Follow TV Tropes


Former Regime Personnel

Go To
When a large autocracy, particularly one with a major military force, changes to a more liberal and pacifist style of government, you will find a lot of highly-trained people out of a job.

So, they frequently become Hired Guns. An aversion of Full-Circle Revolution, where they may all get new jobs in the new regime like nothing had changed.

The former USSR, Yugoslavia, and South Africa are good sources for them. Many members of The Mafiya may be ex-Soviet military or ex-KGB, as many were let go without a pension. Note that during the Cold War, it was kinda taboo among The Mafiya to accept ex-military or ex-KGB people, but during the Nineties it all broke. If the work is set during the War on Terror, expect them to be ex-members of the Iraqi Ba'ath party or any other Arab-Nationalist group. This is especially Truth in Television for many former Insurgents during the Iraq Insurgency and elsewhere, as they were fired by the Occupying Coalition Forces.

May or may not wear a Commissar Cap. When military personnel turn to crime without the country falling or undergoing some drastic change, that's From Camouflage to Criminal.

Contrast Dangerous Deserter.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Hotel Moscow from Black Lagoon is a Russian mob. The Roanapur section is built around ex-paratrooper Balalaika and her unit. There is also an internal rivalry between members with a military background versus members with an intelligence background.
  • Simon and Chief Chef of Russian Sushi in Durarara!! were both part of the KGB before the Soviet Union fell, after which they joined The Mafiya together. As of now, they're both hiding from the organization in Japan and one of them has become a major Atoner.
  • Monster takes place in post-unification Germany, and has some ex-members of secret GDR organizations.
  • Many characters in Rurouni Kenshin are former members of the Imperial or Shogunate forces, including Kenshin himself (a former assassin for the pro-Imperial side). Many of them have become criminals or swords-for-hire.
  • A fantasy version occurs in Fairy Gone, which is set on a continent that has recently concluded a massive war that ended with one empire dominating and annexing every other country. Several of the major characters are former soldiers from these now non-existent countries, and not all of them are happy with the new status quo.

    Comic Books 
  • Iron Man villain Boris Bullski, alias the Titanium Man, became a supervillainous mercenary following the collapse of the USSR. Several versions of the Crimson Dynamo have done the same.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blood Diamond:
    • Leonardo DiCaprio's character is a former Rhodesian mercenary turned diamond smuggler. His character is an inversion in this instance as Archer was never depicted as a former soldier of the Rhodesian state. He pretty much went straight into mercenary work (albeit under the wing of Colonel Coetzee) after the Rhodesia fell.
    • Colonel Coetzee is a straight example, as he became a mercenary when Apartheid ended in South Africa.
  • The terrorists in Die Hard with a Vengeance are ex-East German military agents.
  • The International. Wexler, the most disillusioned member of the IBBC, is revealed to be a once-fanatical communist and high-ranking member of the Stasi.
  • In The Lives of Others, the protagonist, a Stasi officer, ends up working as a postman after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • Yuri's uncle Dmitry in Lord of War is a Soviet General who is stationed in Ukraine when the Soviet Union collapses. When professional Arms Dealer Yuri tries to appeal to Dmitry to be the source for his guns and let Yuri make a fortune selling them on the black market, Dmitry protests and says he will have to report all this, until Yuri points out that now Moscow is in another country and they're free to use all the cool toys left behind for their own benefit.
  • Featured in The Pigs, a Polish film about former officers of the Polish Secret Police and their work as proper policemen in the independent, democratic Poland.
  • Most of the characters in Ronin (1998) are former spies and soldiers who were turfed out after the Cold War ended. They're explicitly compared to the Rōnin of Japanese history: master-less samurai, stripped of honor, Walking the Earth and working for money as bandits, mercenaries or bodyguards. Though one of the major characters never left their organization, playing The Mole in so they could neutralize the guy who hired the mercenaries.
  • In Apartment Zero, it turns out that Jack was part of the death squads in Argentina.
  • Nam Angels: Chard went through this twice, initially serving in Nazi Germany's Waffen-SS during World War II before ending up in the French Foreign Legion and being sent to their Vietnam colony. After the civil war happened, he broke off on his own and became a warlord.

