Editors Note: A good friend of mine and long time private military contractor, Scott, gave us the down low on what it takes to get into and make it in the contracting world. With many veterans looking for work, I hope this helps! – Marty
So you’re getting out of the military soon, or separated recently and you thought you would jump into the world of private contracting. The pay is lucrative, the brotherhood you miss from military life is there, and you like to travel – so why not? Whether it’s the glamorous world of high threat mobile security or just the logistics job on a FOB overseas, there are a few things you should know before going into the game.
First and foremost, you need to discuss this with your spouse/significant other/kids/cat/etc… before deciding on this. If you’re single and don’t like women, then you can skip this part. Working overseas is tough on family life, especially kids and marriages/relationships. If you thought yearlong deployments were tough while in the military, now add in coming home for a few weeks every 3-6 months and trying to fit back into a family life, knowing that you’re heading back out again shortly. I’ve seen, and experienced my share of relationships and marriage failures due to the stress of always being gone. Have your personal affairs in order before you fill out that first employment application.
Before talking to any recruiters, do your research. Look on www.fedbizops.gov and see what the contracts are. Know the difference, for example, between pending award, RFQ, and what the different task orders are on WPS. Join professional forums and read there (some are full of special ops guys who are on the ground contracting, Project managers, or recruiters. READ, don’t talk, and don’t ask something that’s been asked a thousand times). Login to www.shooterjobs.com or www.dangerzonejobs.com and get to know the companies in the game and what positions are open. Check out all the company websites and see what other jobs are listed. There are almost always spots to be filled overseas. Start being the quiet professional. If you think that contracting is the same as the You Tube video you saw about Blackwater, then you need to spend more time researching and less on You Tube.
When dealing with the recruiters you need to meet their deadlines and don’t make excuses. It costs money and time to apply for these jobs. Printing, signing, & scanning in documents is nonstop. You will be constantly filling out SF-86s, employment applications, Bio forms, NDAs, etc. Get proficient at this and have good internet available. Keep all documents available electronically. Color scans of your Driver’s License, Passport, training certificates, DD-214, immunization records, power of attorney, etc. need to be ready to e-mail and should be immediately available when asked. If they need something done by the end of the day- GET IT DONE.
Be prepared to jump through hoops. Aside from the paperwork there are medical screenings, dental exams, PT tests, training courses, etc… be ready to do what is needed. If you won’t make the effort to get the job, there are thousands of other guys in line who will. There are over 100,000 troops coming back in the next two years, and hundreds of thousands more who came back in the last ten years with just as much experience, some more, looking for work. Make sure you’re patient, timely, and not having to be asked twice for something. “The nail that sticks out gets hammered.” If you’re a problem employee/applicant, they’ll just stop dealing with you.
Contracting jobs take time. None of this will happen overnight. I’ve seen some take six months to over a year to get someone mobilized. If you haven’t heard from your recruiter in a month, it’s no big deal. Don’t bother them with a phone call every day. If things change, they will let you know. An e-mail to them every month or so to notify them of any changes on your end or to ask of any changes in the program is about as frequent as it should get once you’re waiting to deploy.
Just like any other job, you may have to start at the bottom and work your way up into the job you really want. Static gigs aren’t as sexy as mobile security and not everyone gets to be the “cool” guys with all the latest gear moving high profile VIPs. Basic gigs do however get you experience, your foot in the door, help you network, and may pay better than most jobs here in the US. If you get a contracting job, be willing to do whatever. Washing SUVs all day may sound boring but you still get the same pay as someone standing in front of a kid with an AK. Everyone gets a shitty detail at times. Suck it up and smile on payday. For $xxx of money per day, I’ll wash the shit out of some SUVs or clean toilets so well that a hospital would be jealous. We did the same thing in the military and as a contractor you are not above it now.
There is always someone who has done more and is better than you. Don’t be the loudmouth or the “one upper” in your group/class/company. Be a quiet professional. Continue your training. Shooting, medical, physical fitness, immediate actions drills, vehicle recoveries, etc… Stay up on current events and trends. Networking will become a valuable skill. Don’t burn bridges unless absolutely necessary and back up every word you do say. Contracting is a small world and reputations, especially bad ones, travel quickly.
Finally, the most important thing to know about contracting: it is just a job, not a career. The secret is while everyone on the outside is trying to get into it, everyone on the inside is looking for their way out. Contracting overseas is not a profession and there are very few who can do 10+ years of it. Use it as a means to an end. Gain experience, make contacts, travel the world, and pay off your house, whatever. SAVE YOUR MONEY! Don’t be the cherry who buys a new special edition Mustang in Dubai after their 1st rotation. Plan for the future. Take online classes, get certifications, and make yourself more valuable. You should always be looking for more work and that unicorn career you’ve been dreaming of.