Muay Thai – Kickboxing – Children’s Classes – GRIT

The Adventures of Antman in IRAQ [PART 3]


Click here to read part 1 if you prefer context and timeline or read the prequel here of how I ended up in Iraq prior to this series. If not, jump right in and enjoy.

Hello Everyone

My first rotation is nearly coming to an end. Only two weeks to go and to be honest I think it is to short. I am only just starting to get a grip on what is going on and do any useful work. I will be back in Canberra to see Simon win another Australian Title. I may not get time for another Newsletter before I leave but I will try and catch up with everyone when I am back in Canberra.

I have taken a lot of photos and have been out and about a bit in the last week so I should have some interesting stories. When I get back this time if anyone is interested I will put together a slide show for anyone to look at. As you all know I like talking so I might have a slide night and few stories at the gym one night. For those interstate, I will put a slide show together or just send some digital photos over the net.

I got out for a road trip yesterday. I drove around the main streets of Baghdad for a few hours, then headed up for the 1 hour drive to Tadji. Tadji used to be and Iraqi army base that housed 500000 men. It is now run by the US airforce and Iraqi Army. It is a barren waste land punctuated by mud huts. There is football fields full of helicopters, some full of tanks but no actual football fields or footballs. Just sand and dirt but there is also a cinema, a shop and meal areas for over 25000 people. The military scale is unbelievable for us Aussies.

Driving in the countryside and around the town is not like driving anywhere else unless you are used to driving in two armored cars, with six heavily armed men in bullet proof vests. Contrary to almost every other security team here I manage three teams of guys who work covertly and do not draw attention to themselves. Our drivers are Iraqi (British trained) and the cars look local, they are armoured and back up cars drive close and in adjacent streets. It is a logistically difficult way to get around not to mention very expensive. It costs the client about $8000-$10000 a day for our security teams and cars. We avoid contact and focus on getting home.

Driving around I was amazed by how life goes on and despite the explosions, the constant risk of death, the despair and daily challenges, kids still go to school, there is DVD shops, mobile phones, T.V’s and barbers. Not any obvious girls clothes shops but they do exist in hidden and secret places (not really worth the shopping trip for you girls).

Life must go on and a lot of the violence is just background noise. It is dangerous just to be an Iraqi but it is just impossible to be white and walk around.

There is a lot of work to be done before tourism picks back up. Despite the US presence, military check points, Iraqi Army checkpoints we still drove past – a militia check point – set up just to stop people and steel things because they controlled the road and the local area. I say drove past because stopping would be stupid. They didn’t really like the fact that we didn’t stop but hey, we had bigger cars and guns and that they didn’t understand. Accelerating through a check point tends to piss them off but it is a good test of your armored car vs small arms fire scenario. We went back a different way.

Currently due to insurgent attacks on infrastructure the locals in Baghdad get 3 hours of electricity every 24 hours. This time last year they got 6 hours. So no improvement there. As the transition to Iraqi democracy continues the transition into organised chaos continues.

After a busy day out yesterday, I spent the day in the office and around the camp organising local security issues and a key to the bunkers so I can go exploring more, hopefully find some treasure!

Another day another few bombs. I am finally able to tell the difference between a mortar and rocket by the sound and can tell if it is close or going over head. What a skill.

You probably all saw on the news the day of large bombs around Baghdad. 13 across the country. What the media was implying that it was all related to the new government and claimed by Al Qaeda but it just doesn’t make a lot of sense from where I sit. It was not coordinated, not targeted, not aimed at any pattern, against foreigners or police, just random noise and not even particularly smart. But is got the medias attention.

The war was called off today because our network was down. The bad guys must have had IT problems as well because there was very little activity today. Another day passed in Iraq and our biggest inconvenience was we couldn’t email each other, had to go and talk to people! If it is not fixed tomorrow we better get the bad guys for a game of soccer, we can’t go on this way.

I am off to Najaf ( a seaside resort full of Swiss tourists, free cocktails and a large swimming pool – or that’s what I have been told) tomorrow, so will be off the air for a few days. Then back and in a made rush to hand over to my back to back job sharing buddy and I am flying home. Back to reliable internet, cold, reality TV, good coffee and to see friends.

Been nice talking to you.

Thanks for the emails and messages. I feel privileged to have such a group of friends and family to support me. You are all great people.

Najaf was a con, no Swiss people anywhere! 4 cars, we take redundancy on road trips. More radios, sat phones, rehearsals for open country driving or running random check points. Some IED lessons for reminders. Bit of convoy practice. Hard to go undercover in the open so high speed convoy fun. No eye spy for the whole trip, just bland desert, checking every vehicle, check points and no road stations for burgers. A place known for cemeteries! So much fun. Very historic but it was all business, one meeting, pick up some shit and get back before it is dark.