  • James Bond features Colonel von Hammerstein in For Your Eyes Only. He used to be in the Gestapo, then after the war fled to the Caribbean and worked his way up through the ranks of a Cuban crime syndicate.
  • The Devil's Guard trilogy tells about former Waffen-SS paramilitaries in the French Foreign Legion fighting in the French-Indochina War.
  • One small part of Freedom gives us the viewpoint of a mercenary who used to serve in the regime of Romanian Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu.
  • In the Honor Harrington novels, the fall of the People's Republic of Haven and the restoration of the old Republic put State Sec's private navy out of a job. Those who weren't hunted down by the Navy fled the Republic, and typically turned pirate. Two were destroyed by HMS Hexapuma in Shadow of Saganami. Most were eventually rounded up into the People's Navy in Exile, which was effectively a mercenary organization employed by Manpower Incorporated. They launched an attack on Torch, only to be stopped by a Commodore Roszak of the Maya Sector.
    • The Grand Alliance puts in considerable effort into avoiding having too many of these around after they take out Mesa. Web Du Havel refers to the consequences of not avoiding it as the Freikorps Fuck-Up.
  • Popov from Rainbow Six is Ex-KGB now renting his services to stage terrorist incidents (originally just as security consultant). He pulls a Heel–Face Turn when he realizes his current employers are Omnicidal Maniacs.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Shadows In The Moonlight, Conan the Barbarian was one of the mercenaries of a rebel prince until he made his peace.
    I was one of those dissolute rogues, the Free Companions, who burned and looted along the borders. There were five thousand of us, from a score of races and tribes. We had been serving as mercenaries for a rebel prince in eastern Korb, most of us, and when he made peace with his cursed sovereign, we were out of employment; so we took to plundering the outlying dominions of Koth, Zamora and Turan impartially.
  • In The Sum of All Fears, the False Flag Operation that was part of the terrorists' plans to get the US and Soviet Union fighting one another was assisted by several former agents of the East German Stasi, who also arranged for the technical expert to work on the nuclear bomb they had acquired.
  • Stasiland notes that the former East German secret police have adapted quite well to capitalism, as the skills needed to recruit informers are not that different from those needed to sell products.
  • The Institute: The titular institute is staffed almost entirely by former military personnell, most of whom have no families or lost contact with the family they still had.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This becomes a problem in season 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. With the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. a large number of highly trained people are out of work and seeking new opportunities. Most went into the private sector or were hired by various US government agencies. Some went underground like Team Coulson in order to continue with their mission. However, many took whatever intelligence and/or secret technology they had and sold it to the highest bidder. In the worst cases, some were recruited willingly or unwillingly by HYDRA.
  • It’s strongly hinted in Breaking Bad that Gus Fring, who is originally from Chile, was involved in some way with the Pinochet regime back in The '80s, especially when Hector mockingly refers to him as the "generalissimo" and Don Eladio implies that Gus had a big reputation in his home country.
  • A good deal of ex-KGB personnel turn up in Burn Notice. Sometimes these are employed by Russian intelligence, sometimes they are not.
  • Game of Thrones: Much like House Stark, many of Dany's allies and clients come from individuals who held offices in rival and enemy regimes. Ser Jorah Mormont, her oldest ally and retainer, fought alongside King Robert Baratheon and Lord Eddard Stark against House Targaryen during the Rebellion. Ser Barristan was loyal to House Targaryen and fought alongside Rhaegar at the Battle of Trident but he was also Kingsguard to King Robert, and briefly, King Joffrey, Tyrion Lannister is the son of Lord Tywin, who was responsible for the Sack of King's Landing and Varys the Spider was a spy who has undermined many regimes, as are Theon and Yara Greyjoy.
  • MacGyver tackles multiple intelligence agencies during the series - once, he gets involved in a case of former-East German intelligence operatives trying to locate and retrieve their smuggled, stolen gold from the States.
  • When first introduced, the Gogol organization in Nikita likes to portray itself as a Russian version of Division. But Nikita knows that they are actually former Soviet intelligence officers who went into business for themselves and are mostly mercenaries.
  • Some are seen among the East European mob in The Sopranos.
  • Treadstone has two such groups
    • The closing down of Project Treadstone and Project Blackbriar resulted in a number of skilled scientists and agents being fired from the CIA. One doctor who specialized in brainwashing techniques now works as a stage hypnotist in Las Vegas. Of greater concern are a group of sleeper agents who have been abandoned by their controllers but are now being reactivated by a nefarious third party.
    • The other group are your classic ex-KGB agents who went into business for themselves. Petra is a zealous communist who spent the last twenty years guarding a nuclear missile as part of a KGB group dedicated to restoring the Soviet Union. When she re-emerges in the present day, she is furious to discover that her co-conspirators have abandoned the cause and are now planning on selling the missile to the highest bidder.
  • Downplayed, but defiantly present in Vikings. Earl Haraldsson has a group of bodyguards who are played by the same recurring extras. When Ragnar kills earl Haraldsson in a duel and takes over his position they continue to appear in the show as Ragnar's bodyguards. Some of them continue to appear well into season 5 and are notably the ones to carry Ragnar into Paris so he can perform his Batman Gambit.
    • In season 6, king Harald sends a cadre of warriors to take down Björn. One of them is a former member of Ivar's bodyguard that Björn sent into outlawry in the beginning of the season.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In BattleTech, some of the more prestigious mercenary companies are descendants of elite Star League regiments before the League's collapse, and can typically be counted on to be better behaved than is (stereo?)typically expected of mercenaries.

