just a combat or military situation, at times it can be about behind-the-line activities. Lastly, PMCs can be the flexible force that the larger military organization needs to operate in some environments that are either politically unpopular or too tense for regular military presence. PMC units can be a more concentrated that regular military units, with a variety of skill-sets in a small unit due to the wide net that PMCs recruit from.
The Negatives of PMCs
PMCs are a reality of modern war, and like anything else in reality; there are positives and negatives. One of the most often raised criticism of the private security contractor business is that it drains muscle, talent, and skills from the military to these companies. For example, in Iraq security contractors can earn three to six time their military salaries in the space of a few months without the rigorous schedule commitment. With modern warfare now involving drones, these Private Military Companies are translating to offering drone-based services to their clients. This is now draining the talent and knowledge away from government drone program and towards PMCs. This has stirred ripples of fear that when these governments need drones for operations, they will be forced to relay on PMCs for those services.
This goes along with some soldiers complaining that you cannot order contractors to man a guardtower or pull patrol or do push-ups when they fuck up. This puts the culture of the contractor separate from the military that they so closer work with. Despite operating on the same base and for the same cause. There have been some events during the War in Iraq that shed light on another problem: accountability and control. If a security contractors gets into trouble, similar to the Blackwater Baghdad Nisour Square shooting in 2007, the PMC can remove their employee from the country and away from any legal trouble.
Why Do Modern Military Organizations/Governments Hire PMCs?
Why Do People Become Private Military Contractors?
Of course, there are some mercenaries that take jobs for the thrill of combat and the dark pleasure of killing, however, that is a rare bunch, and most modern PMCs are just people trying make a living. To illustrate this, consider the case of former Navy SEAL Scott Helvenston. By all accounts, Helvenston was the ideal SEAL. He was the youngest, at age 17, to have graduated from BUD/s in the history of the SEALs. He would spend 12 years in active duty as an SEAL, from 1982 to 1994, and be featured in some of the Navy SEAL calendars. When he left the Navy in 1994, he would dive into the world of civilian boot camps and consulting on Hollywood pictures, like G.I. Jane. This lead to a few jobs in television, while selling his own of work-out videos...but it wasn't enough.
Will PMCs Replace the Military?
Did Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare predict the future of war correctly? There are some military analysts and experts that debate that one day very soon, wars could be outsourced by the big industrialized nations to a growing industry of PMCs. Consider this: during the apex of the Iraq War, about 20% of the coalition forces were composed of PMCs personnel. In 2013, there were 10,800 private military contractors in Afghanistan, filling the gaps that the coalition forces were unwilling or unable to do. PMC members served inside the wire to the frontlines in all manners of jobs, and some say that the future of war rests in the hands of the PMCs because a nation or corporation could just order an package deal offered by an PMC, cut a check, and be done.
Considering that most of industrialized nations that hire PMCs used them to augment their own forces and fill in gaps, while the armed contractors are used mostly for security for other contractors and military personnel, not open direct combat operations. I doubt any major nation would use an PMC for their entire military forces and/or that any current PMC has the combined arms abilities to pull anything like the recent Iraq Invasion. PMCs would have to grow in their capability before they could engage in tactical situations like that. However, a smaller conflict or a long-term insurrection is the playground of the PMC, and those conflicts, especially politically unpopular conflicts could and will be handled by PMCs. Another issue is trust. If it came out that an government had hired an PMC to a long-term defense contact and sculled their own military, there would be hell to pay, because today's public wouldn't trust the private military company to fulfill the obligation of the social contact between civilians and their defenders...this isn't the Middle Ages after all. That will prevent the wholesale deal between PMCs and governments for complete military protection.
The Future of the PMC
Historical Examples of Mercenaries
The Ronin of Feudal Japan
After all, some Daimyos went broke or lose their power and this forced experience and highly trained swordsmen our of their lives into a uncertain future. Some became teachers of Martial Arts to those able to pay. Some worked as personal bodyguards and security escorts, and others were the muscle of Japanese gangs and criminal outfits. The term Ronin became a mark of shame and dishonor, because most were mercenaries or petty criminals. However, the most famous Japanese swordsmen Miyamoto Musashi who was an Ronin. One of the best known and famous stories of the Ronin was the Forty-Seven Ronin that were on a mission of avenging their lord in 1703 (of course, it was turned into a bullshit Western film). Some of the most famous examples of the Ronin from popular culture are the very cool Usagi Yojimbo manga, the epic Lone Wolf and Cub manga about the life of Ogami Itto journey from Samurai to Ronin, charging ryo for a head. Lone Wolf and Cub is my favorite comic of all time. One of the best Samurai films of all time, The Seven Samurai, is about Ronin being hired by an village for protection.