2 June

Hi all

Just a quick note to say I arrived safely. It is a long haul from Canberra, but I actually got some sleep on the way here and after a night in Amman I feel pretty good.

Did some speed touristing in Amman and spent a few hours at one of the worlds best preserved Roman cities climbing around like a little boy, had a good sleep and now I am back in sunny Iraq. It was 40 when I arrived, it is 8pm and it is a low 38. Like walking around in an oven. Sad thing is I was actually happy to be here but after a few hours it feels like I never left same issues to deal with. Baghdad was busy this morning on the drive in. Lots of cars out and about, people going to work and people getting on with life. My job share friend spent the whole four weeks without getting mortered once! how boring.

Amman was awesome. Picked up by local staff, left alone to explore but still got to be armed and had to stay aware and focused. Hotel has massive security and hard to trust anyone outside of a hotel. Good test to wonder around and get switched back on, met some locals via local trusted CRG staff and look around.

Will send more when awake and settled.


Hello Again

Welcome to another series of newsletters from my Iraq adventures. I arrived safely earlier this week after drudging through the two-day grind to get here. Walked off the plane into an oven at 44deg and just when you thought it wasn’t hot enough got dressed in my bullet proof vest and loaded up the weapons for the drive from the airport to the IZ.

Took a new route through south Baghdad to avoid the major airport road. Was a nice drive through the city, a busy day, in a busy city, people going about their daily business, getting to work, getting to school, getting stuck in traffic etc. Every where you drive you have a switched on ‘awake feeling’. The city goes on but you need to stay vigilant, look behind the apparent normality and look for out of the ordinary in a city that is not ordinary anyway. After a 40 min drive I arrived at my temp home. At first glance I told me, not much has changed and within two days I hardly feel that I left at all. You hit the ground running, in the deep end. Apparently everyone has a holiday on their rotations are expected to be switched on when they get back. I need a rest from my break! I think despite the environment and the constant workload I have more to do running the gym. Over here they wash my clothes, feed me and it is hot, no frost, just sand and wind.

On the way here I had an afternoon spare in Amman and being the speed tourist that I am I took the opportunity to go on a trip to Jarash, just 45 min out of Amman. This place was worth the long flight alone. Jerash is one of the largest and well preserved Roman cities in the world. I have been to Rome and toured the Roman forum and this was far better. Jerash is better preserved, and you can climb all over it, no tourist restrictions, no paths and walkways so I could really have some fun and imagine being back in time 400BC and seeing how the Romans ruled the known world. Hollywood has given us all images of Rome, chariot racing, gladiators and Roman culture and walking around the city you could imagine what it was like and see the city being alive and functional. With architecture from 400BC touring was majestic.

The main theatre at Jerash

As I entered one of two theatres I was further amazed to see a Jordanian Military Bag Pipe band performing and playing Scottish marching music on the bagpipes – surprised but impressive band, a memorable experience.

The main theatre at Jerash

I have a camera this time so photos will be a new exciting addition to the emails.  Enjoy your lives in Australia, appreciate every little thing you take for granted, especially friends and a good coffee.

Antman of the desert

Me at Jerash

4 Jul 05

Hi everyone. This one might be a bit long but I like to tell a story and as I have no one to give a speech to this will have to do.

So much has been happening that I have not had any time to keep the regular emails up. Every day brings new challenges and demands, and I learn more about myself and the world around me. When all is said and done the experience is the treasure. I have learnt so much about my job and the environment that I am only now starting to get a handle on the situation. Just when I think I might start to understand I am confounded by the simplest of challenges.

Baghdad is suffering from many things, the least of which is a severe water shortage. With over 150 Iraqi staff working in our compound, we get a good feel for life in the city and what the locals care about most is basic daily survival. Getting enough water to drink, getting food for their family, arriving home safe from a day at work with an American company and when they are at home not getting kidnapped or killed.

The Iraqis that work in our compound are gardeners, cleaners, architects, engineers, doctors and surveyors and they all risk their lives to work for a US company. They get paid well and most of them try hard to make the most of the opportunity. I am getting to know some of the ones that speak good English and it is fascinating to learn about their perspective on the War, the War on Terror and politics. Everyone is very careful about what they say but freely offer an opinion about wanting self rule and the insurgent gone.

With the US gone most think the Insurgents will go to. Then Iraq can try and sort itself out and deal with spiraling violent crime, militia, tribal warfare, corruption and getting on in life. It is amazing to see how idealistic some people are despite the trouble and trauma of the country. I have not spoken to anyone who has not lost a family member in the last five years to war, insurgents, or crime.  Back to the water shortage.

