CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS: Newbie’s, Respect, and the Contractor Circle of Trust


CCOT Being a newbie at a job site sucks!

You will be known as the “new guy” for a few weeks, don’t take it personal. You are in the time immortal judgment phase of your new job. Your reputation starts on day number one. You better ask yourself right now…How do you want to be known?

“The most valuable thing you own is your reputation.”

To put it mildly, contractors are a cantankerous and cynical bunch who will judge you quickly and harshly. They’ve seen all types of wannabes and bullshit artists come and go and you are the fresh meat who just got off the bus for your first day at school.

Your actions and what comes out of your mouth will be put on your permanent record. The world of contracting is a very small one and a person’s reputation precedes them.

Now, I know I can’t help everybody. Some people are just retarded and won’t listen. But that’s good news for you, if you are not completely retarded and you are someone who can follow advice. You might have a chance to move ahead.

The first concept you must get through your head is the concept of respect. I know this seems simple but to many it’s extremely difficult to comprehend.

Respect is not given it’s earned. It doesn’t matter what you did back home. It’s now day one at your new job site and nobody cares what you did before. A major problem with people today is that they believe they deserve respect just because they were this or that in the military or somebody important at the job they left or took such and such tactical shooting course. All that doesn’t mean you get respect handed to you on day one.

Much of our culture believes that you do not have any obligation to respect someone unless or until they respect you first. This is completely ass-backwards wrong and the main reason why so many get labeled an ass-hat and never get “in” on the inside information. I’ll talk about the inside information later.

But first, like it or not, it works this way. Those who are already on the job site before you are your elders in the village. To prove you’re worthy of their approval and enter into manhood, you must be polite and give their accomplishments respect. It’s not ass kissing. By showing your respect for the dues they (your elders) have paid, and perform your job well, then you will in turn “earn” their respect. It’s their world. You’re the new guy.

It’s also important to realize that it’s not a sign of weakness to not know what the fuck you’re doing on the first day. We’ve all been there and the veterans will help you learn your job. They know you've just been dropped into an alien environment and you may be wondering how the hell you got yourself into this mess.

Here are the top 3 biggest rookie mistakes to make:

#1. If you have never been a Special Operations soldier, don’t say you were.

You are judged on how you perform and what you can do now. Not what you did “back in the day.” Unless you’re extraordinarily charismatic, the quickest way for you to lose all your credibility and have people to talk about you behind your back, will be to talk about yourself and what a “bad ass, been there done that” kind a guy you are. I guarantee they will be talking about what a jackass you are the minute you are out of the room.

#2. Don’t tell every person you meet your life story.

It’s boring and most people are just waiting for you to stop talking so they can talk about themselves. Be a listener.

#3. Not following the chain of command.

Circumventing (going behind your supervisors back) the proper chain of command always results with management solving the problem with draconian, knee jerk measures. This will suck-ass for everybody. This only causes dissension on the team and labels you as a trouble maker, not to be trusted.

Since this relatively new career path is still evolving, the weeding out process to keep all undesirables out of the contracting world has yet to be perfected. Some companies hire people sight unseen. They hire on documentation only with no face to face interview. Even companies that have a strict weeding out process can’t stop all the bone heads from getting through.

There is such a thing as guilt by association.

So with that in mind, I have created the following rules on how to protect yourself from these negative individuals. I’ve also included rules to help you navigate through the fast paced political dynamics that occur within these small companies that have a very fast personnel turnover rate:

Rule #1: It’s a cliche but it’s true. Maintain a great positive attitude. It will be noticed.

Rule #2: Don’t bitch, whine or complain. There is no shortage of negative people to do that. No one wants to be around that type of person. The five minutes you just spent complaining is five minutes you just wasted.

Rule #3: Don’t believe every rumor you hear. Also don’t repeat or spread rumors. When in doubt go to the source.

Rule #4: Error on the side of caution, with trust.

Rule #5: Don’t underestimate people. Looks are deceiving. Just because they “talk the talk” and have all the high speed gear doesn’t mean they know their stuff.

Rule #6: Know who the power players are. I hate the politics that go on in the office just as much as the next guy. You don’t have to be involved in them, but you at least better understand the dynamics of your workplace pecking order.

Why you ask? Sometimes there is a fast turnover rate of personnel within some of the companies. Alliances can shift overnight. When this happens it should be looked at as an opportunity for advancement. The people who stay with a company at least one year or close to it and have proven they are reliable, and are now in a far better position to move up in the company.

Rule #7: Always keep your eyes and ears open to spot an opportunity.

Rule #8: Do not give the benefit of doubt. Be suspicious of everyone until they prove otherwise. Assume something is wrong with your co-workers. Why are they working outside of their home country?

Rule #9: Be very careful of what you say and do. I’ve witnessed more than one person drop a dime on someone for their own advancement. Nothing stays confidential forever. Some people repeat what you said just to have something to say and feel important.

