27 February 2015

FWS News Flash: Leonard Nimoy Dies at 83

"A Light has Gone Out of Our Lives"...word came today that legendary actor Leonard Nimoy has died at age 83. One of the most iconic figures in science fiction is gone from us. He forged one of the most unique and iconic characters in science fiction history and offered a unique look at the world of science fiction in his later years and writings. Leonard Nimoy was seemingly always in my life, from Star Trek to In Search of, Mr. Nimoy was a voice that loomed large. Where ever you are, Mr. Nimoy, we remember and honor you.

FWS News Feed: 2014 ONE SHOT Movie (Sci-Fi Sniper film!)

It was brought to my attention by an FWS reader that Kevin Sorbo is starred in a B sci-fi movie about a future sniper during an alien invasion called One Shot. According to the summary and from the less than two minute trailer online, One Shot takes place in 2034 when an humanoid gas-mask wearing alien race, the Cerulean, attacks Earth. Rallying together, the newly formed World Defense Force is the united front against the invaders and seems to operate from an rotating wheel space station command post. During a mission, WDF sniper Kyle Matthews is trapped in Cerulean territory and runs into a Cerulean woman that forces a choice on the Terran sniper. I watched the trailer and this a firm B-movie, but it is a rare example of an sci-fi sniper story with the Space: Above and Beyond episode "Who Monitors the Birds?" be one of the few others. With more of a budget and some more talent, One Shot could be an interesting story about an Terran far-future sniper tasked with killing an alien leader...like an alien Hitler or something...or even the general of the alien invasion force on Terra. This could be a great B Movie, like Slipstream, Hunter Prey, Dog Soldiers, or even The Outpost, I will watch it, in time, and review it for the blog. Who knows? It could be good! The sniper rifle itself appears to be an .338 Lapua Magnum AWM L115A3, used by British snipers and the aliens use an DE bullpup rifle based on the IDF TAR-21 assault rifle. From the trailer, I do believe that the Terran sniper rifle is an directed energy weapon.

19 February 2015

The Barracks: Mercenaries, Security Contractors, and the Private Military Companies

 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.

What's In a Name? From the Mercenary to the 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
Almost as old as war itself, mercenaries are one of the oldest professions, and we have records of the Pharaoh Ramses II hiring professional soldiers against the Hittites in the 13th century BCE. While mercenaries were rarely looked at in a favorable light, they were a grim reality of war, and often larger conflicts recharged the ranks of mercenaries. We have to remember that the Knights of European were originally mercenaries that were hired by warlords to consolidate their power and claim on lands. Due to the expense of funding standing armies, when kingdoms went to war, their base army was heavily reinforced with local conscript soldiers.
After the war, these new soldiers were discharged from military service to save money. Some of the newly minted experience soldiers were not satisfied with a return to the blacksmith shop or the farm, but sought glory and gold with their new skills.These were the origin of the word "freelancer". By the time of Napoleon, European powers were moving towards with permit standing armies, squeezing out the old system of hiring armies in times of war. While the mercenaries seemed locked out, by the Second World War there were smaller groups operating like the Flying Tigers, the Freikorps Danemark, and Gurkha (depending on how you view the Gurkhas). It was really the small pocket and proxy wars in Africa, like the Bush Wars of Rhodesia, that sparked and fueled modern mercenaries. However, it was the 1990's before the first real Private Military Company, Executive Outcomes, by was formed by Eeben Barlow, a former Lt. Colonel of the South African Defense Force. After their success in Sierra Leone. Executive Outcomes become the harbinger of the trend of PMCs and their role on the modern battlefield.

The Modern Mercenary: Private Military Contractor
As I said above, the term "mercenary" often contours up images of ex-soldiers with beards and irregular uniforms, mixed with civilian hiking gear, fighting in dirty regional African conflicts for money. Today, Private Military Companies are some of the leading employers of ex-military personnel and professionals. These PMCs offer a number of services in the defense and security sectors to their clients. This clients range from business, oil companies, and governments From training other military organizations, to providing personal security to international companies, to logistical support, maintenance, food services, and FOB establishment, the PMC is a wealth of services and skill-set...for the right price.
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.
With the higher salaries, more flexible schedules, there is a feeling within military organizations that some soldiers are viewing their own military service as "on the job" training to have skills to market them to a higher paying PMC job. I know a former Army computer/intelligence soldier that quit the US Army, then joined a company that was hired by the US Army to fulfill his job types in Kuwait, A-Stan, and Iraq. For nine months of work in Kuwait, he was paid two years of his US Army salary. He has said that the US Army was better than college for securing higher paying jobs.
Both factors could be deadly in the Special Operations community. Brain drain and soldiers viewing their time in Specops as vocational training for an lucrative PMC job, could lead to a destructive effect on the operational integrity of the Special Forces community. Some military personnel have commented that they do not trust PMC members, due to they could just pack up and leave the combat zone if they get a better offer.
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.
This sense of lawlessness as created hard feelings between Iraqis and the coalition forces, because thy view the contractors as part of the coalition forces. Some troops have also voice complains that PMCs lowered morale due to seeing former soldiers-turned-contractors back in A-Stan or Iraq, doing the same job and making more money. Lastly, the most negative element of private military companies and their contractors is the shift in power from governments to these private military corporations. It has been said that US military cannot go to war without the assistance of PMCs, due to the slimming down of the US military and the skill-sets of these military companies. The government and their military have simply become too reliant on PMCs since Vietnam, and now the situation is getting out of hand, with it being seemingly impossible for Western nations to go to war without outsourcing.