Well people are stealing bottled water. Even when you are trying to be fair and let a few bottles go per day we are still getting the guys who are trying to take boxes out in cars, not for them but to sell. We must increase searches just to control our own water supply. People are trying to break in at night to steel water and we have had people try to stay back at night just to try and have a shower. I don’t mind this so much because we have our own well plus when you work in a big air con tin shed with 50 Iraqi men – wow! you want them to shower. The women still try to look clean and tidy. Come to work in robes and then unveil jeans and t-shirts underneath, fluff the hair up and off they go. (trying to catch a visa if possible! Sinical I know)

I have been to the gym which I try to do every day but only get to 1-3 times a week. We now have a gym with twice as much stuff as my gym but it doesn’t matter where you are in the world an elliptical runner and a bike are dead boring. The funny part is when you have a power outage every 20 minutes or so- I watch the guys on the treadmill going for it and then zap, no power. A few have the basic balance to jump on the runners, but I always get a laugh out of the ones who slip and fall off the back. It is always interesting to watch people who have never seen gym equipment try to learn. In a country like this exercise is way down the list of daily requirements but the more the yanks are here the more the local staff try to come and have a go.

Shouldn’t laugh but I do, not out loud of course. I even try and help but am really trying to keep to myself. I get a few questions here and there and even had a few people ask me to teach them some boxing, but I just don’t have time. My 7ft boss is running karate classes with some of the locals and US staff. Keeps asking me to come but I just can’t bare it. He is a 8th Dan and even bought his uniform with him! If I get really bored I might introduce him to a triangle choke. I have watched and I am not joking, competence is not evident.

I have had the opportunity to get out and about a lot more on this trip and have been in and around Baghdad a few times. You always get a bit nervous but we plan well, operate well and work hard to avoid being targeted and staying out of trouble but just in case we take lots of guns and ammo.

I watched a US PBS documentary of private warriors in Iraq which highlighted a few of the other companies doing what we do. My God this place has its share of lunatics. These guys drive around with sirens on, pushing cars out of the way, windows down(on armored cars – anyone that’s understands this will know how stupid that is), and drive so fast they are a danger to themselves.

The hearts and minds concepts are lost on these guys! The guys they interviewed would have been between 23-26 and were proud of the number of people they had run over or shot for no reason. You really do get what you pay for and when it comes down to it. This place is big business and profits drive everything. The guys are mostly South African (these guys are deadly serious though  -fuck working in SA must bred them tough) and American. There is about double the ‘special forces’ guys that would exist in every army in the world now. I am glad they are out there sometimes – gives the bad guys something to draw fire away from us.

The figures hear are bad – The 10-week stats: 136 vehicle bombs that killed 492 and injured 1409. 10 suicide vest that killed 32 and wounded 493. 290 Insurgents killed and 143 US forces.

On a lighter note I went on a 6 hour drive last week to an Air force base in the middle of no-where. A place called Tallil. The attached photo is taken at a place called Ziggerat of Ur which is 2500BC temple that had its facade reconstructed in the 20’s. On the top of it you can see for 25 miles in every direction and all you see in sand. Impressive place that I didn’t expect to find and you will probably never see. And the air force base of course. I had a great time their.

It is where the Italians are based. So what can you say, well they import coffee and have a real coffee shop with really good coffee. I had so much caffeine I have not slept for 3 days. The Italians have it good; they don’t leave the base and don’t do night shifts.

Ziggerat of Ur

Not sure what they do but if anyone comes close they will probably surrender. Their dining facility is a US DFAC which is incredible. Considering every bottle of water, every flavour of ice cream and every Twinkie must be trucked in armoured convoy, the selection is impressive. Tops most five-star hotels I have been too. I had Baskin and Robbins for dessert; roast Turkey for Dinner, gatorade, a chilli dog and numerous other little delicacies we just don’t get in our private contractor mess hall. Actually, I had the ice cream first!

The drive back was tough, the aircon broke, 48 deg outside but we had to open the doors to let the cool air in! I saw more camels than in a camel zoo, real Bedouin, tents, sand twisters and about 4 million convoys that you have to pull over for which made the 3-hour trip 6 hours. The fun bit is when the traffic gets to busy you just go on the other side of the three-lane highway and drive in the far lane against the oncoming traffic – everyone does it and it keeps you awake. The scariest part is having every US Convoy point 50 calibre machine Guns at you as they pass. Very unfriendly and intimidating.

Have a good time everyone and do something simple and fun for me.


Why walk?

17 July 05

Hi guys

Just a extract from today’s news in Iraq.