Rule #10: Be a mentor to the new guys. Be the genuine friendly face that welcomes a new team member and gives them advice on how things work around their new job environment. First impressions are everything. This also helps build alliances for the future.

Remember: Network! - Network! - Network!

I mentioned earlier about inside information. The first candidates to be hired for a job are people who are referred by other employees of the company.

The goal of a professional contractor is to keep working and make piles of money. People in the know about other jobs usually don’t want jackasses or retards on the job site with them. Any veteran contractor can tell you, it takes just one asshole on the team to make life miserable for everyone.

If your reputation is that of a dickhead, you can be sure that you are outside the inside track for opportunities.

“The most valuable thing you own is your reputation.”



Jeffrey M. Olson is a USAF veteran and former war mongering, Civilian Contractor of Qatar and Iraq, who’s now the head Thermo-mechanical Manipulator of Metallic Molecular Structures and owner of Olson Iron Works Blacksmith shop. Jeff is also an author. His book “The S.H.T.F Art of War” that deals with an apocalyptic disaster scenario is available on Amazon. Jeff continues to write and provide FREE content on his website

CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS: 5 Things to Say Goodbye to if you Become a Civilian Contractor


LP About 30 to 190 (yes, 190 is the record so far) times a day I get messages and emails from guys who want to break into the Contracting Racket. Besides the usual unreadable English from some Italian dude to outright rude emails demanding that I tell someone how to break into the biz "right fucking now", no one ever asks the smart question of: “Are there any reasons why I should not consider a career in contracting?”

The short answer is “fuck yes there are”

Most folks think the life of an international security contractor is 6-figure paychecks, blowing shit up while yelling “FIRE IN THE HOLE” with a cigar clenched between your chompers with 30 day leaves in Bangkok banging beautiful gals and drinking fine scotch every few months.

To be honest it is that cool, but that’s about it. Forget about having any resemblance of a normal life, you will be an outlaw in the true sense of the Old West definition. So if you are considering a life shooting and looting around the world read everything below, you may change your mind.

Or you may want in the life even more if you are a nut like I am…

The 5 Things to Say Goodbye to if you Become a Civilian Contractor (in no particular order):

-Say Goodbye to Your Marriage

Very few marriages survive the contractor life, and the few that do are a shell of what they used to be and will most likely end in divorce eventually. I don’t even know why guys think a marriage will survive when you only see your wife once a year, 3 times if you are lucky.

That combined with the “shit I might die tomorrow” feeling that builds up until you think banging that Private in a Coms Unit you met at MWR Tango Night under a guard tower isn't cheating is pretty much the nail in the coffin for your marriage.

But don’t worry, your wife would have spent pretty much every one of your paychecks up until that point so its not like you have any savings to loose anyway.

-Say Goodbye to Empathy

The combination of seeing death all the time and being constantly being switched-on basically turns off your empathy switch. No matter how hard you try for most folks it just happens, they can’t even help it, it is simply your mind protecting itself from an emotional sensory overload that would end up with you drooling in the corner of a padded room or eating your glock if your brain did not turn that switch off.

This is the very reason why Cave Men never had to have a good cry, they were too busy looking out for saber toothed tigers and knocking broads over the head with clubs to think about their feelings.

You will most likely experience this the first time you go back home and go out to dinner with your soon to be ex-wife and her stupid friends when they start talking about a school bus of pregnant nuns that ran off a bridge and burst into flames at the bottom of a quarry yesterday – all you will be able to think about is “did I order extra cheese or extra pepperoni? Man I really wanted extra cheese, damn”.

At that point you will not be able to relate with anyone that has not been in a combat zone for more than five years, which is sort of fucked up if you think about it – good thing you won’t think about it anyway, because you are now dead inside. Now have a slice of extra cheese and watch a good comedy flick like Schindler's List and go to bed early, you have a 8AM appointment with your divorce lawyer tomorrow.

-Say Goodbye to Having a Credit Score Grater Than 320

Despite making 6-figs a year you will always have fucked up credit, like 19 year kids that suddenly make it big in the NBA you will be shit with your money and constantly miss payments or just default on stuff for no reason other than next week you will get another 13,000.00 dollar paycheck so “fuck it”.

That combined with all the money you spent on your divorce, cutting a check to your ex-wife every month so she and her new hippy boyfriend can keep up the payments on your former house and spending a chunk of your paycheck on building a house in Issan, Thailand for your bargirl second wife you will be in the exclusive group of people who make more money than surgeons but cannot even get a secured credit card.

-Say Goodbye to Doing Any Other Type of Work Again

If I had a dollar for every time someone in contracting said “I am out bro, I am going to get a gig stateside” I would have enough money to bring my credit score up to 400. Lets face it, you pull triggers, before you got into security contracting you worked at Home Depo.

You know what that means?

You will go back stateside and spend the next 9 months burning through your savings until you finally go back to working at Home Depo for 400 bucks a week taking orders from some dick head who drives a Prius with a “Change” bumper sticker on it.

And about the 60th time some housewife asks you where the “white putty stuff that, you know, goes in the sinky thing, hehehehhee I don’t know my boyfriend like, you know, needs it, you know” you will fucking snap and quit. Then you will burn up the rest of your savings buying stupid shit and drinking until you have no choice but to do “just one more contract”.

-Say Goodbye to Loyalty from Your Brothers in Arms

Remember how the man next to you in your unit back in the day would jump on a grenade for you? Well welcome to contracting where the guy next to you will still jump on a grenade for you, but 3 days later he will rat you out to the project manager for no other reason but to rat you out to the project manager.

Unlike being in the military where your families all live together on base or in a tight knit military community, in contracting the guys you work with all live in different states and could give a rat’s ass if your kid has a baseball game next week. This is the very reason for the “Little Try and Fuck me Now Book” – contracting is a Dog-Eat-Dog world.

When it comes down to getting that next 13,000.00 dollar paycheck or being ‘loyal’ to a co-worker guess what prevails?

Now I am not saying this is the rule, I worked with hundreds of dudes in the decade plus I was a contractor, and many of them I now consider brothers. All 3 of us still keep in touch.

In Conclusion…

Ahhhhh Fuck It, Contracting beats punching a clock any day. Go for it.


FYI: The first stupid fuck that makes a comment asking for/how to get a contracting job is an idiotic retard


~James P

Founder – Editor in Chief DVM

James P. is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in Southeast Asia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and applying for secured credit cards.

CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS: The Little “Try to F-me Over Now” Black Book


If you have ever worked in the contracting biz then you have seen all the shady shit that PM’s, APM’s (Project Managers – Assistant Project Managers) and PMC’s (Private Military Company’s) do. Some of the nonsense PMC’s do so they can save a buck and PM's can Cover Their Ass when they screw up can be as simple as fudging paperwork to outright criminal fraud. It can be a bit offsetting but most of us who work in this industry have no illusions that the PMC’s we work for are in any way the Salvation Army. And what happens if they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar? The nearest working fool who is the lowest on the totem pole will eat a dick. Or if one of the PM’s buddies fucks up, steer clear because some poor chump will get thrown on a grenade - no way the PM's bud is going home. Getting thrown under the bus by the PMC you work for in Civilian Contracting has become an art form to PM’s and APM’s. If you think because you have worked for a PMC for four years and have shown loyalty somehow means you are protected, then I have some beautiful beachfront land in Somalia to sell you.

So how do you CYA?

On my first contract in the PMC world way back in the day I had an old timer for a hooch-mate who previously worked 20 years in the LAPD before getting into the contracting biz. On my first day in-country he sat me down and threw some serous Old School knowledge at me over a bottle of cheap scotch.

He tossed everything out from: don’t drink too much, don’t let a broad get you hemmed-up on a gig, stay away from the cliques that form on contracts and be cool to everyone because you never know who will be the PM on your next contract.

But the number one thing he taught me that I have done on every single contract after then was:

“Get a notepad, and every time you see anything shady happen no matter how small it seems at the time -  write down the date, time, place, the people involved, companies involved and everything that happened to a T. So if they try to screw you over someday, you have a black book of ‘Try And Fuck me Over Now' to pull out and wave in their faces”

He learned this from seeing so many of his LAPD buddies get tossed away like yesterday’s trash at the tiniest sign of trouble. But, the guys who pulled out their little “Try to F me Over Now” Black Book and started reading it out loud got a letter of reference and had no problem getting a new job.

With your little “Try to F me Over Now” Black Book as leverage, you can at least strong-arm your bonus check and they can’t screw you when the next PMC you apply to calls for a reference. The Little “Try to F me Over Now” Black Book is everything from a shield to a cannon for the working man.

To this day I have a big ass stack of Little “Try to F me Over Now” Black Books from every contract I have even been on over the past decade plus sitting in a secure location, just in case...

This does not just apply to guys in the PMC world, how many times have you seen shady stuff in your job? And how many times have you seen good dudes you worked with get the shaft for no reason but to save the company a buck?

So train and shoot and network, but be smart. Cover your ass with a Little “Try to F me Over” Black Book in your pocket.


~James P

Founder – Editor in Chief DVM

James P. is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in Southeast Asia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and covering his ass



James G's SOL - IFAK

Over the past decade of working as a contractor in shit-holes around the world and living and traveling in the 3rd world one thing I have always learned to have close by is an IFAK.

Depending on what sort of gig I am on or where I happen to be traveling “IFAK” can mean anything from a backpack packed to the brim with medical kit to a cargo pocket with some QuikClot, some tissues and a Band-Aid.

Basically if you are an operator working in the worlds hot-spots you need to understand that your IFAK needs to be customized to whatever operation you happen to be on. That can be everything from looking from some rich guys missing kid in Bangkok to running PSD missions in Afghanistan.

