FLAK: A MERC SPEAKS OUT
The article written on private security contractors in the October issue of SOF is quite amusing. I hope that Mr. Sharon is an adjunct writer for your magazine and not on staff full time. The tone of the entire article was that of ‘I’ve been there, done that’ or as what Mr. Sharon calls ‘T-shirt mongers.’ I find it somewhat comical.
WANNABEES AND NON MILITARY NEED NOT APPLY?
Lets break this down by section: Wannabes need not apply. This section is pretty spot on, although he makes it sound like so many resumes are from ‘never-have-beens.’ So are every other hiring officer’s stack of resumes for jobs as a sales agent, stock broker and 7/11 cashier. Everyone aspires to do or be something, so many of these resumes belong to people who aspire to make the big bucks over here vice the portrayal that the writer insinuates, which is a bunch of non-rating guys that have no training. Many of the guys I know that have been turned down for this have extensive training in small unit tactics and have been in several major engagements in the past few years.
Non former military need not apply. I agree with regard to pure, straight, SWAT members with no military background, because it’s a different and very dynamic environment over here. However, many SWAT guys are former military and they work out very well. As for the 12–15 hour days . . . never heard of that. Afghanistan, perhaps because those were long missions, but now days, I feel guilty about making this kind of money sometimes because I sit here and do next to nothing 80 percent of my time. Granted, location may dictate how much work you do and I am not sure what Mr. Sharon did as the PM with the Steele Foundation. But I can tell you that the PSD ops with Department of State are not operating at such a tempo and never have been. And as far as sand in every crevice of your body . . . anyone that has been to a beach knows this. He says it like it’s an accolade.
IT’S A ROUGH AND RUGGED ROAD
Very austere environment. There are many PMCs working in the AO who have M4s, Glocks, Sigs and other modern up-to-date weapons. As a matter of fact, a company that tried to hand me a Soviet-era weapon for use on my tour of duty would have negative press coverage from all the contractors that I know almost overnight. Friends of mine and I have denied offers from smaller companies with less gear, poorer training and more money because of the caliber of people that they may be hiring, but NOT because of poor weapons. I have never seen an American PMC working with anything other than an American-made weapon. Perhaps a few AKs are lying around but not on our missions. Second on this section is the fact that you will ‘most often’ find yourself under heavy fire from more than one location when doing an evac of a downed vehicle. He must not have been anywhere near an up-to-date, modern, well-equipped PMC such as the ‘big 3’: Triple Canopy, Dyncorp and Blackwater. For the past 12 months (since the major shooting BW had), there have been VERY few instances of teams getting ‘hit’ by IEDs, VBIEDs or even SAF (small arms fire). The terrorists are not stupid; they know they are outmatched when it comes to small arms tactics and they have adapted just as we have. The number of incidents of being shot at in the past year has greatly decreased because they know they can’t win with this tactic. Now we worry about sticky bombs, choke points and daisy-chained IEDs.
THE ENEMY IS FIERCE
Facing aggressive determined insurgents. ‘Prepared to fight prolonged defensive engagements while waiting for assistance’??? Unbelievable. If Mr. Sharon is getting paid for these statements, please contact me. I’ll gladly give you accurate reporting from in-country. As I stated in the previous section, prolonged fire fights are nearly null and void, drive through, push through and as a last resort stay and extract a downed vehicle. A prolonged defensive firefight is not going to happen anytime soon. On PSD your mission is to break contact and get the principal the hell out of the kill zone. We are not interested in hunting perpetrators down; we don’t go knocking down doors and I don’t know one team that had to take up a defensive position for more than a minute or two during their extract process.
It’s mercenary. This in itself should show you that he’s not in tune with what is going on. Not one person I know is a mercenary or would ever consider himself a mercenary. We don’t like the term; it has a bad rep and we refute it. However, the rest of this section is accurate, particularly the part about counter parts, not spare parts. No need to treat people like they are not people because they have less training, come from a developing country and speak broken English. Too many times I have seen this.
Know one’s enemy. I don’t know one person that has EVER quoted Sun Tzu’s book on the art of war. However, again, the rest of this section is especially true. There are many people who don’t care about Islam, Ramadan, history or anything else that occurs or has occurred in this part of the world. Understanding the people and why they do the things they do are essential and this aspect is greatly lacking in our industry. But it’s the nature of the beast; send a bunch of former military combat vets around the world to different locations fighting terrorism with little or no understanding of the culture. Unless you’re civil affairs or an intel guru, you’re not getting the right training to understand the environment.
My point is not to denigrate Mr. Sharon. With 20 years in Delta and a program manager, he greatly outweighs my knowledge of this industry. However, I feel that some of the things mentioned in the article indicate that he has not been in the box for a while and/or has seen a completely different side of this industry than I have.
All the best to the magazine, keep up the good work as we all love reading about what else is going on in the world, and great article about the SA Recce units. Those guys deserve that credit.
Thank you for sending the comments SOF received on one of my articles. The articles were written to stimulate thought/discussion, and judging from the volume of phone calls and emails, apparently they did just that. This, however, is not unusual given the broad spectrum of roles our Private security contractors are performing in both Iraq and Afghanistan; not to mention the varied backgrounds of the subscribers to Soldier of Fortune. – Lee Sharon