Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room November 2, 2012
Just days after an inspector general report revealed that a giant Pentagon contractor performed “unsatisfactory” work in Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force awarded the firm another multimillion-dollar pot of cash.
Virginia’s DynCorp, which performs everything from private security to construction for the U.S. military, has re-upped with Air Force to help pilots learn basic flying skills on the T-6A/B Texan II aircraft, a training plane. The deal is only the latest between DynCorp and the Air Force on the Texan II: In June, the Air Force Materiel Command gave the company a deal worth nearly $55 million for training services. The latest one, announced late Thursday, is worth another $72.8 million, and lasts through October 2013.
But the Air Force’s lucrative vote of confidence in DynCorp comes not even a week after the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction blasted the company for performing “unsatisfactory” construction work at an Afghan Army base in Kunduz. The base was “at risk of structural failure” when the watchdogs initially inspected, but the Army Corps of Engineers chose to settle DynCorp’s contract, a move that awarded the company “$70.8 million on the construction contracts and releas[ed] it from any further liabilities and warranty obligation.” (.pdf)
A DynCorp spokeswoman, Ashley Burke, told Bloomberg News that the company disputed the special inspector general’s findings. For its part, the special inspector general took to tweeting photographs of what it called “DynCorp’s failed work at #Afghan #Army Base in #Kunduz.
Bloomberg August 29, 2012
After investments in food, telecommunications and cleaning-product companies in the early 1990s, CM Equity Partners bet on a little-known U.S. government contractor that would shape the firm’s future.
It bought Intermetrics Inc., which designed software forNASA, in 1995 and sold the company five years later after more than quadrupling its revenue. Following that success, the New York-based private equity firm in 2004 dropped its“generalist” investment philosophy to concentrate exclusively on federal contractors, said Peter Schulte, a founder and managing partner.
CM Equity is now one of at least 38 private equity firms backing companies that sell primarily services to the federal government, an increase from fewer than 10 a decade ago, according to investment firm Stifel Nicolaus Weisel. Carlyle Group LP (CG) and Cerberus Capital Management LP, the two biggest private equity firms in federal contracting, own or control companies that had $8.9 billion in U.S. awards last fiscal year, government procurement data compiled by Bloomberg show.
“It’s a sign of the maturity of the sector,” said Charles Chappell, president of Chantilly, Virginia-based Caliber Consulting LLC, which advises firms seeking to buy federal contractors. “You’ve finally had some companies reach a size”that commands the attention of private equity investors, he said.
The body of an Oklahoma contractor who was found dead in Baghdad is being flown back to the U.S. after a two-week bureaucratic debate over whether the Iraqi government would perform an autopsy on his remains.
Tulsa World June26, 2012
Officials say Michael David Copeland, 37, of Colbert in southern Oklahoma, is one of the first Americans working for the U.S. government to die in Iraq this year. He was found unresponsive June 9 in his living quarters. Foul play is not suspected in his death.
Copeland previously served in the Marines and later with the Oklahoma Air National Guard. He was a contractor with DynCorp International at the time of his death.
Copeland’s case is a snapshot of the new reality of working in Iraq for Americans who, over the years, were accustomed to vast privileges and influence that disappeared when U.S. troops left last December.
Iraq agreed to release the remains of the Oklahoma man after negotiations with the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. His body was flown out of Iraq Tuesday afternoon.
James Markwith, DynCorp Afghanistan, charged with transporting and distributing images of child sexual abuse
Nashua Telegraph June 20, 2012
A Nashua man was arrested by federal authorities Monday and charged with electronically sending child pornography images while working as a contractor stationed in Afghanistan earlier this year.
James Markwith, 31, of 56 Dexter Drive, was arrested on a warrant charging him with transporting and distributing images of child sexual abuse, according to documents filed at U.S. District Court in Concord.
Markwith was working for DynCorp International, a defense contractor, and was stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, in April, according to an affidavit filed by FBI special agent Marya Wilkerson.
Mike Copeland spoke with his son, Michael, for the last time Friday night. About 12 hours later, he was told his son had died. On top of dealing with their loss, they said the Iraqi government will not release his body. And now, they’re struggling with the U.S. Government to bring Michael home.
Angela Copeland found out Saturday that her husband, Michael, was dead of unknown causes.
“Sure enough I opened the door and they came in and told me they found Michael deceased in his living quarters,” she said.
Michael Copeland worked for DynCorp International doing aircraft maintenance in Iraq for less than a week before he died.
His father, Mike, said after the company notified them about Michael’s death, they were told his body will remain in Iraq.
“I don’t look for us to go to war over a thing like this but I see no excuse at all for the Iraqi government to hold his body. That doesn’t make sense to us,” he said.
“Of course I felt sad, but mostly I felt angry because I know for a fact that’s not something that Michael would agree with. We as a family don’t agree with that,” Angela said.
Mike Copeland said he contacted the State Department and DynCorp for help, but was told that because U.S. military presence has ceased in Iraq the Iraqi government is in charge.
“Everyone I’ve spoke with is always sorry for our loss, but they say there’s nothing they can do. I find it very difficult to believe that my government…there’s nothing they can do to bring my son home from Iraq?” Asked Copeland.