The particular IFAK I am going to go over today is one of the ones I currently use as a TL running missions (everything from PSD to Convoy Security) for a private security contractor in Iraq.

This IFAK was put together by our Company Medic to be used in a very specific situation. Without giving away any OPSEC shit, lets just say we are way squared away when it comes to having the best medical supplies and highly trained US medics on our missions. So basically if someone (hopefully not the medic) is injured we have not only the medical kit to treat them but also a top tier medical professional on-board.

I call this particular IFAK the “SOL-IFAK” – meaning if I have to reach into it, it is because I am a combination of injured, unable to physically move from my position, cut off or pinned down and my teammates or medic can’t get to me and I have to treat myself ASAP.

It is not for helping others (but it still has the components to do so if necessary), not for treating myself quickly and running to our medic - it is a you are all alone and “Shit Out of Luck” with half your leg 4 feet away along with a few holes in ya type of IFAK.

Pretty much the only time the SOL-IFAK will get reached into is if I am lying on some shitty Iraqi highway, bleeding, pinned down behind some broken down eighteen wheeler that is 12 flatbeds away from my guntruck/teammates and I am not expecting medical assistance immediately.

The SOL-IFAK will keep me alive until my team kills everyone and the team medic is able to treat me and then gets my ass off the X and on DBA.

Note: All the items in my SOL-IFAK were selected by (Call Sign: KeyWest) a highly experienced PSD/CSD Civilian Security Contractor Combat Medic who is a former U.S. Army Medic, Civilian firefighter and EMT. Descriptions and why those items were chosen were written by him, so thanks to 'KeyWest' for helping me with this article.

security contractor IFAK
security contractor IFAK

SOL-IFAK Contents

Let’s start from the beginning… basic first aid. Apply manual pressure and elevate. Next dress wound. Next apply a pressure dressing. Next, apply a tourniquet. These have been the basics of first aid and how it has been taught from the beginning. However, there are now some different options to keep close.



The first most basic part of this kit would be a cravat. This can be used as a sling, for a pressure dressing, to be used in conjunction with a splint, and as a tourniquet. We carry at least 2.

Field Dressing
Field Dressing

Field Dressing

The next most basic part is the field dressing -2. This can be used to be applied to stop bleeding, cover a wound, decrease chance of infection, and can also be used in conjunction with others at the same time.

One thought to keep in mind is that one field dressing will usually hold about little less than a pint of blood. This is important to understand because your blood will keep you alive. If your first field dressing has soaked all the way through it’s past time to move on to the next step.

quick clot combat gauze
quick clot combat gauze

Quick Clot (Two Types)

Now on to quick clot. This item comes in different styles. We carry 2. The quick clot combat gauze and the quick clot (ACS) Advanced Clotting Sponge. The regular quick clot combat gauze is for temporary use to control traumatic bleeding. This means major bleeding.Don’t use this if you scratch your knee, or scrape your elbow.

This is for major trauma. You would open the package and apply to open wound and apply pressure for at least 3 minutes. Sometimes you may have to use more than one. At this point you would wrap and tie the bandage to maintain pressure on the wound and evac as soon as possible.

quick clot ACS
quick clot ACS

Quick Clot (ACS

The quick clot (ACS) is for a little more traumatic wound and is used for emergency external use only. This package also reads “Do Not Eat”. I’m not even gonna ask why that is printed on this package.

You need to wipe away any excess blood around the wound then pack the wound with the mesh bag in the package. Sometimes it may require more than one. It’s important to remember that direct pressure over the wound is never forgotten. Apply pressure for at least 3 minutes. This product will produce heat to be aware.

Wrap and tie a pressure dressing over the wound and evac as soon as possible. It’s also important to put the package in a pocket or stuck on you somewhere so medical staff will act appropriately when you receive hospital care.

Emergency Wound Dressing
Emergency Wound Dressing

Emergency Wound Dressing

The next part of our kit is the Emergency Wound Dressing….its a hemorrhage control compression dressing. It has its own device that enables you to one handedly apply pressure to a wound while dressing the wound.

Abdominal Dressing
Abdominal Dressing

Abdominal Dressing

Our next part of the kit is a small abdominal dressing. This is used like any other field dressing except its bigger to cover those exposed guts. And at this point, you might as well kiss your ass good bye because you have a very short time to be at a hospital.

Wound Dressings
Wound Dressings

Wound Dressings

The next 2 wound dressings are elastic in nature and provide pressure when applied. However the sponge is not as thick so other dressing may be required. One thing I’d like to point out is that once a bandage is applied…. Never remove it. Just keep adding to it.

One Handed Tourniquet
One Handed Tourniquet

One Handed Tourniquet

The next hemorrhage control device we carry is the one handed tourniquet. It’s always nice to be able to stop a major blood flow in a second and stay alive, rather bleed out from a leg blown off. Tourniquets should be the last course of action.

