4 types of military contractors

Uncle Walkie
Updated onAug 2, 2023 11:46 AM PDT
4 minute read
military contractors

Private security contractors in Afghanistan, 2005. (Photo by Matt Moyer/Getty Images)


One may be surprised to know that a modest portion of support to the DoD is filled by military contractors, and many fit the stereotypes.

One may be surprised to know that a modest portion of support to the Department of Defense is filled by military contractors, many of whom fit the stereotype. Stereotypes aren’t always accurate to an entire demographic, but prevalent enough to capture a large swath. In Marine veteran Rich Brown’s swashbuckling memoir ‘On Violence and Varietals: Confessions of a Savage Somm’, amidst relating domestic and international adventures, the author describes the four types of Marines, the five types of police officers, the four types of bouncers, and the four types of corrections officers.

In similar fashion, there are four types of military contractors:

1. Faux Recon

The Faux Recon military contractor is the most visible. He is readily identified by his tactical casual attire, the staple of which is a pair of I-do-something-special-pants. He is aloof and looks like the kind of guy who might be hired to provide private security for a VIP or serve as a technical advisor in a B-grade action film. He was probably a POG but is always vague when asked about his military service. Frequent references to “down range” or “in country” leave much to the imagination, as he carefully hints at his badassery. His job as a contractor has no tactical contribution, but when he is walking around base in ballistic sunglasses encouraging young service members to “stay frosty” one might think he is a highly-skilled trainer. He may be a veteran but this guy is an amateur and a legend in his own mind. He probably is an avid Airsoft guy and definitely plays Call of Duty.

2. Sturdy Professional

Amateurs advertise, but the Sturdy Professional rarely talks about what he did in uniform. This guy was the real deal. He has a slew of operational experience, a laundry list of military schools and enough skills to build an impressive G.I. Joe character’s origin story. His job as a contractor is directly related to his military experience. Quite often, the senior military leaders he now advises were Privates and Lieutenants he trained decades ago. He looks like a regular guy and maintains a humble disposition, but you would not want to cross him. He is impervious to stress and watches with bemused detachment the uniformed folks’ frantic activity under the slightest pressure. He is a “break in case of war” kind of guy who could legitimately throw the uniform back on and make a relevant contribution.

3. Average Joe

Fortunately, most of your military contractors fall into the category of Average Joe. He can be identified by the khakis and the lanyard around his neck. He may still be fit, or soft around the middle. He may come from any of the various military occupational specialties, and his current role may or may not be related to his previous work. He is competent but not very passionate about his work, reasoning he’s already had a satisfying career and now wants to be useful while paying the bills. He would rather live somewhere else but settled down near base because his wife and children have established relationships and activities here. Besides, he’s had more moves than a WWE wrestler. He gives advice when asked but refrains from correcting impending trainwrecks in the staff. He knows his lane and stays in it. He definitely leaves work at work.

4. Nerd Alert

This guy grew up in the military well aware that he was special, meaning he was either in a highly technical military occupational specialty or one with a certain level of classified work. He will always let you know what he did, well, just enough to make you feel like an idiot. It legitimately was classified but is actually super boring. He makes more money than most other contractors and often speaks of how sought after he is. His GT (General Technical score, loosely defined as a military IQ) is higher than his PFT (Physical Fitness Test). He really does bring a lot to the table in support of the active-duty force but comes off as a “know-it-all.” It’s hard to argue with him, but you are pretty sure if you were in middle school together, you would give him a wedgie.

Not all military contractors are veterans, but a sizeable number of them are. Some are milking the cash cow, some the military couldn’t do without, and some just a small, competent cog in the big war machine. Either way, they will fall into one of the four types of military contractor categories listed above.


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