Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

James McLaughlin, MPRI Contractor, Killed in Afghanistan Attack

Press Democrat. com April 28, 2011

James McLaughlin Jr., 55, and eight U.S. troops died early Wednesday when a veteran Afghan pilot opened fire during a meeting in a military compound near the airport.

His wife, Sandy McLaughlin, said Thursday she was notified that he had been shot to death, but was not told any of the circumstances.

“The only thing I know is an Afghan pilot opened fire and my husband was shot and killed,” she said.

Her husband retired as a lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Army in 2007, after 25 years in the service.

The following year, he began training helicopter pilots in Afghanistan for L-3 MPRI, an Alexandria, Va., division of the giant defense contractor, said Rick Kiernan, a vice president of communications for L-3.

“He was one of 12 trainers we have,” Kiernan said. “Having been a retired lieutenant colonel, his skills were in aviation.”

McLaughlin, who had lived in Sonoma County since 1987, was also an avid ham radio enthusiast. He helped set up a digital communications system for the ham operators who are part of the Sonoma County Office of Emergency Services disaster communications network, said Ken Harrison of Santa Rosa, a friend for 20 years and fellow ham operator.

In Afghanistan, McLaughlin worked on the U.S. Army Military Auxiliary Radio System, a Department of Defense-funded ham radio program that helped keep U.S. troops in contact with family at home.

“He didn’t talk too awful much about the danger,” Harrison said. “I think he liked to downplay that end of that. He didn’t want people to worry.”

McLaughlin’s death sent shock waves through the close-knit ranks of ham radio operators. He had been home in Santa Rosa two weeks ago before returning to Kabul.

“My gut hurts,” Harrison said. “He was just in town. I am upset that I didn’t get to see him.”

Wednesday’s attack was the fourth in the past two weeks in which someone wearing an Afghan security-force uniform struck from within a government compound.

The shooting occurred during a morning meeting between American and Afghan officers. Nine Americans were killed and five Afghan soldiers were wounded.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces killed the attacker in a gunfight.

L-3’s Kiernan said the shooting occurred in what has been considered a secure compound in Kabul.

“They are looking into the incident to find out what would have motivated the perpetrator,” said L-3’s Kiernan.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, identifying the assailant as a Taliban militant named Azizullah from a district of Kabul province.

The gunman’s brother insisted he was not a Taliban sympathizer. The attacker, identified as Ahmad Gul Sahebi, 48, was an officer who had served as a pilot in the Afghan military for two decades and was distressed over his personal finances, said the brother, Dr. Mohammad Hassan Sahibi.

“He was under economic pressures and recently he sold his house. He was not in a normal frame of mind because of these pressures,” Sahibi said. “He was going through a very difficult period of time in his life.”

Since March 2009, 48 NATO troops and military contractors have been killed in at least 16 attacks in which Afghans have turned their weapons on coalition forces, for reasons investigators later attributed to battlefield stress and personal animosity toward coalition soldiers, rather than Taliban infiltration.

Sandy McLaughlin said she was naturally concerned about his work in the war-torn country.

“This job was offered, he was using his military background and he was doing something he loved,” she said. “He loved doing the work.”

The couple had been married 28 years. They have three adult children, Adam McLaughlin, Eve McLaughlin-Suttif and James McLaughlin, all of Santa Rosa.

Sandy McLaughlin said her husband’s body is being brought back to Dover, Del., on Friday and then will be returned to Santa Rosa.

Please read more about James McLaughlin here

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, NATO, Private Military Contractors, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

President Obama, Stand Up to the U.S. Chamber and Fight for Disclosure

Sign the Petition to Support the President’s Executive Order

“We will fight it through all available means […] To quote what they say every day on Libya, all options are on the table.”

That’s what the chief lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the New York Times after hearing the White House may issue an executive order requiring corporations that do business with the government to disclose their political spending.

The Chamber’s pledge to fight tooth and nail to keep the American people in the dark about conflicts of interest in government is appalling, but not surprising.

If corporations and their executives are spending on politicians in an effort to “win” government contracts, the American people should know.

Urge President Obama to stand up to the U.S. Chamber and fight for disclosure. Sign the petition today!

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Follow the Money, Government Contractor | , , , | Leave a comment

Landmines still plague Angola as aid dries up

by Cecile de Comarmond  MySinchew 2011.04.28

BENGUELA, April 28, 2011 (AFP) – Nine years after the end of Angola’s civil war, landmines are still scattered across the country and a full clean-up looks decades away as international aid has dried up.

“During the war, landmines protected the population here” by keeping the rebels at bay, said Yacinta Alfredo, teacher in a village close to the Biobio hydro-electric dam, 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the port town of Lobito, in one of the most heavily mined parts of the country.

“But later they became a danger. My cousin died, just there, not far,” added the single mother, who fears for the safety of her seven children.

Biopio dam provides power to the nearby cities of Lobito and Benguela, and was a strategic point during the 27-year war that devastated Angola.

“A 14-kilometre area was mined in 1994 by the Angolan army to protect the dam from attack by UNITA,” the Union for the Total Independence of Angola which battled the government, said Cesar Coimbra, an official with anti-mining group Halo Trust.

The area around the village has been demined, so Alfredo can go out to collect water and let her children play outside without worry.

But a few kilometres away, on the other side of the river, red and white sticks dot the grass and the screech of metal detectors recalls the still-present danger. About 20 landmines are found there every day.

Halo Trust is the most prominent de-mining charity in Angola, but its budget has halved since 2008, after losing two-thirds of its donors. That forced the closure of its Benguela office for a while. It was eventually reopened because of the demand.

“Around Benguela, we have demined 86 areas in 12 years, which represents about half the work to be done. But we had 14 demining teams in this region and are down to just two. It could take 40 years to finish the job,” Coimbra said.

Government acknowledges the problem, and has its own de-mining operation that aims to clear “priority” areas by the end of 2012.

“At the beginning, just after the war, we received enormous aid in this area. Many NGOs were present,” said Jose Roque Oliveiro, an official with Angola’s government de-mining agency.

“Now many of them have left because of the lack of outside funding,” he said.

“There was the global economic crisis. And then the image of Angola changed. The country is considered less in need of aid,” he added.

The danger posed by landmines has grown as oil-rich Angola embarks on a vast reconstruction project.

Repaired roads are opening up previously isolated areas, exposing people to regions still pocked by landmines.

The government’s drive to revive Angola’s farms, among Africa’s most productive during Portuguese colonial times, also poses risks.

The scheme aims to lower Angola’s astronomical cost of living by producing more food locally, while also creating jobs. But many people in rural areas are wary, having suffered or witnessed landmine accidents.

“Now in Biopio, if people are worried, they send their animals in first,” said Marie Demulier, also of Halo Trust.

That means more animals than humans are caught in the explosions, but even the loss of cattle is a steep financial burden, she said.

“The animals are their breadwinners, and often their safety net against food prices,” she added.

Landmines killed 80 people in Angola in 2010, against 28 the year before.

Please see the original here

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Civilian Contractors, Demining, NGO's, Safety and Security Issues | , , | Leave a comment