Apply a T on your forehead and note the time if possible. At this point shock will start to come into play and you may be unable to function. But with training, focus, and determination you can apply a tourniquet to yourself.

ARS Needle decompression
ARS Needle decompression

ARS Needle Decompression

Another part of our kit is a ARS Needle decompression. Once you are shot in the chest you thoracic cavity (your chest will start to fill with air… maybe blood. The needle decompression can be used to expel the air and allow your lung to function as best it can.

Remember to roll to the injured side. This will allow your good lung to function as best it can for as long as it can.

HYFIN Chest Seal
HYFIN Chest Seal

HYFIN Chest Seal

The last part of our kit is a HYFIN Chest Seal. This is an occlusive dressing. It is placed over the wound and will not allow air to enter the chest cavity and will allow air in there to escape.

One point to examine here… many chest shots have exit wounds. You are not gonna be able to apply a chest seal to both. Its only if you have and entry point. At that point, lay with the injured side down and apply the resources you have.


Thanks again to my Team Medic for helping me with this article

If you have any questions please feel free to jump in on the comments


~James G Founder – Editor in Chief


James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and trying not to get shot, blown up by an IED or the clap

CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS: Life of a Ship Anti-Piracy Operator


London, Abu Dhabi, Karachi, Bin Qasim, Dahej, Suez, Malta, Port Said, Suez, Goa, Redi, Galle, Colombo, Dubai, London, all visited in one recent eight week spell working the high risk area between Egypt and Sri Lanka. The gig is anti-piracy, or if you like - maritime security, but definitely armed and dangerous.

Prior to this I spent the last eight years in the sand pits of Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting off the dust and heat and the occasional insurgent. The heat’s still a bother, but the dust is history, and the moist sea air is a welcome change from the stench of the ‘Global War on Terror’.

You settle in quickly in this job, there’s a routine to all seafaring, even for the inveterate land lubbers in the security teams who ride shotgun on a ship’s bridge. You mostly watch – the flat open ocean, the radar, and the clock – 99.9% of your time is unremarkable, some say boring.

I don’t mind though, I especially like the ocean at night, when the full panoply of stars folds out above you; I even bought the Rough Guide to the Universe, to help me pick out the constellations – and with the ship’s binoculars I discovered the Andromeda Galaxy on a ship off Oman back in January.

Somalis don’t like the dark much, so in the wee small hours it’s OK to raise your line of sight skywards, and ponder the human condition while you slowly carve through pirate waters.

What of the pirates? They don’t think of themselves by that name, they’re just businessmen, protecting Somalia itself from avaricious foreigners who would dump toxic waste off the coast, and modern fishing vessels that grab up all the worthwhile stock in the Gulf of Aden, leaving the Somali fishermen, with their traditional methods, literally floundering.

These are excellent seamen with nothing to go to sea for – apart from piracy, and they are a primary source of recruitment into the ranks of the pirates. The fact that the pirate fleets are now threatening the north Arabian Sea – a thousand miles from Somalia – changes nothing for them, its business as usual, and business is booming. But why go to such lengths, with the world’s most sophisticated navies in hot pursuit?

The facts about Somalia speak for themselves: no effective government for twenty years, three quarters of Somalis live on $2 a day, life expectancy is 42 years, one in four children dies before the age of five. I once heard a saying that went “Africa is the hardest place on Earth to be an optimist”, if that’s true, then there must be a prolonged drought on optimism in Somalia. If I lived there I would probably be a pirate too, they have families to feed just like everyone else. Consequently I have a great deal of sympathy for them.


I was going to name this article Rendezvous with a Pirate, but as of writing that still hasn’t happened. Not that I haven’t been close, very close, to coming face to face with my potential seaborne nemesis. I’ve been lucky in my first six months, nothing more. In March I was guarding a chemical tanker with 21 crew members, Ukrainians and Filipinos, transiting west from India to Egypt.

We were sailing off the coast of Oman, on a course of 210˚ towards ‘Point B’, the easternmost RV point on the Internationally Recognized Transit Corridor (IRTC). This is where the military navies escort vessels east and west along what used to be the main pirate hot spot, the Gulf of Aden (there’s not many pirates left there now because of the naval presence, yet the navy boys still plough on regardless, but that’s for another article, not this one).

I was on watch that evening, on the bridge with me was a monosyllabic third officer at the wheel, and two able seamen watching out on the bridge wings – the ‘mark one eyeball’ still being the best bit of security kit available in any theater, even in these hi-tech times.

Night fell, black as coal, yet the day’s heat and humidity was still hanging over the decks like a shroud; and, although you drum the need for continued vigilance into them, the watch crew relax when night comes. With no moon it’s dark enough to fail to recognize a human body 20 meters away. I was doing my usual watch routine – keeping an eye on both radar screens, their ghostly light giving the now darkened bridge a supernatural feel, and patrolling the three sides of deck surrounding the bridge, binoculars and night vision goggles close at hand.

Suddenly the VHF radio crackled, and on emergency Channel 16 the terrified voice of an Indian watch officer came on: “Coalition warship! Coalition warship! This is Motor Vessel (-----) we are being attacked by pirates, our position is eighteen degrees twenty two minutes north, fifty eight degrees zero four minutes east, please assist. Mayday! Mayday!” The wing watchers immediately came to the bridge doors to listen, and I had to order them back to their stations – they were more valuable than ever now that we had a possible identification of pirates in the vicinity.

The watch officer picked up the vessel on our AIS (Automatic Identification System – gives each ship’s name, course, position and speed), there were only two ships within 30 nautical miles – us and mayday boy, supposedly now under attack; he was 9NM astern of our port quarter, though we couldn’t detect any small, fast-moving craft near him on our radar.

Bullet hole on a ship from a Somali pirate attack
Bullet hole on a ship from a Somali pirate attack

I stood the rest of the security team up, and the other three boys were on the bridge in under two minutes, suited and booted with their grab bags full of the bits and bobs they didn’t want to lose if we had to retreat to the engine room citadel or get our feet wet by leaving the ship in a hurry.

This vessel was well equipped and we had enough weaponry, ammunition, and pyrotechnics to put on a good show if there was a pirate mother ship about, her skiffs searching the area for slow-moving merchant ships like us. A night attack – rare for Somali pirates, I was remaining skeptical until it was confirmed, and indeed it was, very soon.

Within minutes a Turkish warship responded in clear English to the mayday call. After confirming the under fire vessel’s position they scrambled a helo to intercept. The Turks asked for a running description of events. The tanker reported she was under attack from two skiffs, and had already taken hits from RPG and small arms fire, undoubtedly AK47 – standard bad boy weaponry around the globe.

The chopper got there in ten minutes, we listened to the pilot communicate with the attacked ship. The helo warned everyone they were opening fire, and put a few dozen rounds across the path of the chasing skiffs. The pirates pulled away and slipped unseen into the surrounding night, no harm done. The navies are stretched to the limit, it was lucky this warship was around, as we were still a long way away from the safety of the IRTC.

The rest of the night was spent red-eyed and on edge; the bad guys had to abort, they would be looking for other prey, and we were closest – although we changed our course slightly to get away fast from the area of the attempted hijacking. Plus, these guys must have been desperate to make a score – they were targeting at night, unusual for Somalis. We never saw a thing.

Indian navy fighting Somali pirates
Indian navy fighting Somali pirates

People ask me all the time why does the coalition not just blast the pirates out of the water? Also, when ships are hijacked and en route to a six month holiday in Puntland, why do the marine forces not just retake the ship? After all it’s what they’re trained for. I believe there’s a good reason why this doesn’t happen.

Somali pirates, as a rule, don’t kill hostages. If you’re unfortunate enough to get scooped by pirates, the most you’re going to get is an uncomfortable stay in a Puntland port, sharing a room on board with the rest of the crew, with teenaged locals pointing AKs through the window at you. Unlike Nigeria or Indonesia, where pirates are ruthless with crews, Somalis treat the crew as their most valuable asset – you wouldn’t mistreat your prized cow before trying to sell it at the market, likewise a dead crew isn’t good for the subsequent ransom dealings with the ship’s owners.


Start killing pirates regularly and they might start mistreating their hijacked crews, or worse. The pirates don’t want to up the ante, neither do the coalition. If they are threatened with force Somali pirates will kill without hesitation, so to avoid a bloodbath both sides play cat and mouse instead.

If pirates board you and they get to the wheelhouse - or even get hold of one of the crew - before everyone locks down in the citadel, then its game over, you’re off to Somalia. Outside of the IRTC the navies invariably can’t reach a vessel in time before it’s boarded and hijacked. That’s where the private security companies come in. We are already on board and good to go.

Firstly it’s as a deterrent – row upon row of razor wire, water hoses, and other obstacles on deck; then a show of force with weapons on the bridge. After that it’s warning shots, but the rules of engagement are clear – only fire when you are fired upon, or a life is in immediate danger, then aimed shots only.

Ship using fire hoses to fight off Somali pirates
Ship using fire hoses to fight off Somali pirates

Pirates aren’t suicide bombers or jihadis, they have no wish to die, this works to your advantage, so do the relative firing positions – us up on the steady deck of a huge ship aiming down on them bobbing up and down in a small wooden speedboat. The key for them is to get on without us noticing – that’s why the mark one eyeball guys on the wings are invaluable: see them, show yourselves, and hope they’re not too desperate to try and board a ship under fire.

Another incident happened on a different vessel during my eight week trip, much more chilling for me as we were completely alone and enjoying a beautifully calm, sunny Indian Ocean morning. This time the team were aboard a dry cargo vessel heading 90˚ for India, just after leaving Point B and a Chinese naval convoy (a work of art compared to some). Nowadays the areas north and east of the IRTC’s eastern extremity are prime hunting grounds, the pirate fleets have moved there, knowing the military is in scarce supply. My team 2 I/C on watch called me up to the bridge around 10:30 local time. A ship that had followed us from the convoy was now acting suspiciously, slowing down, changing course, speeding up, very odd.