Why Do Modern Military Organizations/Governments Hire PMCs?
At times, PMCs are the only solution to reversing a no-win situation, like when the Sierra Leone government hired Executive Outcomes in the mid-1990's to end an vicious insurrection. That African government simply did not counter-insurrection capabilities and the collective experience of the Executive Outcomes private warriors. Other times, the private sector just does a better job of managing certain elements of the military than the military itself. For example, before the decision to go into Iraq was approved by the UN, KBR was hired to get the bases in Kuwait up to the capability of handing a full-scale invasion of Iraq.
At this time, the US military was attempting to scale back their size and become more flexible. KBR and other PMCs were able to provide certain services to allow the coalition military the maximum number of forces to fight with. KBR and other contractors were able to run the bases and those on-site services for the military, while the core of the soldiers were committed to stabilizing the situation in Iraq. Some believe that the down-sizing of the US military prevented its ability to run the Iraq War without outside help. We also have to consider that the private security forces that most PMCs provide also allow for the military to put more soldiers into the field. Some governments hire PMCs to conduct missions that the public opinion would not support and if these soldiers-of-hire are killed, their deaths do not enter into the official death toll on the nightly news: plausible deniability.

Why Do People Become Private Military Contractors?
 Okay, let us be honest: money makes the world go around and we all use our skills to make money. Most people that enter into the world of Private Military Companies are wanting to use their skills to make more money than their former military career can offer. In repeated interviews I watched, ex-soldiers who now worked for PMCs said that one of their prime motives was money. One British contractor, who was in the Royal Army said that anyone worth their training and skill as a soldier had left the army for private work due to the money that the PMCs were offering.
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.
By the time of the Iraq War, Scott was in desperate need of a big payday, and found it in the employ of Blackwater as a private security guard earning $600 a day. He needed to provide for his family, and his skills and experience from his service as an SEAL would make him an excellent candidate for any PMC. In 2004, Scott was in-country and operating as a member within a small three-to-four man security team. It was on a escort run with truck picking up kitchen equipment that their white SUV came under fire in the town of Fallujah. Sadly, Helvenston and three other contractors would lose their lives in Fallujah due to many failures by the companies that they worked for. In most cases, modern private security contractors are people, like Mr. Helvenston, trying to making a living using the skills they acquired. FWS honors the memory and service of those brave men who died in Fallujah. You are remembered.

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
There are four scenarios with regards to the future of the private security companies: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the safe best. The good scenario is that PMCs are the tool of the western nations that use them for just and honorable wars. These new realities of war are a place for the ex-soldiers and forge a new type of industry. The bad scenario is that PMCs continue to erode the military, with brain and muscle drain with offers of a good schedule and a very good salary dulling the military to a weaker status as a "graduate" school for future private military contractors. This relationship would be like a bad marriage for the PMC and the government.
The ugly scenario is that some private security companies are their own tools of change and do not answer to anyone, and that their previous usage has eroded the traditional military organizations to the degree that the governments cannot offer resistance to the rouge PMCs. It is the safe bet that private military companies will be heavily involved in any future war, whether in the battlefield or behind the wire, running drones, repairing helicopters, and analyzing the intelligence. One future that private security companies could be involved in is the off-world military assignment. Future governments or companies could hire PMCs to guard colonies, asteroids, or space stations, instead of sending their own soldiers. Deep space deployments would be lethal to the morale and recruitment of soldiers, but private security contractors could be willing to do for a price. 