    Video Games 
  • In the Ace Combat series, a lot of Belkan officers and military personnel emigrated to other countries after their defeat in the Belkan War and an aggressive demilitarization of Belka by the Allies. Notable examples: Ashley Bernitz (Optional Boss in Zero mission 10) leads the Osean Grabacr Squadron in AC5; ditto Michael Heimeroth for Yuktobanian Ofnir Squadron; Wolfgang "Huckebein the Raven" Buchner a.k.a. Peter N. "Pops" Beagle became mechanic in Osea (though he defected before the war ended); it has been speculated that Erich Klinsmann (from the same mission) is actually Yellow 13 from AC04 and Axel Reichert (mission 5) is Scarface One from AC2; Lorenz Riedel (mission boss in mission 17, Soldier path) designed the Estovakian Airborne Aircraft Carriers in AC6; also, it's safe to assume that Belkan emigrants developed the Osean Arkbird laser, based on Excalibur, and the Yuktobanian Scinfaxi-class submarines in AC5. The Belkan War is one of the two seminal events of AC world history, along with the Ulysses meteorite.
  • Jagged Alliance: The Association of International Mercenaries has a lot of these types in its hiring hall, most notably Spetznas veteran Ivan Dolovich and the brilliant but abrasive and demanding merc known only as "Mike", although exactly which regime he used to work for is somewhat vague given that his bio mentions an in-universe rumour that he was the second Kennedy gunman...
  • The Metal Gear series features many examples, as the emotional motivations of soldiers is one of the series' main motifs, with many of the series' villains categorizing soldiers as people who need war, basically deducing that were there to be World Peace, people like them would create conflict just to have a purpose. Sergei Gurlukovich and Revolver Ocelot are both ex-Spetznaz, and Big Boss himself temporarily becomes a mercenary for hire after leaving the United States in Peace Walker. One heroic example, however, is Boris Popov in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, the head of Maverick Security and a former solder during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan.
  • Resident Evil
  • Star Trek Online: After the militaristic Cardassian government fell at the end of the Dominion War, treaty-imposed reductions in the Cardassian military meant a huge number of soldiers and spies were now unemployed and out of power, which they weren't too happy with. Gul Madred hires many of them into the mining league, which helps to restart the planet's economy. The mining league is a cover for the "True Way" terrorist group, which wants to re-institute the fascist, authoritarian powers of the past. A number of pre-Season 11 missions dealt with fighting back this group, and eventually capturing Gul Madred. Season 11 removed the bulk of this story and the True Way are now little more than a footnote in a conglomeration of Deep Space Nine call backs.
  • The mercenary companies available for hire in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty include several elite forces from the defeated Terran Confederacy, one from the defeated United Earth Directorate invasion force, and one that went rogue from the current (but threatened) iron-fisted dictatorship, the Dominion. The rest are typical thugs, pirates and adventure capitalists.
  • Deathstroke's single player ending in Injustice: Gods Among Us sees him recruiting members of Superman's fallen Regime to form his own mercenary outfit called the New Titans.
  • The Player Character in Harebrained Schemes' Battletech is a former noble and royal guard of the Aurigan Coalition who was ousted (alongside the coalition's leadership) during a coup, and end up becoming a mercenary. The main story of the game involves you being hired by said ousted leadership in an attempt to overthrow the ones behind the coup and their government.
  • Most of the aliens from XCOM: Chimera Squad are effectively this, with the regime in question being ADVENT which was defeated in XCOM2.

