organized force, possibly armed, other than the regular military

Paramilitary describes forces which are organised as military forces, but are not part of the Armed Forces. Examples of such forces are police forces guarding the borders of a country. There are paramilitary groups that are official (run by a country), and others that are not.

US Marshals in Houston

The name comes from Greek para (which means beside) and Latin miles (which means soldier).

Military compared to paramilitary

Paramilitary forces usually tend to wear similar but different uniforms to the military, for instance gray "urban camouflage".

Though a paramilitary is not a military force, it is usually equivalent to a military's light infantry force in terms of intensity, firepower, and organizational structure. Paramilitary forces and organisations use "military" equipment, skills, tactics etc that are compatable with the civilian sector (IE: Urban environments etc). During peacetime, Paramilitary professions are usually found in areas such as high profile non-military sites such as laboratories, nuclear power plants, industrial explosive factories, seaports, airports, borders and government sites such as embassies, palaces, political summits etc tasked with roles of VIP protection, anti-terrorism etc. A paramilitary may also commonly fall under the command of a military, even despite not being part of the military or play an assisting role for the military in times of war.

Paramilitary forces can also include private military company missions.

Quasi-military compared to Paramilitary


Although similar, a quasi-military organisation has more near-identical to military aspects (i.e., militia, mercenary, insurgency, guerrilla, terrorist, rebel, drug cartel, private army, etc.) whereas a paramilitary is its own (i.e., internal security, SWAT, coast guard, border guard, etc.).[1]

Examples of Paramilitary Organizations


Law Enforcement

  • Police departments of many countries are organized in a manner similar to military forces.
  • SWAT teams of some American police departments: trained to handle high-risk situations that regular police officers are not as qualified to handle such as hostage rescue, counter-terrorism missions, and arresting particularly dangerous criminals.

Government Agencies

  • Special Activities Center of the Central Intelligence Agency: a unit of the CIA whose missions often require a great deal of secrecy and carefulness. Most members of this unit are recruited from special forces units from all over the United States military. Their main mission is to collect intelligence on countries hostile to the United States; most CIA operatives killed in the line of duty have been members of the Special Activities Division.


  • The SS and SA of Nazi Germany: the SS was the successor to the SA, but for the most part, both groups handled the same responsibilities. They were originally bodyguards to Adolf Hitler, but as the war heated up, they were assigned to oversee concentration camps as guards and administrators. While not an official part of Germany's military, the SS had an armed branch that was trained as a regular military unit.


  1. "Quasimilitary vs Paramilitary - What's the difference?". 19 January 2016.