CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS: The Nepali Gurkha in International Security Contracting

Two Gurkha security contractors in Iraq

“If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha”
~ Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw
Former Chief of staff of the Indian Army

If you work in the Civilian Contracting business as a PSC (Private Security Contractor) one of the most common things you will do is work side by side with ex-military guys recruited from countries around the world (oftentimes referred to as “TCN Guards” [1]). The US Department of Defense allows PMC’s (Private Military Contractors) to hire these individuals for security jobs on Military Bases because they are able to have experienced ex-soldiers for security operations at a fraction of the cost of an American or Brit.

These TCN Guards are always recruited from parts of the 3rd world, with Asia and now Africa being the most popular recruiting grounds for PMC’s looking for the unemployed ex-soldier. But ex-Brit Gurkhas have always been the first choice when PMC’s are looking to recruit highly skilled and disciplined ex- soldiers from the 3rd world.

Most ex-Gurkha PSC’s work on Force Protection contracts doing everything from checking ID’s at gates to manning ECP’s, with the majority of the contracts in the Middle East. Some ex-Gurkha PSC’s work in higher risk jobs like convoy escort, I remember seeing these guys running the roads as turret gunners back in 03-05 during the “golden years” of security contracting work in Iraq.

Being a big Military history buff I was already somewhat familiar with the history of the Gurkhas before I started working overseas as a PSC. The story of the Gurkhas working for foreign Army’s all started back in the early 1800’s when the British East India Company rolled into Nepal thinking they could just throw up the Union Jack and start building white columned colonial houses after crushing whatever native resistance there was – well, they were in for a bit of a surprise.

2nd Gurkha Light Infantry Circa 1890

“Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali” – Translation: “Glory be to the Goddess of War, here come the Gurkhas!”
~ The Gurkha War Cry

The Gurkha was not the rock throwing native adversary the British East India Company Army was used to fighting. After getting their ass whooped into a stalemate with Nepal after fighting the Gurkhas for 3 years the British were so impressed with their bravery and fighting skills they ended up hiring them into the British Army after a protectorate deal between Nepal and Britain was reached.

From then on the Nepali Gurkhas have fought in the British Army in every war and conflict the United Kingdom has been involved in. From the First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars in the mid-1800’s to World War I and II in the beginning of the 20 century the Nepali Gurkha has bravely fought and died in service to the United Kingdom.

To this day Gurkhas still serve in the British Military; besides the UK other countries have also recruited Gurkhas into their Military and Police Forces. You will see Gurkhas working as Policemen in Singapore, Brunei and Hong Kong, as royal guards in Qatar and as soldiers in the Indian Army.

Gurkhas working as police officers at the Singapore Changi Airport Wearing the felt fedora (Gurkha Hat) traditionally worn by the Royal Gurkha Riffles

“10 Expat PSC’s aren’t equal to 1 Gurkha PSC – These self entitled US or UK PSC’s always have sand in their vaginas despite the fact they get paid 20 times more and do 1/50th the amount of work an ex-Gurkha PSC does.”

~ John Smith [2]
Security Contractor, Convoy Escort TL
Baghdad, Iraq 2004

Considering how brave, disciplined and fierce the Gurkha is, it is no wonder the private military industry has tapped into the large pool of ex-Brit Gurkhas for international security work. Back in my late 20’s when I first started working in Security Contracting pretty much all TCN PSC’s were ex-Gurkhas.

Having had the pleasure of working side by side with Gurkhas a few times throughout my contracting career I can attest to their discipline and professionalism. Out of all the groups of people I have worked with the ex-Brit Gurkha is by far my favorite.

You will never meet an ex-Brit Gurkha PSC who has the Douchebag Affliction shirt wearing, beard growing, shitty attitude that is unfortunately so prevalent in this industry these days. These guys have zero ego despite having more combat experience in their pinky than most people have in their entire body – and I am talking about old school combat experience like “wearing face-paint in the jungle” type of fighting.