The Gunfighters from the American Old West
The Spanish Conquistadors from the Age of Exploration and Conquest
After Columbus navigation mistake that demonstrated that there were lands to the west of Europe that blocked the all-water route to Asia, Europe came to the New World in force. One of the more infamous of these Europeans was the Conquistadors. These were professional soldiers that were committed to the dangers of coming to the New World for their own profit. Some of these Conquistadors were from poor regions of Iberian or Europe, and enlisted into expeditions to change their fortunes. Others were soldiers, selling their skills for a place on the boat and a chance to gain gold and glory.
The German Hessians from the American Revolutionary War
During the 18th century, the British Army hired German mercenaries, called Hessians for conflicts in American and Ireland. The Hessians were named for the German region of Hesse and were feared soldiers-of-fortune of their time. During the American Revolution, about 30,000 Hessians fought on the side of the British, making up 25% of the British forces in the conflict. Hessians were offered land grants to leave the service of the British. They did so because Hassians were forcibly put into military by Princes that controlled the region where the Hessians originated from. They operated from 1776 to the end of the war, but were not involved in direct combat as much after 1777. Often Hassians worked in patrol and garrison forces. The American feared them and the British distrusted them, but after the war, the Hessians made their choice to go home or stay. About 17,000 returned home to Germany, while 13,000 joined the new American nations.
Sci-Fi and the Mercenary
Hammer's Slammers from the Hammer's Slammers Universe
One of the longest running sci-fi series that feature mercenaries is David Drake's Hammer's Slammers. Premiering in 1979, David Drake used his Vietnam service in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment as a template for Colonel Alois Hammer's elite hover-tank unit-for-hire of the 30th century. Mercenaries are a common in the 30th century, due to the expense of war, and these mercenary units are composed of the best of the best of their skill-set. Given the amount of private military companies in this future, there is an regulator agency that ensures that these PMCs fulfill their contacts as stated: the Terran Bonding Authority. Oddly, the breaking of these contacts causes PMCs to lose their legality, making them outlaws. The Hammerverse details other PMCs and their military as well political place in human space. The Slammers themselves originally started off as the Auxiliary Regiment of the Friesland Defense Force, but I was unable to find how or why Colonel Alois Hammer got the Slammer's to go mercenary, because while I own the 1979 Hammer's Slammers novel, I have not fully read it. Soon, I will finish my other novels and throw up a review on FWS.
The ATLAS Corporation from Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Falkenberg's Legion by Jerry Pournelle
Deathstroke and Dealpool from the DC and Marvel Universe
Both the DC and Marvel universes have their share of mercenary badass assassin characters. Two of the most iconic are Dealpool and Deathstroke, from the Marvel and DC universes respectively. Both are super-soldiers, altered to be biological weapons. In the minds of their feverish fans, they are the Boba Fett of their comic universes, and the uber-cool anti-heroes. While both Deadpool and Deathstroke are cool, they mostly not mercenaries in the classic sense. From my limited knowledge, Deadpool doesn't seem to work as an mercenary...more of an assassin. Deathstroke has worked as a bodyguard...classic modern soldier-for-hire fair. My thinking is that the "mercenary"title in the description of these sword-wielding character is for rule-of-cool purposes.
T.R. Edwards from the ROBOTECH Universe
When it comes to real fucking assholes of the ROBOTECH universe, T.R. Edwards takes the cake. During the Global Civil War, Edwards was an mercenary fighter jock who sold his services to the highest bidder. During this war, Edwards' archenemy was none other than Roy Fokker, who worked for another faction. When the SDF-1 crash-landed on Macross island in 1999, two groups united to explore the alien warship. One was the Western States Alliance, which Captain Gloval and Roy Frokker were members of the Western States Alliance and the North-East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. He would later join the RDF and be stationed at Alaska Base. It was during his time there, that Edwards became part of the Grand Cannon project, and met a girl. What twisted Edwards into the monster that he was during the Pioneer Mission was the Zentraedi assault on Earth where most life was wiped out. Alaska Base was heavily damaged, and Edwards was trapped, and forced to watch the slow death of his girlfriend. He blamed Rick Hunter for not rescuing him and his lady love like he did with Lisa Hayes. He nursed that hatred throughout the SDF-3 mission to Tirol, and when the time was right, he staged a bloody coup. Edwards would met his end on Optera by the SDF-3 bombardment. In a lot of ways, T.R. Edwards is a old school mercenary character: a nasty killer out for themselves and the money.
Royce from Predators (2010)
The Knight Sabers from the Bubble Gum Crisis
The Pilots from Area 88
The Mercenaries from Project: Overkill
One of the hidden forgotten gems of the original Playstation was an unusual title called Project: Overkill. This military science fiction shooter was a clone of Loaded and was centered around an elite team of space mercenaries that are hired to clear an group of humans called Viscerains from a planet by some evil corporation. You can pick from four mercenaries, two human in a top-down 3D isomeric view that allows for you watching to the gore you unleash with a variety of weapons. The games was not much in the way of substance, but was quite fun, especially the melee system. This game was tough and I never bet it, but I always had fun with the game. During this period of time, there were several other isomeric view combat games like Loaded and Crusader: No Remorse that were better overall games that Project: Overkill.
