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America's Covert Warriors

America’s Covert Warriors by Shawn Engbrecht. Potomac Books, 2011, 256 pp.

Doubtless, one of the reasons for the remarkable growth in the use of contractors in our recent conflicts is to hold down public dismay at the losses of military sons and daughters. Shawn Engbrecht speaks with knowledge of experience on both sides of the street—he was a member of the US Army’s Ranger force for several years, and he has since been involved in overseas contractor work as well as in the training of new contractor personnel in the United States prior to their deployment. In America’s Covert Warriors, he does allow that some contractors deliver valuable services for a reasonable price. But more memorable are his many horror stories about violence and corruption among US covert warriors.

According to Engbrecht, the recruitment of uniformed warriors and their training is a very expensive process; their use in menial tasks involved in the noncombat, logistical end of military deployments is wasteful. Those functions can often be done more cheaply, and occasionally better, by private military contractors. Though sometimes contractors hired for armed security functions can be effective, that part of the work is the more troublesome. There are substantial numbers of operators promising more than they can (or intend to) deliver, and who are in it for a fast buck. They often recruit from all over the world, do not give new people proper screening or training, and subject them to rough treatment.

Engbrecht is heavily reliant on interviews and sometimes does not even identify his sources (often for good reason). Some readers are likely to assume that he includes especially gruesome quotes for the sake of sensation. Doubtless he is even correct in asserting that some individuals are employed who are misfits unequal to the work and others are bloodthirsty, even killing for the sake of killing.

David R. Mets, PhD

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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