While most people think of the story of The Punisher as one that's about a Military Man Gone Rogue, showrunner Steve Lightfoot is also using it to say interesting things about the Military Industrial Complex, and the state of endless war we've found ourselves in since 2001. There are meditations on what soldiers do with themselves when they come home, for instance, as well as the PTSD many are left with. Then there's how the US chooses to fight our wars, including the use of companies like Anvil. What is Anvil on The Punisher? Who runs it, and what exactly is this company trying to do?
Most of us who are not in the military have no idea what it is our country is doing overseas in the Middle East and Central Asia. We're vaguely aware of operations that kill soldiers every so often, but most of the time we don't question, and they don't tell us.
But one of the biggest changes in the way the United States wages war in the 21st century is the use of what are called "military contractors." Known on the ground as PMCs (standing for "Private Military Companies"), these companies aren't contractors like ones hired to work on your home, or to outsource services to their company. These are companies that actually provide armed combat and/or security services, aka soldiers who are doing it for a much larger salary than they would have if they were in the actual US military.
The polite term for these men are the "private military industry" or "The Circuit." The less polite term is "mercenaries." That's not my phrase, it's the one used by the UN for these kinds of companies, and 35 countries have banned their usage. Unfortunately, ours wasn't one of them.
In the world of The Punisher, the company we see that's providing these services is owned by Frank Castle's old marine buddy Billy Russo. He hires ex-military, trains them and then sends them back overseas. One of those who he hires is Lewis Walcott, a young vet who isn't adjusting well to civilian life, and thinks he needs to go back to the war zone, because that's the only place he was comfortable.
Russo would probably have sent Walcott back too, and not have thought twice about how badly it would affect the kid. But Curtis Hoyle drops by and points out that the army he sends over is only as good as it's weakest link, and that Lewis is a soldier on the verge of a nervous breakdown. How useful is that to a company that prides itself on only sending the best and the strongest to the war zone? Exactly. Russo decides to let Walcott go, revealing as he does it was Hoyle who convinced him. The entire thing sends the kid into a spiral that ends badly for all involved.
Anvil also provides other services as well, to the United States government, in forms of training exercises for their agents, many of whom are former soldiers who just need to keep their training in shape. It's via this route that Russo meets Agent Madani, recently returned from Kandahar, and now working in Homeland Security. She also just happens to be the woman who is trying to track down Frank Castle and those who were part of the Black Ops unit both Castle and Russo were in.
Russo is presented at first as one of the good guys, the kind who defends the memory of Frank Castle to the death, and then tries to track Castle down to help get him out of the country once he learns Frank is alive. But the fact that he runs a company like this is a large red flag that Russo is not the good guy he seems.