The Team from The Outpost
If there is an Citizen Kane of Nazi Zombies, it is 2008 British military horror film The Outpost. In the film, an cagey scientist hires a team of multi-national mercenaries from a wartorn Eastern European nation. This small team of mercenaries is composed of British, African, Russian, and American soldiers-of-fortune. The film handles the mercenaries realistically while they battle Nazi zombies. Seriously, if you have not seen this movie, watch it, it is quite good.
Agent Kruger and his "Boys" from Elysium
The Arqon Global Security from Viper's Creed
In this 2009 unsuccessful anime series, Viper's Creed, global climate change and World War III has altered civilization and taken its toll on every part of everyday life. In the series, pockets of civilization still exist in city-states braced against the raising seawater level. To protect themselves from rogue military AI combat drones and marauding humans, these city-states hire PMCs. In the city of Fort Daiva, the local government has hired Arqon Global Security to provide interior law enforcement and exterior protection on the web of interconnecting highways that connect the city-states to one another. In the show, Arqon Global Security uses special units of mecha pilots, called Blademen who crew transforming combat motorcycles, called maneuver blades. The show handles the AGC with a mixture of a professional security company and heavy-handed plotting villains.
The PMCs of the Metal Gear Solid Universe
In the oddball world of the Metal Gear universe, Private Military Companies and mercenaries are a common feature. The progenitor of Solid Snake, Big Boss was a renown mercenary that formed Outer Heaven or Militaires Sans Frontieres PMC group. Big Boss wanted freelance soldiers to not be victims, and Outer Heaven was the answer to that. Throughout the games, several major PMCs were seen, but the more modern interruption of PMCs was seen in Metal Gear Solid: 4 with private military forces being key in future war and the economy of the industrialized nations. Often, various PMC units squared off between each other, and often, the one with the most modern of toys own. This was painfully seen in the opening cinematic of MGS: 4. By the year 2014, Liquid Ocelot had taking control of the five largest PMCs under the "Outer Heaven" banner. After the fall of Sons of Patriots, these PMCs divided into smaller units.
The Kroot Mercenaries from the WH40K Universe
The Kroot species are members of the Tau Empire, and a savage bird like race that functions as mercenaries in the dark WH40K universe. One of the odd features of the Kroot, is that they evolve by eating their enemies causing the Kroot to appear differently. This fuels Kroots to seek out new enemies for favorable traits and eating them. This desire to improve themselves through new traits caused the race to farm themselves out as mercenaries, with the Tau being repeat buyers of Kroot services.
The Iron Bears from Aliens vs. Predators 2
The Shadow Company from COD: MW2
The Star Fox Team from the Star Fox Video Games
The Various 'Mech Mercenary Groups from the Battletech Universe
The Dorsi from the Childe Cycle by Gordon R. Dickson
The CryNet Enforcement & Logcal Logistics from Crysis 2 and 3
The RDA SecOps from AVATAR
The MNU from District 9
The Privateers from Wing Commander: Privateers
During the 1990's, Origin's Wing Commander series was one of the most popular computer video game, and while the war between Terran and the Kilrathi was always central, the 1993 Wing Commander: Privateers altered the setting to your character being a freelance space pilot with the freedom to chose your destiny. The jobs that the player accepts placing them on a path on which type of freelancer they are in the Gemini Sector. This is one of those games that was a fixture of my high school years...well, that and X-Wing and Doom.
Jon Sable from the Jon Sable Comics
First Comics was one of my favorite independent comic publishers during the 1980's, and one of their more famous comics was Mike Grells's Jon Sable character. He was cross between James Bond and Mike Hammer. Jon Sable was an athlete at the infamous 1972 Munich Games and witnessed the horror of terrorism. He and his former Olympic athlete wife moved to Rhodesia, where he worked in the safari business. Poachers murdered his family, driving Jon Sable back to America as a hired gun. Some of this is similar to the background of Frank Castle...but then again, the Punisher was never an children book author. No shit. Jon Sable, mercenary is also a moonlighting children's book author under a nom de plume .Only his agent knows his true identity. The comic would run from 1983 to 1988 with artist and creature Mike Grell drawing the covers and writing the stories. However, that changed, and soon Grell was kicked off of his own book. After the folding of First Comics, Sable has been floating around, and even had an very limited television back in 1987 that ran for a few episodes on ABC. Jon Sable is one of those examples of the label mercenary being slapped on a character for the coolness effect, and in the 1980's, the "mercenary" badge was very cool indeed.
Next Time on FWS...
Given that comic books are a passion of mine since 1984, I decided recently to go on a spending spree and buy a few new comic books for review on the FWS. One of the ones I picked up from Lone Star Comics here in Arlington was Universal War One. UW1 was originally published in France in 2008-2009, and was published by Marvel back in the States in 2009. I was interested in the subject matter covered and the other reviews were quite good, so it made a prefect fit for the old blog. So join us next time for a more on-time review blogpost about a French military sci-fi comic!