In the North, 18 people were killed and up to 60 were wounded when an individual suicide bomber targeted a crowd outside a bank in the city.  In Hawijah a suicide VBIED exploded ivo an IP TCP. In the Central Region a suicide VBIED exploded ivo an ISF patrol ivo Khan Bani Saad killing ten people and ivo Baghdad a suicide VBIED targeted a MNFI convoy on Route TAMPA south-west of BIAP. 

In Western Iraq the bodies of 24 men were discovered at two sites.  The men had been killed execution style and some of the bodies had been decapitated. These men were believed to be the missing men from the convoy attacked yesterday. This week has seen a dramatic increase in Convoy attacks in the Anbar region. Four convoys have been attacked, destroying all vehicles. Total dead 46, missing 17, 18 vehicles destroyed.

Five key Iraqi Police Commanders have been assassinated in Baghdad. A Major in the Iraqi Wolf Brigade acted as a suicide bomber yesterday killing 18 people at the Headquarters meeting.

In the North, MNFI managed to detain two suspected AIF in Mosul after being engaged in a drive-by shooting.  In Kirkuk there was an attempted abduction which resulted in a firefight between the kidnappers and IP at a TCP and there were three reported IED incidents on Route TAMPA ivo Baiji.

In the Central Region, at least 23 IA soldiers were killed and 29 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a dining facility on an IA base in Khalis.  In Baghdad an Australian hostage was freed during a ‘routine’ cordon and search operation and there was another EFP IED attack on a MNFI convoy.

I am safe in my little bunker. Today I am making everybody wear their body amour around the camp, it is 44 and I am not popular. Even here security gets overtaken by convenience. Risk has heightened for some type of insurgency attack. Trending towards insiders – trusted – staff going rogue.

I got to go down the bunkers again and through the Palace yesterday. It was still interesting and fun to find new tunnels and hiding places. It is very cool down there. Went to the kitchen which has three large fridges. Every meal was prepared for Saddam in there and in every other Kitchen in his palaces incase he wanted to eat at one of them at anytime, what service.

Back to the fridges, when this palace was being bombed it was used as a morgue, bodies stacked high in the fridge. It is clean now but has an eerie feel to it and not a place that you feel like hanging around in.

I am trying to get on a Helicopter ride to take my Parsons Boss around to some US bases, called FOBs, in the next few days. Be good to get out and about via chopper.

The Iraqi government is still in chaos and trying hard to set up a government, seize control for their faction and stay alive all at the same time. Everyone knows that Douglas Wood was released and when the US staff here heard about it in their daily security briefs they all cheered and clapped.

Which is good. A lot of conjecture about the actual rescue and some serious differences between the information here and the Aussie media, but no surprises there! He won’t be disregarding DFAT security advise and traveling around in Iraq, unarmed, unprotected and without comms again. I hope the practice of making ‘donations’ to charities to obtain the release of those kidnapped doesn’t catch on, especially if we want to try and curb the number of kidnappings. Rescuing or saving stupid people in any way is risky. No sympathy form people who have to risk their  lives to ‘save’ these type of people.

Antman of the desert

Once upon a time in Iraq

Aug 05

Hi Everyone.

Today in Baghdad the country moved forward towards a new constitution, Shia and Kurds are in agreement on most issues and the Sunnis cant agree despite many efforts at all levels to include them. Let’s remember that the Sunnis protested the election and just didn’t vote and then were included in the talks and Government. Not to mention that the Insurgents are predominately Sunni, Iran is Predominately Shia and the only thing they agree on with the Shia is they want the US out. Shia and Sunni can’t even agree to fight the US together let alone decide the finer points of the constitution.

Tomorrow is a big day (today for you). There is a big religious ceremony in Baghdad,  2 million Shia attended last year and 80 people were killed in bomb blasts on the buses to the location of the pilgrimage. Everyone is expecting more trouble so we stopped all of our movements in Baghdad. While the pilgrimage is on, while the war goes ahead, and the crowds gather, I might go to the pool. What I do has no effect anyway.  It will be an interesting test to see what happens and what gets shown on TV.

I saw a peaceful protest march in Baghdad on CNN today, reported as 1000’s with posters of Al Sadr(the prominent young militant cleric who has massive support and is against everything!). I watched the Baghdad footage and noticed that it was a loop of a few hundred in a safe area (the IZ) so was just a media set up. Disgusting really. Dont believe everything you see or hear. On CNN there was a few prominent American US Military and State department people talking about how with the constitution and an election coming up and with the Iraqi Army and Police moving rapidly towards being able to control the country themselves. Of course, Iraq is ready; they are now a democracy with an elected government. What could go wrong! No history in a country with thousands of years of history without democracy, will embrace something forced on them for sure.

