Carter Lowe Creator, entrepreneur, and self-care advocate
Reading time: 17 min

Mercenary and their life

What is the life of a mercenary? On a fake British passport, a Norwegian named Tom traveled the world as a mercenary. This is a world closed from others, where there is a lot of money, a lot of violence and a lot of men who are thirsty for adventure.

“When I approached the hangar at the airport in Guinea, I saw boxes of weapons waiting for us. I noticed that in some places there were signs with my last name attached. Then I thought: it will be hot,” says Tom.

Tom sits on the couch at his home in Trøndelag and reminisces about how he lived a few years ago. There is a glass of Red Bull on the table. He cannot live without it - this addiction is from that past life.

On the wall behind him is a huge panel depicting a map of the world. A world full of exciting routes, as well as some nooks and crannies that can best be described as hell on earth. Tom has been to many of them.

For several years he traveled from one military zone to another as a mercenary - or a private contractor, as it is also called - and performed various tasks. Sometimes - legal, sometimes - in the "gray zone". And sometimes illegal.

He was fascinated by the army

In fact, he was going to work with children and teenagers. While studying, in his free time he was engaged in boxing. And on weekends he worked as a bouncer in Trondheim.

“Then I was drafted into the army. I liked it there. Everything was very exciting. We rushed across the endless expanses on six-wheeled vehicles and snowmobiles, sometimes pretending that we were behind enemy lines.

Interest in military affairs grew as he more and more comprehended army science. Tom began to read books about foreign special forces and began to dream of getting into the SAS (British Special Forces - author's note).

When his military service came to an end, he moved to Southampton in England to live with his girlfriend.

“If you work as a security guard, you will always have a job. But for someone used to standing and guarding doors in Trondheim, working in England is a culture shock. And on the first weekend, I really got it. ”

Tom explains that in England a bouncer who has his snout brushed must regain respect as soon as possible. And the chief ordered him to beat up someone on the next shift.

“I tried and won. And went straight to heaven. Then I began to act more and more rigidly. And gradually fights became commonplace,” says Tom.

Tom liked to use force, he became more and more cool. "Normal" fights gradually escalated into brutal violence.

“Everyone knew you as a tough guy, respected for it. And I enjoyed that respect."

Rock Star Bodyguard

After a few months as a bouncer, Tom met guys who owned a security company. They, in particular, involved such rock bands as Oasis and Stereophonics.

“I have had a lot of accidents in my life. That's how it was at that time. They just fired one of the smaller bosses, like a foreman who was too addicted to cocaine. And I had the opportunity to test my strength. I had to distribute people on duty, always be aware of who is doing what and when.

Everyone who worked in this security firm had previously worked either in the special forces or in the police. Unexpectedly for himself, Tom was among those whom he had read about and who had been a role model for him for many years.

While Tom worked as a foreman of security guards, he was sent to bodyguard training. He, in particular, learned from the police to resolve conflicts, the technique of detention, and also went to courses for military drivers. And he was sent to shooting courses.

Gradually he was able to try his hand as a bodyguard. He began to work closely with the brothers Liam og Noel Gallagher from Oasis.

“At that time my dream came true. Both of them were quite rambunctious, but I behaved kindly and got along well with both."

At the time, Oasis was one of the most popular rock bands in the world. As a bodyguard, Tom had, in particular, to keep particularly annoying fans at bay.

“I remember that some even climbed over the fence of their house. Then we let them in with the Doberman that Noel had,” Tom grins.

Foreign mission

The owner of the security company where Tom worked had several other firms. One of them got a job in Iraq teaching Iraqi commandos how to shoot. This was shortly after the Americans took Baghdad during the second Gulf War.

“Here again everything turned out purely by chance. The chief wanted me to go with him. Well, I packed my backpack and went. On that trip, I was mostly running errands with the chef.”

In Iraq, the war was very close. Although President George W. Bush announced that "mission accomplished" (mission accomplished), peace in the Iraqi capital was still far away. From his room in a hotel in the Green Zone, he repeatedly saw other hotels fired from grenade launchers. Tanks rolled through the streets.

“It was some kind of sur. I went armed from head to toe, although I was just some kind of servant. But I felt the taste. Got a taste for the desert."

Yes, and such a thing as salary also played a role. They paid well, and this motivated me to the next trips abroad.

One day the boss came to him with application forms for a British passport. Because Tom had a British employer, permanent residence and a British driver's license, he could apply for British citizenship.

“When I received my passport, I saw that it was not my name that was written there. How the boss managed to pull this off, I don't know. I asked why this was, but he only told me that now they will always call me that when I travel abroad.

With a new passport, Tom was sent to Belize, South America.

"Started to think it was some kind of gamble, but actually I didn't ask many questions about what the boss had planned for me."

When he arrived in the former British colony, he met a group of British soldiers who were going to training in the jungle. He had to go with them.

“It was terribly hard. I felt really bad, flowing from all holes, but I continued to train. There were snakes, we ate snake hearts, and there was nothing there,” says Tom.

But the training was only a preparation for the next stage. Tom began to suspect that he wasn't trained to be a better bodyguard.