“If someone comes into the United States and they were to die, it would be the same thing. We’re basically under the Iraqi law.”
U.S. Congressman Dan Boren said they are working with the State Department to get Michael’s body back to the U.S. but it may take a long time because it’s the first death in Iraq since the troops were pulled out.
“We’re actually looking at three different options: one by a U.S. Citizen, one by the Iraqis but are having a U.S. Citizen watch and the other is to bring the body back to the U.S. to do an autopsy,” said Boren.
“He was a good man and we loved him. And we don’t feel like he’s being treated fairly by his country that he served and we want them to take steps to bring him home. We want them to bring him home,” said Mike Copeland.
“We’re not doing good. Because not only are we having to deal with the loss but, we’re having to deal with the battle to get him back home,” said Angela Copeland
DynCorp International released a statement saying:
“We are currently waiting for the Iraqi Government to approve the release of his remains for transport back to the U.S., where the U.S. Government will conduct an autopsy.”
Congressman Boren said the State Department found no signs of foul play while investigating Copeland’s death.
The family is asking the public to help them bring Michael’s remains back home by contacting state representatives
By David Isenberg at IISS June 14, 2012
On June 6 the Detroit Metro Times published an article, Soldier of Misfortune, that deserves much more attention that it has gotten thus far. So let’s take a look at it. What follows relies principally on and borrows heavily from the article.
In 2006, after surviving one tour of duty in Iraq and another in Afghanistan, Cpl. Justin Pope was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. In 2007 he took a job with DynCorp, a private military contractor providing security at the American embassy in Erbil, Iraq. Pope completed a one year assignment with DynCorp, before agreeing to a second one-year assignment, beginning in the fall of 2008.
What is not disputed is that on the night of March 4, 2009, Pope was in his room at the embassy compound when a single bullet from a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun fired at point-blank range entered his mouth, passed through his brain and exited the back of his skull.
But what his family refuses to believe is the official account of that killing, a story of mutual, reckless gunplay detailed in the files of the U.S. District Court in Gulfport, Mississippi. That is where Kyle Palmer, a young man who went to war with Pope and claimed to love him like a brother, pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to three years in federal prison.
As someone with no special knowledge of the case I can’t say who ultimately was at fault but even if you accept the official version, that Pope’s death happened due to reckless horseplay, it still doesn’t speak well for either corporate professionalism or accountability. As the article notes:
Detroit attorney William Goodman, who along with law partner Julie Hurwitz is representing Pope’s family in a recently filed lawsuit, offers a big-picture look at what he sees at stake: a system designed to protect private military contractors such as DynCorp, even if they are guilty of “gross negligence and deliberate indifference to the rights of their employees, peoples of foreign lands and American public officials.”
“Moreover,” he contends, “this system shields private military contractors from any accountability even when an employee is killed while off duty as the direct result of the contractor’s own wrongdoing, or is killed by another employee of the contractor. This is simply outrageous. Even more disturbing, it extends the immunity that was once reserved to the government, to private corporations, even further reinforcing the notion that we are ruled not by a democratic government but, rather, by avaricious private interests.”
Pope’s family, sickened by the official account of his death which paints him as an irresponsible participant in his own demise, went to court once already in an attempt to force the discovery of information they hope will shed new light on what happened that night in Iraq a little more than three years ago. That first suit, filed in federal court, was dismissed last September. The judge ruled, in part, that any right to sue for negligence had been waived when Pope signed his contract with DynCorp. He also determined that the company was shielded by something known as the Defense Base Act, a 1941 law that creates a “federal compensation scheme for defense contractors and employees when such employee suffers injury or death while working outside of the United States.”
Now Pope’s survivors, a group that includes his wife, 11-year-old son, mother, stepfather, brothers and sisters, have launched a second lawsuit, in the U.S. District Court in Detroit.
This time, instead of claiming negligence, it is being alleged that the company and more than a dozen of its employees at the time conspired to cover up what actually occurred the night Pope was killed.
The company isn’t answering questions about the case. When contacted by Metro Times, a DynCorp International spokeswoman responded with this e-mail:
This was an extremely tragic accident that occurred several years ago, after working hours, when personnel were allegedly drinking alcohol in violation of Company policy. Although our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Pope’s family and loved ones, the allegations contained within the suit are without merit. Please be advised that the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan fully dismissed a related lawsuit last year.
When I contacted DynCorp I received the same quote.
Although not named in the suit, the U.S. State Department, which investigated the killing, is part of the cover-up, says the family and its attorneys.
The family first learned that something bad had happened to Justin when his wife, Ashley, received a call from a DynCorp employee around 5:30 p.m. Detroit time on March 4, 2009, informing her that Justin had been in an “accident” — and that it was serious. A second call informed them that he’d been shot in the “neck,” and that he’d been airlifted by helicopter to a hospital. A third call brought the news that Justin had died.
The next day, two women arrived at Ashley’s home where family members had gathered. They were Anne Boffo and her daughter Natalie. Natalie was Kyle Palmer’s fiancée, and the couple had socialized with Ashley and Justin when they all lived in Jacksonville, N.C., where the guys were stationed at Camp Lejeune.