    Web Comics 
  • Several mercenaries from Schlock Mercenary got their starts in formal military commands. Kaff Tagon and Gunther Thurl are both former UNS personel, and the most famous mercenary In-Universe, Colonel Drake Pranger of "Pranger's Bangers" was a colonel in the Daern military before being downsized by a pacifist government. In accordance to this trope Pranger later found himself employed by the Daern government putting down a revolt, though after successfully putting it down (causing a peaceful regime change in the process) he responded to an offer of his old job back with a polite refusal and a number of not-so-polite hand gestures behind their backs, and went back to being a mercenary.

    Web Original 
  • The Fire Never Dies:
    • Many American officers and soldiers who opposed the Revolution but survived it choose to take their skills elsewhere:
      • Dwight D. Eisenhower moves to Germany.
      • A significant number of former US Navy personnel, including Vice Admiral Austin Knight, offer their services to China.
      • Admiral William Caperton ends up as an instructor for the Royal South African Navy.
      • The failed coup in Haiti is supported by mercenaries who previously fought for the United States and the Mexican Constitutionalists.

    Real Life 
  • It is often said (how often it is, usually depends on one's political views) that many former members of secret police of USSR and Eastern Europe ended up as mobsters or businessmen (to be exact, businessmen of a kind which is hard to distinguish from "honest" mobsters).
  • With the fall of the apartheid government in South Africa there were an awful lot of highly trained special forces and police paramilitaries who were no longer wanted in their nation's service. South Africa became the centre for various mercenary companies until restrictions came into place in 1998.
  • A positive version: during the Italian Resistance and the Italian Civil War, most of the anti-Axis Italian partisans were former members of the Royal Italian Armed Forces who had previously served the fascist government of Benito Mussolini. When Italy switched sides, the Germans quickly occupied northern and central Italy while the Anglo-Americans grabbed the south, and attempted to imprison all members of the Italian armies before they could switch sides. The soldiers who escaped made up the core of the Allied-backed partisan cadres that then gave the German-RSI Army Group C no end of trouble over the next two years.
  • After the World War One ceasefire and the signing of Treaty of Versailles, the German army was restricted to just 100,000 men, as well as the disbandment of much of the navy and the entire airforce. Many ex-soldiers joined right-wing organizations, blaming the then current government (a left-wing one), for the signing of the Treaty, which also took away a lot of German land. Much of the Nazi Party was made up of this trope - Hitler was a decorated soldier. The Communist Party also attracted a good number of former conscripts, in Germany and elsewhere; a lot of veterans of the trenches came home with very little reason to love the regime that had sent them there.
  • Happened again after WWII, with the added distastefulness of lots of Nazis finding work with their former enemies. Gestapo personnel, German scientists, and other potential assets were recruited by both sides in the Cold War, and Nazi soldiers worked throughout Europe as anti-communist activists (with varying levels of violence and government support). A fair number also made their way to other places with communist threats, and one (Special Operations chief Colonel Otto Skorzeny) trained various Arab armies for a while (they eventually ditched him in favor of Soviets, and then Americans in the case of post-Camp David Egypt).
  • On the American front, the U.S. heavily downsized its army after the war ended. A lot of out-of-work veterans came home to various American cities and joined the various criminal gangs in their communities. The Irish Mob and The Mafia, in particular, recruited a lot of their muscle from this pool.
  • The French Foreign Legion has been giving such individuals gainful employment that puts their skills to good use almost as long as it has existed. They try to screen out anyone who's wanted for war crimes these days, though in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War they weren't in a position to be so choosy.
