Anvil, a fictional private military contractor, plays an important role in the Netflix series The Punisher, but this company bears little resemblance to the ones that operate in Iraq and elsewhere. A warning to fans: This first section contains potential spoilers.
Billy Russo, onetime Marine colleague of antihero Frank Castle, operates Anvil, a company that essentially hires ex-soldiers and sends them back overseas. The firm also provides training and other services. In the course of this work, Mr. Russo makes contact with DHS Agent Dinah Madani. In the comic books, Anvil operates domestically as well. It is involved in various operations of dubious legality, including assaults and kidnappings.
Eventually, Mr. Russo is nearly killed in a final conflict with Frank Castle, and his fate, as well as the fate of his company, is unknown.
How and Where Do Private Military Contractors Operate?
Unlike the comic book Anvil, real-life private military contractors operate exclusively overseas, largely because of federal laws like the 1893 Anti-Pinkerton Act. In the early industrial era, the federal government sometimes hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency and other paramilitary groups to violently disrupt labor organization efforts. For almost 100 years, the courts consistently interpreted this law as banning all such involvement, even as it pertained to overseas contractors. In the 1980s, the government relaxed this rule and began hiring armed contractors to supplement and assist U.S. forces overseas.
Today, contractors serve almost anywhere that U.S. troops are stationed, but these three locations are good examples of the types of situations that these contractors face:
- Afghanistan: By any definition, this country is one of the most violent war zones in the world. To the natives, the current War or Terrorism is simply an extension of the conflicts against foreign invaders that they have resisted for generations using any means at their disposal. As a result, private military contractors in Afghanistan face dangers while they are on duty, perhaps from a militant attack on a convoy or a suicide bomber at a secure facility, and while they are off-duty, whether they are relaxing in the barracks or at a sidewalk cafe. Most contractors in Afghanistan escort VIPs during their inspection tours, manage checkpoints, and perform other such potentially hazardous duties.
- Haiti: In colonial times, Spain originally claimed the entire island of Hispaniola but later ceded the western portion to France, who named their new colony Saint-Domingue. By most accounts, the French exploited the area economically and allowed the colonists almost no freedom. By the time the colonists rebelled during the French Revolution, the Republic of Haiti had few remaining natural resources and very few government institutions, so the residents lived in poverty and under the fist of sometimes brutal dictators. Matters became worse after a massive earthquake in 2008. Private military contractors are still on hand to assist in relief efforts, and while there are currently no hostilities on the island, that potential exists.
- Diego Garcia: This land speck in the vast Indian Ocean is one of the most isolated areas in the world, and it is also home to one of the most important U.S. military installations in the world. There is essentially no threat of violence, so most contractors are not even armed. Instead, they are longshoremen, technicians, mechanics, or other individuals that serve in support roles.
Large numbers of contractors also serve in places like Japan, Italy, Cuba, Kuwait, and Guam. In these places, they perform basically the same kinds of duties.
It is also important to note that, for the most part, contractor activities are highly transparent. Overall statistics and other general information, like the size of contracts, are readily available to anyone who cares to do a little research. Specific information, such as deployment, is usually restricted because releasing such data could put the contractors at increased risk, and that is a situation that no one wants.
Available Overseas Contractor Jobs
Because so many people have so many questions about the types of contractor jobs that are available, it is necessary to discuss these positions in a little more detail.
Largely because of movies like Michael Bay’s 13 Hours, which chronicled the controversial events in Benghazi in 2012, many people believe that private military contractors are aggressive “door-kickers” who routinely engage in firefights. But such contractors only make up a small minority of overseas contractors, even in violent war zones like Afghanistan.
As mentioned earlier, most overseas contractors free up U.S. servicemembers for offensive action by taking on responsibilities like inspecting stopped cars as they enter security zones, verifying identifications at checkpoints, and fulfilling other similar roles. Furthermore, many non-U.S. contractors serve as translators.
Finally, many contractors are in pure non-combat roles. That is especially true in places like Iraq, where the U.S. military effort has transitioned from offensive action to rebuilding and reconstruction. Typically, local workers fill the manual labor roles and contractors assume the leadership and management positions.
Compensation Available to Injured Contractors
Despite the variation in job responsibilities, all these individuals have at least one thing in common. They risk serious injury simply because they are in-country working to advance the government’s interest. So, the 1941 Defense Base Act provides a system that compensates injured victims for their economic losses, such as:
- Lost wages, including both regular and irregular cash and noncash compensation, and
- Medical bills, including emergency care, physical rehabilitation, prescription drugs, and other associated expenses.
Victims who sustain permanent injuries can potentially receive benefits for the rest of their lives. In terms of medical bills, injured DBA victims may choose their own doctors.
For information on the benefits process, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel.