I am happy to share with you this Interview with Private Military Contractor Victor. I have received numerous letters in which you urged me to interview Victor, and upon knowing that, he kindly agreed to talk with us – I thank him.
You know Victor from posts we already shared – CONTRACTORS GEAR IN AFGHANISTAN, SETTING UP YOUR GEAR and SANITIZING FOR OPS.
Have a good read, and we hope we’ll see more of Victors posts on internet some day… centralized. Wink wink.
My readers know you as (private military) contractor Victor. Whether this is the right term to describe your profession? Or it can be contracted to something more specific considering the dominant contracts you took.
Private Military Contractor
Close Protection duties, Site Security Manager, Training.
What is your military background?
I had spent 32 years in the Canadian Military specializing in Aviation, and with Special Operations Aviation. I was a small arms instructor, Range Safety Officer, and coach and captain of the shooting team. I also had my own company that had a defense contract teaching Advanced Tactical shooting to the Army.
Alison Hawks in one of her texts argues that the money motive is not a sufficient explanation as to why individuals become security contractors. Would you agree with that? What made you decide to become a contractor?
I would agree that money is not a good explanation but it didn’t hurt. Most including myself found it was a natural progression once leaving the Military. Once you have been to war, there is a distinct bonding with your team mates that cannot be found anywhere else. Also the adrenalin factor comes into play, but the most prevalent reason for myself was the Sheepdog factor, the sheepdog protects the sheep from the wolves, you are either the Wolf, Sheep or Sheepdog.
You could not find Sheepdog work back at home?
There is not much sheepdog work in Canada, I could find training jobs but decided to accept a job very close to home in the Aviation business. I am now working for a large Aerospace Engineering firm on CH-47 Chinook Flight simulators on a Military Base. I am now a Government Contractor.
How difficult is it to break into your profession since so many PMIs are active?
It is actually very hard these days, one of the best pieces of advice I can give someone is “Networking” Most companies will ask their employee’s if they know someone… that is the quickest way in, it still can take a long time but networking, keeping your skills up and try to train with other Operators… get your name known.
Life insurance, long-term savings plans, housing, health insurance, or benefits extended to spouses or children – is this all lost if you choose a contractor career?
Depending on which Country you come from, their Militaries may have an insurance plan that covers you after you retire, some companies even offer insurance. I was fortunate that I kept my medical plan after retiring from the Military and was covered.
What is the average salary nowadays for work you do?
That would depend on the contract, the host Country you would be working in, and company you are working for. I had made 425.00 USD/day with one company and only 300.00 USD/day with another. Some contracts (depending on skill set and danger) I have been offered 600.00 USD/day. But I have seen friends make only 180.00 USD/day. The longer a conflict lasts, the lower the salaries become. The days of the 1000.00 USD/Day are long gone.
When applying for a contractor work do you take any tests? Or checking your service record is sufficient?
Usually Defense Contracts will require a medical, fitness, and weapons testing. Other companies may or may not require these.
How does the company arrange the team for a contract? Does military rank has any influence to subordination inside the team?
Depending on the Company, if it is a new contract, the teams selected would assembly and brief prior to getting into Country. Normally it is filling in a position for a team that is already in Country. Military Rank really does not have any influence… if you are selected for a position, that is your new spot, not your old rank. If you push your old rank, you just might end up on a flight back home.
I know, that getting your field gear out or in (to where you work) is very hard and usually not worth the effort. How does this look like, getting gear, weapon and other essentials for a contract?
If the Company you are working for has done all its paperwork and is associated with a governmental agency it would usually provide all that is required. Other companies do not supply anything but weapons and ammunition. I purchased all my PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) in Country either my local sources or by buying online and have it shipped in.
We have a post about your loadout – SETTING UP YOUR GEAR. Is this set up something you consider to be a moderate investment for this type of work, or this is really just above some level?
The loadout you are referring to is the basic loadout I used, the monetary investment was well worth it. If I encountered hostile combatants, I had enough to fight my way out, do first aid, and other utility functions.
Imagine young men in their mid 20s, good record, smart and shit, who is looking for contractor work or already found one. What are three tips you could share with them (editor: 3 only, please. Your proficiency cost money :) ?
1. Training, weapons and medical skills proficiency, keep current;
2. Be physically fit, long days in full battle kit takes it toll, being in shape reduces that toll;
Private military companies are very keen on maintaining a positive, professional reputation. Yet there still is very much of mercenary taste in public opinion about the contractors. Why is this so?
That is because mercenaries gained a bad reputation by being paid to overthrow governments and to shoot anything that moves. Mercenaries have been around for thousands of years and their Modus Operandi has not changed much. Private Military Companies are a different creature. They are in a host Country to provide security for or with the host Government. Recently the incidents from “Blackwater” and a few other companies have shed a negative light onto other contractors, this was due to a small number of rogue operators and/or their management teams/leaders.
The companies I have worked with used the same ROE’s (Rules of Engagement) and LOAC (Law of Armed Conflict) as the NATO forces and local Afghanistan governments. A large part of my assignment was to train the local forces. Contractors ceased going onto offensive operations when the host government decreed that contractors would cease that practice.
