Q&A: Character Age for PMC Contractors and Special Forces

Similar to another question you answered, in a private military agency, how old should most of the members be? Also taking in the fact that some of them could also have other former training. (Ex: Navy Seal,)

Ironically, the age range is pretty similar. Most PMC contractors are going either be in their late 30s or 40s, though the reasoning is different.

Why specifically late 30s and 40s? There are two reasons. Most PMCs have mandatory retirement at 49 (at least in relation to their front line contractors.) This means, you’re not going to find many contractors in their 50s. (When you are, you’ll be looking at security consultants, or other non-combat roles.) You’re also not likely to find a contractor under 38. The reasoning here is a little different. If you serve for 20 years in the US military, you will collect a pension for the rest of your life. (This is calculated based on a percentage your highest base pay, so, if you’re getting promoted consistently, there is an incentive to stick around.) If you enlisted fresh out of high school, you’ll become eligible at 38.

Most PMCs would prefer that you have a military background. I’m sure there are some out there that don’t care, or will hire people without, but when you’re talking about front line contractors, it’s simply cheaper to grab ex-military types because they already have the training and experience the job requires.

This means, for most PMC contractors, moving into the private sector is a second career. These are not, generally, fresh faced kids who didn’t know what they were getting into because the company was hiring high school graduates. If they were, the company would need to spend money training them. So why spend that, when the government is already offering that training, and giving people hands-on experience at no expense to you?

As an additional incentive, training each soldier is quite expensive. Estimates vary wildly, but the US military pays somewhere around $50k-$80k to train each soldier. This spread across a lot of different expenses, so it’s not an easy number to peg down. Additionally, there are a lot of non-consumable expenses, such as training equipment. For a private company trying to replicate that degree of training, the costs could significantly higher. Meaning, it’s simply not worth it to hire off the street, and train, when national governments will handle that for you.

The irony is, depending on the PMC, prioritizing vets could extend into specialist roles and administrative positions. For example, if you need a doctor, mechanic, even office workers, you can find ex-military personnel who performed those roles when they served.

When you’re singling out ex-special forces operators, yes, some will end up in PMCs, but they can do a lot better than just hiring on as a PMC grunt, and an ex-SEAL (a real one) is far more valuable than someone with 20 years of Army infantry experience.

At any given time, there are less than a thousand SEALs in the US Navy (normally there should be 768, but I assume the number fluctuates slightly based on available personnel.) That means, if someone tells you they’re an ex-SEAL, they’re probably not. The same goes for any other Tier One special forces groups. There are not a lot of guys out there with those backgrounds, and they have a very desirable skillset. If a PMC is hiring a SEAL, it’s not just going to be so they can add another body to the pile, that’s someone who would be working in a senior position, or in some technical or planning capacity.

The irony is, when you’re looking at special forces, the ages skew down (into the 20s and 30s.) The training for most special forces (such as Rangers or SEALs), is unusually brutal. As you get older, the specific kind of grueling physical activity required of candidates will become more difficult. This is because the training serves a double purpose, it’s not just about training someone, it’s also about identifying those who are suitable for the job. The vast majority of candidates will wash out of these programs, and return to normal military duty. (With the SEALs that rate is roughly 70%.) Of course, once you’re in a group like that, you’ll probably spend the rest of your career there, and the leadership will be made up of people who’ve been there longer than you. Of course, once you hit 20 years in, you have a decision to make, whether you stick around, or leave for the private sector.


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