The hardest thing to understand is how the media and western countries use it as a frame of reference for explanation and explaining how Iraq is and how their people are as a nation. Now they have a comparative framework, for them. For Iraqi and most of the middle east, it still makes no sense. Media is must think we are all stupid to think now they have democracy, we are all the same.

Me proudly (sarcastically) posing inside the US Embassy. I never knew how to take this picture without offending my US friends. Twin towers was tragic but what did Iraq have to do with it again? It is all about freedom I suppose. And money, and power, and control and oil of course.

Meanwhile back on the US they were having their own little protest in


The Rev. Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist Church in, Topeka, Kan., contends that American soldiers are being killed in Iraq as vengeance from God for protecting a country that harbors gays. The church, which is not affiliated with a larger denomination, is made up mostly of Phelps’

children, grandchildren and in-laws. The church members carried signs and shouted things such as “God hates fags” and “God hates you.”

Now in Iraq today MNFI (multi national Forces Iraq) reported two murders.

The bodies of 2 young men (18-25) were found hog tied with bullet holes in their heads. Not such a big deal in a democratic country moving safely towards self rule but when you investigate it further (as a sinic like me

does) you realise that the Baghdad morgue had 31 other deliveries for 18-25yr old men delivered to them last night. All with bullet wounds to the head and hog tied. You dont need CSI Baghdad to figure out there is a connection. The two reported ones were because they were found by MNFI soldiers. The other 31 do not count as insurgent violence. Don’t go thinking that is unusual, the average murder for this week alone is 22 per night!

This morning 20 bodies were found killed yesterday in a room in a house in the suburbs, all shot in the head, unrelated to the other murders. Appears to be a tribal dispute. What you can be certain of tomorrow is that there will be retribution and on and on it goes, ever closer to democracy and freedom.

Now when the Iraqi protest they take it seriously. Yesterday their was disputes over the appointment of the Minister for oil (a prime position as you could imagine), now in a democracy this is just a portfolio position but here it is ticket to print money. Whoever gets this position will cement a power base for a whole tribe, family and religious order for as long as they can hold on to it with bribes and murder. You bribe the enemy and you murder your close family and friends to stay in power. Well, back to the protest. What do think? A few placards in the protest area, a stop work meeting, a press conference? No, the legal opposition supported by an elected member fired three rockets in to the building trying to kill the Minister. That’s democracy and freedom.

Now I live in the International Zone (IZ) sometimes called the Green Zone because it is green on maps. I have described this before but for my newsletter virgins; it is a 10km walled city protected by 6 checkpoints and 3m high cement walls with razor wire on them and a US brigade (4000men) patrolling. The IZ is the old Saddam centre of power, the centre of government. Now if you were going to take over a country and bring freedom and democracy to it. Remove and evil dictator and give hope to the people.

That’s were you would live isn’t it? To win the hearts and minds of the locals well you would just move right into Saddam Palace and make it your own centre of power. Democracy conquering overlord style. Now the Iraqis still can’t come in the Green zone because they are moving forward to freedom and the American way while the US make the palace their Palace – I mean Embassy.

The US Embassy
Inside the US Embassy

The IZ checkpoints are in the process of being handed over to the Iraqi Army (IA). A designated trained up and dedicated unit called the ‘defenders of the Green Zone’. You may be all hearing about how well trained the IA are and how they are ready. I see US Generals on TV saying so, so I believe it.

Well today the IA at the checkpoints acted very democratically and used their new freedom to go on strike. They are protesting pay and conditions.

Now that’s a democratic army! They just walked off the job. They get paid at least $400US a month, when they get paid. Of course they will commit there lives to the Defence of the US Embassy and US contractors. (Yes there is an Australian Embassy here, well 3 people and a brick building.) A symbol I think it is called. 82% of yanks don’t know there are Australians here, let alone where our Embassy is.) Now the if you are a member of the Wolf Brigade ( a military unit that is a Shia and not in the IA – yes they have their own

Armies) you get paid about $500-$800 a month). Now despite all this rhetoric and confidence on CNN I organised for my little fort to have more guns and more security, stronger searches, tighter controls and developed a monitoring system for checking on our locals because I think that MR IA guy at checkpoint 2 to the IZ just might let MR Insurgent through with 500 pounds of explosives for about $100 US or for free is his family is held hostage.

Now this may seem obvious to you but my US Boss disagrees with me and watches CNN. I will be laughing very hard when he tries to take my gun and vest off me! He think the Iraqis are ready to take over our protection. Did I mention he is going home for a holiday soon, mmm.

