Mercenary – How to Become One

(…and why you probably should, too.)

What is a Mercenary?

Well, WikiPedia tells it something like this:

A mercenary is a person who takes part in an armed conflict, who is not a national or a party to the conflict, and is “motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party” .

Well. That says it all, doesn’t it? You might think so, but it doesn’t. In our day and age, a mercenary can be more than that, and the definition just might need some updating according to what is actually going on around the world, and around the world’s armed conflicts. Wars, that is.

Before we start in on the how’s and why’s and where’s, there’s one little paragraph of law that you should keep in mind. We promise there’ll be no long-winded talk of the laws of war, but here’s a snippet from the Geneva Convention that you should think about before venturing into the world as a new formed mercenary;

Art 47. Mercenaries

1. A mercenary shall not have the right to be a combatant or a prisoner of war.
2. A mercenary is any person who:

(a) is especially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;
(b) does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities;
(c) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party;
(d) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;
(e) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and
(f) has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.


So. Basically, you don’t have any normal POW rights if you’re only doing it for the money. We’re just letting you know up front.

Becoming a Mercenary – The Why’s

First up, what will matter most to a lot of people; it’s good money. It’s very good money, in many cases, simply because you put your life and limb on the line fighting someone else’s cause. You fight, they pay.

Action. Believe it or not, this point competes for first place in surveys among mercenaries. Some of them want the adrenaline rush, some just miss their time in prior military service, and some don’t think they got to see enough “action” in their regular military service. If this is what you’re after, that’s fine, you’ll probably get all the action you can handle, but you still need to be careful – adrenaline can actually be had without you dying or getting injured, so don’t take unnecessary risk.

Flight. It used to be that anyone could run away, become a mercenary, make some money and settle somewhere else as someone else, never to be seen or heard from again. That (mostly) isn’t so any more. Mercenaries are corporate resources now, with HR departments keeping tabs on taxes and addresses and all that paperwork. There’s one option though – we’ll get to that.

Training. There are better ways to further your military training, get certified for equipment or operations, or develop your inner being, for that matter. Being a mercenary is still frowned upon by many, and having it on your CV might do as much harm as good. Still, it will look awesome to the right people, so don’t turn the idea down just because of this.

Adventure.This point might have come under the “Action” point, but we thought we’d give it a bullet of its very own even so. If you’ve wanted to wade through jungle marshes, fight crocodiles or see the very worst of the worst of the earth’s deserts, mercenary life might be for you. At least you won’t have to pay for your plane ticket. Or your B&B.

Becoming a Mercenary – The How’s

– Foreign Languages. Learning to speak something else in addition to your native language is never a minus. Take the time and the effort to actually learn how to get by in German, French, Arabic, Russian or other large languages, and you’re well on your way – further, in fact, than you might think. If you’re reading this, you probably already know English, but if you somehow don’t, then learn that too. If you’ve got a country in mind that you want to go to, or a company that has specific country need that you want to work for, learn that language, be it Norwegian, Dutch, Polish, or whatever else.

There are several good language learning resources out there, among the best are Rosetta Stone, a computer program designed to have you learn a new language the “natural way”, i.e. like you learned your own language back in the day, or Praxis Language, focusing on Chinese, Spanish, Italian and French. That’s just a small selection of resources online, but if you’re serious about learning a new language, the paid services are worlds better than free “learn-a-phrase” sites. You should invest the time and small amount of cash required.

Get in Shape. Getting in shape can be a hassle, but it doesn’t have to. If you set your mind to it, and have a firm goal, that makes everything easier. If you’re overweight, you should consider WeightWatchers as a starting point. If you want to get straight on to training, then you need another starting point, like your local gym. Gyms can be expensive to join, and they’re really not always worth the money, so if you feel confident, you can try buying your own equipment (yours for life, and no more wiping off other people’s sweat from the gear). That means you would have to have somewhere to use it as well…

Getting in shape is imperative. In most cases, you will need to meet strict requirements and complete rigorous test in order to be accepted in military institutions, law enforcement agencies, and as a mercenary. You will need to be able to show off, brag about yourself and then be able to back it up with your physique. A boot-camp style training regime is recommended.

Getting in shape doesn’t just mean your body. It means your head as well. You will need to train your head just as much as your body, getting in the mindset of what you are about to do, what your goal is and what you are getting yourself into. A mercenary is a soldier, granted, a soldier of fortune, so to speak, but a soldier none the less. Going to war, and doing it for other reasons than personal conviction is hard, and you may even need to see a coach or a “shrink” in order to make sure you’re bolted together right before you try out for any of the mental exams you might face.

– Join the Military, or a Law Enforcement Agency. Easier said than done. Most mercenary corporations or units require that you have at least three years of LE, Military or Security training or practice. It’s just the way it is. We’re not saying that they all require that, but it will look favorable in 100% of cases. Planning ahead is key here, and you will need to work at it.

Get three years of military experience, separate with an honorable discharge and nothing bad on your service records. That’s a big point. No one wants someone unreliable as a highly paid member of their team.

Or, get three years of police training and work. Separate on good terms with your department, and go on to get the big bucks.

There is another way to get the training and experience needed, but it’s going to take time, and it might be expensive for you. We’re talking about paying your own way through training, for example at Blackwater.  This can be a good way to go if you have the money, and it might open doors at the company you train with, if you make an impression. That also takes some preparation, of course, but hey. It’s what you want to do, right?

By the way, there’s also Global Dynamics (not the same  as in the TV-Show, but almost…) and Triple Canopy. Now, we don’t vouch for any of these, because there are a lot of unsavory and amateurish companies out there, claiming to be the best of the best of the best – just look at iKey Solutions, for example – we’ve written about them before.


Last, but not Least -The French Foreign Legion

La Legion Etrangere honor guard. Photo; US Army

Formerly a haven for criminals on the run, these days the French Foreign Legion is one of the world’s top special forces. Only accepting non-French applicants, it is a part of the French armed forces, but in some ways only by proxy.

A normal term of service is five years, at the end of which you will be provided with the opportunity of having a French passport, a new name and quite a bit of cash burning holes in your pockets. Their standards are high, and their level of insanity, according to many, is even higher, with rigorous training that frequently involves abuse of the recruits – as one ex-FFL officer told us; “If they don’t understand, I would hold their head under water, and when they came back up, they understood”.

They have forced language training (see, this is why we’ve emphasized French all throughout the page – they speak nothing else), and a higher number of training casualties than many other military organizations.

The Foreign Legion, 1978

The Kepi Blancs (the White Kepis) are some of the world’s most dedicated, fierce and daring soldiers, but also some of the most secret ones. They’ve made many first strikes unknown to most, among them Bosnia and the first Gulf War – that’s right – the French were some of the first into that one.

If you want to be a mercenary, you may well start there. Save up the cash, go to France and show up at their recruiting office. They’ll take good care of you. After a five-year term with them, there’s not a mercenary corp in the world that wouldn’t have you. A tip? Aim for the “2nd Rep”…

Photo; Jonathan Alpeyrie

Here is our Legal Reference Page for would-be mercenaries, where we’ve tried to simplify the rule of law as it applies to soldiers of fortune. Help us add to the page by leaving a comment or sending us an e-mail!

[box type=”red”]Hi guys and gals. Almost every day, we get emails from good people like you who want to know more about being a merc, make contacts and share information. So, we thought we’d make a forum for this specific purpose. Let us know what you think about it in the comments, or send us an email about it; contact@snallabolaget. com [/box]