E.U.L.'s Rules/Guidelines/suggestions For contractors/mercenaries and those who wish to be.

Greetings from The War Zone! E.U.L. here to give all you 'contractors', 'mercenaries' and those contemplating that 'career change' some ' 'take it with a grain of salt' - rules, guidelines and/or suggestions pertaining to hiring on with a PMC (Private Military Company) PSC  (Private Security Company) or such.

I spent my military career in Special Forces and Intelligence. Gave 'Uncle' 20 years and got out. I have been 'Contracting' since 1993. I have worked for what are considered the 'Industry Standards' all the way down to the 'Fast Money' boys. I have been taken care of and pampered by those who 'take this stuff seriously', to being abandoned in place (and because of that, almost thrown in a Middle Eastern jail') by a company who went bankrupt smack dab in the middle of the contract'

Because of this, and due to the fact that there are a lot of folk ' highly skilled, highly trained folk ' who are leaving Military Service, in search of the 'Big Buck' ' I feel I should pass on 'what I know'.

First and foremost! Get yourself a GOOD Accountant ' one well versed on International Tax Law, IRS Procedures on Overseas Tax Exception and the likes. (DO NOT do this yourself ' or have 'Sweetie, because she's really good at numbers' do this ' you don't hire a Plumber to bake a cake?) Additionally, put a GOOD Lawyer on retainer. One who is also well versed on International Law pertaining to Overseas Contractors and Contracting in general. Trust me, these two gentlemen or ladies, will be worth their weight in gold to you in the future!!! Don't 'half step' on this! You may never need the Lawyer, but the Accountant WILL be a blessing!

Money. Megabucks! The lure of obscene amounts of cash for doing what you didn't get paid for in the Military. 'T'ain't always so. Money is proportionate to the conflict, danger level or environment you will be working in. Promises of insane amounts or money are often NOT the case. Once you figure in Taxes, deductions, sneaky little fees and exclusions, one often finds out that that vision of 'Megabucks' is just that ' a vision. A promise. Still, and in most cases, it sure beats Retail and the 'Fast Food Industry'. Important Clue: Always get your money promises IN WRITING! Negotiate your contract. Find out just what IS actually being paid, and who is paying it. Don't settle for a 'handshake and a kiss' ' or that is just what you will get! GET IT IN WRITING!!! If the company doesn't want to do this, steer away!!! Not willing to put agreements in writing indicates that something is going to happen ' and it won't be pretty. Oh yeah, let your Accountant handle your taxes.

I know of people who made the mistake of letting the company file the 'tax exemption' paperwork ' and still had taxes taken out' Makes that paycheck look a whooooooooole lot smaller' (You get it back ' up to $82,000.00 in earnings ' provided you stay OCONUS for 330 days (!!!) but that takes time and during that time, your money could be working for you' not the IRS.)

Be very wary of companies who tell you 'we don't have all the changes in the contract yet ' we'll mail it to you.' ' Believe it or not, this happens an awful lot! This is known as the 'Old Bait and Switch'. Most often IF you actually DO get your 'New, Revised Contract', you will find that a lot has changed' And never to your benefit. Meanwhile, you are sitting in 'God Knows Where' with no way out' GET A CONTRACT IN WRITING, BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT! Make sure your Lawyer and Accountant, each has a copy of this contract. Be very wary of companies who tout an 'At Will' contract! We call this the 'Two Week - Two Second Rule' ' Which means, for any reason there is a will to terminate this agreement ' by either party - you have to give them Two Week's notice, but they only have to give YOU 2 seconds'

A contract is a contract. Without one, you don't have a leg to stand on should the 'Dream Company' turn out to be a nightmare. Verbal promises and agreements aren't worth the paper they are printed on.

The Pimp ' uh, Recruiter' His or her job is to hook you into the contract. Once you are talking to this person, he or she has read your resume/CV and it has pretty much been decided that you are 'the one' they want' ASK QUESTIONS!!! On a recent contract I was on, no less than 16 lies were told to get me and others, to sign up. (Unfortunately, the lies weren't determined until AFTER we got there') A LIE, IS A LIE, IS A LIE ' PERIOD!!! Any company that feels it is OK to lie to its employees, is not a good company to work for. A lie in something small, might just turn out to be a lie about something life threatening. Can you trust them? Would you trust a team mate who lied to you? Put your life in their hands? The same applies. In most cases, your background demanded Honor. You should demand the same.

In some instances, a 'New' company needs to get 'Boots on the Ground' in a hurry, so as to establish themselves. But this is not necessarily so, in some instances, they need to get the 'promise' of boots on the ground. This means, they bid on a contract, but don't actually have it yet ' they 'recruit' a number of people ' with the promise of employment ' not always telling you that the contract is a done deal ' and then string you along' They tell the perspective Client that they can provide 'so many' bodies' It's a numbers game' There are always 'problems' with contracts ' but a company who continuously postpones, puts off, or can't give you a departure date, is not a good bet. It means they haven't got ' either the contract ' or, all the goodies in the contract, ironed out' This means, IF you actually DO get overseas, all will not be rosy. If a company tells you there is a 'small glitch' in the contract, or some such - but please be ready to depart at a moment's notice - ask for a 'retainer'. Something to show you that they are serious. Something to keep you 'on the hook' as it were. After all, you most likely quit your 'Fast Food, Fry Master' gig and are sitting at home, unemployed - while the creditors are howling at the door' If they give you money, they are serious. If not, well'

Passports. Usually a company will ask you for your passport (have one) ' so as to get the necessary visas put in (and THAT IS the company's job ' not yours!) ' However, when you send them your passport, they have you. Period. You ain't going anywhere else. Vacation? Forget it. Take another contract? Not going to happen. Check with the State Department for information on how long it takes to get things done ' I have found, they REALLY are quite helpful. (Also, make sure your shot records are up to date. And if you have a security clearance ' have the paperwork in hand.)

YOU are the 'Captain Of Your Own Ship' ' yourself. You are the product. They are the 'renter' ' they don't buy, they rent. Don't get into the mindset that 'Geez, I sure am lucky to be considered for this job!'. If they call you back or email you, they pretty much are impressed with you. Or they just need to get as many people as they can ' sick, lame, or lazy, just so they can get an immediate presence in-country! (I have seen this too') Still, you aren't lucky to get the gig ' you have skills the company needs. They are lucky to have you.

As was told to me by an old Merc Vet ' NEVER PAY FOR ANYTHING. If the company doesn't pay for the required stuff they say you need, warning flags should go up. If you have to pay 'out of pocket' for the privilege of working for this company, something is wrong. You NEVER PAY YOUR WAY OVER to a contract, and NEVER PAY YOUR WAY HOME at the end of the contract. The company is being paid by the 'Client' to do that. The 'you pay, and we'll reimburse you' is just a way for the company to draw interest on that money, until you hit 'em with your bill' and then, it is at THEIR leisure, as to when you get your check. Sometimes, if at all'

Everything has originally been agreed upon by the Client, to the Company, in advance. Believe me; they are making an awful lot of money, just by hiring you. Much more than you are making' Much, much more. Everything required to get you there, get you paid, equip you, keep you safe and sane, help you do your job, and get you safely home again, is included in and is being paid by the Client/Company contract.

Find out, and GET IT IN WRITING ' if you are 'salaried' or 'hourly' ' you can't be both. If you are 'salaried', it doesn't matter if you work one hour, or 100 hours a week. Your pay has been set. No overtime. IF YOU are hourly, you fall under another set of rules. You are required to work a set amount of hours per week ' the company can determine those hours ' unless you are a 'Government Subcontractor' ' i.e., DoD Contractor/Civilian, in which case, you fall under Federal rules and regs defining your work week' That means Overtime. Be VERY WARY of a company that tells you, you are 'salaried' but then has you fill out a time sheet. Something is 'Rotten In Denmark'' Somebody is pulling a scam. Perhaps they are charging the Client for overtime' Which you are not getting' And is illegal. Then again, maybe they are just doing a 'time/manpower/ resources study'' so as to help them better bill the client for work done' Uh huh. No, really'

OK, so you get to that fabled vacation paradise you were hired to 'Protect', 'Disrupt', 'Observe', etc' More and more people pour in to the contract. Time goes by. Then, you are told that in order to be 'Competitive', you have to take a bunch of tests, physical, weapons, mental, etc' Or, adios. You have already been there, doing the job, but since the company now has folk knocking at the door to get in, it feels that the initial 'panic' of getting people 'there' is over and it's time to weed out those who don't fit the 'projected profile of the company's self image'. Changing requirements in mid-stream is very bad. This should have been done prior to coming over. Prior to hiring. It destroys morale and sets the company up for all numbers of Law Suits' (Remember that Lawyer you were supposed to put on retainer?) Prior to accepting a contract, study the company. Ask questions ' not only of them, but of people they have hired. Why should they be the only ones asking for 'five references'?