British Army Gurkhas wielding their Kukri knives

“As I write these last words, my thoughts return to you who were my comrades, the stubborn and indomitable peasants of Nepal. Once more I hear the laughter with which you greeted every hardship. Once more I see you in your bivouacs or about your fires, on forced march or in the trenches, now shivering with wet and cold, now scorched by a pitiless and burning sun. Uncomplaining you endure hunger and thirst and wounds; and at the last your unwavering lines disappear into the smoke and wrath of battle. Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you.”

~ Professor Sir Ralph Turner, MC
3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles
World War I

Old Sir Ralph couldn’t be more accurate in his description of the Gurkha, these guys will work a 12 hour shift on their feet in 130 degree weather for years and never cry or bitch about it once. Not only that, they will be polite to you the entire time – this is one of the things that separate the Gurkhas from all other PSC’s – they are nice guys.

Now you may be thinking “what does being nice have to do with shootin’ and lootin’?” – well, when you have to work all day long with someone in the blazing Middle Eastern sun or on an extremely dangerous and stressful gig in some hell-hole excuse of a failed state, then being surrounded by guys who are not ass-holes is a pretty big deal.

And from a PMC business standpoint having employees who are polite and friendly (especially for force protection contracts) is just a wise business decision – how your people on the ground interact with the customer and the public directly reflects on the company they work for.

I remember when I started hearing people complain about how “rude the guards were,” when the ex-Brit Gurkha PSC’s doing force protection in the IZ (International Zone Baghdad, Iraq) were replaced by South Americans and then Africans.

The 25th Royal Gurkha Rifles marching through Kure, Japan soon after their arrival in Japan as part of the Allied forces of occupation

And you want to talk about bravery? This is a story from a WW II vet [3]:

“I saw a group of Gurkhas assaulting a trench full of Germans; most of the Gurkhas were killed or wounded while trying to take the trench, when the last Gurkha ran out of ammo he pulled out his Kukri and jumped into the trench. He then ran down the trench line lobbing off the heads of every German in his path – the last few Germans at the end of the trench were so horrified at seeing this they threw down their guns and ran away”

Now how bad-ass it that? This Gurkha was so fucking hard-core that Nazis’ with machine guns threw their guns down and ran away at the very sight of him armed with only a knife. That shit is pimp, stories like that give me a hard-on.

In Conclusion…

The future of Gurkhas in Security Contracting is unclear these days; the US Military is ever whittling down the money for security contracts in war zones. One of the results of this disturbing trend is the PMC’s have less money to pay their TCN Guard Force. So most PMC’s have resorted to using ex-soldiers from the poorest countries in the world (Uganda for instance). An ex-Brit Gurkha PSC makes about 1200+ bucks a month versus 400 a month for an ex- soldier from Uganda – you do the math.

I think the Ugandans I have run into and have personally worked with in the past were good guys, and the American and Brit PSC’s I know who supervise and work with them in Iraq now generally say that Ugandans are good guards outside of some minor behavioral quirks (but they would not work out on the roads with them). So I am by no means hatin’ on Ugandan PSC’s.

But no one can deny that an ex-Gurkha who was trained by and served in the British Army combined with the long warrior history of the Gurkha working in foreign lands as quasi-mercenaries simply produces a superior PSC than an unstable 3rd world Army with a laundry list of human rights violations in a failed state does.

But like everything else in life it is all about the Benjamin’s, and if the US Military insists on continuing its trend of considering cost over quality when putting security contracts out for bid then the future of ex-Brit Gurkha PSC’s working in places like Iraq is pretty grim.

A British Army Gurkha in Afghanistan

[1] Some people within the Civilian Contracting community consider the term “TCN” to be derogatory in nature. There is a lot of debate about this that I won’t get into here, but my using the term “TCN” in this article is in no way intended to be an insult to anyone.
[2] Real name withheld for OPSEC, this guy is still an active security contractor
[3] I heard it on a documentary, can’t remember which one offhand
[Note] Gurkha, Gorkha and Ghurka are all common spellings, I chose Gurkha for no particular reason except it was the first

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~James G
Founder – Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and getting drunk under the table by Gurkhas. James G. on FACEBOOK

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27 thoughts on “CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS: The Nepali Gurkha in International Security Contracting”

  1. These pimps are straight-up “Popping heads off like dandelions with their Kukri while eating a sandwich and texting their girlfriend at the same time” warriors

    They can also drink me under the table, and considering how much of an alcoholic I am you have to respect that.

