Mercenaries,fact or fiction?

Do any freelance military organizations exist in the world?

This came up during some threads on message boards about the Iraqi conflict,and i noticed it is a popular concept for movies and video games.
So whats the straightdope on it,are there any black-ops oraganizations selling their services?

Not knowing anything about whatever ads might appear in the back of Soldier of Fortune, there are without a doubt a number of large corporations that would offer the kind of services you describe.

See, for example, DynCorp. They do all sorts of consulting – from IT to providing security for the President of Afghanistan under contract from the State Department. Ah yes, they also have contracts for work in anti-narcotics efforts in Colombia.


There’s also MPRI, Military Professional Resources, Inc, is in the same line of work. Apparently they were responsible for training the Croat army in the 1990s.


And no list of armies-for-hire would be complete without a mention of the now-defunct Executive Outcomes, which is alleged to have had its hands in the dirty, dirty oil and diamond industries of Angola and Sierra Leone.


I am not alleging that these corporations are involved in things like assasinations, drugrunning, or other unsavory behavior, but they are certainly able to supply armed men and military training for a price.

Yep, though the definition of “black ops” is open to interpretation.

There are “Private Military Companies” all over the world. One of the most famous is the (now defunct, I think) Executive Outcomes who were based in South Africa. Google them a bit.

Another of the more famous ones is Sandline International. Like most others it presents itself as providing training and consultancy for legitimate governments only. Sandline has, however, over the years fallen foul of various laws and treaties - in particular, the Sierra Leone affair springs to mind.

The pages linked below show some of the complex relationships between these people and organisations. Michael Grunberg (late of Executive Outcomes) and Sandline International are good starting points. I’d also suggest checking out the networks for EO and Tim Spicer.
Michael Grunberg
Sandline International

I was in the position of working for some of these people a few years ago (in a purely technical role) and learned way more than I wanted to about their goings on.

There are mercenaries in real life - people who will fight for other countries for money, most conflicts turn up some of them. Most famously mercenaries fought in the Congo in the 1960s (googling for “Bob Denard” or “Mad Mike Hoare” should bring it some info) Mercenary organisations though? Hmm…

There are Private Military Companys (organisations like Sandline ) they provide military expertise in exchange for money to governments (and what they describe as "Genuine, internationally recognised and supported liberation movements
"), but reject the label “mercenaries”.

Most will only provide advice, logistical support and arms, though a few (including Sandline) will carry out some limited military operations (artillery spotting, special ops). Another was Executive Outcomes, a South African PMC that seems to have now folded (their website seems dead) who was active in Sierra Leone and Angola. EO did indeed provide troops, recruiting former members of the South African army.

The most common form of mercenary is the professional bounty hunter found here in the U.S.

In fact the laws which make bounty hunting legal allow for mercenary employment as well so long as it is not against the national interest of the U.S. Hell, it is certain that we have employed them (we being our nation) at various times and there are legends of soldiers who are getting ready to end their official military careers working directly for Uncle Sam getting unsolicited mail for the purpose or recruitment into these companies.

Which begs the question, how do the companies know when someone is getting out of the military and how do they know one’s MOS?

Some more links:

Former British soldiers acting as mercenaries for an African diamond company, flying helicopters in raids against rebels:

Russian volunteer mercenaries fighting as infantrymen in Serbia:

An article on mercenaries or “Private Military Companies” with particular respect to British Foreign Office proposals for licensing mercenary groups:

A substantial article from Foreign Policy magazine discussing the role of mercenaries (it briefly sums up the history, pointing out that in 1815 the British East India Company, a private corporation, employed 150 000 soldiers):


Would you count the members of the French and Spanish Foreign Legions as mercenaries? <>


Or the Gurkha units of the British army:

  • Tamerlane

I did a search for bounty hunters, but most of what came up were Boba Fett fan clubs.

Are there really bounty hunters, like in Star Wars? How dangerous is it?

Bounty hunters work for and often are liscenced bail bonding agents.

The way it works is you go to jail, you need bail but lack funds so you sign up for a bail loan which is secured, usuallu, with some kind of collateral. Mom’s house note or something like that I suppose. Then you show up for court and the bail money is returned to the bonding authority (plus interest, like a payday advance I guess).


you skip town and the bail bond is revoked and the bonding authority is left holding your collateral and the debt amount of the bail in entirety. Usually whne a judge sets bail for 100,000$ you only have to pay a percentage (like 10-15%) but if you skip out the entire amount is due. If the bondsman can’t recoup his loss he will hire a bounty hunter to get you back into police custody. Cops capture people too, but they can’t go into a private home without a warrant or probable cause, wheras a bounty hunter can go pretty much anywhere he or she wants to excercise capture of a fugative.

There have been some shows on it onm 60 minutes and Discovery channel.

Wait,bounty hunters wouldn’t be subject to laws against breaking and entering?
A bounty hunter is legally allowed to go around kicking down doors looking for a fugitive?

pretty much, within limits. Apparently they can go where they want in pursuit of a fugitive. The program on 60 minutes was specifically about this and a case in Tacom, WA where they went into the home of a girlfriend or ex of a bonded fugative and someone shot at them. They returned fire and killed someone. The entry was legal, so it’s not breaking and entering as breaking and entering is a legal term for an illegal act.

I suppose you could look at it like a case of “hot pursuit” where a police officer is chasing someone through private properties not directly connected to the suspect. Since someone only gets a bounty hunter on them after fleeing justice I suppose they qualify.

But if bounty hunters are allowed to enter houses uninvited and the like, there must be some kind of Official Bounty Hunter License, otherwise anyone could go into houses and claim they’re bounty hunters, right?

Executive Outcomes was a “military consulting” firm comprised of former South African Special Forces troops. They were quite involved in a number for conflicts in central Africa in the 90’s. According to this article they closed up shop in 1998, although that was probably in response to a law passed in SA that restricted SA citizens fighting for foreign armies. They probably just closed shop in SA and moved it elsewhere to a country with less strict anti-merc laws.

Not per se, if I recall correctly. You do have to actually be working for a company; you can’t simply go around rounding up fugitives. Plus, if you steal something, the cops will nail you, and its pretty obvious who’s supposed to be there and who isn’t. In other words, you have to actually have a reason to think your fugitive is in there.

Actually, Bounty Hunters have a very good reputation. Incidents where things go wrong are quite rare.

So basically, could a cop hire a bounty hunter to search a house, if they couldn’t get a warrant?

That’s kinda scary!