Anne Boffo’s husband and Natalie’s father, Michael Boffo, is a former Marine who, at the time, was project manager for DynCorp International’s protective services unit in Iraq. According to court records, he supervised a group of 151 people. Included in that number were Kyle Palmer and Justin Pope.
It was through their connection to Michael Boffo that Kyle and Justin went to work for DynCorp. Kyle had two previous drunk driving arrests that had to be expunged from his record before the company would hire him. When the Boffos arrived, Ashley didn’t yet know it was Palmer who had shot and killed her husband. In fact, other than learning that he’d been shot, she had no information about how he died.
The next to arrive was DynCorp employee Mike Kehoe who’d flown to Michigan from Iraq. Ashley says Kehoe initially told her that Justin was alone in his room when he died.
“He asked me if Justin had been depressed about anything,” Ashley recalls.
The implication, she says, was that Justin might have committed suicide.
No one in his family believed that to be remotely possible.
Then the story changed, says the family. Justin was cleaning his weapon, they were told, and it accidentally misfired. Family members say they immediately dismissed that possibility as well. Justin, they say, had an intense concern regarding firearm safety.
Kevin Pope, Justin’s oldest brother, made handwritten notes as events unfolded. Among other things, he remarked about how Keho had shown up with paperwork for Ashley to sign. There were two insurance policies — one for $250,000 and other for $50,000 — that had to be processed.
“Mike [Kehoe] also said it would be probably two or three more days before we would have word on how he died.”
That claim was made even though court records would reveal that State Department investigators, who were in the area working on another case, were on the scene within an hour.
Palmer showed up in Michigan four days after the shooting to attend services for his friend. It was then that he confessed to Ashley that he was somehow involved, but that he had been too drunk at the time of the shooting to have a clear recollection of it. He did remember seeing someone else’s hand on the gun.
According to Kevin Pope’s contemporaneous notes, “Sunday the 8th Palmer was here in the Courtyard Marriott where I met him in the afternoon. I talked with Palmer alone in the hotel room. … He said both of their hands were on the gun. He said he was convulsing after that. He said he thinks Justin only had one Corona. I think he made it sound like he had a lot more to drink. He did say there was another guy in the room.”
Three days later Kevin wrote: “Palmer and Natalie came to Ashley’s on Wednesday night the 11th around midnight. I asked Palmer how long Justin’s blood was pumping after he was shot. Palmer answered that he didn’t remember anything until he woke up several hours later. … I told Palmer my brother loved him and I do too. I told him I forgive him if he’s living with guilt and he told me it means a lot.”
However, the stories being told to the family kept changing. They say now that it is difficult to keep track of all the versions of Justin’s death that were presented to them by both Palmer and DynCorp officials. The scenario evolved from Pope being alone in his room to him being there with Palmer and “possibly” one other person to there being a room full of people.
It wasn’t until Palmer, fired from DynCorp because of the killing, was back in the United States, in Gulfport, Miss., that investigators were able to extract a confession from him. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony that carries a maximum prison sentence of eight years. Under the original plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to request that Palmer serve no prison time whatsoever. Five years of supervised probation would be his penalty.
Before sentencing, the prosecutor read into the record what he says the government would be able to prove if the case were to go to trial.
The defendant and Pope were close friends who had served together in the U.S. Marine Corps during the battle of Fallujah back in Iraq in 2005. Both had been trained as snipers and were well versed in firearms, including their function and procedures for safely handling weapons.
The evidence would also show that in the late evening hours of March 4th and continuing into the early hours of March 5th of 2009, an informal party or get-together was taking place at Justin Pope’s embassy-provided residence inside the State Department embassy compound in Erbil. Pope, the defendant, and others had been escorting the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq during the day.
There were approximately eight to ten contractors in this small bedroom. Most had consumed alcohol. Indeed, the defendant had drank two bottles of wine, several beers, and some whiskey by himself before and during the party. The defendant himself believed that he was so drunk that he would not have been able to legally operate a motor vehicle. Pope was not drunk that night, and some people present believed he may have had one beer, but a toxicology report reflected there was no alcohol present in Pope’s system at the time of his death.
During the party, Justin Pope and the defendant had engaged in some playful and friendly wrestling on Pope’s bed. After that wrestling had concluded, the evidence would show that the defendant [Palmer] went to a bed at the opposite end of the room and stood there while Pope went to his desk. From his desk, Pope retrieved his 9-millimeter Glock 19 handgun. The evidence would show that Pope then went over to the bed where the defendant was standing. Pope pulled back the slide of his Glock handgun at least once, expelling an unfired round of ammunition. The defendant never saw Pope removing the magazine from the weapon, and the action, in the absence of seeing the magazine removed, made it clear that the gun was in fact loaded.
Pope then began to dance on the bed with the defendant while Pope was waiving the gun around. Justin Pope, in a joking manner, pointed the gun at the defendant’s head. So the evidence that the government would have collected would show that this was consistent with a game that is sometimes played with a semiautomatic handgun among Marines, a game sometimes referred to as a “Trust Me” game, where a loaded handgun is pointed at a friend and the friend is expected to trust the possessor of the weapon not to shoot him.
