It has been over a year since I wrote the first article about being a modern-day mercenary, and since then I have spent some more time making my way through this dark and secretive industry. So I thought I would shed some additional light on it for you guys. The more time you spend in this life, the more you begin to understand the merc way of life and its attractions. It’s no secret that war has always attracted young men to leave their lives back home and head for a foreign land. Today is no exception. With conflicts occurring all over the world, the choice is really yours: Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Nigeria, Yemen, and Mexico are just a few places where you can go to fight.
But what happens when the conflict you’re in ends? What’s a mercenary’s next move? Sometimes, when the war ends for these guys, or things slow down, they start searching for other opportunities. That usually involves finding new ways to make cash. Some people will go the right way, but others will choose bad routes. I’ve heard stories of some guys running guns in Ukraine as a means to make money. I mean, they were killing bad guys, taking guns, and moving them around to the highest bidder. Not that long ago, there was a French guy caught by the SBU while trying to move explosives back to France. His claim? They were meant to “blow up the Muslims and Jews.”
This is what can happen when a guy spends too much time getting shelled: His brain just stops working. Sometimes people set up racketeering and extortion rings with local businesses to fund their organizations. Most of the guys do that sort of thing to afford new kit, but we all know the top guys are rolling in it. The other option for an out-of-work mercenary is to change locations. I have seen a lot of guys out here talking to guys in Syria, and the guys from Syria and Iraq want to come over here. It’s like transfer season in football: people and groups talking and switching teams. But in the last year we have seen more and more mercenary groups pop up all over the place, especially in Iraq and Syria, because there, groups receive the most limelight. Still, we’ve seen a group begin working on the U.S./Mexico border in efforts to tackle drug smuggling and human trafficking. The Arizona border recon these guys have set up seems to be working, and appears to be staffed with all the right people. They are sharing information with the border force and have even received praise from the locals.
Last year brought the rise of STTEPS International in Nigeria. They did an outstanding job pushing back Boko Haram. Their contract was cancelled due to a new government coming into power, but this was short-lived. As STTEPS pulled back, Boko started to take ground again, and STTEPS was asked to help out once more. A guy I know whose friend was on the new contract told us they were each making 15,000 Euros a month. My friend Ste, who was out in Ukraine with us, was offered a job with them, but he thought the orange dots on Skype are just missed calls, not messages. Safe to say he missed out.
The other option for an out-of-work mercenary group is to find a legitimate means of making a profit. One way they do that is to set up training groups to train the guys they were fighting alongside and the new lads coming into the unit. This is very popular over in Ukraine; you get more money and the job is a lot safer. Some guys use their new skill set as instructors to later seek out jobs in the security industry. Some of these teams are setting up their own risk management/PMC companies in the country they have been fighting in. And who can blame them? Some of these guys have spent the best part of two years working in these areas and have made good connections—from local police officers to the chief of police, all the way up to ministers and governors. They might even be good friends with the top gangsters in their area. Who knows if they might have sold them some guns in the past. But from a risk management point of view, why not use these guys? You have a bunch of former military guys with good training and good connections who have set themselves up legally. They can ensure your safety while in country, and because of their connections, if there was any trouble, I don’t think it would be too long before they sorted it out.
Like I said in the first article, it will be the big firms out there that reach out to these groups because of their connections. Teams like the one I was on have their appeal, too. The big companies out there can not only do the job, but they are cheap, too. Their money and assets help open more doors for them. The team I was on often talked about setting up a volunteer group in Africa. Some other guys who were on the team—two Swedish lads—are in the process of setting up a team in Nigeria. I think it’s a doomed plan, considering STTEPS is already there, and some of the guys have been speaking with lads from Iraq and setting up some sort of joint venture over there. It’s starting to turn into its own little industry. It won’t be long before we see more of these group in different places.
With some of these mercenaries setting up companies, it could be they end up being the ones running the show in a few years’ time. They are the ones subbing the contracts out to the fat cats. I see big changes coming in the next few years, and I want to be the first to say it: These groups fighting in these areas will be the future of the PMC industry. This is partly because they want to fight and they will move the PMC business into more direct roles in conflicts. It will not be the risk management providers of today. They are too focused on making money and keeping what contracts they have. They have no intention of making the controversial switch to the dark side of the industry. No one can blame them, and they are doing good work, but so are these mercenary groups, and the latter are hungry and want the fight more than they want the money.