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FLAK: WHAT IT REALLY TAKES TO BE A MERC

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I wanted to respond to Lee Sharon’s October 2008 article “Private Security Contractors.” I’m a little surprised that someone with Mr. Sharon’s background would make statements that seem to have little factual basis and seem to be poorly researched. Mr. Sharon states that “non-former military need not apply” as PMCs. He further states that he’s never seen one “pure” police officer or SWAT team member work out in Iraq. I find this extremely difficult to believe. I have served both in the military and as a police officer/SWAT team member. In my four years of working in Iraq and Afghanistan as a contractor, I have been on numerous teams that had some “pure” (read, non-military background) police officers on them. They all served with distinction and often brought valuable experience and insight to the job.

 

To state, as Mr. Sharon does, that police officers and SWAT team members have a lack of knowledge in small unit tactics and are “unable to adapt to the conditions in which they have to operate” borders on the ridiculous! First off, what kind of tactics do modern day SWAT teams train in if not in “small unit tactics”? Modern SWAT teams are very much trained in small unit tactics, tracking, reconnaissance, sniping, explosives, counter-ambush, counter-terrorism, WMDs and a variety of other skill sets that translate to any modern battlefield or hostile environment, be it the streets of Baghdad or Hometown, USA.

 

TELL THIS TO A TEXAN

Mr. Sharon further contends that former police officers/SWAT team members have difficulty working 7 days a week in 140-degree temperatures and lists other environmental factors. Tell this to any Texas, Arizona or other southwestern U.S.A. SWAT officer! Mr. Sharon’s lack of research for this article also is evident when he refers to DOS (Department of State) PSD contractors, who according to Mr. Sharon “rarely escort their clients outside” of the secure confines of the Green Zone in Baghdad. This is outright false! For security reasons I won’t state how many DOS teams currently operate in Baghdad, but I can assure you it’s a fairly large number. Out of these many teams, there is only ONE team that operates mostly in the Green Zone, and that is based on the VIP that they are assigned to protect. Every other team operates primarily in the Red Zone on a daily basis, 365 days a year since 2004. This also overlooks the many other DOS teams operating in other areas of Iraq that have no “Green Zone” at all. Many heroic deeds and sacrifices have taken place with these teams, operating from Sadr City to Al Kut, from Mosul to Karbala, and many other places across Iraq.

 

ACTIONS ON CONTACT

I have been witness to the “actions on contact” and actions after contact of prior police officers and have never seen them fail to perform their duties in an exemplary manner.

 

To be fair, I have seen personnel with prior police-”only” experience get fired from contracts, but never due to the reasons Mr. Sharon states in his article. I have also witnessed former military personnel, including prior Spec-Ops personnel, fail to be able to “adapt” and get fired from contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

To sum up my response, based on my experience, I have found that whether someone is suitable for work as a private contractor in a hostile environment has little to do with whether that person was a police/SWAT officer, Navy SEAL, Delta Force or regular infantryman or Marine. ALL of these personnel are usually trained to a level sufficient to meet the needs and demands in the private contracting industry. What determines success or failure is their moral character and their willingness to set ego aside and learn new skills or different tactics required for this job. Last but not least, success in this industry is determined by their motivation to be a consummate professional.

 

T.D.E.

 

T.D.E. is currently deployed overseas with a contracting company.