The photos – 1 is of me training 137 Iraqi staff in security awareness. I was great, the translator was crap. He got stage fright! so I had to improvise. I had a Power Point presentation that I did in Arabic and English. I was trying to teach the local staff about staying away from suspected bombs and how to hide that they work for Americans as it may keep them alive to enjoy their freedom. I talked about basic security awareness, how to get home with out being kidnapped, how to not get murdered by talking to the wrong people, you know the same old stuff. At least now I am truly an international presenter.

me training 137 Iraqi staff in security awareness
The other photo is of some guys I met when I went out for a Kebab.

I think I have gone on long enough. I will try and get another story together soon. Personally, I am enjoying my job very much. I love having my meals cooked and clothes washed. I am used to the constant drown of helicopters and nothing gets your day started faster than a loud explosion and the smell of death (skin and burnt skin actually) in the air. I will be home in September to enjoy Coffee and friends. Be good to catch up with everyone then if I get time. Send emails please, it is always great to hear what is going on. Sorry that I don’t get more time to answer everyone individually, but I do thank you for every single email.

Love you all.


I am the KING of the world (mimicking Saddam watching his parades)

13 Aug 05

Hello friends

Iraq is still here despite the efforts of all the inhabitants to wipe everyone out they don’t like or disagree with. Whether it be religion, crime, tribal, or retribution everyone hear seems to go out of there way for an excuse to kill someone. Muslims kill Muslims, Kurds hate Arabs, Muslims kill Christians, Christians run Muslims off the road and shoot people out of fear, criminals kidnap people for money and look for a cause to pin it to.

Every body will kill for their faction or tribe or local religious leader but no one is loyal to anyone unless they pay and look after you. If someone looks like loosing power then they loose friends very quick. Iraqi Guards and body guards hired have alliances and just run away when required to do their job out of fear and to protect their relationship with their next employer. It is very historic for the locals to switch sides to the winning team as required and as often as needed to keep your family alive. Why change now.

Threats and intimidation are a daily occurrence, they are carried out a lot but this place is very much survival of the fittest. Work sites get shut down for weeks with just one death threat because no one will stand up to the local militia because they will kill you and your family and your friends if you do. Police don’t work at night so no point calling them and depending on what tribe or alliances they have they may or may not help but one common thing the Iraqi and the insurgents have in common is they all seem to like killing Iraqi Police. If none of that made sense then you can see what kind of mess this country is. This is because the Police are recruited from one tribe, one area and one religious’ base. Not very democratic.

Some other highlights include. We hired some workers to sandbag some new walls and areas for the compound. They laid out the sandbags and spent a week working hard filling the sand bags. When I was checking on the work I decided I would go out the front to where we have some temp blast walls that the same contractor put in place (heshan fenced in an area about 1.5m high and 1m wide like a sand filled blast wall. I realized then where the contractor was getting his sand from. He thought it would be easier than ordering more to just take it out of these walls. Now we have no sand in the blast walls and no sandbags filled or laid because one of the workers got a death threat and nobody has come to work for a week. I cancelled the contract and got some cement walls instead. Money be damned.

The Iraq government Ministry of Defence was audited. They got 1 billion dollars of reconstruction money to start building the new Iraqi Defence force. 500million is missing, yes that is a lot of money unaccounted for.

$250million was spent on some helicopters from Portugal. Bought and paid for and awaiting delivery. Delivery was delayed because the helicopters wouldn’t fly and couldn’t take off. Two problems – no Iraqi pilots were trained on the helicopters and no Portuguese pilots were either. But the best bit is that they were 30 years old, were not inspected and were 10 years past their frame expiration date so they cant be used at all. Result – write off. Some one made a lot of money in that deal. Now I am madly thinking about what I could sell the Iraqi government. Any ideas? I was thinking of selling Qantas.

2 Iraqi police found a bomb (IED) and on suspecting it realised they could disarm it, so they did. Then they thought it was worth keeping so they get another 10 guys out of the station and proceeded to lift it up to put it on a truck. Surprise and tragedy, it went off! killing 12 people.

In the world press they talk a lot about the upcoming vote for the new Iraqi constitution. It is meant to be put up for a vote tomorrow however five things are at an impasse. Islam as a state religion, the Kurds want Kurdish as the national language with Arabic, The Sunni and Shia want Islam as the national religion but the latest impasse is what to call the country. The Republic of Iraq, the Islamic Republic or Iraq or the Federal Islamic republic of Iraq. Reminds me of a Monty Python movie. I thought Iraq was fine – but what do I know. The constitution will probably get pushed through by the US and these challenging issues will be dealt with later. Kurdistan is looking like being a sovereign country sooner than later anyway or Turkish, who really knows.