If they do change requirements in 'mid-stream' - don't quit because your feelings of 'self worth' are shattered' because suddenly, you aren't the equivalent of that 21 year old stud' If you voluntarily leave, you have to pay your way home, and you don't have a chance of anything legal.

Be very wary of the phrase 'we aren't hiring you for what you are, but for what you know''

Companies who profess to have a '5 Star' rating, means that rating is for Insurance Purposes' Not for performance. It also means that they haven't had legal action taken against them' Remember that. When you consider a company, research that company's rating. A low rating indicates people, somewhere, Client or employee, are not happy with them and their resources are being taken up in legal fees and settlements. That also indicates to some degree, how you will be taken care of.

Bonuses. Get it in writing. Often one will find that professed bonuses tend to disappear as time goes on. Or requirements for said bonuses ' change. Again, get it in writing and make sure that your 'support structure' has copies.

Leaves and Vacations. Have this settled in advance. This should be in the contract that you are supposed to have in your hot, little hands. Days of Leave for Months Worked, should be established. A company that constantly changes leave policy, bears close scrutiny. A company that won't 'buy back' leave ' but uses a 'use or lose' policy, should have this stated at the beginning. This is also not a good thing. You are giving them time. Your time. If you have earned it, compensation in time or money should be given to you. Again, the company's policy will be brought forth in your questioning, or through questioning of former employees' (After all, if I did a good job, I would want people asking about my performance' wouldn't I?)

Time off. Will you be getting time off? Will you be able to 'decompress', sometime during the week? Or are you expected to go full tilt, 24/7? Find out BEFORE you take the contract. Preparedness is perfection' or something like that'

If you drink ' which I would never recommend in a hostile environment ' can you? If the answer is no, be prepared to go 'dry'. If you can't, don't go. Getting fired or putting either your co-workers or the client at risk is unacceptable. 'Dying for a drink' is a horrible clich'.

Equipment. In the Military, you were subject to 'the lowest bidder'. The same goes for Contracting. The company is there to make money. (Duh.) They are not a 'Boy's Club' or 'Fraternal Order' set up so you can relive your glory days or 'get back to where you once belonged (get back Jo Jo')'. Hence, they will provide you with what they deem is NECESSARY for you to do your mission. It may not always be the best. And it certainly won't be expensive. Ask the company about the equipment you will be working with. Its capabilities and such. It's YOUR life on the line' And the client's' Again, ask and get a definitive answer ' in writing!

Comms are premium. Communications can make a difference between life and death. Any 18E will tell you that. As will anyone who has been in a firefight. Ask.

If your contract requires you to be mobile, ask about the vehicles you will be using. What are their capabilities. Are they armored or unarmored' (The environment will often dictate that ' and sometimes, speed can compensate for heavy bulletproofing') Are you going to get the 'hand offs' of another client or agency? Will your vehicles be new? Can they do the job? Or will they be spending most of their time in the maintenance shed? Ask. Gas or Diesel? Modify or not modify.

The Client. They will be anywhere from 'really cool guys' to 'raving prima donnas'' No matter whether you would let them marry your sister or not, DO NOT include them into your and your company's 'dirty laundry'. They MUST have a perception of you as their 'savior' or 'The Professional'. NEVER, NEVER ' NEVER, drink in excess, in front of the client!!! Trust tends to go out the window when they see you dropping trou and playing 'fart flute' while giggling insanely' An occasional shot with them is acceptable, providing it is just that. 'One For The Team' to show you are not 'The Terminator'' but are a human being ' someone they can rely on to think, someone they can rely on to trust. That said, it is simply because the Client IS human that they most often do not take kindly to 'Holier Than Thou' attitudes' As stated earlier, drinking is a bad idea, but if you must ' do it for a reason, and be an adult.

