This is a guest article by author D. Alan Johnson. His latest book Asgaard is set in Africa and looks at the role of Private Military Contractors. David himself is a Military Contractor and has been since 1988. We were talking recently about life in general, and the world as a whole. I invited him to offer his thoughts – Simon 

After being a private military contractor for many years, I have gotten to know some of the team really well. You see, the contracts come and go, but the team, with some additions and subtractions, remains.

For example, let’s say A&B Corporation loses their contract to X/Y, Inc. In order to fulfill the contract requirement to hire experienced managers, X/Y, Inc. hires a pilot from the old A&B group. After a couple of months, X/Y will need to hire staff and line personnel.

Now the first guy hired has a chance to hire all his old buddies, and we are once again employed. Of course this is also a time to weed out the slackers. Jack, one of my pilot buddies, and I have worked together for eight different companies.

So, we all get to know one another really well.

The Warrior Class

Nearly every base in Central America and Africa has a big mango tree with one or two picnic tables underneath. We gather at these tables at night, smoking cigars and telling stories.

When we talk about our respective parents and grandparents, one item keeps coming out:

Most were professional soldiers.

Both of my great-grandfathers on my father’s side were soldiers. One was a Prussian general in WWI and the other a private military contractor for the Danish Navy in the 1880’s.

Some of the guys have traced their family back to one of the bands of Confederate Raiders in the Civil War. Others descend directly from the Comanche. Many of the guys brag that there has been a man in the US military from their family all the way back to the Revolution.

This got me thinking: Is there a warrior gene? Does one inherit the restlessness and mindset that pushes toward a life outside the office, outside the village walls? The fact that so many contractors continue as private soldiers even after they retire is an argument for such a gene. More than once I’ve watched grandfathers, armed to the teeth, load into a helicopter bound for a hot landing zone to rescue a crew that’s been shot down.

And no one is pushing them to go. We have to turn people away!

What makes a man or woman seek out a life like mine?

Some say the family influences the person to become a soldier.

However, my parents and grandparents were peaceful people (who don’t understand me).

No, I think it goes deeper than that. The fact that jumps to the front of my brain is that we all fear tedious work more than danger. Not that we are lazy. We just can’t handle tedium. Threaten me with a couple of weeks of counting items for inventory, and I’ll give in faster than torture. This is true for most of the contractors I know.

Admiral Nimitz came from the town of Fredericksburg, close to my home. We’ve visited the museum there several times. In his writings, the admiral mentions several times that he would have done anything to escape the mind-numbing work of his parent’s ranch.

Of course, Nimitz is full German, and everyone knows that all you have to do is give a German some battle rations and bullets, and they are ready to fight. Since I’m half German, I can say that.

The other item is that we as a group are easily bored. We are always wanting to see the other side of the mountain. Working in Colombia is like paradise. Great climate, scenery, and the food is spectacular. But we have guys who are itching to go to Afghanistan. Why?

Afghanistan is ugly, dirty, with bitter winters and blazing summers. Bad food, nothing to do, and you are confined on post. Why do they want to go? Because they’ve never been. And they’re bored here. “Been here too long,” they say.

I intend to study this question more, and I’ll get back to you.

D. Alan Johnson

Author of Asgaard

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