Historical Examples of Mercenaries

The Ronin of Feudal Japan
The warring states period (Sengoku) of ancient Japanese history and period of the Tokugawa Shogunate (or Edo) are fuel for many popular media works, and these periods are similar cultural to the American Old West. Much like the gunslinger of the American Old West, the Ronin are the dark anti-heroes of these period of Japanese history. Ronin is the Japanese word meaning "wave man" and they were Samurai between masters. At one time, Samurai were able to move between feudal lords (Daimyos), from Han to Han. During the Edo Period, the strict social order forced unemployed Samurai into a life of hardship and crime.
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
Okay, most gunfighters were not traditional mercenaries and often fought for themselves or were bounty hunters. However, there are some examples of gunfighters being hired by landowners, ranchers, and frontier towns as security or during times of local trouble. While some of the gunfighters were given a tin badge as frontier lawmen, other did their job, got paid, and moved on. This deal of Old West gunfighter mercenaries was incorporated into the famous Western film The Magnificent Seven.

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.

When England and other European nations felt shut out of the New World, and they witness the riches being pulled out of those colonies, action was taken. While the regular British navy was not really in existence, Queen Elizabeth I hired pirates to attack and raid Spanish treasure ships under commission of the Crown. Other government hired pirates during times of war or to forward hidden foreign agenda. From the 1st Anglo-Dutch War to the American Civil War, the use of naval ships-of-hire under government contact was a military tradition.

Sci-Fi and the Mercenary
There has always been an air about soldiers of fortune, and creators of science fiction often capitalize on that for use their own works, and combine that with the varying opinions of mercenaries. At times, these future mercenaries are the scum of the galaxy, and looking down upon by the core characters of the story. These space mercenaries featured in these futuristic stories are often seen using illegal weaponry or technology, often they have augmented bodies, and have no homeworld, going where the work takes them. Another popular sci-fi soldier-of-fortune is the warrior-race-for-hire scenario. The Kroot from WH40K, the Dorsai, or even the Mangalores of The Fifth Element. Of course, the way these science fiction mercenaries are shown often reflected by the time when the sci-fi story was crafted. During the 1970's and 1980's, mercenaries were not seen in the most favorable light due to the dirty wars in Africa. Science fiction used this to project mercenaries as experienced professional soldiers in cool gear, eye patches, and cigarettes that fought for whoever paid their bar bills FASA's Battletech and Hammer's Slammers included mercenaries as a fact of warfare, because they have been and seemingly always will be. These works could not exist without the mercenary element.
Some creators used the dim reputation of the mercenary type to add "flavor" to their characters, and situations. However, creators sometimes confuse the space pirate, bounty hunter, or rogue warrior with the mercenary, or mix them liberally. This is seen in scruffy-looking nerf-herding characters like Han Solo, Snake Plissken, Thomas Paris, and even elements of Spike Spiegel. Even the much loved infamous Boba Fett character is either an bounty hunter or mercenary depending on the creator or time period. This confusion makes cataloging mercenary characters difficult. During the rash of space and fantasy RPG games during the 1980's, the mercenary was a common slight, and were some of the frequency used character types, because they were of their badass reparation. I don't know how many D&D or Battletech games I was involved in that fully half of the players tired to be mercenaries. This point-of-view of mercenaries has shifted since the September 11th attacks, in both the real world and science fiction. All one has to do is look at works like AVATAR or District 9 and see the shift in sci-fi POV on modern mercenaries. Now, creators use the modern idea of private military companies, and inserted it into a science fiction theme. This new sci-fi private security contractor has taken over from the tradition soldier-for-hire mercenary of 1980's sci-fi.

Science Fiction Examples:

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
As with all things COD, there had to be a story taking the whole trend of PMCs to the nth degree of insanity with the ATLAS Corporation of COD:AW. Led by Jonathan Irons, ATLAS Corp becomes powerful enough to have a seat in the UN Security Council and an agent of change in global affairs. This PMC starts operations during the 2nd Gulf War and by 2050's, ATLAS was a superpower in their own right. By the 2060, Irons goes mad, decides that politicians are the root cause of the world's ills, and launches a global coup. In some ways, COD:AW is a tale of paranoia about the future role of PMCs in society, global affairs, and the future of wars.

Falkenberg's Legion by Jerry Pournelle
Another science fiction series that focuses on the plight of the space mercenary is Jerry Pournelle's series on the Falkenberg's Legion and other mercenaries in CoDominium universe. When the CoDominium retracted from some areas of space, these newly independent colonial worlds needed protection, and PMCs were there to answer the call...for a price. Some of these PMCs were comprised of  former CoDomunium Marines that found themselves out of work. John Christian Falkenberg is a member of the CoDominium Navy and when he is forced out of the military, he takes his military experience and forms the Falkenberg's Legions with other ex-CoDominium personnel and Marines. Of course, in the CoDominium universe, there is even a planet Sparta. The story of  Falkenberg is told over four separate novels with the novels centering on how Falkenberg and his soldiers of fortune are in opposition to Earth's politics and policies. The Legion is hired in pirate suppression activities as well as putting justice back on areas of lawlessness.