Does the firms, which you worked for, have been backing you enough? I’ve heard that the company, which cost of services is higher than the average (in this case, taking into account the quality of service they provide) have difficulty winning contracts. They find it difficult to prove that the bottom line is not the selling point, high-quality service is a factor. Therefore, cheaper companies winning the contracts saves at the expense of contractors.
This lack of company’s support and preparation might get some of the contractor into trouble. Lack of equipment, permits, field gear. They will still try to get the necessary equipment in other ways. Equipment, supplied by the company, should be taken into account by the contractor before the contract?
I would have appricieated more support from my employer, when the company started we had the beginnings of a great work relationship with a great team both with adminstration and logistics. As time progressed the leadership of the company changed, and changed for the worse, it became all about the bottom line and making a big profit fast. Our employer decided that they did not want to pay for the weapons licenses anymore and my (our) contracts stated it was an armed position. I had told them from the start that I would not work there unarmed, so I tendered my resignation. I could not in good conscience be able to look into our clients eye and tell them that thier safety was not compromised by not being armed.
Have you ever heard of cases, where contractor AAR have been sanitized by the contracting company?
Yes, I have heard that from other contractors, and have witnessed it myself. Every AAR (After Action Report) that I submitted I had stated the facts, outlined any deficiencies, and submitted a course of action to rectify any noted deficiencies. By being proctive I never had a negative observation against my record and this was benifical for our clients and company.
Have you ever been offered a contract, that you had to turn down because of the moral issues?
No, I have not never been put in a position where I had to think about that.
Are there commonly recognized and popular regions for contractor work, like Africa, mid east or far east? What is the reason?
Middle East – Political instability – corruption – Terrorism
Africa – Politically instability – corruption – Terrorism
South America – Counter Narcotics
My close friend had a business with maritime security and he told me about their daily routine on board… sounded very very routinely. But still, young guys tend to romanticize this profession before even trying. Is there a type of contract that you would chose if you were looking for foot work?
Close Protection team member or Team leader.
I follow your posts and stories in closed group and really enjoyed the last one, about your team (LNs) and how much effort you put to keep their morale high. Gear, educations, accommodation… So much personnel management, logistics and organismic. It strikes me that your contract is so much life changing for those men. This should form quite a bond between you?
Yes it did, it was life changing for myself as well as them. When I was on tour there with the Special Operations I did not think about the locals on the ground. I thought about the targets and how to negate them. When I came back as a contractor my whole line of thinking changed, instead of being there with a fully supported SO unit, I was there on my own. I could not call in a Medivac, artillery or air support… I was on my own.
I used some of the practices that T.E. Lawrence ( Lawrence of Arabia) used. By making it better for my guard force, I was making it better for our compound and myself. When the US Government sent out a team to do a security audit of my site, it was mentioned heavily in the audit report the positive work I have done and how the local guard force responded to me.
I started by telling my guard force that we are all equals, and that the only difference was our job descriptions and responsibilities. I treated them like my own brother, and treated them all the same. I told them that we are brothers and I still keep in contact with about a dozen of my guard regularly. I believe that I had learned the most from my guards, my past prejudices and ignorance’s of the country and people were completely reversed. I will forever be thankful for what I have learned from them.
Eating with guards
What do you think, maybe this could be the new way of how minds and hearts won and things done? Not by military doctrine, not by stick, but by professional contractors and sensitive human resource management. Those guys with whom you worked will have more reason to believe in what they are doing even after you left.
Yes, I do think that this was (is) a better approach. Whether the leadership beleives this is another topic all together. Companies are there to make most amount of money with the least amount of effort or overhead.
Of all the componds that our company managed with both Companies that I worked for, my site(s) were the only site without problems, and because I was not having any problems that I could not solve, I was left alone to keep doing what I did.
I have been actively engaged in discussions with NGO’s who wish to use me and my methods to set up Armourers (small arms) courses for the Afghnaistan Government. A few of the Afghanistan/Candians that I worked with who are heading up this venture agree with what you have stated above. I can tell you that the most fullfilling part of my career was to see them beleive in themselves and how they responded to me.
Aja and Pups
If you ever had a chance to choose again, with everything you know now, would still consider PMC as a career? Maybe some other security specialization, or military career?
Yes, in a heartbeat. I would have loved to continue to do what I was doing. I had done Maritime Security, Close Protection, and Security Manager but I am getting older, it was time for me to pass on the baton to the younger generation. After 32 years in the Military, then doing the Private Contracting and still being in excellent physical shape I am sure I could do it for a few more years but it is time to spend time with my lovely Wife and utilize the senior citizen benefits. I was 53 years old in the picture below.
Yousuf and Victor
We tried to guess your age, even with the beer involved in this activity, none of use thought your were more then 45…
Not many people have come close to guessing my age, I have kept myself in good physcial shape and learned how to get rid of my stressors. While I still go to the gym, I do miss my running 5-10km every morning in combat boots with a 25kg rucksack. Some days I would do it a few times. It was great cardiovascular endurance training.
Myths or Misconceptions? Like CP is always dicks, Africa good for side momeny, maritime is boring, Afghanistan is logistics…
Contracting – Long periods of boredom punctuated by short periods of terror. Life is good.