What have I been doing. Well they have a good gym here now so I try to go there once a day and do some mind numbing elliptical runner work. I played touch footy with the Fijians yesterday, these guys were born with footballs in their hands. It was 50deg. I played for an hour and lost 70kg of my 80kg in sweat. The job is getting easier as I have set up a lot of systems and are on top of most things. Daily is mostly dealing with current issues and trouble shooting. I am not getting to travel much on this trip which is ok, boring is good in a place like this. Adventure mostly means trouble and it is only exciting if nothing happens then it is just trouble and misery. I have updated the guard force procedures, tried to buy $400000 worth of security equipment, changed the contract on the escorts are on and re done the planning and reporting process of the PSD teams so now I have to find somewhere else to cause trouble. If security is to busy then we are in trouble.

I heard it snowed in Canberra the day it was 51deg here. It was bloody hot here but I honestly prefer here. A few of you heard about the dust storms here. I attached a photo of it. It doesn’t look like much until you realise it is mid day and 45deg.

A local sandstorm outside my office

I trust everyone is well enjoying themselves and all of life’s pleasures.

Keep the emails coming; it is great to here form home and what’s going on.

Saw the article in yesterdays Australian about a man arrested on 17 counts of Bestiality with a rabbit! that’s messed up. Not even in Iraq could that happen. It is not against the law anyway!


16 Aug 05

A day in the sun and sand

Good morning all

Any resemblance to any person or situation from the story below is only a coincidence. It is just a story. Written in the first person to add effect and because of my limited grammatical skills it is the only way I can write.

I went to bed at 9am, spent all day in my bunker. The most dangerous thing I did was play touch when it topped 50deg Celsius!

I currently sit in my office, it is 2230hrs. Tonight was the first night the security consultants from my company decided to have a BBQ get together. Was all going well until about 90min ago. We were discussing how having a few bears in 35deg heat having a BBQ; you could think you are at home. The sound of choppers ruined the ambience, 4 Blackhawks flying overhead then two Apache’s and a Shinnok. Obviously an important visitor arriving. The sound of choppers becomes soothing and expected however the mood always changes when the Blackhawk with the red cross flies over 3-4 times day. We are 200m from the emergency hospital.

We were getting back to the beers talking about the cricket (even me but pretending to be Aussie) a we hear two loud bangs, one is determined a launch of a mortar and then the landing by the security experts present, now distracted from the cricket.

Back to the cricket as we all are comfortable, it is at least 2km away. We look at our watches though as 2130hrs is very late for the insurgents to be up but we are reminded that the Iraqi Government is up tonight debating the new constitution as it is due to be ratified today. Should we call it ‘The republic of Iraq’ or ‘The Federal Republic of Iraq’ and other critical issues that will make Iraq a safe and enjoyable place to live. It is likely the delegates are being targeted on their departure, so the concern is availed and we return to our beers and the music of the choppers over head.

BOOM, BOOM two more distinctly loud explosion, probably mortars land, this time louder, closer, you can hear the ruble but it is still at least 1km away. My radio goes off, my phone goes off, the US Embassy Sirens go off and my chicken burger arrives. What a choice. I take a bite of my burger of course and decide that tonight I better be in the compound. Those around me, my boss, my teammates and friends all shake hands, unusual gesture but it just seemed right at the time, and say we better go to work. Within 2 min we are all moving, just walking back to our cars talking about the cricket again.

Within 5 min we are back in the car, we are only 500m from our compound, the Embassy Sirens are louder as we approach and pass the Embassy then we here it again. BOOM, BOOM, death wrapped in human bomb. It sounds just like a mortar but it feels different, you just know people died then, lives were ruined and torn apart by a cause not worth living for. I guess a low-grade suicide bomb at a checkpoint into the IZ. We all stopped talking and arrive at the compound. The guards are alert but not concerned; they have heard it all before. They are right, nothing has landed in our compound, nothing in the IZ and the fate of those at the Checkpoint 1km down the road is not known. At 8am in the morning at least 300 Iraqis would be lined up to get in to work but at this time only a handful of Iraqi National Guard would be there, but death is still tragic when you are the statistic.

My role is as the incident coordinator, so I have to be relaxed and confident, something that takes a lot of practice (and breathing). We have 150 US staff whose bravery is skin deep, as thick as their flag and nationalistic from a safe distance. It has been quite lately, and these explosions have woken a few up, most are in bed under the protection of their bomb proof doonas enjoying the air-conditioning. The Manager is awake, so I go into his office as if I have been here all the time, checking my facts and brief him on the situation as I know it. Which is not much, and I don’t elaborate or provide opinion. Fact – we are all OK. Normal Insurgent activity. He is reassured and goes back to work. I give him a spare radio though and ask him to turn it on as a precaution. This is a practiced step when alert levels are raised so I can communicate with the ‘customer’. I proceed to my office and check the INT reports – nothing out yet and as a civilian company we are at the bottom of the food chain so that is no surprise.