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)
Stepping into the shoes of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the true sequel to the iconic 1987 film is Adrien Brody playing hardened mercenary Royce. Originally, Royce is a member of the US Army, moving up to the Rangers, then transferring to the US Special Forces. At some point, Royce leaves the US Army and becomes an mercenary of some reparation. It seems go years by, and Royce works in the Philippines and Africa. It was on Africa that an Yautja Hunter took notice of his handiwork  and selected him as prey for the gaming preserve planet. Not much is known about Royce, besides his odd choice of weaponry and his desire to work alone. He tells Isabella, in around about way, that he was a hunter and by a quote from Hemingway, that once a hunter of men, always a hunter of man. Royce would win his battle on the planet across the super-Yautja, but would be stranded with Isabella on the gaming preserve planet.The Royce character is an interesting one. In one way, he is a traditional mercenary in an era of modern security contractors working for PMCs.

The Knight Sabers from the Bubble Gum Crisis
Any regular reader of FWS knows that I love the Bubble Gum Crisis limited OVA series, and it has been one of my favorites since high school. The high-tech Knight Sabers, who all wear the most advanced powered armor (the hardsuits) in the world at that time are locked in a guerrilla war against the evil mega-corporation Genom. To make money on the side, to support this war and the creation of new badass Knight Sabers gear, these heavy metal ladies work as mercenaries...very expensive mercenaries. While this is not the main point of the Knight Sabers unit or even the OVA, there are several times that the ladies work for various government agencies so as not to attach attention. The few scenes of the Knight Sabers working as mercenaries exist in the original series and are pretty cut-and-dry.

The Pilots from Area 88
One of the coolest old-school manga of my childhood was 1985's Area 88 that told the stories of mercenary combat jet pilots working for Area 88, the desert mercenary air base. In the original story, Shin Kazama (who has the most famine hair in magna) was a student airline pilot when he was fleeced into signing a contact to work for Area 88 as a mercenary combat pilot around the late 1970's. The original OVA of the 1980's, calls Area 88 an "foreign legion air force".  The only way out of the three year contract is pay $1.5million. Each kill Shin makes in combat brings him closer to his goal of making it home, but further from his humanity. The story featured real-world combat aircraft, but by the end, the story had gotten crazy with aircraft carriers on tank tracks using a nukes to attack Area 88. The story has been recycled and redone several times. Most know the Area 88 characters and setting either by the Viz media VHS tapes or the popular U.N. Squadron video game that was a retitled Japanese Capcom arcade game.  

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
In the excellent Elysium, one the central character that was key in the coup on the Elysium station was Agent Kruger and he is a raging psychopath. In the film, Agent Kruger was an On-Earth special agent contractor of the Elysium station. When the film opens, Kruger is on the outs with the station, until Delacourt's plot to secure the station moves forward.  It is likely from some hints in the film, Kruger and his "boys" are mercenaries with extensive military training, but with a massive screw loose. During Delacourt's coup, Kruger murders her and decides to take the station himself.

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 ALIENS universe seems a natural fit for the role of PMCs, and there is some debate if private security contractors are seen in ALIEN 3 and Prometheus, however, we do that a PMC group by the name of the "Iron Bears" was featured in the PC game ALIENS vs. Predators 2.  The Iron Bears originally hail from Russian and other Baltic countries were hired by Weyland-Yutani due to their fearsome reparation to babysit LV-1201 and its secrets. The Iron Bears themselves are well-known to the characters in the game, and are known to commit all manner of violent acts. Most of the Iron Bears are wiped out in the game, despite having access to CMC weaponry.

The Shadow Company from COD: MW2
Modern Warfare 2 is my favorite entry into the COD single player campaign stories, but I've got to hand it to the studio...Shadow Company?! Really?! You couldn't do any better than that? These were some of the first PMCs seen in the COD universe and are a mixed bag of professional soldiers-for-hire that possess high-level skill-sets. The Shadow Company is muscle portion of Lt. General Shepherds plot and is the foe for Price and Soap. One of the things I've always found funny about the Shadow Company soldiers is their black BUDs...very ninja...very cliche.