Soldiers in the gray zone

The private military industry has become a multibillion-dollar business. As a result of the war on terror, there were clearly not enough soldiers, and the industry itself began to receive more and more orders. Companies like Blackwater have made billions from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The American authorities were, without a doubt, the largest employer for these companies.

From 1991 to 2006 the number of private contractors working for the US government has tripled. The most productive year was 2008, when, according to the US military, there were 160,000 mercenaries in Iraq and 70,000 in Afghanistan. They worked for the Americans. And then there were those who worked for other countries.

Norwegian authorities do not know how many Norwegians work in this industry.

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“The military does not collect information about what our former employees do after their service with us has ended, we have no idea about it. And if former Norwegian military personnel engage in activities or commit acts that do not comply with Norwegian law, this is a matter for the police and the prosecutor's office, ”says Colonel Sven Halvorsen, spokesman for the Commander-in-Chief of the Norwegian Armed Forces.

From a legal point of view, working as a mercenary is not against the law. But a person does not participate in battles legally, he also does not have immunity to lawful hostilities. This means that mercenaries who are armed and operate where there is a military conflict can only use force when it comes to self-defense.

And mercenaries are considered civilians.

Although the number of mercenaries, for example, in Iraq and Afghanistan, has decreased significantly, it is still a very profitable business.

“Active piracy activity leads to the fact that there is a market for maritime contractors who provide security, protect merchant ships in the seas where pirates operate. There are private military firms operating in Africa. The South African community played a central role in the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria in 2015,” says Halvorsen.

The Norwegian authorities say they are not going to use the services of private contractors for military purposes or for the protection of prisoners.

Baptism of fire

When Tom returned from Belize to Southampton, the security firm moved. Tom has a new office in the basement.

“When I went down there, I saw a map of Africa and next to it was my name. It turned out that the boss was gathering people who were supposed to go to Sierra Leone.”

All those with whom Tom was supposed to go turned out to be mercenaries.

First they went to Guinea. There were crates of weapons in front of the hangar at the airport, crate upon crate. Some rifles and pistols had plaques with his name attached to them.

“Then I thought it would be hot. But he didn't ask questions. Then we went from Guinea to Sierra Leone. We didn't have a clear idea of ​​what we were going to do there."

After a while, Tom realized that they were in the country illegally.

Since the early 1990s, Sierra Leone has been engulfed in a bloody civil war. Thousands were killed, millions were forced to flee. Government troops and part of the militia fought with the rebels, referred to as the "Revolutionary United Front" (RUF). For private companies that took advantage of the opportunity and made money from the war, it was a real Eldorado.

Blackwater Mercenaries in Iraq

“There were more private contractors than UN soldiers. Plus, the Blue Helmets didn’t really go where it was the worst,” says Tom.

The work was very different. They guarded people from the government, diplomats and those who had to travel around the country.

They also trained the militia that supported the government forces.

Tom and his colleagues lived in a village a few miles from Freetown when they trained the militia. A small village with dugouts and a few crumbling stone buildings.

There are few civilians left in the village. Most were either killed or fled.

“Although the rebel soldiers were on the ‘right side’, they were not particularly pleasant people. Women were kidnapped from the enemy, raped. They didn’t kill them later, but they cut off their breasts so that if women had children later, they couldn’t feed them.”

Tom saw with his own eyes how people's hands and feet were cut off. In addition, many of the rebel soldiers were extremely superstitious.

“The worst thing was when they cut out the shameful lips of women. They then dried them and crushed them into powder. And then they sniffed this powder, mixing it with black powder and cocaine or amphetamine. They believed that this mixture would make them invincible."

Once Tom witnessed how two rebels in the camp raped a woman in the most monstrous way. Colleagues warned him never to interfere in anything, but then everything went dark before his eyes.

“I killed them both. I had a real breakdown, I stood and crumbled one of them until colleagues grabbed my arms and stopped me.

Other colleagues surrounded Tom to protect him from other rebels, who literally rattled their sabers. Friends pushed him into a car and drove him to another camp.

“In that camp, everything was almost the same, but no one bothered me like that there.”

To the Middle East

After Tom returned home from Sierra Leone, he again had a job as a bouncer, bodyguard and foreman of security guards. But from time to time there were assignments abroad. From time to time they became more and more difficult. He visited the Balkans, provided security on ships in the Indian Ocean, and also worked in the Middle East.

“I started flying more and more to Iraq and the Middle East. Officially, the war in Iraq was over, but in reality it was going on there in full force.”

The tasks of the private contractor were different. For example, to accompany people or materials from one city to another. Or just be a bodyguard.

But the Americans were looking for many of Saddam's former regime who had gone on the run. A reward was promised for their capture. This meant that private firms could also try their luck.

“If we worked for an oil company, we could send more people there than we actually needed there. This means that those who were not on duty could cheat. And no one could stop us from looking for people whom the Americans wanted to capture.”

In this way, private companies could make an incredible amount of money in Iraq. Because the reward for the capture could reach several million dollars.

