Overseas Civilian Contractors

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Security Contractors War Zone Blogging

Meet the New Frontline Bloggers: Security Contractors

By Noah Shachtman  The Danger Room

The frontline soldier blogs have largely come and gone — victims of the military’s confusing, often contradictory, approach to social media. But you can still get unfiltered reports, straight from Afghanistan’s warzones. Private security contractors are now writing the new must-read online diaries from the battlefield. And they’re as raw and brutally honest as anything written by a blogger in uniform.

While support for the troops has been near-universal in our current words, contractors have been demonized as lawless, bloodthirsty guns-for-hire. (It’s a trap I’ve been accused, not without reason, of falling into myself.) These blogs show how shallow that stereotype can be.

Today was a bad one – so many things happening all at once and I’m feeling the pressure.  I feel a bit like a spinning top and am experiencing that classic loneliness of command in that I have no-one I can vent to or confide in.  I have to stay cool and in control, keep a smile on my face and boost the rest of the lads when they are feeling the pressure. It’s bloody hard to do some days,” writes the pseudonymous “Centurion” on his blog, Kandahar Diary.

A BBIED (suicide bomber) walked into the middle of one of my convoys today, stuck in traffic on Route 1, and detonated. One guard KIA, 4 WIA (seriously).  Not long after, a truck on another convoy tripped an IED – damaged vehicle, nil injuries – and my guard force travelling [sic] from here to Ghazni were contacted by fairly heavy small arms fire – thankfully, no injuries….

As this was all happening I was scratching my head on a budget reconciliation.  The whole exercise seemed kind of pointless to me given what was happening on the ground, and I found myself contemplating the budget line item simply titled ‘Coffins’.

…I’m thinking a lot about home and L and the kids.  I miss them terribly and worry how they are coping without me.

The best known of these contractor-bloggers is Tim Lynch (pictured). He owns the small security consultancy Free Range International, currently operating in Afghanistan. As an independent operator, he’s able to publicly critique the war effort in ways that most bloggers in uniform can’t. “Our fundamental problem in Afghanistan is that we are fighting on behalf of a central government which is not considered legitimate by a vast majority of the population,” Lynch wrote in a recent post.

And to make matters worse, he added, the majority of the American-led International Security Assistance Force are holed up in concrete-reinforced Forward Operating Bases, where picayune rules about dress code, chow hall passes, and speed limits seem to occupy more minds than the fighting outside.

Napoleon said that in war “the moral is to the physical as three is to one.” This is the consequence of fronting a government which abuses the population and international guests alike.  If the ISAF soldiers were methodically clearing areas of Taliban and then assisting in the establishment of law and order, governance and services which serve the people, and that the people appreciate, we would be achieving moral ascendancy.  But that is impossible because the vast majority of troops are based on FOB’s and never leave them, and there is no legitimate government with which to entrust areas we have cleared.  So now that we are unable to do what is important, the unimportant has become important and the mark of military virtue is the enforcement of petty policies like the mandatory wearing of eye protection at all times while outdoors.

The blogging contractors represent only a small minority of the tens of thousands of hands-for-hire employed by western militaries in Afghanistan. Most of the security firms have strict prohibitions against discussing their business in public. But the ones that do talk can be just as harsh as Lynch. Take “Paladin Six,” who writes at Knights of Afghanistan.

“Basically, everyone here, from the lowliest shopkeeper to the highest government official is in a mad scramble to grab every Afghani, rupee, ruble and dollar that they can get their hands on before ISAF finally bails out and this place returns to the Dark Ages from whence it came,” he writes. “Yeah, I’m looking at you [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai. And your scumbag brother too.”

These writers don’t just bitch about the military and their partners in Kabul. Lynch, in particular, is an equal-opportunity basher of the boneheaded. “There is a group of rogue contractors working the border from Spin Boldak to Kandahar who are apparently shooting small arms indiscriminately.  They are an all Afghan crew, off duty ANP [Afghan National Police] soldiers are working with them, and they are on an ISAF contract.  It is up to ISAF to put a stop to this and to do so immediately.  But they can’t because nobody seems to know who these clowns work for,” he writes in one post.

In another, he takes aim at the local militants.

Yesterday morning started with an event so senseless and evil that it is hard to describe.  An American army patrol was moving through downtown Jalalabad when the villains detonated a bicycle mounted IED.  This IED had no chance of even denting the paint job on an MRAP [armored vehicle], but it did throw out a bunch of shrapnel, which killed one of the best diesel engine mechanics in town and wounded another 15 civilians – mostly children.

I drove up behind the convoy a few minutes after the attack.  They had stopped, dismounted and were treating the injured…  Once I saw where the bomb had gone off I was stunned – the traffic circle is full of children at that time of the day.