The Star Fox Team from the Star Fox Video Games
Before starting this blogpost, I never knew that the Star Fox team seen in the iconic games were mercenaries. Not being a fan of the games, and only playing them here and there during my first year in college (and mostly drunk), but I thought the game was a fun concept. When Fox McCloud took over the Team Star Fox after the death of his father, he hired new pilots and only accepted the jobs that he morally agreed with. However, that does not stop the team from accept and cashing the large payments.

The Various 'Mech Mercenary Groups from the Battletech Universe
When you get onto the best Battletech wiki, Sarna.net, you seen the hundreds of entries for mercenary units in the war-torn 31st century. When the United Star League collapsed, it left in its wake a number of units that were well armed and needing work. This parred up nicely with the formation of new governments that needed to defend themselves or wage offensive war to capture new resources and real estate. Some units were small, others had their own Jumpships with drop-pods, like the Wolf's Dragoons from the Xbox MechAssault video game. In the Battletech universe, there is Mercenary Review and Bonding Commission, an NGO created in 3052 that oversees the busy business of PMCs in the Inner Sphere. This serves the mercenaries in a fair deal for services, a process to protect themselves from shady clients, and a rating system for PMC units. Also, the MRBC allows for a neutral planet for mercenaries to gather and operate from. Since 3030, that world has been Outreach. Since the beginning of the Battletech games, mercenaries have always had a place, given the setting and natural of war. This is one of those games that embraced and celebrated private mech warriors, leading to romanizing of these PMCs in Battletech works. After all, the "Black Widow Company" expansion was incorporated early into the FASA line of Battletech products.

The Dorsi from the Childe Cycle by Gordon R. Dickson
Gordon R. Dickson came within one year of his military science fiction story, the Genetic General, came within one year of being the first true MSF story instead of Starship Troopers. The Dorsi are a race of human devoted to perfection, like modern Spartans, and given their superior nature, they are prized mercenaries among the stars. These Dorsi of the planet Dorsi are grimly effective mercenaries, but they are expensive. In one novel, the city of Rochmont contracts with a group of Dorsi to attack Helmuth along with Rochmont soldiers. The plan is to use the Dorsi as the core to finally crack Rochmont. However, the assault will kill the Dorsi and thus, Rochmont will not have to pay for their services. When they survive and the city refuses payment, the Dorsi take their pound of flesh. While the Dorsi are nearly prefect soldiers, they are given to rage and brutal. While the men are off fighting, the women defeat the homeworld, and never as their world fallen to invaders. The Drosi seem to be one of the progenitors of the "like the Spartans" trope.  

The CryNet Enforcement & Logcal Logistics from Crysis 2 and 3
CryNet Systems, like any good fictional mega-corporation up to no-good, has its own security force. The C.E.L.L, is the private military service of CryNet and is outfitted with military grade hardware and former US military officers to lead them. During the alien invasion, C.E.L.L soldiers and US Marines operated to stop the aliens, but where brutal in dealing with the biological crisis in New York City. After the Ceph were dealt with, C.E.L.L took charge and dominated the recovery of alien technology. With all of this, C.E.L.L became a powerful force in global affairs, and were in charge over a large population. Those in debt to the PMC where forced into pressed military service. By the end of the 3rd game, C.E.L.L. was nearly broken from the 2nd Cephn invasion and the US government took control of the remains.  

The RDA SecOps from AVATAR
This 2009 film is many things to fans of the film and the haters, and we do know that James Cameron borrowed liberally from many different elements to forge this military science fiction story. Keeping with James Cameron mining contemporary topics in his works, the RDA mega-corporation has their own in-house PMC, the Security Operations or SecOps. Given the status of RDA has the biggest company on Terra, the SecOps is the best equipped PMC with all the cutting edge tech and weaponry. Composing the ranks of the SecOps is ex-soldiers from all nations on Earth that have skill-sets across the military. Some SecOps contractors pilot gunships, others are air-traffic controllers, and others are AMP combat operators. This is one of the better cinematic examples of science fiction PMC contractors and one with its core concept rooted in modern events.

The MNU from District 9
Neill Blomkamp must enjoy putting PMCs into this movies, because District 9 and Elysium both feature PMCs. In the film, the MNU corporation is a leading arms maker, and was put in charge of the aliens. Within the MNU is the security force and the 1st Reaction Battalion. While the security force is pretty standard, the stars are the 1st Reaction Battalion, which are seen in the film taking on the aliens within the camps with heavier weaponry and ballistic protection. The Reaction force is designed to put down alien riots and troubles quickly and violently. In the film, the MNU Reaction unit is armed thugs with little regard for the Prawns. \

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!