After that pointing of the weapon at the defendant, the defendant and Pope began wrestling, although not wrestling for possession of the gun, but friendly wrestling. After that wrestling concluded, the defendant at some point took the firearm from Pope. Then, as Pope had done, the defendant at some point took the firearm from Pope. Then, as Pope had done, the defendant pointed the gun at Justin Pope’s head. Witnesses are prepared to testify that Pope then said, in substance and in part, either ‘Do it’ or ‘Pull the trigger’ or something in that manner.
The defendant, still extremely intoxicated, pulled the trigger of the gun without checking to see whether the gun was loaded. The gun discharged a bullet, and the bullet struck Justin Pope in the head. Justin Pope collapsed on the bed. Although others in the room immediately provided medical assistance and attention and Justin Pope remained alive for a short period of time, he died soon after without regaining consciousness.
Pope’s family members say the official version of Justin’s death is as far-fetched as the stories that he’d possibly killed himself, or that his gun had accidentally misfired while being cleaned.
Which is why, after their first lawsuit had been dismissed (which they are appealing, acting as their own lawyers), they found new attorneys and are trying to get back in court again. Because this, in essence, is what they are being asked to accept: that a stone-cold sober Justin Pope — a guy who had never been anything less than intense about handling firearms safely — danced around waving a loaded pistol, and then “playfully” wrestled with another man while holding the weapon. And then, the most incredible part: that he would take that gun, knowing it was loaded, and hand the weapon to a guy wasted on alcohol and, with that gun maybe three feet from his face say, “Go ahead, pull the trigger.”
Aside from the family’s disbelief based on Justin’s character, there is an autopsy — conducted by the Armed Forces Institute of pathology in Rockville, Md. — that appears to call into doubt that official version of events.
As part of the first lawsuit, forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz reviewed the autopsy report and a CD containing photographs of the body. In a sworn affidavit, Spitz reported that “in addition to the injuries directly associated with the gunshot wound, Justin suffered bruising in the upper eyelid, bridge of his nose, inside of his upper lip, outside of his left arm and the back side of his right hand as well as two fractured teeth.”
That raises the possibility that the “playful wrestling” described by the prosecution may really have been a fight.
Also of concern to the family is a conversation they say took place with State Department investigator Scott Banker and prosecutor David Jaffe at the U.S. federal building in Detroit just before the official version of events was presented to the court in Mississippi.
The family was told in that meeting that the truth of what happened might never be known because the DynCorp employees present when the shooting occurred either weren’t talking or were providing conflicting stories.
If the government wasn’t sure what the truth really was, why didn’t they press on with the investigation? The family says they have never been given an answer to that question.
The fact that it makes no sense is what has the family searching for a more plausible explanation.
One possibility says Pope’s mother, is that her son had a problem with something that had occurred among members of the security detail, or was concerned about something improper involving DynCorp.
She says that, shortly before his death, Justin told her he was considering asking for a transfer to a new assignment in Pakistan, even though that job would pay less than the one in Iraq. She says too that he seemed troubled by something on his last visit home a few weeks before he died.
Meanwhile while many people who worked with Kyle Palmer wrote letters testifying to his good qualities there is, however, another side to Palmer that isn’t revealed in these letters. It is a side of him captured on a video camera while he was still working for DynCorp in Iraq. Kevin Pope found it on his brother’s laptop computer when it was returned to the family after Justin’s death. It is a video posted on YouTube showing yet another party taking place among DynCorp employees at their Ebril quarters. Kyle is in that video — which features some raucous beer-bonging — even though alcohol consumption was, officially anyway, strictly prohibited.)
The video found on Justin’s computer was provided to the judge in Mississippi. It too is part of the court record. At the start of the five-minute recording, Palmer is clearly pictured. The cameraman sounds to be drunk, hiccupping frequently before putting the camera down before leaving the room because he has to “go pee.”
The camera continues to roll, but the screen goes dark. What gets captured, however, is the audio, resulting in a sort of theater of the absurd.
Palmer is clearly wasted, and one of his co-workers is trying to assist him.
There are two voices, one of which Pope’s family says is clearly Palmer’s. It’s not known who is trying to help him as he lays in bed, a trash can placed alongside in case he has to vomit.
“Stop touching me now,” Palmer says.
“Why are you so fucked up?”
“I’ll kill you now,” Palmer says.
“I’m going to fuckin’ fuck you up now.”
It goes on in that vein for a few minutes, with Palmer telling the man who’s trying to help him that he “smells like a nigger.” The man starts jabbing him.
“Goddam it, quit hitting me in the ribs,” Palmer yells.
“It’ll be a lot worse if you keep that up,” is the reply.
After a few more minutes someone else enters the room and you hear Palmer say, “Ah, shit, the boss man. We’re fucked now.”
“Just hit the can,” says the new voice, apparently that of a supervisor.
“Leave me alone,” Palmer says.
“It’s happened to me more than once,” the supervisor says, laughing.
And then, apparently referring to the assignment completed earlier, “Good fucking job tonight guys. Good fucking job.”
He then notices the camera.
“Don’t leave that on,” he says.
“Oh, shit,” says the other man.
And then it ends.