“We could drive our cars, and there were also two helicopters that flew in front of us and lowered snipers onto the roofs. After we drove through, they were picked up and lowered onto the new roof as we went. You can imagine how much it cost to use two helicopters for such work,” says Tom.

And although working in Iraq was extremely dangerous, Tom was not afraid. Through training, he was able to cast off both fear and conscience.

“We traveled a lot in a convoy between Baghdad and Tikrit. There, the rebels usually took up positions on both sides of the road at a distance of a kilometer and fired at us all the time. But I wasn't scared. I probably have something in my genes, it turned me on, ”says Tom.

They usually went to such transport missions in armored vehicles.

But one day everything went wrong.

“We were transporting a quite trivial cargo - lumber - from Baghdad to some village. I was in one of the escort vehicles. At that time I was part of the so-called counter attack team. This meant that if the column was attacked, we would have to stop and defeat the attackers, and the rest of the column would continue to move.

The column was ambushed. The driver of one of the escort trucks panicked, and his car began to shake from side to side. He drove into the car in which Tom was, and it flew into a ditch at high speed. And although the car was armored, it was just soft-boiled.

The rest of the column continued on, while Tom and nine of his colleagues remained behind to fight the enemies who were in cover and were firing at them.

“I remember my back hurt like hell. But I continued to sit in the car and fired through the door, which was thrown open as a result of the accident. I fired and fired, all the magazines that were on my body were empty. And then there were no bullets left in the gun either.”

One of the colleagues dragged Tom out of the car and pushed him into the only car that was running. Before taking off, they threw two grenades at the wrecked car to make sure that none of the equipment there would fall into the hands of the rebels.

“I was taken to a German field hospital, they had to see what was wrong with my back. But I didn’t particularly bother about this, they gave me some kind of painkiller, and soon I left the hospital. And I didn’t think about my back anymore.”

After that incident, Tom and other colleagues traveled to Abu Dhabi to "let off steam".

“There were girls, wine and songs. And then back."

Karma

But life in the war zone gradually began to take its toll on Tom. Many of his friends were killed, others found other jobs.

“Before leaving home, I was close to suicide. I took on the most dangerous missions. The kind where they don't expect anyone to come back alive. And there were fewer and fewer professional assignments.”

Tom went home to Norway.

He had a girlfriend, and then they had twins. But despite the fact that he had children, he was not ready to give up his former way of life.

Life in the war zone has left its mark. He has no feelings for others - except for his two children.

Tom found himself in a somewhat vague world, began to "work" for a criminal biker club. He was arrested several times for using violence.

“It was so strange there. I once spent six months in a prison cell because I was a danger to other prisoners. At the same time, I had two children who came to visit me and were everything to me. But overall, I was exceptionally calm.”

Six months later, Tom was released from prison. But his back, which he injured in an accident in Iraq, worried him more and more. He underwent six operations, but the pain did not go away. He became disabled.

“I sat and felt that I had to do something. Use your abilities. I once watched the movie Machine Gun Preacher. As a result, I started looking for humanitarian organizations that might need my help.”

Tom found an organization that helped children in Africa. And now she is responsible for the safety of her employees when they are "in the field." All on a voluntary basis.

“We arrived at the place that the organization chose to provide assistance. And children rushed to me, about 800 people. And then something happened to me. It seemed to compensate me for all the bad things that I did, all the lives that I have on my conscience. It was karma."

Tom has a particularly good relationship with children who are former soldiers. He always attracted those with whom others did not want to do business.

“I think I'm looking for a balance. In the years when I did not live like this, I caused grief to many. I killed parents with children, I killed children who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And in order to understand myself, in my head, I need to get rid of karma. I believe in it,” says Tom.

He's doing well.

Today he is engaged to the head of the humanitarian organization he works for. Thanks to her and her humanitarian work, Tom looks at life with optimism again. They are expecting a baby, and life is slowly but surely becoming "normal".

Until recently, a super-cool mercenary turned into an accommodating father of the family. In the store, fellow villagers sometimes look askance at him. Not because he looks somehow intimidating, but because he allows children to paint his nails with varnish and decorate his face with cosmetics.

With karma, too, everything is gradually getting better.

“I regret that I lived like this before, in the sense that I could do something else, think about family, home, etc. But at the same time, it was the life that I lived that made me the way I am now. Karma is on the right track. I will obviously not be in the black, but, in any case, I am starting to find balance.

This is Tom's story. Much of what you have just read cannot be verified for authenticity, and besides, he avoids calling his colleagues by their names so that others are not embroiled in his story. However, this story provides a glimpse into a world where more and more people are becoming a part of, getting more and more tasks and taking on more and more tasks that were previously usually performed by ordinary soldiers.

People who find themselves in a legal gray area many times.

NRK contacted some of Tom's former colleagues, people in the same field. We also spoke with his psychiatrist, whom he has been seeing since returning home to Norway. All confirm the authenticity of his story.

We also saw photographs taken when he was a bodyguard for Oasis. But it was impossible to use them in the material because of the obligations he signed.

Source: Jørgen Pettersen, NRK, Norway