Considering recent and upcoming articles on SOFREP, I wanted to take a moment to flesh out the phenomenon of volunteer soldiers a bit more. As we’ve written about previously, mercenary fighting forces are hardly something new. For instance, one SOFREP writer pointed out to me that Europeans who volunteered to fight alongside the Serbs during the 1990s Balkans conflict used that experience to kickstart their careers as private security contractors, later finding work as bodyguards elsewhere in Africa and Europe.

Today, we see the same thing happening. Not all, but some of the volunteers in Kurdistan, Syria, and Ukraine, are attempting to build their resume so that they can move into the world of contracting. To be clear, contracting can be difficult even if you are a special operations veteran with combat experience. Even such guys oftentimes end up being glorified mall cops for the Central Intelligence Agency. The job isn’t quite as cool as movies and video games would have you believe. For someone who served in the conventional military but was never deployed, it is even more difficult to break into this industry.

The environment has changed. American forces withdrew from Iraq and are in the process of drawing down in Afghanistan. Granted, our troops have now been re-deployed to Iraq to advise and assist, but the days of hardcore combat deployments to Kunar or Mosul are long over with. Today, we have a generation of soldiers who feel they missed out on the Global War on Terror. Simultaneously, shooting wars are currently ongoing in Ukraine, Kurdistan, Iraq, and—to a lesser extent since the South Africans helped take out the trash—Nigeria.

So let’s take a look at the push-and-pull dynamics for the “new” paradigm of soldiering.