I get the Guard Commander up, he stands all the guard too. Why? because the threat is real and still there. Extra torches are handed out and an extra 10 guards start patrolling the compound, extra guard on the gate and in the tower, gates closed. Everyone asleep or working peacefully. Then within 10 minutes there is more, crash, Boom, Bang (how do you make the sound of a mortar on a keybourd?) Quick succession, 3 mortars landing in the IZ, I am outside, and it was close but I am here so it is ok, relax, work, I find myself lying on the ground against some sand bags, just seemed like the right thing to do.

All I do is listen – listen for my own locally instigated alarm system – air horns that I put in the tower to tell me if an explosion happens inside the compound. It is weird; all I am worried about is doing my job. No Air Horns, Did I wait long enough? No Air Horns, Should I move now, yes I better but I don’t seem to want to, the bunker seems the right place to be but I can’t work from there. So I move straight to the Ops room which is only 5m away. I look at my watch and from the first mortar to know is only 90 seconds, felt longer.

The Ops room is dark, the powers out, that’s ok the power always goes out, emergency lights are on. The comms guy is on the radio getting a report from the guard tower, the Intelligence guy is on the phone to his contact at the British Embassy. The Comms guy says what I want to hear, ‘not in the compound’ nothing else. I turn I go into the office area, 3 minutes has elapsed now, no air horns, no more mortars and for now it is safe but tonight has not been usual, there could be more. On the way I am on my radio to a counterpart who works at the office that is 200m away and I need the office checked now so we stay on the phone and say nothing, we just know what to do. On the way to the office the Guard Commander says ‘bunkers’
as I walk past. With no pause I say ‘yes’. Seems obvious but we have procedures, and that word is my job.

As I enter the office area he is on the radio to the Fijians who are ready with torches. Now that bit was surprising, Fijians are not fast, they work on Island time but now there they are, ready to go. The Fijians start going room to room and getting people out of bed and into the bunkers.

I enter the office and most people are in the office, the phone is still on and as I am about to yell ‘no threat in the Compound, move to bunkers’. I know this because I thought about about what to say. Crump, another mortar goes off, closer but when you start getting more the tension escalates exponentially, people freeze, people panic. I am kneeling down so I stand up and see 25 staff under their desks not moving and one guy decides to get up and run, couldn’t believe it, thought it only happened in movies, but I realised then where these get their B-grade movies from.

My commands changed to ‘GET DOWN STAY DOWN’ twice I think. He stopped running. My colleague could hear me and was giving the same instructions ‘ stay down.’ We wait in place, 10 sec, 20 sec and I look around. Just like you do when you first get in the ring and look back at the crowd and I see everyone just looking at me. Now I remembered what I get paid for. I lay down and yelled stay down, nobody move. Don’t be brave just set an example. After about 1 min I say what everyone wants to hear ‘move to bunkers now’. Everyone is up; people work better with a purpose, so I give them something to do. Move now, take your phones, take your helmet. With in 2 min everyone is in a bunker or under overhead protection. Over the radio I hear ‘move to bunkers complete’. I call the Program managers and remind them to check if all their staff are their, use the speed dials we have set up. OK they say and now everyone has something to do.

Back to the Ops room. The first thing to do is check if any check points have been attacked or breached in the IZ. Until we get an answer I put two Fijians in the three towers and three to patrol outside on the perimeter covered by the towers. One of the American questions this but in a room full of Aussies and Poms nobody even bothers to answer. Accountability check proceeds, takes longer than it should but everything is quite and people are chatting, they know it is safe, 20 minutes now and no more mortars. Everyone accounted for and we hear that no IZ checkpoints have been breached.

It is the first time we do not have loud Americans around, so we have a brew, it is late so we have a cuppa tea. Some one turns the Television on to see the news. I figured we would enjoy the quite for a bit and leave the Americans in the bunkers a bit longer – because we can. We then go outside, no radios this time and go bunker to bunker to stand everyone down. Funny how a night like this wakes everyone up. Few go to bed straight away and choose to stay and chat.

We have no information on any casualties. Our compound is fine and that is great but everyone is soon on the phone to check other compounds and friends in the IZ. We soon realise that even with 3 mortar strikes, no one has reported any casualties. This is confirmed by the quite no choppers no ambulances. But we wont know until tomorrows reports. Quite is good. God was on our side tonight ‘in shala’ as the Arabs say ‘God Willing’.

I think it was just luck, luck the insurgent cant aim mortars consistently.

What did you do last night?
In perspective. All I could think about is being under a sustained bombing campaign, WW2 style. This was baby steps.



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