The client will often include you in their conversations. It is THEIR conversation. Your 'there I was'' is not the required focus. And often they will vent. That is as far as it goes. Do not commiserate. Do not add your 'two cents worth' ' or that may wind up what you are earning' Do not try to 'one up' them. And in doing so, let them know your or your company's problems. It tends to degrade trust. And as was explained to me by a State Department trainer ' 'If the client poops in the middle of the truck, it is your job to compliment him or her on his or her movement, and ask him or her if he or she wants a wipe.'' REMEMBER ' YOU WORK FOR THE CLIENT!!! HE or SHE DOESN'T WORK FOR YOU!!! If the client has a 'bitch' session, what you hear goes NO FURTHER. PERIOD. Your and your company's contract depend upon the client's trust. Airing their dirty laundry will totally destroy any and all rapport you may or may not have established.

Telling the Client 'No' is a cardinal sin ' unless it will get one of you killed. Then explain it in simple terms ' no military acronyms ' and appeal to their adult logic. If the client is still adamant, it is your choice whether to pack your bags and head home, or comply. More than likely, the words 'death', 'dismemberment' or 'Al Jazeera' will serve to sway his or her way of thinking' ALWAYS offer an alternative. Unless the client is some Middle Eastern Princess, used to whim and want, they have a reason for their request. That reason is important to them. It may not be to you, but' (See the 'YOU WORK FOR THEM' paragraph above')

The bottom line, is both of you getting home at the successful completion of the contract, to enjoy the copious amounts of money you earned.

OK. We have talked about the company. Now, everything has been done. You are here. And it sucks. The pay is less than you figured. The working conditions are less than adequate' The folk you work with are idiots. The company hasn't kept its word to you. What do you do? Quit? Question is: Did you tell them you would work for them? Did you give a time period? Three months? Six months? A year? If you did, that means you gave them your word. The most important thing you have.

Your word is your honor. And honor is everything. So, you break your word and quit. Fine. This is a small community and people talk to each other. Getting a reputation for breaking your word is not a good thing. Keeping your reputation as an honorable man is. So, you ask the company to release you. Ask permission. Most companies will do so. Some are short handed and will hem and haw. OK. Keep your word.

During the time you have spent 'in country', you will no doubt, search the web, be told of other contracts, etc. Not living under a rock will expose you to the 'rest of the world of contracting'. Contract Jumping is a bad precedent. Regardless of the company's attitude and procedures, you made a deal. Other companies also look dimly on 'Contract Jumpers'. Most of the honorable ones will not hire you away from another company, but will insist that your finish your commitment prior to their hiring you. That goes to reason ' they don't want people jumping away from their company either. Search out your options, but if you say you are going to do something, do it. If you absolutely cannot stand working for the company (and of course, that is the reason ' not that the other company is paying waaaaaay more than you are currently making'), ask to be released from your contract. Just leaving is a bad thing. And gives you a bad name. Believe me, the companies talk to each other too! It IS a 'Good Ol' Boy's Club''

And hey, here is a word of advice. Unless you are working for somebody named 'Denard' or 'Hoare', regardless of the 'really cool weapons' and 'Black-something or other - super stud kit and gear' (holsters and harnesses ' magazine pouches and a really, really big knife) you may or may not have - a 'Rent-a-Cop' is a 'Rent-a-Cop' is a 'Rent-a-Cop'. Security is just that. You are not a 'Commando' anymore. You don't have the infrastructure, charter or governmental tolerance to be that 'Barrel Chested, Steely Eyed, Freedom Fighter' you once were. Let it go and do the job.

So, I have rambled. And in doing so, hopefully gone into what you should do PRIOR to taking a contract and what you should do while on a contract. Your inquisitiveness will help determine whether you are getting in way over your head, whether you are hating every moment of your 'greed induced indentured servitude' and eventual contract termination, or whether you will walk into a contract head up and 'port arms'. Knowledge IS power. Ask QUESTIONS!!! ASK QUESTIONS!!! ASK QUESTIONS!!! and GET IT IN WRITING!!!

E.U.L. Signing off from the War Zone.

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Last updated 5.24.08