    ~James G

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  2. Hello James.

    With all my huge respect for Gurkhas, you obviously have not been drinking with anyone from Eastern Europe in general and Poland in particular. :)

    PS
    It’s really great to read your articles, please, keep up the good work and stay safe!

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  3. I worked with a couple of these guys and they are amazing to work with. They helped bring me to a whole new level of professionalism. No bitching about the heat, or the job or the Aholes in charge. Great guys, I keep in touch with one of them. Amazingly nice and down to earth guy that is just hardcore. And it is indicative of the whole lot of them. And it is always nice to work with people that aren’t douche bags.

    One of my Profs for my Masters ran an endurance study with some of these guys and they have an insane amount of endurance. They ran, multiple marathons, hiked and kayaked in 3 different countries and three drastically different climates and didn’t bitch, and other than their severe blisters on their feet, there was little telling of the excruciating amount of effort they put forth during the study. It was insane. There is no freaking way I could do any of that and I am in good freaking shape.

    Great article James, not many guys around know about the Ghurkas and how truly amazing these people are. Thanks.

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  4. Good to see them get credit openly. Those that have worked with them know most of what you say but like a Navy chief once taught me, “Praise in public, criticize in private.”

    Good article on some really good guys. I would take a Nepali in the foxhole next to me any day.

    “Doc” up!

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  5. I played Rugby w/the commander of the UN Force Gurkhas in Korea years ago and he had noting but praise for these guys. Things I have heard:

    Since entering His/Her majesty’s service almost 200 years ago, not a single Gurkha has ever deserted.

    Gurkha combat rifle load is 20 rounds. Their combat philosophy is to close on the enemy with those 20 rounds, and use the Kukri to eliminate the enemy.

    Literally thousands of Gurkhas apply each year to join HM Royal Gurkhas and only around 300 are chosen.

    On the few occasions I have encountered these warriors, I have found myself envying these guys, almost wishing I had been born in Nepal.

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  6. Those guys are some of the most switched on dudes I have come across. I haven’t worked with them, but have been around them and I was impressed.

    D

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  7. James,

    I know these guys from the second world war. I was in Malay fighting for allied force against Japan. During the war, I fought together with Gurkha regiment of East India Company. I’m a eyewitness of VC decorated gurkha gallants who beheaded Japanese with Khukuri. They were never afraid to go on frontier. Frankly, I’ve never seen brave fighters like them, very disciplined and trustful. They never back off from the front line. Therefore, they are still the strength of British army. Good article … want to hear more about them …

    Joshua

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  8. I read a great article on the Gurkha a while back that said pretty much the same stuff (only less in-depth):

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10782099

    It’s unfortunate, but a lot of these guys are dealt a raw deal at the end of their service. Doubly unfortunate considering how they are all living avatars of the infinite energy of the God of Badassery.

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  9. James, you should check out the book “The deadliest men” by Paul Kirchner. Its a hillarious ensemble of badass mofo’s from across the ages, and the Ghurkas have their own chapter. Some of the stories in there are obscene, like in WW2 ghurkas jumping into Nazi tanks and “scraping them out” with their Khukri’s.

    http://www.amazon.com/Deadliest-Men-Worlds-Combatants-Throughout/dp/1581602715/ref=pd_sim_b_1

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  10. Sweet, thanks I will pick up a copy

    ~James G

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    1. I know of Gurkhas only by what I’ve read, but there are some other great books to check out. First, James MacDonald Frasier’s WWII memoir “Quartered Safe Out Here” touches on his interactions with the Gurkhas.

      Then a unique trio of books, written by three different junior officers who all led Gurkhas in the same unit during the fight against the Japanese, culminating in the battle at Myktina in the Burma Campaign.

      In no particular order: A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN THE 8TH GURKHA RIFLES : A Burma Memoir by Scott Gilmore; Green Shadows: A Gurkha Story by Denis Sheil-Small; and “A Child at Arms” by Patrick Davis.

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  11. As a testament to these fearless little warriors from Nepal, is a story (that can be verified) from the Falklands Conflict. The Argentinians were dug in on one of the mountains leading up to Port Stanley and were intent on making a fight of it. When they were told that they would be up against the Gurkhas, to a man, they either surrendered or fled, without a shot being fired. Of course, the Ghurkas were very disappointed with this outcome but I think it speaks volumes of the reputation of these tough little fighters.

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  12. Tnx for the great write up and a little well deserved PR for these fellows….have many friends, relatives,et al some done with, some still serving…. Yes, it is a shame that a lot of them are getting a raw deal at the end of the careers in the Brit and Indian armies…. but also good to know that opportunities now abound where their skills are well received and appreciated.

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  13. I played Rugby w/the commander of the UN Force Gurkhas in Korea years ago and he had noting but praise for these guys. Things I have heard:Since entering His/Her majesty’s service almost 200 years ago, not a single Gurkha has ever deserted.Gurkha combat rifle load is 20 rounds. Their combat philosophy is to close on the enemy with those 20 rounds, and use the Kukri to eliminate the enemy.Literally thousands of Gurkhas apply each year to join HM Royal Gurkhas and only around 300 are chosen.On the few occasions I have encountered these warriors, I have found myself envying these guys, almost wishing I had been born in Nepal.
      

    your bad luck mate…….

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  14. Saw this and thought of you James….

    http://www.badassoftheweek.com/shrestha.html

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  15. Does anybody know here Ian Gordon is. I worked with him and his Gurkha’s in Iraq?
    Aloha
    Van

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  16. Since this is a “TCN” article I thought I would inject that the Kenyans that serve with SOC are not at all like the Ugs that serve with SOC. They share a skin tone and a bit of language but the level of professionalism, dedication and genteel politeness is on an order of magnitude above any other country I have served with. While I don’t know what working outside the wire would be like with them, I would use them and stand beside them in any static position necessary. The ugs do not have that same appellation from me.

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  17. I worked along side the Gurkha’s in Sierra Leone and Bosnia and they are a absolutely, without question the best group of individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Don’t bloody eat their food though, they take you out faster than getting slotted.

    Peace

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  18. James,

    A very interesting article, many thanks, but a lot of the guys you will have met (especially on the lower salaries you mention) will be ex Indian Army Gurkhas. The Indian Army has nearly 40 Gurkha battalions as opposed to the British Army’s 2. Both are full of excellent soldiers who make outstanding security personnel for many of the reasons you mention (my company manages over a thousand of them currently). Unfortunately, many ‘Gurkhas’ in the business are nothing of the sort – many are just Nepalis with limited experience in the Nepal Police or Army, which is not the same thing at all.

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  19. I read a great article on the Gurkha a while back that said pretty much the same stuff (only less in-depth):

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10782099

    It’s unfortunate, but a lot of these guys are dealt a raw deal at the end of their service. Doubly unfortunate considering how they are all living avatars of the infinite energy of the God of Badassery.

    My cousin is Joanna Lumley.
    She is the ‘face’ of the Gurkha Trust today and her involvement and the outcry of the British people made the Government do an about face in regards to granting retired Gurkhas British citizenship and residency.

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  20. Does anybody know here Ian Gordon is. I worked with him and his Gurkha’s in Iraq?
    Aloha
    Van

    Ian Gordon runs IDG Security.

    http://www.idg-security.com/

    You can contact him via the contacts link on the IDG webpage.

    Former Gurkha officer Ian Gordon is also mentioned in this article in 2012 in the UK.

    http://www.gwt.org.uk/news/320/trailwalker-2012/

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    1. Jaq thank you very much for the info. I forgot his company name. Ian was a quick witted brave soul. I enjoyed working with him. I have contacted him via email. Again thank you.
      Van

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  21. Gurkha’s fall prey to human trafficking as cheap PSC’s in Afghanistan…

    http://oped.ca/National-Post/heidi-kingstone-human-trafficking-afghan-style/

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  22. I have found myself envying these guys, almost wishing I had been born in Nepal.

    Hat’s off …….

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  23. These are tough dudes. As a Britisher i am glad they are on our side mate. Loyal, friendly, brave, and tough as an ox. That is a gurkha for you. Cheers

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