  • After Baghdad fell to the US Army, the interim government fired all Baath Party-related military and civilian personnel and barred them from participating. Since being part of the party was the only real way of advancing through the ranks during the Saddam era, many people had joined up simply to survive, have a decent income or help their communities without necessarily supporting Saddam. The firing of the civilian personnel left Iraq without vital utilities (water and electricity) that wouldn't be restored to pre-Saddam levels until 2008 and the firing of the military/police personnel caused anarchy to break out within hours of the Coalition taking control. A lot of these people also took their expertise to the insurgency, thus bolstering its ranks with knowledge and equipment. As the core of the Ba'athist Iraqi Army were Sunni Arabs, thus giving them a nigh-infinite supply of arms and trained men, this contributed to the following insurgency having Sunni Arabs being responsible for the bulk of killings despite constituting only about a fifth of the Iraqi population.
    • It’s alleged that ISIS was receiving a lot of behind the scenes support from former Ba’ath officials and military officers.
  • In the Philippines, the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 was triggered in part by defecting military and police leadership, many of whom—largely due to the lack of suitable alternatives to keep the country running—stayed on when the Cory Aquino government took over, either in a continued if modified version of their former military and police roles, or else shifting into civilian politics and public administration. One of the leaders of the 1986 People Power "revolt"—police general Fidel V. Ramos—eventually succeeded Cory as President in 1992; another—Martial Law-era defence minister Juan Ponce Enrile—joined the post-1986 Philippine Senate on and off.note 
  • The "Los Zetas" cartel in Mexico was founded by former Mexican special forces who, allegedly, were trained by the US Army at the School of the Americas at Fort Bragg.
  • A number of former Soviet soldiers now run training seminars dedicated to self-defense and firearms instruction in America and Canada. Two of the most well-known examples are Saulius "Sonny" Puzikas and Maxim Franz. They appeared on the "Green Berets vs. Spetsnaz" episode of Deadliest Warrior. More infamously, Sonny is also known for an incident where he negligently shot a fellow instructor during a training course in 2012. Fortunately, the instructor survived. Another prominent former USSR soldier who runs similar training seminars is Vladimir Vasiliev, who moved to Canada in 1993 and now resides in Toronto.
  • After the American Civil War ended, several soldiers and officers from both sides went to advise the Khedive of Egypt and to train his army. Ultimately it was all for nought as the British took over anyway.
  • During the 1980s and 1990s, China underwent a significant period of modernization and economic reform after Mao Zedong died. A major aspect of this process involved the Chinese Communist Party's civilian government working to downsize the Chinese military and break up the PLA's nationwide business empire,note  which it was using to finance itself and operate as a state within a state. A lot of PLA soldiers found themselves discharged and being unable to reintegrate into civilian life, a large number of them turned to crime, especially in Hong Kong. For an almost 15 year period until Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997, many ex-PLA soldiers were involved in violent robberies and shootings under the direction of Triad gangs and other organized crime syndicates, helped by their access to fully automatic firearms and explosives. Many of the wild shootouts in John Woo's early Heroic Bloodshed movies were inspired by the crime wave sweeping Hong Kong at the time of filming.
  • After the Bolsheviks won the Civil War following the Red October many White Emigres, who were once soldiers and officers in the Imperial Russian Army fled Russia and became mercenaries and military advisors during the Warlord Era (1916-1930) in China. The Fengtian Clique under Marshal Zhang Zhuolin and Zhili Clique under Wu Peifu who’s White Russian Cossacks were feared by the Chinese populace for their brutality. Former White Army personal also provided most of the warlord armies armored trains.