Dispatch from Iraq. Sort of...
I got a call today from one of my oldest and dearest friends. It appears that his tour as a contractor in Iraq has been cut short - by about ten months - and it is due to injury, but not at the hands of Iraqi insurgents, rather in his own words, 'just a dumb mistake on my part'. Turns out he sprained his ankle real bad, and then broke his tibia. Anyway, the conversation was fairly short, but I thought I would relate some of the details here for those of you interested in working in Iraq.
First, I should point out that he was in one of the more stable parts of Iraq, in the Kurdish zone. But that said, he also reported that in the two months he was there, the local town lost it's chief of police three times. The first one was killed in an ambush; the second was killed by a grenade, and the third one shot dead by a sniper. Good to be working in the safe areas, eh?
Now his job was to aid in the construction of a new base in that region. He informed me that he had three body guards at all times, including a personal body guard who was an ex-South African commando. The other two were former Iraqi Royal Guard members. Strange bedfellows I would say. He went on to report that they always traveled heavily armed, including himself, and the job turned out to require a lot of travel to the base under construction from the security area in which he resided. Further, travel was always in convoy and his car (the driver of which was one of his Iraqi body guards) was a brand new BMW.
As he pointed out, with his complexion and in Iraqi head wear, he could visibly pass for a local until he was forced to respond with a Latin accent. More importantly, local Iraqis don't tend to travel w/ three heavily armed body guards and in convoys, or if they do, they're likely well known in the region already. Well I joked about how much safer it would be if he had been assigned an old beater truck or something, and he agreed. He had to travel an hour and ten minutes one way, everyday, to and from the worksite. Two hours and twenty minutes of wondering if there's a hidden roadside bomb, or an ambush waiting somewhere, anywhere along the route.
He has decided he is not going back to Iraq when his leg heals. Apparently the ample pay increase to work over there just does not seem worth it to him any more.
There's more to the story, including a five day ordeal trying to get back to the states in which one of the planes apparently came under hostile fire somewhere near Jordan. I'll have to wait to get the rest of the details, as will you. It was a short phone call between old friends, but we're planning to get together for a few beers in the next couple of weeks and I'll pump him for more details.
A couple of notes: I intentionally do not include any detailed info as I'm not sure if any of what he said is classified. I'll ask that when I see him, and if more of the details can be told, I will provide them.
Second, I wonder if I could get a contract making brand new cars look like old beaters? Just take the chassis from a BMW, and put an old distressed body on it. Re-enforce the floor, and add some plate armor. I live in Georgia, and I bet between the junk yards in here, Alabama and Tennessee, I could find enough old car bodies that would fit with a few minor modifications. I wonder how much I could charge for the conversion jobs?