I remember back when military contractors were revered and respected. When you thought of a military contractor, you thought of someone who would step up and go into the worst places on this planet, risking their lives so young American warfighters wouldn’t have to.
Yes, they got paid more than Soldiers or Marines, but they also often didn’t have as much protection, supporting forces or as powerful weapons as the warfighter. Yet they were right there, on the left and right. Contractors performed then and still do today many jobs so soldiers are free to perform their jobs, and focus on the mission at hand.
Contractors were and still are greater subject matter experts in their area of work – that’s why they’re hired to perform a specific function in combat or at home. Many who I know are also veterans themselves, although there are many who aren’t. For those who are veterans, they bring with them a wealth of experience and knowledge that they can bestow on young and eager warriors.
What I’d like to know is when did being a “contractor” become a bad thing? When did calling someone “one of those contractors” become the same as calling them a four-letter word?
Was it when Blackwater had four of its employees tortured and hung from a bridge in Fallujah? Maybe it was when contractors were deployed to Afghanistan to help mentor and train Afghan Police because the German military failed to do so.
I have seen contractors around the U.S. Army for years, and well before the attacks on 9/11. They perform vital and necessary functions, which are needed by our military in order to perform their missions -just as Department of the Army (DA) civilians do. I once heard in the ‘90s that it took twelve soldiers from the non-infantry jobs in the Army to support one infantryman. I have no idea how many DA civilians and contractors it takes in addition but I would imagine it would be close to another twelve.
Bottom line is it seems to me that as of late, contractors are blamed for many of the military’s woes (from budgets to fatal accidents). JFCOM was just disbanded with a key criticism being that contractors outnumbered service members. Calls from congress and government agencies for the need to insource and cut contracts makes government contracting seem more like a cancer than the critical support function it’s designed to be.
I spent 22 years serving this country in the Army and am now serving her as a military contractor. I am proud of all my service and I hope other contractors feel the same way. I am not saying there are not bad people out there that give contractors a bad name, there are. Just like there are bad DA civilians and service members in uniform.
As the saying goes, “don’t hate the player, hate the game”. Government contractors did not develop the need and positions themselves, the government determined the need and came to the civilian industry to help fill the gap. Contractors are serving this country we all love, and they do it without the job security and benefits DA civilians and service members enjoy.
No one serving this country – whether they’re a government civilian, service member, or contractor – should be made to feel guilty or ashamed of that service.
Are you a government contractor? How do you feel about your service to the country? Or do you think the criticism is deserved?
Troy is an Army brat and the father of combat medic. He is also a retired Infantry Senior NCO with multiple combat tours, in addition to several stateside deployments. Troy retired from the Army not long after switching careers from the Information Technology Consulting industry to becoming a Contractor for the US Army. He serves on several task-forces and enjoys still visiting and working with soldiers every day. Troy is also a recognized and multiple-award winning military blogger who writes at www.bouhammer.com, and a familiar person in many social media circles.