“The good people of Jalalabad were pissed off about the bike bomb, but not enough to stage a protest and shout “death to the Taliban,’” Lynch continued in another post.  “That is the critical dynamic with which to judge how the people feel about us and the assorted groupings of bad guys who cause them much more grief and hardship, in their reaction to loss of life through stupidity.  When people react with spontaneous outrage to Taliban killings, then we will know the tipping point is well behind us.”

There was a time when U.S. troops had the market all-but-cornered the market on these first-person anecdotes and war-hardened analyses. But like so much else, that effort has now been outsourced to contractors.  Original Story Here

May 6, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Vetted International Celebrates Their Fifth Anniversary

Vetted International celebrates their five year anniversary on May 5th, 2010.

Before (Vetted) attended to my file, I almost died of infections. This company came to South Africa and negotiated with all of my medical suppliers…Vetted was the best thing that could have happened to the South African Contractors.

Raleigh, NC (PRWEB) May 6, 2010 — Vetted International, Ltd. (http://www.vetted-intl.com) turns five years old today and celebrates their milestone with a reflection on their history and the journey ahead.

As a former US Marine and City of Raleigh Police Officer, Vetted CEO Brian Sjostedt has worked a lifetime of public service and never anticipated celebrating a five year anniversary as a private company’s chief executive. Sjostedt founded Vetted International in May 2005 after spending 14 months in Iraq temporarily assigned from his Police Department to assist with reconstruction efforts. Sjostedt lived “outside the wire” in Baghdad’s Al Mesbah District, and served with a contracted Defense & Logistics firm as the Security Manager and was later promoted to Deputy Director of Operations. Sjostedt ended his assignments in Iraq as the company Director of Operations. Brigadier General Henry Miller (US Army, Retired) described Sjostedt’s reliability in a letter as “being counted on for thoroughly researched advice and an honest appraisal whenever asked…I trust his leadership and decision making abilities in difficult situations.”

While in Iraq, Sjostedt was exposed to extraordinary courage by the local Iraqi personnel assigned to his protection details. “I was always amazed at the level of sacrifice they were willing to make for us at minimal wages,” stated Sjostedt. The employees he was referring to had diverse and useful backgrounds. “Their previous experiences included officers in Saddam Hussein’s former Republican Guard and former US Agency operatives that lost their jobs after the initial occupation was successful.”

Operations in Iraq resulted in catastrophic casualties and fatalities in Sjostedt’s company. Before departing Iraq, Sjostedt started Vetted International to provide additional income to the employees he regarded as his protectors during his stay. Sjostedt learned of a law called the Defense Base Act in which compensation benefits were statutorily due in cases that the contractors were injured or killed while supporting the United States mission. “I never saw those benefits paid when I was there, so Vetted’s employees were trained to investigate facts surrounding incidents.” Insurance companies and injured contractors that had an interest in those facts quickly became the beneficiaries of Vetted’s investigations.

Vetted further identified a lack of sufficient medical care for Iraqis working to support the US mission and quickly assembled a team of doctors and coordinators to provide services according to United States standards of care. Multiple lives were saved as a result. Vetted has specialized in catastrophic injury medical management, impairment assessment, prosthetics procurement, patient training, emergency evacuations and remains repatriation.

Vetted’s services were not only limited to local Iraqis. Other patients covered under the Defense Base Act came from numerous countries such as Fiji, Nepal, Australia, United Kingdom, South Africa, Peru and Chile. Vetted would continue to manage the medical care of those patients after they were evacuated home. In an open letter, a contractor in South Africa describes his care with Vetted; “Before (Vetted) attended to my file, I almost died of infections. This company came to South Africa and negotiated with all of my medical suppliers. Most of all they settled my debts…Vetted appointed a medical professional to take care of my day to day needs. They further looked at how they were going to get my life back to normal as possible….Vetted was the best thing that could have happened to the South African Contractors.”

While services initially started with decisive reactions to incidents, Vetted is now focusing on prevention. “We want to mitigate risk more so than respond to it, so we are encouraging our clients to participate in pre-deployment loss prevention programs that include baseline dental, medical, psychological screening, background checks, and cultural and regional training,” stated Sjostedt.

In the past five years, Vetted International has completed assignments in 54 countries.

Vetted International is a corporate and government solution based company headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. Vetted utilizes a global network of integrity driven local national professionals to minimize risk and implement responsive action plans in various permissive and non-permissive environments. Foreign and domestic insurance companies, financial institutions, government departments and ministries, government agencies and contractors and healthcare organizations have relied on Vetted’s unique capabilities.  More on Vetted here

May 6, 2010 Posted by | AIG and CNA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Defense Base Act | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment