Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

2 US forces mistakenly killed by drone attack in Afghanistan

By Jim Miklaszewski Chief Pentagon Correspondent NBC

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Marine reservist and a Navy corpsman were killed in a drone airstrike in Afghanistan last week in an apparent case of friendly fire, U.S. military officials tell NBC News.

Marine Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith and Navy Corpsman Benjamin Rast were reportedly killed Wednesday by a Hellfire missile fired from a U.S. Air Force Predator in what appears to be a case of mistaken identity, NBC reported. Smith and Rast were part of a Marine unit moving in to reinforce fellow Marines under heavy fire from enemy forces outside Sangin in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.

The Marines under fire were watching streaming video of the battlefield being fed to them by an armed Predator overhead. They saw a number of “hot spots,” or infrared images, moving in their direction. Apparently believing that those “hot spots” were the enemy, they called in a Hellfire missile strike from the Predator.


April 11, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Friendly Fire | , , , | Leave a comment

Security Contractors, Coalition Comms, and Friendly Fire

Aviation Week Ares
Posted by Paul McLeary at 10/25/2010 7:22 AM CDT

Even with all of the communications, sensor and intelligence-gathering technologies at the disposal of the modern U.S. military, the battlefield continues to be a crowded, fast-moving, and confusing place. The notion of the “fog of war” may be a cliché, but it’s one that persists despite centuries of effort to clear it up — and when you add civilian security contractors to the mix, it becomes even more complex.

American soldiers pose with a Ugandan security contractor

It is essentially taken as a given that in future military operations, civilian contractors will—as they have in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia and Kosovo—work alongside American and allied forces providing everything from labor to support to security missions. The New York Times has done a good job combing through the Wikileaks files for material that captures the contractors’ role in Iraq, but there’s more.

The Times found that during the six years covered by the Wikileaks reports, “at least 175 private security contractors were killed. The peak appeared to come in 2006, when 53 died. Insurgents and other malefactors kidnapped at least 70 security contractors, many of whom were later killed.” Steve Fainaru did a great job capturing the disorganization surrounding some of the smaller, sketchier security outfits in his book, Big Boy Rules, but even when it comes to the large security companies, mistakes happened. Mistakes like shooting at, or being shot at, by the U.S. and coalition forces.

In one “White-on-Blue” incident documents by Wikileaks, trucks from security contractor Armor Group were fired on by an American convoy when it tried to pass the military trucks on the highway. The contractor “had previously understood signals…to means that he was cleared to pass.” No one was hurt. In another incident, an American convoy “inadvertently engaged a civilian contractor security element” after two Ford trucks approached the convoy. The trucks were hit three times before U.S. forces realized that they were friendly. Again, no one was hurt.

One huge hindrance in performing operations as part of an international coalition is the inability to speak to your allies, since different countries use different communications technologies. In Iraq, this led to some hairy moments early in the war between coalition military forces.

In April 2004, Polish troops in Karbala fired warning shots at “a fast approaching vehicle packet,” which returned fire before turning around. When the convoy turned, the Polish troops recognized the trucks as American Humvees belonging to the Military Police. An investigation found that one coalition troop was lightly injured and the incident occurred because of a “lack of radio communications” between the MP patrol and the traffic control point. In July 2004 the it was the Americans turn to fire on the Poles in Karbala when “unknown vehicles” approached their position one evening. Unaware that any Polish convoy was in the area, and unable to make verbal contact with the vehicles, the Poles withdrew, and no one was hurt.

In February of that year, an American military convoy fired on British convoy, again because of a lack of comms between allies The British Tiger Team “approached the back of the US convoy. They were immediately threatened with a .___ Cal MG ___ straight at them. The ___ convoy attempted to get close to and pass the US convoy a total of ___ times, and was threatened in the same way each time.” A more serious incident occurred in February 2004 when an American foot patrol in Basra came across a group of masked gunmen “firing in all directions outside the bank.” Thinking they were being attacked, the patrol engaged, killing one and wounding two. Turns out that the masked men were “Iraqi Police on an undercover operation against drugs and alcohol sellers in the area.”

From this we can draw two conclusions. One, in future operations, communications between coalition partners needs to improve. Work has been done to sync up comms on the battlefield, but the system is far from perfect. Second, as we said up top, security contractors on the battlefield are a reality. They’re not going anywhere, and they will share space with U.S. and allied troops wherever they operate in the future. Communications between the civilian and military elements is difficult when the military is unsure who is working security in the area, but this is something that will need to find a solution at some point to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Please see original post here

October 25, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Iraq, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

Linda Norgrove: aid worker ‘killed by friendly fire’

Linda Norgrove, the British aid worker, may have been killed by a grenade thrown by US troops trying to rescue her from Taliban kidnappers in Afghanistan.

As the family of the 36-year-old raised concerns over the failed rescue mission which led to her death, David Cameron confirmed that Miss Norgrove may have died as a result of so-called ‘friendly fire’.

The Prime Minister announced that a full investigation is being launched into the circumstances of the tragedy.

It had initially been reported that Miss Norgrove died after her rebel captors detonated a suicide vest as American troops closed in on them.

The victim’s parents have demanded a full explanation for the events surrounding her capture and failed rescue, amid claims that her release could have been negotiated.

John and Lorna Norgrove are “devastated” by their daughter’s death and were joined at the weekend by their other daughter Sofie at their remote home on the Isle of Lewis.

Speaking at a press conference at 10 Downing Street, Mr Cameron said it was not yet certain that Miss Norgrove’s death was caused by allied forces.

US commander General David Petraeus informed Downing Street this morning that a review of the rescue operation had uncovered new information suggesting that a grenade detonated by taskforce members may have been to blame.

Mr Cameron informed Miss Norgrove’s family of the “deeply distressing development” before making his announcement at a scheduled press conference which was delayed by almost an hour.

He said the decision to mount a rescue operation was made by Foreign Secretary William Hague “after careful consideration” and had his full support as Prime Minister.

Ms Norgrove’s life was in “grave danger” from the moment she was seized, and there were fears that she might be passed up the terrorist chain and put at greater peril if she was not rescued.

“I am clear that the best chance of saving Linda’s life was to go ahead, recognising that any operation was fraught with risk for all those involved and success was by no means guaranteed,” said Mr Cameron.

“None of us can understand just how painful this must be for Linda’s family,” he said.

“Also it is deeply regrettable, particularly for them, that the information published on Saturday is highly likely to have been incorrect.

“The statements were made in good faith and on the basis of the information that we received.

“I want to assure Mr and Mrs Norgrove that I will do everything I possibly can to establish the full facts and give them certainty about how their daughter died.”

Mr Cameron said General Petraeus had treated the hostage “as if she was a US citizen” and that “he and the US forces did everything in their power to bring Linda home safely”.

“The US forces placed their own lives in danger. General Petraeus has told me they are deeply dismayed at the outcome. I want to thank them for their courage,” he said.  Read the entire story here

October 11, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Safety and Security Issues, State Department, USAID | , , , | Leave a comment

Daughter of KBR employee killed by friendly fire in Iraq can sue


I published my first post on this tragedy well over a year ago. I was inundated with comments from people who had information or insight on this case. After you read this post be sure to read the comments on Lawsuit blames KBR in driver death at Anaconda Iraq. FYI last I heard Frazier Shack now works for Dyncorp in Texas.

Halliburton Can’t Shake Friendly Fire Lawsuit

By JEFF GORMAN – April 19, 2010

(CN) – Halliburton and other U.S. military support contractors cannot escape a lawsuit filed by a woman whose father was gunned down by friendly fire in Iraq, the 5th Circuit ruled.

Kristen Martin claimed her father, Donald Tolfree, relied on the defendants’ assurances that he would be protected by the U.S. military while working in Iraq.

Tolfree was driving a “chase truck,” an empty semi-truck cab which could be used to help a disabled semi in a military convoy.

According to Martin, the convoy commander did not tell the sentry that her father was returning to camp after his truck was no longer needed for the mission.

Tolfree drove back to camp without an escort and died when an American gunner fired 100 rounds into his truck.

Martin also claimed that defendants falsely told her that her father was killed by a roadside bomb instead of by friendly fire.

The lower court denied defendants’ request to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to a claim of official immunity. Justice Carolyn Dineen King ruled that she lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the appeal.

“Defendants cite several actions that they performed – allowing Tolfree’s truck to return…without coordinating its return and training and supervising employees – but these do not rise to the level of being activities that involve policy-making work for the United States government,” King wrote.

For that reason, King ruled that her court lacked jurisdiction over the lower courts’ denial of the defendants’ immunity. (click HERE for original article)

Lawsuit over KBR Employee Killed in Iraq by U.S. Troops Gets Go-Ahead

By JEFF GORMAN – April 25, 2010

Relatives of Donald Tolfree, an employee of KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, who was killed by friendly fire in Iraq, have been allowed to move forward with their lawsuit against the defense contractor. Tolfree’s daughter contends Halliburton assured her father he would be protected while driving trucks for supply convoys. But in February 2007, Tolfree’s semi cab was riddled with a hundred bullets from a machine gun after his convoy commander failed to alert the U.S. camp to which he headed, causing an American soldier to open fire on him. Although initial reports correctly stated that Tolfree had been killed by friendly fire, Tolfree’s family says that Halliburton tried to convince them that he was really killed by a roadside bomb. (Click HERE for original article)
Martin v. Halliburton

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Defense Base Act, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment