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A private military contractor is a company which offers services which related to the military, using a force of trained civilians, many of whom are ex-military. Private military contractors entered the public eye in the early 21st century, when a number of firms collectively comprised the second largest force in Iraq. Some people are concerned about private military contractors, as many of these companies perform the same duties that the military does, but without the oversight which is built into most national militaries.
Essentially, any private military contractor is a mercenary firm. These companies offer highly trained personnel along with equipment such as weapons, armored vehicles, aircraft, and other necessary tools of the trade. When contracted, these companies travel to a site such as an embassy, an area of low intensity conflict, or a private facility where bodyguards are needed.
Some private military contractors simply operate like glorified security companies, offering security with the extra beef of military training. Others are more like special forces, providing a range of services, some of which may be marginally legal. Many governments actually subcontract work to private military contractors, and these companies may be seen in a range of locations and situations in a quasi-official position.
Most private military companies were founded by ex-military men and women who wanted to offer high quality defense and security services. In some cases, these companies are actually part of larger defense firms, while in other instances they are entirely independent. A private military contractor tends to recruit heavily from special forces and talented ex-military, ensuring that many staff are highly trained before their employment even begins. In order to work for a private military contractor, someone must demonstrate strength, physical agility, quick decision making skills, and a heightened sense of awareness and place. Many of these requirements mirror those of national militaries.
Unlike a military, a private military contractor does not have a strictly enforced hierarchy which includes considerable oversight and supervision. These companies are also not accountable in an international court of law in the same way that a military force is. They tend to offer more flexible services than militaries do, which is one reason why private military contractors were seen in such abundance in Iraq. However, these firms have also been accused of overstepping their boundaries, and some nations have expressed unease with the continued lack of regulation of private military contractors.