Muay Thai – Kickboxing – Children’s Classes – GRIT

The Adventures of Antman in IRAQ [PART 5]


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.

Hi Guys

You may have already seen the news about 3 explosions in Baghdad. After the three quietist days all year we were rocked by an explosion at 1721 and then two more in the next ten minutes. The explosions were huge, large clouds of smoke rising fast in the air. The explosion were out side the Sheraton hotel area which is were most of the journalists are housed. No info on casualties yet but it is likely to be high.

Media reports are two rockets followed a VBIED. I think it was two vbied about 400pounds followed by a cement truck with 800-1000 pounds. We are about 600m -1km from the explosion which occurred outside the IZ. I will remember them for a long time, the photo is the third explosion. We are standing on a cement slab path with felt like a small wave passed under our feet as the sound of the explosion overcame all your senses. Sounded like it was a lot closer. Hope you like the photo.

Have a quiet day.

5 Nov 05

Hi Guys

This is my last email before leaving Iraq (this time). I wanted to email you guys before I go to thank you for the support and friendship you have given me during my time here. It has been an adventure of a lifetime for me but it has been made easier by the friends that take the time to email me. It makes a huge difference to have friends from home and contacts who care about you. Don’t forget that when things get dangerous it helps you stay in touch and remember things are worth going home to. This has been an incredible adventure, but I am sure it will not be my last.

I apologise in advance for my lack of emails and contact when in Australia.
My life at home doesn’t lend itself to time to email and stay in touch as it does from Iraq. It is very ironic but here you make time to stay in touch because everything is further from your reach. At home I hope to do the same. I have learnt a lot about my self in Iraq and I am pleased with my achievement and overwhelmed by how many things we take for granted in our lives. I am more content with what I have and want to make the most of it.

Hope to see you all soon back in Australia.



Kan Bani Saad – The site of a 5000-man Prison that Parsons is building. One of the only Prisons on the world designed to keep armed attackers out and dangerous prisoners in.

Part 2 – I hope you can recall my previous uneventful drive to KBS.

Kan Bani Saad (KBS) is a hole. Nothing between Baghdad and KBS is of any note. It is hard to tell where the rubbish dump starts and the city ends. Some people call it home, as a stray cat with no choice calls anywhere home. I drive through it in 4 armoured BMW’s and I call it dangerous. Looking out at locals from my air-conditioned vehicle with satellite tracking and satellite T.V. My hand never leaves my rifle and my eyes never leave the road. I feel detached, like I am watching life on another world, desperate life struggling to fain normality. Some people look back, some people look away; some people look straight through the armoured glass, straight through you and pierce your gaze in defiance. I wonder what the eyes are telling me, nobody on the road to KBS has ever smiled back and I have never smiled at them. I admit, I look straight through everyone and the only reflection I portray is of seriousness. I don’t like to smile and those that know me know I only smile when I am in trouble; it is an aggressive mechanism for me and a trigger for cold action.

Nobody likes a prison in their neighbourhood and no body likes the neibourhood of KBS. A melting pot for criminal gangs and a Sunni dominated region. It makes sense to build the prison in the neigbourhood the inmates will be coming from. Perhaps it is designed to intimidate but if that is the case the locals stare straight back in defiance and that stare is backed by intent and the will to not see the Prison win. The first Iraqi contract company pulled out after their site foreman, and his construction manager were murdered on the site. The company that tendered second agreed to take on the project only if the security was made of local militia. The construction company didn’t care if it gets built and they get paid. Everyone is getting paid but not much is getting built, that is the way of Iraq. The Project Manager is from the US and he has to sign off on the progress for people to get paid and that sounds boring but it is why I am on the road to KBS.

Normally we have 3 armoured cars and a local recon vehicle but for KBS we take 4 armoured cars, two of which are 4WD, more men, more guns and more radios. Out of Baghdad goes to plan and in 5 minutes we are on the expressway, we pass 2 Iraqi Police checkpoints and an Iraqi army checkpoint. We pull up in the lead vehicle and press our IDs against the window, holding 4 fingers up to show we have four cars. The guard smiles each time and waves us through. We hold outside the checkpoint to cover the other vehicles as they slow for their passes to be checked, this makes the guards nervous as we like to face them so they know we are watching.

20km short of the Iraq finalist for the Tidy Town of the Year award – KBS, we approach another Iraqi Police checkpoint, 2 cars in pairs the others holding back. We pull up, we lift our ID’s to the window and the policeman wants the window down, we just hold the IDs up. An armoured car is not armoured if the windows are down and sitting still is not what you want to be doing for long.

The guard persists and taps on the window, he is not smiling. Our two vehicles behind moved closer and as the road is empty, approach slowly in the Centre of the road. As the guard notices them he steps back and waves us through. We go 50 meters and halt stopping to cover the other vehicles through the checkpoint. They are just waived through with smiles, but something doesn’t feel right, too friendly.

2km down the road as we approach a small town and the traffic increases the rear vehicle radios through that white bongo van has passed them, not unusual but they noticed it was waived through the CP directly behind us and faster than normal. It approaches our car and passes; I notice it has four men in it, all young, all looking straight ahead except for the front passenger who checks out our car. Not unusual either except things are starting to add up. The bongo van enters the town in front of us and as we enter the town our scout car radios that the town is clear, not many people around and traffic is clearer than normal. As we turn the first corner we see the bongo van parked 100m in front and things start to happen very fast, everything speeds up, everything looks closer than it is but everything is quiet.

The front car driver doesn’t need to be told, he guns the vehicle and powers off, we do the same and radio the two cars behind as a truck appears on our left, to the front, moving fast out of a side street. It looks like it is trying to ram the front car but it is not. It is just trying to block the road and the front car is clear. The front car has the client in it and he is the package, he keeps going. The two cars behind are closing, they are now 100 meters away but we are not going to make it. The truck has blocked the road and the Bongo van is coming back at us. We have to slow but the road is not wide enough to turn so drop the car hard right and spin through 180 degree, always keeping momentum always moving. As we spin I see the four men running at our car, four men with rifles, four men that don’t look like terrorists from Hollywood, they look like homeless guys with rifles. They run with a purpose. Us. No one is shooting and I am thinking kidnap, or they just know the car is armoured and don’t bother. Our car has spun 180deg and we can see our 3rd vehicle has pulled up 100meters away. I look left as we accelerate away and I see an Iraqi pointing his AK47 at me, he fires from 10 meters away, running and shouting but I can’t hear anything because all I can hear is sound of bullets hitting the car. I am not looking anymore, I am turning in my seat to watch, to face them. The car is pulling away as two guys are running beside the car shooting the tyres, emptying at least a full magazine into them on both sides.

I am smiling now. Cars become small when you are trying to get your rifle organised and weapons ready.

I look at one bad guy shooting at the tyres and hear more gun fire or more aptly, I see it. I see it hit the bad guy, not once but multiple times. He jerks but never looks up again. He just drops face first into the road. He isn’t smiling anymore. As we speed off I see two things. One, the other tyre shooting feind is also down; two the bongo van is driving, chasing us and as it comes after us he just drives over his friends. We have no tires; we are driving on run flats (tyres for armored cars so when they are blown you can drive for at least 50km). It is much noisier, and it feels like they shot the suspension out but we are driving away, the third vehicle is to our right, still shooting. Shooting at the Bongo van. There is two Iraqis (on our side) in this car, one is shooting at the bongo van, one is the driver. The British Expat is there too, shooting at the bongo van with a crew serve weapon (bigger machine gum) and we see the bongo van go from chasing us to dieing, swerving off the road and crashing high speed into a roadside building. We are now 50 m past the third car. The guys are getting back in the third car and the fourth car is in front of us now.

We look back having cleared 200m by now and see a hilux come around the truck. The hilux has men in the back. Armed men. We radio the first car and is safe, it has doubled back through the side streets and is now running parallel to us. 200m to our flank on another road. In another 200m the roads will merge and will form up again on the move. We are still being followed and we have a IP check point to go through, the same one that set us up on the way in.

We have 200m on the hilux and they are shooting at us. Shooting at as over their cab roof. How bizarre I thought, I remember trying to shoot kangaroos like that and remembered how the kangaroos were hard to hit when running. We meet up with the other cars and we are at the back, we have two run flats dragging us down and the hilux pressing us to the checkpoint. We have about 1km to the checkpoint and one rise and slight long left run on the approach. The front vehicle can see the checkpoint and our fears are abated; A US Patrol is there. Should mean no trouble from the IP but we must get the 4wd in front and slow down or they will take us as a threat. The lead vehicles slow down, put British flags in the windows. We slow down more. We are approaching the rise and I notice we lose sight of the other vehicles.

We cross the rise, still about 1km from the CP, the other cars are 150m from it. About now I can hear the TL talk to the IP and everything is cool, the US Mil have a look at US and see friendly faces looking back from the 4wd. The TL gets out and talks to the Marine Sergeant; he needs to know what’s coming and what’s happened. We decide they can’t see us, the bad guys cant see us and we are way pissed, we don’t like running. We can bring this down on the checkpoint or.

Being ambushed, set up with bad intentions and having to run away was not our daily plan. We leave the car on the road (in a dead spot) with the engine on, driver stays in and we get out standing behind the doors. No time to talk. We face up the road, weapons trained on the rise and 75m behind us the Hilux appears. Now the firing is one way. The Hilux is staring straight at us, stunned, it tries to brake and forces itself to jackknife in panic. It is side on now and the guys in the back are down, on the road, in the back. No seat belts in the back of a ute! One pom, one Aussie, two AK47 magazines and the Hilux is not moving. No one is firing back. In less than 15 seconds we are back in the car and moving again.

The CP knows we are coming and are waiting for US. Lucky the Marines know we are coming, and the IP are all friends and pals now. We approached slowly advising over the radio that the hilux just stopped chasing us, we couldn’t keep up because of the tyres and they just unloaded on us but must have stopped knowing the IP checkpoint was close.

We brief the Marines on the last place we saw the hilux and give a description. Well, we didn’t, we let the Team Leader do it. We just stayed in the car anxious to move, to get out of here. It was safe but your body doesn’t want to stop, not until you let it. Not until you are home. We drove home and the road to KBS now means something to us.

Point – this is a story. Any resemblance to anyone is purely coincidental.

the NOT armoured scout car

Plus – Funny story. A T-Wall is a 12ft high cement wall put around buildings as protection from blasts. Yesterday two Iraqis were arrested after they were caught putting explosives inside a T-Wall and trying to put it in place on the perimeter of a US Base. Just at the entrance. How were they caught you ask? Well the guard on duty noticed two guys carrying a T-Wall on their shoulders down the street towards the gate!!!!. They were greeted by soldiers and detained. The T-Wall was made of Styrofoam and painted to look like cement.

Have good day. It is quiet here so I have time to write stories


3 Nov 05

Hi Guys

It is about time for another long email about life in Iraq. This time I think it is time to revisit some old topics and talk about some of the news that is news but doesn’t make the news and when it does it gets pushed behind stories about football and Australian Idol ratings.

Whilst you have all been sleeping safely, worrying about getting to work early enough to get a car park or getting to training on time or having a winge that your latte is not hot enough at morning tea.

The Pentagon released figures of Iraqi casualty figures since Jan 2004.
26000 Iraqi civilians (or insurgents depending on if they where at work at their local terrorist anonymous meeting after hours). 75000 wounded. That’s Belconnen right there – gone. Democracy is a wonderful thing. I have that and a lot more exciting referendum and terrorist news to cheer your day up.

Civilians, noncombatants, innocents. Three very different words. What is really a civilian when entire families and tribes all conspire to kill you and support one side no matter what. When 10 year olds have machine guns and women are suicide bombers, once of course but day work in a library.

The referendum came and went and 75% of the population voted for it so the country moves towards it first democratic elections on the 15th of December.
If the referendum is an example, the country was so democratic and safe that all borders, were shut, all airports, all bus services, all roads unless military vehicle, a four-day public holiday was enforced. What fun, no work, no pay, no where to go and nothing to do! My favourite security measure was ‘no weapons allowed on the streets unless you are Iraqi Police, Military or Coalition forces’. Great idea – maybe if they had just thought of that earlier the terrorists would have not brought their guns to town.

By all accounts, even after a recount of some ‘suspicious reports’. It was a yes vote. Two areas voted 90% against and 65% of registered voters turned out. Just sounds like a fair an equitable election back home. One province even had a 110% Yes vote – that’s right, more people voted ‘yes’ than are registered to vote! At least no one was killed or blown up trying to vote. One region had polling booths closed because of an increased threat of suicide bombers so about 25000 couldn’t vote NO. Sounds a lot like Florida but you get that when you have the US teaching you how to be democratic.


One day I was standing out having a brew at about 5:30pm just as the sun was setting over the desert when a not to distant explosion rocked the quiet, it was that loud some of us even looked up to fain interest. It was only about 1km away and then a few minutes later another a few hundred meters from the first, about the same size – 400 pounds of vehicle bourne explosive and 150pounds of muslim fanatic went off. This got our attention, we all new it was over towards the Sheraton Hotel on the Edge of the Green Zone and two VBIEDs in the same place meant something – an attack. Blow the first, wait for panic, rescue workers and security and then blow the second!

Simple but viscous. The deadly gas of white powder and death rising to locate the detonation point on the horizon. Then about 60 seconds later another explosion rocked us, I mean the cement path we were on felt like a wave passing under our feet, the white cloud was fast like someone just blew up a powder factory but the noise was the most frightening. Terse and extreme, I am sure I could hear a scream on the edge of it as it passed by. The last sound of life passing by.

This was huge – a cement truck full of military grade explosives. It had our attention now, we couldn’t see the two hotels in the direction but expected them to be gone. As fast you got the news in Australia it was on CNN, so off to the TV ‘s we went and lucky for our curiosity the bombs had targeted the hotel where the media are staying – instant story with great footage. For the size of the attack the devastating effect of the explosives had a minor effect on the defences to the hotel and everyone in them was ok, deaf but ok.

Luckily only 12 people were killed (unless you were on of them of course). What didn’t get reported was four ‘now dead’ security guards of a lowly paid third world nation – nepal, stuck there head out of the bunker after the first two explosions and saw a cement truck driving hard towards the breach made by recent explosions, opened fire and made the driver enter a wall of high speed lead intent on sending him to Allah – it worked, he got shredded and pulled his toggle of destruction early, not making it to the basement of the hotel. Massive explosion but over all a bad result for a well-planned, deliberate, and professional attack on a high value and highly protected area – what we call a complex spectacular attack. This raises the stacks for all of who prepare for threat.

From the street

For my mates that work in counter terrorism and security in Oz – that’s how they do terrorism over here. No hostages, no hijackings, no one vehicle with enough casualties that our two-vehicle ambulance service can manage. Some great footage on the news and we can all sleep safe knowing we are prepared. If they choose to bring the war to us it wont be simple, it will be complex and it will knock Australian Idol off the ratings.

Some other more interesting but shorter stories that probably didn’t make the news because reporters were not the target.

A man in a truck selling dates drove into a market in a small town outside of Baghdad, got a crowd around and blew them up – 33 dead.

A large car Bomb in the Southern town of Basrah ruined a Saturday night market area and killed 24.

Five vehicle bombs went of in a northern, previously peaceful Kurdish part of the country. No casualty figures as they are still counting.


A REAL photo of ‘life’ in Baghdad – the police college suicide attack.

Horrendous experience having to go there to get some American staff out back to safety and walk through the carnage and chaos to retrieve them from a safe room and stay safe doing it. NO first aid, just fully operational rescues in the midst of misery, pain, smell and further risk. The longest in and out extraction walking through the building in the history of ‘stay focused’. Risk of further explosions, emergency services on the way but family there before looking, injured people wandering in a daze, extremely high threat of follow up attack and we had to get in and out and walk through it all, get some very scared people into safety.

A building site in Baghdad was nearing completion, a few more days and it is ready to hand over to the Iraqi government. Some local militia walk in, argue with the forman that the site is American, the foreman argues that it is a Health Clinic(it is a health clinic) but he looses because someone seen an American visit the site recently. The militia get the twelve workers at the site at the time, line them up on a newly finished white plaster wall and shot them in the head.

The most exciting thing that happened to me this time and the most exciting thing I ever want to happen or has happened occurred. I learnt the sound of a rocket being fired, got to calculate exactly what it sounds like as it approaches, how long it takes and how much more eerie it sounds when the sounds gets higher and sharper and the noise it makes when it goes off 20meters away, impacting into the roof of the building I was standing in (well by the time it hit I was lying down being a pancake). Now this building is in our compound, so I got to earn my money, get up and run the 200m back to the operations room to ascertain if everything was ok. Everyone seemed to be although the office looked like a game of hide and seek as everyone was under their desks! 20 minutes later everyone was accounted for, no injuries. Very lucky for everyone. I have some cool shrapnel that hit the wall of my office. (this bit is cut out of my mums story so lets just keep it between us). I went to the US Embassy and had Baskin and Robbins and a fudge brownie and I felt much better about the world. Lucky it was only one rocket!

Militarily the bad guys are increasing the use of explosive formed projectiles which can just burn through any armor hence October being the second worst month for US casualties. Not a nice development when your tank cant stop a road side bomb anymore.

Yesterday a police operation took place on a border town to Iran. The Iraqi Army got wind of smugglers taking truck loads of oil into Iran. They set up an ambush and a roadblock, sure enough the smugglers were surprised. A gun battled developed and at least 12 people were killed before Coalition Forces arrived and intervened halting the attack. What I like about this was the smugglers were the Iraqi Oil Police and the Army guys wanted in on their money-making scheme. The best part was that it was reported as insurgents dressed in Iraqi Police vehicles with stolen Iraqi Police cars attempted to smuggle oil into Iran for trade in explosives. The truth is always more believable than the official story.

That was the last two weeks.

Good news – the weather is fine. Like spring. I am having a great adventure.
I manage the security for 125 people, mostly US guys and since I have been here, no one has been kidnapped, killed or injured so that’s pretty good.
Their building projects aren’t working but they will all go home. So that’s good news. Not much but I had to come up with something.

We had to pose for a photo of all the parsons staff. I didn’t like this but is was a safe time of day, clear skies and the fastest you have ever seen a group photos organised and dispersed in the world.

I will be back in Aus a bit longer this time as some pieces of the puzzle are shifting in Iraq. So no newsletters for a while. I will be back though, just not sure when. Looking for another adventure. Need to jazz the stories up for you.

Antman of the desert

Its not a uniform we just like the same clothes

11 Dec 05

Hi everyone

I am back in Baghdad, day 2 and I was reminded why gun laws are a good idea. Tonight is truly amazing. I was trying to get an early night when sustained gun fire broke out, in continued un abated for over an hour.

Waking all the staff, causing great concern as tracer rounds appeared over head and stray rounds started landing in the compound. No one was firing directly at us but everyone was up, everyone in Baghdad! Everyone with a weapon was firing it, firing it up in the air and because there was so much you couldn’t tell where it was coming from, all I knew was it was going over our head. I was in my room on the radio trying to gather information when the ‘tink tink’ sound of bullets started hitting the accommodation and it was time to get the armour on and go find a safer place to work.

What was going on? After about 20 minutes it was determined that Iraq had beaten Syria at a soccer match and that was worth celebrating. People will die tonight but Iraq won the soccer. I have never heard so much gunfire I just hope I am not here if Iraq ever wins a world cup game. The US Military at the checkpoints obviously like soccer as well because they were firing back and firing 50cals.

A bullet came down through my roof, tinged and whizzed around me room and hit my leg, like punch. Was woozer, being shot, shock, laughter and I fucking hate soccer.

This pace is crazy, at least they wasted lots of bullets and if you listened carefully you could count how many guns there are in Baghdad – more than people I think.

Have a peaceful day

Antman of the soccer gun crazy nation

At Saddams Heads – Camp Prosperity These were removed from the palace and stored at an Army base by the US.

26 Dec 05

Happy Kickboxing day

What is commonly known as Boxing day will in the future be referred to, at all times as Kick Boxing Day. No other sport has its very own national day!

For a change I thought I would write a newsletter and not bore you with the adventures of Antman in Iraq series. For those of you who unfamiliar with his stories you are excluded from the email list because you will fit into one of three categories:

  1. You are close family and would only be bored with another story about what’s on T.V in my bunker. 
  2. I forgot to email you.
  3. You take the time to spell check my emails and give me advise on grammar.


I just had Christmas, just like you, except for a few small differences.

  1. I am with fundamentalist Christian Americans working with Irish Protestant security.
  2. I am in Muslim country who think a fire work display is a mortar attack on the Christians.
  3. I had to work just like every other day
  4. I got paid more than you did on Christmas day
  5. I had breakfast with 8 different nationalities’ 
  6. I had lunch at the US Embassy
  7. I had dinner with the Fijians with a good old-fashioned cook out (lamb not people)
  8. Santa didn’t come. He got shot down over Baghdad, kidnapped by insurgents, the reindeer were raped and made into Reindeer VBIED. SANTA subsequently was released because he gave the insurgents some new rocket launchers however when he attempted to enter the IZ he was shot by US Marines because a fat guy in a jacket looks like a suicide bomber!
  9. I didn’t see any children. 10. I didn’t wash anything up just threw all the plastic plates and cutlery in the bin.


What’s been going on in Baghdad?

Saddams trial is my favourite event. We call it the Saddam Hussein show. All the Iraqis watch it and you guys probably get more news about it than me.

What I have seen on CNN is very good though. The same people that bought peace and democracy to Iraq and now have a democratic friend in the Middle East (George Bushs words, not mine) are bringing you the trial of the century. This suits Saddam as he has previously presented himself with the ‘man of the century’ award. Saddam has risen to the occasion and when ever he gets a chance to speak or when he feels like it he virtually breaks in to song and lectures the judge, the court and the T.V cameras about the plight of Iraq, his mistreatment, his religion and his Arab status. He never shuts up and you wouldn’t either if you were delaying your death. He is however campaigning and doing a great job of NOT supporting the US and gaining votes for himself. He voted in the election but if he could of ran for a seat he would probably get back into power. Catch the Saddam show on a cable T.V near you. I cant imagine who thought trialing him in his own country on international T.V would of worked – the same people that brought you the OJ Simpson trial reenactments I suppose.

We have also had the election and now nearly have a democratic government. Nearly being the key word. Just like my aircon nearly works, my door nearly shuts, my food nearly tastes good, the walls in my room are nearly straight and everything is nearly finished. As was expected most people voted on religious lines for their predominant religious or tribal representative. A democratic election where everyone was allowed to vote for who they were told too free from independent thought. Not too different from a US election, except more people voted. The predominant winners will be the Shia parties and the Kurdish in the North. The Sunnis received some seats but are already complaining about election tampering. A mature response is expected in the short term and then a return to disruption and chaos as they try to disrupt the country through violence. The US are hoping this mature response will last long enough for them to tell the world Iraq is safe enough for them to hand over power to the Iraqi forces and leave saying they won.

Did you know the US has a winning strategy. The only piece missing is a definition of winning. The good news is Iran is a stable Shia dominated country who will support a Shia lead Iraqi Government. The only floor in the plan being the Iranian President believes he is only a caretaker president until the coming of Armageddon and the end of the world.

Seriously the local Iraqis are growing in confidence and self respect. Life is much better when you work for the Americans and the Iraqis are achieving and growing as a people. When we line up for Lunch now I don’t get my own line anymore. My colonial upbringing is taking a beating.

Getting in the camp is segregated. Potential Bombers too one side please.
As I said before, I had Christmas lunch at the US Embassy. Where else in the world could an Aussie civilian do that. It was great, excellent food and cookies and cream ice cream for dessert. Considering they feed over 1500 people a meal it is a fantastic achievement. The decorations were spectacular, ice cream cakes, 6ft plastic saxophone playing plastic Santa clauses and enough tinsel, ribbons and banners to rival the Gay Mardi Gra.

There is a lot of good Americans, don’t get me wrong and I have met some fantastic people absolutely committed to doing there job and dedicating their lives to improving this country. The military is serious. They are great people but if I talked about them it would just be boring because there is enough about the US Military everywhere. Logistics, scale, industry, doctrine; that is how you win a war and the US Military will win every war they are ALLOWED to fight politically, full scale.

I had a Pizza at the PX store a few days ago just to sit and watch the B Grade action movie go by. I was wondering as I watched protein feed, muscle bound private security guys walking around fully kitted up with thigh holsters, body armour, machine guns, head sets and huge cars with sirens and flashing lights how you could fit so much testosterone into one place. The same old question keeps coming back up; what came first ? B-Grade American cowboy security guys or B-grade American actions movies. Because I cant tell the difference.

Have a good Summer.

Love you all

Antman of Baghdad


1 Jan 06

Good morning

Happy New year

New Years here was memorable. Had a 2 drinks with the CR guys and then stayed around the office and let everyone celebrate. I am the incident controller and was not comfortable socializing too much or drinking. At midnight there was about 1 hours worth of celebratory fire, no rounds landing in the compound luckily. There was also two rockets going overhead exploding somewhere in Baghdad.

Yesterday 3 mortars landed in the US Embassy grounds and missed everyone. This morning there have been two semi loud explosion in Baghdad. Don’t know where or why but there is very little change from six months ago. The last few days have seen a return of VBIED and activity. Far less casualty figures though and less successful attacks. Mostly targeted at police. We had people at the airport by 8am this morning so pretty much normal for me. What’s different is the sinking feeling you get every time you hear and explosion and listen for another one. I don’t care about them in Baghdad I just care if the next one is going to be near me. Selfish I know.

The Parsons Global security director has gone to the states and his boss – the Global Security Director is here. He is a normal person and I have had a good time working for him. He listened and is very interested in what we say and do. I even had fun yesterday writing a report on a very serious security consideration (weird hey). It was a nice change to do something with purpose with work as opposed to day-to-day emergencies. I am sure the report could have been better but here you get 3-4 hours and you have to get it done. No one can afford for it to take a week. I like that. I had to provide recommendations and do a security analysis of collocating 15 staff at 15 different military basis around Baghdad to travel with US Military and have there security handed over to them. Pretty complicated issue. There goes another explosion. It is hard to imagine what the war is really like here with all the talk of an election and Saddams trial. You would think life here is normal.

I am going to go to the US Embassy for a good coffee later for something nice then back to weekly reports. Have great day and great year. That’s four explosions. Might not go anywhere for a while.


Training with The Fijians at the range
The ‘A-’ Team. The Iraq Iran war memorial. The guy in the idle is just to ugly for my photos.
My work mate and real terrorist advisor ‘lucky he is on my side’ Good Irish background.
Emails had to stop unexpectedly.​

A family tragedy happened just before I returned home this rotation. Had to skip the next rotation and focus on other aspects of life. Even know, I miss working in Iraq and putting my military training into operation. Security is taken seriously, and it is great to have a direct role in keeping people alive.

Appendix 1. Stories not in these emails​
The world worst airport waiting lounge

Leaving Iraq is always a highlight of any visit. Full protection team to get one person to the airport on a 40 min drive down the hwy of death. The most attacked and bombed section of road in Iraq. When you get to the airport, the fun begins. About 40% of flights in an out are cancelled so leaving is always problematic. In about 11 flights out, 2 were on time, 4 were moved to the next day. 2 were cancelled. 2 worked within 2 hours of schedule and 1 was life threatening.

When people are leaving Iraq, they are often waiting for 6 – 12 months and get desperate to leave so the airport is a place of chaos. 2 flights a day to Jordon on commercial airline. You arrive 4- 6 hours early and waiting in the waiting area. No system, except, the Iraqi guards let people through as they like based on space and something they know, that know one else knows. Or maybe it is something they don’t know they don’t know, so we don’t know. So you just line up. You leave the cue, you line up again. People bring food and drinks and camp. You have already passed through an x-ray and guards out the front control parking and vehicle movement, which is after a US checkpoint so moderately safe.

On my last day out. I was lined up without about 50 other people. Waiting the check bags. We here mortar fire, sounds close and boom, it hits the airport, maybe a 300meters away. No one moves, no one wants to lose their spot. I am thinking, maybe I can get further in the cue here. If there is too many they close the airport, planes don’t like mortar fire.

After a few more minutes of tense waiting, another mortar comes in and explodes close enough to shake the roof, this time there is rubble, people run for cover, but if you really want to leave, you keep your spot in the cue. I got to move up about 5 places now only 10m from the front. Then a series of explosions, 3-4 mortars land around the airport. More likely an airport cancellation day. Our plane hasn’t arrived from Jordan so its not on the runway. Planes don’t like to hang around in this weather. I have no friends lined up with me, only other expats, so I encourage them to take cover. This time they closed the gate so the guards can take cover. This is my time to get closer. I have an advantage; I can tell if a mortar will hit the building by the sound of travel. (I think). There is no real cover so what difference doesn’t it make running. I get 3 meters from the front, but I am not the only one hanging around. A few men and women all passing the desperate to leave stakes.

Quiet for about 20 minutes, people start coming back, no one complains about there spot. The gate opens and we move through to check in. I get a good seat and wait for the aircraft to arrive and for the runway to be inspected. All clear but the Guards don’t want to return so we must wait another hour to open up the actual go to airplane gate. The plane arrives, we have been in line for 2 hours, we rush on, you bring luggage, there is no baggage handlers!. 6 hours later we are taking off for Jordan. Short flight to Jordan then Amman airport for KFC and a coffee and off to Dubai.

I spend a night in Dubai, 5-star hotel, swim eat, de compress and walk around. Upgrade my flight to Sydney. Iraq is a world away by now.

Rescuing a hostage

A day on one tour, not like most days, but like some​.

Everyone thinks that if someone is kidnapped they deserve to be rescued. If you were kidnapped, you would want to be rescued right! That’s normal, but ask yourself, what did they do, what were their actions that lead up to it. Did they listen to advice? Did they know better than everyone else? Did they do something stupid to be compromised? Were they just innocent, wrong place wrong time people or did they sneak out of the fortress to see a young girl against all types of advice and judgement? Did they come to visit Iraq against all types of government and security advice and wonder around by themselves? Do they have a duel US/Iraqi passport and think they are immune because they have family or look Iraqi. Did they organised their own rendezvous because it was an adventure, maybe with great rewards and lasting love? Does it matter? Yes, if you are someone that has to go get them. To risk your life and your teams life because someone thought they were special. The why matters to the motivation.

I also considered the why against the treatment they will suffer, the time we have to do anything about it, or even if they are insured and someone will pay a ransom – discreetly of course. No one should pay ransoms of course, ever! because it just increases the chance it happens to someone else. When it is your family though, your care of others reduces and you want them released.

What do you when someone who works for you goes missing over night, they have a US passport, they are due to leave in 3 days and it is noticeable. You ask the locals who work for you, you get gossip and rumour. Then you find out a local female employee is also not at work today. By lunchtime, you have her contact details and send your local security staff out to find her. That takes a night, but you find out she is in hiding, she new who took our man and wants to disappear. She knows because she was meeting him, he was sneaking out for a nookie, she told some friends and bam, no nookie, a jump suit instead. She can just be killed for talking to us but the trade she made is what kept her alive with the local militia when they found out she worked in the green zone. Talking to us again was only possible through ‘family’ connections and it turns out she ‘actually’ liked the guy! She had a US passport dream but know she has a run a hide situation. So we help her with some where to stay for a few days which also keeps the militia finding out, we know what is going on, kinda.

We had a quiet week, so we thought we better go find him. Impossible without trusted locals and the ability to find a possible address. No ransom so he probably just held by one militia until they can sell him to a another one higher up the food chain. If we don’t go know, will get too serious and he is gone until he is on CNN. Calling anyone, like the police would just be a warning so we started our own recons. Now driving the streets, randomly looking for a safe house is impossible, but we had an address, had to recon the place and trust our locals staff.

So 2 situations here, a smash and grab or its to easy and we get ambushed. So we get two teams together (6 cars, 4 Iraqi’s on recon, 6 expats on guns, 2 drivers). We know the building, 3 stories, two entrances on a corner block. Guards, we can only see the street and will get no internal info. While the recons go on, we do rehearsals in similar building in the green zone, lucky most building are the same basic brick 3 story here. Its fast, with massive hit and go, no time to play and 5 min in and out and away or reinforcements turn up. We drive the route, we recon, we drive the exit route, we go home. I do the briefs and maps and plans. Certainly, something you don’t do off the cuff and have to do with a trust of whom your doing it with.

We wait until killing time (2-4am) when we will stand out driving but have sleepy people or do we go in daylight when the place is busy. I go busy, blend in. Warn the US check points, put QRF on notice, in case we get stuck and we need extraction. No motor cade, just routine city driving but we still must converge, park fast, get out fast, get it done and get home.

There is no, games, no hands up mate, no silencers. There is a fantastic acceleration into the front door, into the guard, who was on his phone and the other car comes from the other side. 2 cars unload, 2 cars park outside. No one gets out of the armored cars, but sit poised for militia back up. The locals will tell them, it is just a clock ticking. Shock an awe approach to hostage rescue. 6 guys are out of the cars, (armoured Leyland p76 and 1 armoured BMW – prob looks like a US drug raid in Columbia). 2 guys stay on the street to back us up, but I have no eyes on the street anymore. 4 people go up one set of stairs, ready for the first leap frog at the first corner, the Uzi (good for small spaces) goes off and the man behind me has shot above us through the open stair well and slam, the noise of a man falling over the banister is loud so I am dodging a falling person before I am dodging bullets. I round the first corner above the cover and we both fire at once at a door, flanked on second floor by two militia running out shooting wildly and full on. Fuck it is loud, it is dusty and concrete chips flying everywhere, them bam it’s silent. Uzis are fast, small and easy to use, AK’s are powerful but hard to swing in a stair well. As silence hits, our third team member leap frogs us to the door, he has an AK and he has covered the door. We can see in the unit, but it quiet, then there’s noise, radio noise, yelling in Arabic, we can’t see anyone, so we move in, fast. No point rescuing a dead hostage. You cant through a wiz bang or grenade when there is a hostage, but it was tempting. As we run through the front door, someone appears from the third level, yelling at us, but yelling with an AK pointed down at us, our follow up guy’s job is to cover up the stairs, so he fires as he rounds the corner of the stairs and the yelling stops. Fast, 3 rounds of ear piecing noise then silence again.

2.5 minutes in.

No one shoots at us as we enter the room, I notice is just a normal family room, just empty, two rooms off it, only one with the light on. My friend speaks some Arabic so he yells at the 1, possibly 2 occupants. No one is coming out, there is no surrender, just a heap of bullets flying out of the door, at no one in particular, just panic, one mag on full auto will only take 2 seconds but feels like 2 minutes, then it stops, we here the click, and we turn into the room (from off the floor), one of us kneeling the other crawling to shoot up, we both fire at the one standing occupant who doesn’t have time to re-load. He fly’s back into the wall, then slides down it. Silence again.

There is a guy on the bed. He is tied down, gagged, faced baked in tears and mud, he is shirtless, blood all over the bed around his legs. He wont be walking, his knees are a mess of blood and caked skin. Never seen anything like it but what I remember most isn’t the pain on his face, the mess of his knees, it’s the iron marks on his chest, where his nipples should be. Like someone left the iron on the t ’shirt too long. I take in the scene as we untie him and heft him up op to our shoulders. I am taking longer than I should, I see the drill, a Black and Decker, sitting on the bed side table, solid drill bit covered in gore. I don’t remember or even care about the bullet ridden guy on the floor. I mean what the fuck, why drill and iron someone.

Down the stairs fast, covering up and down and straight out and into the cars. The cars are on, and the exit is full covered, no one looking in. Straight into the back seat and then we look at first aid. I am in the other car though and leading the route out. The check point know we are coming, a 12 minute drive, honestly any further out and we would of not gone. In the unit for 6 minutes. I used two magazines of the Uzi and had slung it to carry the guy down the stairs, but had the Glock in the other hand. Everything made safe and inside the car. One block fast, the breath deep and drive slow. Two blocks to go and a straight lead to the check point. We can hear cars but there going to the unit, we are gone. We approach the check point at speed, with a lane kept open for us. No stopping this time and we are through. We stop 100m in, to get checked as planned. One extra US citizen with us. First stop the hospital. Then then our little fortress. All at workman like pace, home safe, adrenaline in check, still focused. The hospital Er is expecting us and it is fast, fast and professional and the guy is gone. Surgery, rehab, a trip to Germany, then I expect home. Nothing life threatening. Just rehab, a good story, he will ‘adjust’ for sure.

We are back safe, debrief, weapons cleaned, then another debrief then another. No written report though. Part of the deal going out.

Routine Work

What were most days like. Up at 5:00am, shower, shave and a tour around the guard posts to visit the Fijians. At the CP at 5:30am, coffee and a chat. 6:00, contact Aus and check emails and overnight reports. 6:30am, be at the front of the breakfast line. Pancakes, bacon, eggs, juice and more coffee. 8:00am – morning security brief. 9:00am walk up to the US Embassy for a 9:00am security/intel brief. Walk back, repeat the brief to the Parsons bosses.

Then settle in for some intel analyses, planning the next CP move or meeting.
Lunch at 12:30. Work until 3:00pm then do another tour and schedule something outside the fortress to visit, another embassy, just a walk around. Anything on tomorrow takes some briefs/orders and some rehearsals. Some time alone, check the weapons, clean and keep everything ready. Dinner at 6:30pm. Always different but each day has a theme. Hamburgers, steak, Italian, Ribs. No vego nights. After dinner, and it is still fucking hot. Go to the gym, run on the treadmill, hit the bag, lift some stuff. Back to the office, email home, chat. Then back to the room about 11:00pm, watch the fashion channel, read. Charge the radio.

The longer I stayed the more under control the timing were and got to go for more visits, tour the bunkers, go to the embassy o for coffee or lunch. Go to the range once a week to keep the weapons live. Every 3-5 days. I would go out for a drive around the Baghdad or a trip to a further away base or project. Prob a once-a-week thing. We had a bar but not my place. Always visit the Fijians in the morning and at night. Tried some afternoon touch footy and going to the pool but only if had time. Pretty routine but my favourite type of work. Work 24/7 and get it done as fast as possible. Always sit back and think in detail about the next few days, read the newspapers, watch and talk to the local staff. Do liaison! Was 4-6 week tours of intense work load but satisfying.

Fiji Coup. (Fiji NOT Iraq.)

After I finished in Iraq, I went back to running Phoenix full time and training to compete again. I also went on call for SES International and within 3 weeks was off to Fiji. There was a coup and the Army decided they could run the country better. Everyone was leaving as I entered. Chaos had broken out, island time, so I had plenty of time. My job description was simple, go there, be ready and here is a list of people you may need to organise some protection for or evacuate. Plus do a little intelligent gathering tourist. A job with lots of unknown unknowns but plenty of scope and initiative. Step 1, hook up with some local security experienced guys, I knew from Iraq, get a car and some comms, and check out the place.

The difference between tourist areas and the local areas was stark. From 5 star to third world in a 15 min drive. Was a great tour and fun chatting to the military on check points set up as part of the coup, they didn’t really know what was going on, but were happy to take over. Airport was busy with people leaving, Suva was deserted, and I was the only white guy wandering around. I visited the AS Embassy to check in but like everywhere, they were locked down getting their info from Aus, media and their own locals. Always great learning from educated local diplomats with important jobs, who haven’t been driving around the streets for weeks.

There was no outwards violence or chaos, but tension, insecurity and a feeling it could all go bad fast. I was used to Iraq though. People wanted to get though so I organised some evacuations for UN groups, some aid people, some teacher and heap of teenagers from Aus on exchange. Just get them to rendezvous, be polite to the military, who didn’t want trouble, get them on some planes to Aus and it was all done in 48 hours.

Then, people still needed on the ground info, so I stayed. I stayed at 5-star hotel as well. It is weird being the only guy in a 5-star hotel for 2 weeks. Great service, great golf, nice swimming, and plenty of down time which was driving me crazy. Everything settled down fast and I was off home in 4 weeks. A good simple gig.


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