The article concludes with this, “Avoiding a trial has been the sole objective of DynCorp and they have changed their explanation of this tragedy several times. They continue to resist any testimony that might reveal the truth.”
Even if one believes that Pope was killed due to the horseplay between him and Palmer that leaves other questions unanswered. For example, why would DynCorp even hire someone with two drunk driving arrests on their record? Is that what DynCorp calls doing due diligence when vetting prospective employees? And what were DynCorp supervisors doing in terms of checking for alcohol, which never should have been there in the first place?
Also, I am not a lawyer, but Pope’s employment agreement with DynCorp (as mentioned in the case dismissal last September) states:
The Employee understands and accepts the fact that he or she will be exposed to dangers due to the nature of the mission. The Employee agrees that neither Employer nor its affiliates will be liable in the event of death, injury, or disability to Employee. Employer will obtain the insurance described in Attachment A on behalf of the Employee and the Employee agrees to accept these insurance benefits as full satisfaction of any claim for death, injury, or disability the Employee or the Employee’s representatives and heirs may have against Employer and its affiliates.
But if DynCorp supervisors were negligent in allowing alcohol use at their facility when it was banned is that not a “danger” that DynCorp created? After all, even the judge, while dismissing the suit, conceded that Pope’s death occurred during the course of DynCorp employment:
With respect to whether his death occurred in the [*25] course of employment, Pope was in Iraq at DynCorp’s premises based on the “obligations” and “conditions” of his Employment Agreement. See O’Leary, 340 U.S. at 507. Pope had just returned from his shift for the day and was positioned in his room provided by DynCorp on DynCorp’s premises. He was placed in a “zone of special danger” in which an accidental shooting by Palmer occurred based on such “obligations” and “conditions” of Pope’s employment with DynCorp. See id. Whether Pope and other DynCorp employees were participating in recreational activities is irrelevant as it is not necessary that Pope be engaged in an activity for the benefit of DynCorp at the time of his killing. See id. Therefore, Pope’s death occurred within the “course of his employment.” Accordingly, Pope’s death is one which is covered by the DBA.
Furthermore, even though this suit was dismissed it raises important questions, which to my mind have yet to be answered, such as:
a. Failure to ensure that the gun was properly unloaded and stored away from individuals.
b. Improperly allowing DynCorp individuals to consume alcohol and be under the influence of alcohol on DynCorp property.
c. Improperly allowing DynCorp to pull their loaded weapons on DynCorp property.
We should also note that even though that the federal suit was dismissed it didn’t exactly absolve DynCorp of wrongdoing. It didn’t say that Pope was at fault or that DynCorp was innocent. What it did say was this:
Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment are essentially identical with respect to their substantive arguments. They seek dismissal of Plaintiff’s action for two reasons. First, Defendants argue that the DBA and Longshore Act bar Plaintiff’s wrongful death suit against DynCorp and Palmer. Second, Defendants alternatively argue that the Employment Agreement contains a liability waiver provision barring Plaintiff from bringing any claim against DynCorp and Palmer for the death of Pope.
Claims of a cover-up in the killing of a metro Detroit man in Iraq
Metro Times June 6, 2012
Five years ago, after surviving one tour of duty in Iraq and another in Afghanistan, Cpl. Justin Pope left the Marine Corps to take a lucrative, high-prestige job with a private military contractor providing security at the American embassy in Erbil, Iraq.
From the time he was a kid growing up in Riverview, Pope always knew he would be in a uniform some day, protecting people. The new job would be an extension of that, providing the experience and advanced training that would further his career.
Instead, it brought an end to his life.
On the night of March 4, 2009, the square-jawed 25-year-old was in his room at the embassy compound when a single bullet from a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun fired at point-blank range entered his mouth, passed through his brain and exited the back of his skull.
That much, his family knows with heart-rending certainty, is tragically true.
What they refuse to believe is the official account of that killing, a story of mutual, reckless gunplay detailed in the files of the U.S. District Court in Gulfport, Miss.
That is where Kyle Palmer, a young man who went to war with Pope and claimed to love him like a brother, pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to three years in federal prison.
GovConWire June 5, 2012
DynCorp International has won a potential $198,095,668 contract to provide administration and management services to U.S. special operations forces stationed in the Philippines, the Defense Department announced Monday.
The Navy awarded the potential five-year cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, which could include a $180,086,970 target cost and a $18,008,698 maximum target fee.
Support for the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines will include work for command and staff; public safety; air operations and port operations; supply; welfare and recreation; facilities; utilities; base support vehicles and equipment; and environmental services.
WHY HAVE I NOT RECEIVED THE DEFENSE OF FREEDOM MEDAL?
The Defense of Freedom Medal is an award held to be the equivalent of the Purple Heart and is awarded to Civilian Contractors injured in the war zones.
One question we get here repeatedly is why have I not received the Defense of Freedom Medal? The question comes from severely disabled Civilian Contractors wounded in horrific explosions and insurgent attacks.
WHO IS HOLDING YOUR MEDAL HOSTAGE?
The company you work for is responsible for requesting that you receive the medal and providing the documentation that you have indeed suffered a qualifying injury.
As all Injured War Zone Contractors know the minute you must file a Defense Base Act Claim you are automatically placed in an adversarial relationship with your employer. Your Employer and the Defense Base Act Insurance Company are considered equal entities in the battle you have entered for your medical care and indemnity.
Your Employer is required to assist the insurance company in denying your claim. Under the War Hazards Act the Employer/Carrier must prove to the WHA Tribunal that they have diligently tried to deny your claim.
It appears that your Defense of Freedom Medals could be held hostage by your Employers due to the adversarial relationship the Defense Base Act has created.
When KBR, DynCorp, Blackwater, Xe, et al, provide documentation of your injuries to the DoD they have just admitted that you are indeed injured and to what extent.
Specific information regarding injury/death: Description of the situation causing the injury/death in detail to include the date, time, place, and scene of the incident, and official medical documentation of the employee’s injuries and treatment. The description must be well documented, including the names of witnesses and point of contact (POC) for additional medical information, if needed.
These admissions sure would make it hard for Administrative Law Judges like Paul C Johnson to name them as alleged. ALJ Paul C Johnson has yet to award benefits to a DBA Claimant in a decision based on a hearing.
KBR who can never seem to find their injured employees medical records holds the key to the Defense of Freedom Medal.
Certainly there are other lawsuits outside of the DBA that the withholding of this information is vital too.
For those of you who still give a damn after being abused by so badly simply because you were injured-
The Defense of Freedom Medal may find you many years down the road once an Administrative Law Judge says you were injured.
We recommend that you contact your Congressional Representative or Senator and have them request this Medal if you qualify for it and would like to have it.
If you are still litigating your claim it SHOULD serve to legitimize your alleged injuries.
Private security firms won lucrative contracts to supply support staff and security guards to back up US forces in Iraq. They recruited Ugandans and pushed them to the limit, on low pay and no benefits
Like all foreign nationals working for PMCs under contract to the Pentagon, sick or wounded Ugandans repatriated from Iraq are, in principle, covered by the Defense Base Act, which guarantees that their employer’s insurer will reimburse their medical expenses. It also provides for disability pay for the most unfortunate. “But, all too often, the Ugandans do not receive the medical care and disability that they are supposed to,” American lawyer Tara K Coughlin told me.
by Alain Vicky LeMonde Diplomatique May 6, 2012
“I realised immediately that I’d just made the worst mistake in my life. But it was too late. I’d signed up for a year. I had to take it like a man,” said Bernard (1), a young Ugandan who worked for an American private military company (PMC) operating in Iraq. He was part of the “invisible army” (2) recruited by the US to support its war effort. Bernard returned to Uganda last year. He is ill, but has been denied the welfare and healthcare benefits promised in his contract.
White recruits — from the US, Israel, South Africa, the UK, France and Serbia — hired by PMCs that have won contracts with the Pentagon (worth $120bn since 2003) have received substantial pay, often more than $10,000 a month; “third country nationals” (TCNs) like Bernard have been treated badly and their rights as employees have been abused. Some, sent home after being wounded, get no help from their former employers.
In June 2008, when the US began its withdrawal from Iraq, there were 70,167 TCNs to 153,300 regular US military personnel; in late 2010 there were still 40,776 TCNs to 47,305 regulars. TCNs (men and women) were recruited in the countries of the South to work on the 25 US military bases in Iraq, including Camp Liberty, an “American small town” built near Baghdad, which at its peak had a population of over 100,000. They made up 59% of the “basic needs” workforce, handling catering, cleaning, electrical and building maintenance, fast food, and even beauty services for female military personnel.
Some, especially African recruits, were assigned to security duties, paired up with regular troops: 15% of the static security personnel (guarding base entrances and perimeters) hired by the PMCs on behalf of the Pentagon were Sub-Saharans. Among these low-cost guards, Ugandans were a majority, numbering maybe 20,000. They were sometimes used to keep their colleagues in line: in May 2010 they quelled a riot at Camp Liberty by a thousand TCNs from the Indian subcontinent.
The high ratio of Ugandans was due to the political situation in central Africa in the early 2000s. In western Uganda the war in the Great Lakes region was officially over. In northern Uganda the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels had been brought under control. In neighbouring Sudan the civil war was over, opening up the way to independence for the south (3). More than 60,000 Ugandan troops were demobilised; Iraq seemed like an opportunity. The Ugandan government, a key ally of the US in central Africa, was one of the few to support the Bush administration when the Iraq war began in 2003. US and Ugandan armed forces have collaborated since the mid-1980s. Ugandan journalist and blogger Angelo Izama (4) told me that in 2005 the US needed more paramilitary security — “They were looking for reliable labour from English-speaking countries, veteran labour” — and turned to Uganda.
Courthouse News March 6, 2012
DETROIT (CN) – A family claims in Federal Court that DynCorp International covered up the shooting of their son, who allegedly was shot to death by a drunken co-worker in Iraq.
The family of the late Justin Pope sued DynCorp and 12 of its employees, including the alleged shooter, Kyle Palmer.
The family claims Palmer was drunk when he shot and killed Justin Pope in front of at least 11 other DynCorp employees on March 4, 2009. They say in the complaint that “Defendant Palmer pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the case of United States v. Kyle Palmer ... and on March 29, 2010, was sentenced to, among other things, three (3) years in prison for the crime.”
The men worked as security specialists for DynCorp in Kirkuk, Iraq, assigned to protect American diplomats and dignitaries. DynCorp is a private military contractor based in Falls Church, Va.
Pope, a Detroit native who served two tours of duty in Iraq, was 25 at the time of his death.
Pope’s family claims DynCorp and the alleged witnesses conjured up a story to cover up the facts of his death.
The complaint states: “Defendant Palmer in his drunkenness, pulled out a gun, pointed it at Justin’s mouth, pulled the trigger, and shot Justin to death.
“Within 24 hours, defendants commenced a series of events as part of a conspiracy amongst and between themselves as well as, at some point, agents of the United States government, to deceive and mislead the public – and Justin’s family, plaintiffs herein, in particular – with regard to the facts and circumstances of Justin’s death, withholding the truth from them.
“Among the falsehoods that Defendants affirmatively told plaintiffs and/or communicated to the public, at various times from March 4, 2009 to the present and continuing, were the following:
“a. That Justin was alone when he was killed;
“b. That Justin shot himself;
“c. That Justin was intoxicated, in violation of DynCorp policy;
“d. That Justin was shot by his own firearm;
“e. That Justin was shot because he and Palmer were pointing their guns at one another;
“f. That Justin, while intoxicated, pointed his gun at Palmer’s head;
“g. That Justin’s death was exclusively his fault; and
“h. Other falsehoods.
“Among the facts that defendants deliberately concealed from plaintiffs were the following:
“a. That defendant Palmer shot and killed Justin;
“b. That Justin was shot from a distance of at least several feet;
“c. That there was no evidence that Justin had ingested alcohol or any other intoxicants;
“d. That there were at least eleven (11) people in the room at the time that Justin was shot;
“e. That there was widespread ingestion of alcohol and intoxication amongst DynCorp employees, including but not limited to individual Defendants
Palmer, Fleming, Hillestad, Augustine, Igo, Tanner, Isaac [Doe 1] and Doe #’s 2-7, the night of Justin’s shooting death;
“That while DynCorp claimed to have a policy of zero tolerance for alcohol ingestion by DynCorp employees on its premises in Iraq, in fact, alcohol abuse was permitted, tolerated, authorized, condoned, approved, known, and promoted by Defendant DynCorp;
“That defendant DynCorp had ordered all its employees who were present in Justin’s room when he was shot and killed to go into a room and not come out until they had agreed upon a story as to how it had happened so they could conceal the truth; and
“Other pertinent information.
“Plaintiffs to this date have never been provided any information regarding the medical treatment that was provided to Justin after he was shot and before he died.
“Plaintiffs to this date have never been provided any of defendant DynCorp’s investigation reports or information about the internal investigation that supposedly occurred after the shooting.”
Even after Palmer’s conviction and sentencing, DynCorp continues to stick to its fabricated story, Pope’s family says.
They add: “The acts, false statements and omissions of defendants, described above, were intentional, willful, wanton, and designed to cause pain and injury. They were malicious, and were performed in violation of and with deliberate indifference and/or in reckless disregard of plaintiffs’ respective emotional well-being. …
These craven acts of dishonesty, some of which occurred immediately after Justin’s death and in the wake of his family’s shock and grief, and continue to this day, consisted both of fabricating events that did not happen (e.g. telling Justin’s family that ‘he shot himself’) and of intentionally withholding information regarding the circumstances of his death from the family. These acts of dishonesty were committed directly by defendants, and as part of the conspiracy, alleged herein, amongst defendants and with agents and officials of the United States government.”
Pope’s family seeks exemplary damages for conspiracy to intentionally inflict emotional injury, and intentional infliction of emotional injury.
They are represented by William Goodman, with Goodman Hurwitz
Youth from Odaipatti village in Tamil Nadu risk their lives to work as cooks in U.S. forward military bases. It’s no cakewalk
Their pay did not include medical or life insurance, neither was there any clarity about compensation in case of death. That they could be summarily removed — sometimes with just three hours notice — in case of a health problem or vision difficulty was something the young men did not know about before taking up their jobs.
The Hindu February 16, 2012
Odaipatti may not be aware of it but the far-flung village, tucked away in the foothills of Megamalai in southwestern Tamil Nadu, has played a substantive role in subsidising U.S. war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan. For many years, this fertile village, along with neighbouring Govindanagaram, has provided an army of formally trained bakers, cooks, and other catering specialists to various U.S. military bases in active combat zones for salaries from as low as $550 to $700 a month.
Bharathkumar Sekar is only 25 years old, but he is already a two-war veteran. He served as a head baker at the U.S. Forward Operative Base Kalsu, located in Iskandariya, Iraq, and later at Kandahar in Afghanistan. The equally young B. Thangaraj managed dining halls at U.S. army camps in Kirkush, Iraq, before moving to Helmand in Afghanistan.
E. Srinivasan, K. Manikandan … the list is long. Villagers tell me that by now more than 100 youth from the two villages have worked at military camps either in Iraq or Afghanistan or both, and those with the right qualifications continue to be recruited by U.S. military contractors.
“We knew we were taking risks. There were many rocket attacks inside our army camps. At times rockets even landed on top of my kitchen, Bharathkumar said, explaining that “it was bombproof.”
On January 30 I wrote a post regarding sexual violence by private contractors. Though the most flagrant instances have occurred in the past, it is still a problem.
Although I was not singling out any company in particular I did mention DynCorp because it served as the inspiration for the movie The Whistleblower that came out last year. This relates to the infamous cases of sex trafficking and slavery in Bosnia back in the Balkan wars of the nineties.
Okay, stuff happens. Although other things have happened with DynCorp, more specifically the DynCorp International division, over the years, it is a big company and employs lots of people. One should not tar every company with the sins of a past employee.
As big corporations go DynCorp, in my limited experience, is very decent. Full disclosure: years ago, I worked three years for one of its arms control units, not DynCorp International, and found the people there highly professional and very ethical.
Still, my past post evidently did not go down well at DynCorp HQ. I was emailed a response by one of their vice presidents taking me to task for my presumed sins. At the request of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre in London, which had listed my post in their weekly update, they emailed a similar response to them.
I fully understand that DynCorp wants to put the best possible face on this issue but I feel its response is a little too self-serving so let me just do some parsing of some of its statement.
With regard to the movie it writes,
‘The Whistleblower’ centers on allegations of human trafficking, a serious crime and global problem. Although the Company was never contacted by the filmmakers to obtain even a basic description of past work in Bosnia, to fact-check allegations or to obtain our position on these issues, when the Company reached out to the representatives for the filmmakers to gain more information about the movie, we were informed that the film, in the distributor’s words, ‘is a fictionalized, dramatic presentation.
I realize that in times long past it was popular to kill the messenger but that is supposedly out of fashion nowadays. DynCorp seems to think the filmmaker, who is Larysa Kondracki, had an obligation to contact them to get their spin. She did not…..
R Norman Moody Florida Today February 2, 2012
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE — Aviators at Brevard County’s beachside base are honing skills they will take to Afghanistan as part of efforts to build that country’s air force well ahead of the anticipated withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2014.
“We were really happy when the Air Force said, ‘Can we use your guys?’ ” said Paul O’Sullivan Jr., deputy director of the Department of State Air Wing at Patrick Air Force Base. “We’re happy to be able to help them.”
When word came about the need to train pilots on the Italian-made C-27 twin engine cargo planes, the Department of State Air Wing became a natural partner. The Air Wing, along with its main contractor, DynCorp International, and the Air Force are working together to help strengthen the Afghan air force.
“Our guys here will train the trainers in Afghanistan,” said Eric Huppert, DynCorp’s C-27 program manager. “It’s basically (to) teach them to fish.”
The plan is to have enough Afghan trainers in place when American forces withdraw from the country
In one of those rare, “perfect storm” of coincidences, three events converge to provide the topic for this column. First, the latest issue of the in-house magazine, the arriviste named “Journal of International Peace Operations,” published by ISOA, a PMSC trade group, is devoted to the topic of “Women & International Security.”
Since ISOA, like any good trade group, generally tries to dismiss any criticism of its member companies, as being the ravings of liberal hacks in pursuit of a “spicy merc” story, it is interesting to note that the very first article in the issue states:
Companies need to adopt institutional measures to prevent and address cases of misconduct. Appropriate gender training for PMSC personnel, alongside training in international humanitarian law and human rights law – as recommended by the Montreux Document on PMSCs -will help to create a more gender-aware institution, thus preventing human rights abuses and reputation loss. Having clear rules of behaviour and mechanisms to punish individuals responsible for human rights violations will benefit the host populations, individual companies and the industry as a whole.
Second, the recent release in the UK of last year’s movie, The Whistleblower, a fictionalized version of the involvement of DynCorp contractors in sex trafficking and slavery in Bosnia back in the nineties, serves to remind us that despite DynCorp’s rhetoric over the subsequent years not nearly enough has changed.
For those whose memories have faded, employees of DynCorp were accused of buying and keeping women and girls as young as 12 years old in sexual slavery in Bosnia. Perhaps even more shocking is that none of those involved have ever been held accountable within a court of law. The United States subsequently awarded DynCorp a new contract worth nearly $250 million to provide training to the developing Iraqi police force, even though the company’s immediate reaction to reports of the crimes was to fire the whistle-blowers.
As an article in the Jan. 29, Sunday Telegraph noted:
Most disappointing of all was what happened next: several men were sent home, but none was punished further. No future employer will know what these men were guilty of. I asked DynCorp if its guidelines had become more stringent since 2001 and was sent its code of ethics. It states that ‘engaging in or supporting any trafficking in persons […] is prohibited. Any person who violates this standard or fails to report violations of this standard shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.’ So nothing has changed.
By the way, from a strictly observational viewpoint, given other problems DynCorp has had over the years since that took place, from dancing boys in Afghanistan to the recent settling of an EEOC suit regarding sexual harassment of one of its workers in Iraq, DynCorp is the Energizer Bunny of sexual harassment; it just keeps giving and giving and giving; doubtlessly reporters around the world are grateful.