I was on watch earlier in the morning, and had idly observed the same vessel through our binos, there was nothing around for miles but us and him. Suddenly, as we watched on the radar, he changed course completely and started back west, the way he came. I immediately thought “hijacked”, and when I passed on my hunch it sent our Indian captain into paroxysms of fear.

It was confirmed later when we saw the odd ship set a course for north Somalia, and then a report came in from the International Maritime Bureau in Malaysia, the ship was fired on and boarded – game over. Why didn’t they send a distress call on the VHF? Who knows, but that particular crew has 6-9 months in captivity to ponder their fate.

So, that’s a little of the life of a ship anti-piracy team. None of the headlines of Iraq or Afghanistan, and in my opinion a lot less of the risk, so fair’s fair. I’ll be back out there again soon, brown arms, red face and white body, but who said it was pleasure cruising?



~John Hawkwood Anti-Piracy Operations Correspondent


John is a British security consultant who has spent the last eight years plying his trade in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now in anti-piracy, facing off Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. You can check out other writings by John about private militaries, jihadis and pirates at his blog

CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS - GUNS: The AK-47 And The M-4 In Security Contracting – A Comparison

Iraq Security Contractor
Iraq Security Contractor

The AK and M-4 – Tools of the Trade for Security Contractors

Sure, I know what you are thinking; “we need another AK ‘VS’ the M-4 debate like we need another round of prohibition”. But out of the zillions of articles and YouTube vids out there I have never seen one that specifically addresses the pros and cons of running the AK-47 and M-4 in the unique environment of International non-permissive environment Private Security Contracting. Also, this is NOT a “VS” article; it is more a comparison of both the weapons systems based on my experiences running both as a Security Contractor.

On my first Civilian Contracting gig I carried an old ass M16A2 that was so fucking big if I ran out of ammo I could probably use it as a Bō Staff. It also didn’t come with a sling so I had to make one out of 550 cord, duct tape and a luggage strap (something I did for years until John over at Original S.O.E. was generous enough to shoot me one of his Single Point Slings).

The second gig I ran an AK, third an M-4. Both of these gigs were a bit strange because ‘officially’ we were not authorized to carry firearms (strange contract stuff like that happened back in the day) so we didn’t carry our weapons around with us on base, only out on missions and had zero range or training time.

The Forth gig was unique because I was issued both an AK and an M-4, so it was my choice of what weapons system I wanted to run based on the mission or task. I also spent a lot of time as a Tactical Firearms Instructor to TCN’s (Third Country Nationals), Local Iraqis, Brits, Aussies and Americans. So I spent a substantial amount of time on the range discussing the preferences between the M-4 and AK with Operators from five continents, from peaceful 1st world countries where you can’t even buy firearms, to the world’s shittiest 3rd world war torn hell-holes where you can buy AK magazines and baby wipes at the same store.

On my latest gig running the roads in Iraq I run a Yugoslavian Zastava M92, it is basically a Shorty AK with a 10” barrel and an under-folder stock. This is my favorite AK variant I have used so far.

So after using the AK and/or the M-4 as a security contractor under a variety of operational environments for a bit over a decade I am going to throw together my opinions on the pros, cons and issues I have experienced from both weapons systems.

The Two Weapons Systems In Security Contracting

Security Contractor M-4
Security Contractor M-4

The M-4

(NOTE: I use the word “M-4” liberally here for pretty much every AR/M16 type system out there)

This was my first issued rifle as a security contractor way back in the mutherfuckin’ day. It is a really common rifle to be issued if you are working on a Force Protection or High-Tier contract these days. Back in the early days of Iraq they were a regular issue for security contractors. And if you didn’t get issued one there were so many floating around you could snatch one up or trade for one no problem, I bought my first M-4 out of the trunk of a taxi just over the Kuwait border.

They are a reliable and accurate weapon system that is easily disassembled but needs regular cleaning and lubrication especially in the desert environments.


The AK

Sooner or later if you work long enough in security contracting someone is going to hand you an old-ass AK with a bent front sight and cracked stock. The AK has gone hand in hand with private warriors since EO Guys were using them to zap guys shooting arrows at them. It has been the favorite of both the good and bad guys in Iraq and Afghanistan and is a staple firearm in security contracting.

One of the biggest advantages of the AK is you can take one that has been sitting in a crate for 3 years that is rusted shut, dunk it in JP8 for a day, kick open the slide, take a screwdriver and scrape out the gas tube and poor some motor oil in it and you can blast a 1000 rounds through it without a single malfunction (more or less).

ak and M-4 mags
ak and M-4 mags


M-4 Magazines

The biggest advantage of the M-4 Mag (due to the caliber) is the weight and size of the magazines. I ran a rig on one of my gigs in Iraq with 12 M-4 mags for years; it was heavy but not a hindrance to my movement.

