Monday, April 11, 2016

The Difference Between A PMF And An All Volunteer Military

Is there really a difference between private militaries firms (PMFs) and the volunteer military? In today’s war zones both do a lot of the same jobs: both pull convoy security and static security for installations; both collect and analyze intelligence; and both operate, maintain and repair sophisticated weapons systems. PFMs also do many jobs that the military just does not do much of anymore including base construction, base maintenance, and cooking. In many of these jobs, the only way you can tell the difference is by the haircut (and sometimes that’s not a given). So if the difference is not skill set or work ethic, since both are working the same jobs in the same harsh work environment, maybe the difference is motivation. 

Employees of private military firms (or mercenaries as they are sometimes called) are only motivated by money, while volunteer militaries are motivated out of a patriotic duty. This is the commonly held belief of the difference between the two are but let’s take a closer look. In an article at,,  author Romeo Clayton, who was a navy enlisted sailor and officer, writes about the top ten reasons for joining the military:  1. Patriotism, defending our nation, and sense of duty. 2. Jobs in a down economy. 3. Pay and benefits. 4. Full medical coverage for you and your family. 5. Skills and training. 6. Leadership opportunities. 7. Travel opportunities and vacation time. 8. Education opportunities after you leave the military. 9. Buy a home with no money down with a VA Loan. 10. A military retirement. 

Five of the top ten reasons are directly monetary and you can make a case for another four, which have monetary potential. Patriotism is the first but certainly not the only. A volunteer military requires incentives too, especially in a time of peace.  I should know I signed up in the mid 1990s. I was looking for a job and the army seemed like a good choice at the time. The recruiter did not talk about my sense of duty or my patriotism instead he kept talking about repaying my student loans and how learning new languages would help me in the job market once I got out. 

He was right. Once I decided to get out of the military in 2004, the skills that the army had taught me had become very valuable in the growing job market of military contracting. But it was not the money that attracted me to becoming an employee of a private military firm; it was that I wanted to use my skills to help the war effort and continue to serve my country. I did the same job as a contractor that I did in the military but in a different duty status. 

To me, as someone who has served in both a volunteer military and a private military firm, the motivations are not all that much different.

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