And these days guys like myself who still run the roads in Iraq are starting to move towards a ‘less aggressive’ look. So allot of times mags will go in pockets and on Battle Belts instead of on full rigs now so you don’t look like you are on the way to raid Omaha Beach or something when you pass through Iraqi Checkpoints.

The M-4 Mags also tend to (in my opinion) not be damaged as easily as AK mags, I have dropped fully loaded M-4 mags that have burst into all the parts but still worked fine when I put it back together, I can’t say the same for all AK mags I have thrown around. There are also so many good quality US manufactured M-4 mags floating around in Iraq and Afghanistan so it is not that hard to find, buy, or trade for some good US manufactured M-4 mags.

AK Magazines

AK mags are big and heavy fucking mags, but you get the advantage of a bigger and harder hitting bullet. They can be dirty as fuck and keep cycling rounds one after the other.

They are also as common as flies in the 3rd world so supply will never be a problem. The main issue is if there is even a minor dent on the sides it can cause feed malfunctions. Also getting high quality AK mags like the ones US Palm makes is more or less impossible now due to all of the APO’s shutting down and so many guys are getting thrown in jail in places like Dubai for “smuggling weapons parts” so bringing them over in your check-in is no longer an option.

And if you are like me and you don’t live on a base then good luck even trying to get an APO or State mailing address anyway (this refers to Iraq). So mailing some nice US made AK mags is no longer an option (I even had problems doing that back when I had an APO).

So you end up having to inspect every AK mag you get. You have to load em’ and test them out a dozen times to check for any feeding problems. It’s a bit of a pain, but certainly not as bad as pushing TPS reports from the ‘in’ to the ‘out’ box in some cubicle stateside.

The size (length) makes the AK mags a bit harder to carry on a belt or in a cargo pocket, I am starting to cut down a bunch and turning them into 20 rounder’s to solve the belt carry and other lo-pro carry problems.

But if you are working in higher profile gigs, in places like Afghanistan or Force Protection on a Base the magazine length won’t be a problem so run that high profile rig.

The other issue is the weight, if you have ever carried 12 AK mags on your kit you know what I am talking about. Now most of the Contractors reading this know the days of long and drawn out firefights between contractors and Hajjis in Iraq don’t really happen anymore so packing tons of mags on your kit is not really as much of an issue anymore.

But for the guys in places like Afghanistan it still can be, my Brother (who is a security contractor in A-Stan) does the same thing I do here in Iraq, 4 to 6 on your rig and a go bag filled to the brim with extra mags along with a mag stuffed here and there in your guntruck.

AK and M-4 Safety Selector
AK and M-4 Safety Selector

Safety Selector

M-4 Safety Selector

Going from safe to “kill some fools” with the M-4 is just like flicking open a Zippo, and it is easy in pretty much any position, shoved in-between your legs in a guntruck, on the move on foot, stock open or pushed in. Selecting between safe, semi to full-auto are all simple movements that generally won’t cause you to accidently select full-auto while under stress. The safety selector is also fast, millisecond fast.

Considering that most security contractors come from some sort of military, law enforcement or stateside EP, operating the safety selector on an M-4 should be nothing new.

AK Safety Selector

Because the AK was made for 12 year olds to use it, well the safety selector operates so a 12 year old could figure it out. It is a big ass lever that you push down to kill and back up not to. Slam the AK safety selector straight down and you are semi-auto, one notch up and you are at full blast - simple, fast. I have seen 10 year old kids pick up an uncle’s AK that was leaning next to a tent pole at a wedding in Iraq for the first time who have figured out how to start popping rounds in the air in seconds.

The one thing for new security contractors coming over from the states or other countries where select-fire AK’s are not all that common is getting used to the middle ‘full-auto’ notch, an old instinct may kick in that says “stop” when you feel the first notch hit. This is easily overcome by spending a few weeks in your hooch practicing. In no time you will instinctively slam it all the way down for semi, half push for full-auto or back up one notch from semi for full auto. If you are not used to select-fire AK’s then heed the above advice and train when you get in country.

The only time the AK safety selector is a pain in the ass to operate is when you run an under-folder (See Below under “Stocks” for more on this).

Ak and M-4 sights
Ak and M-4 sights


I am not going to go into a debate about what rifle has the better sight picture, if you are a versatile operator then you should be able to adapt to whatever sights a rifle has. The only comment I have about the M-4 and the AK sights in security contracting is the M-4 front sight seems a bit tougher than the one on the AK. But on the other hand you can use a screwdriver and a big rock to fix the front sight on an AK so I call it a draw.

AK and M-4 ammo
AK and M-4 ammo

Ammunition - Availability and Quality

NOTE: First off, I am not going to get all into the accuracy and ballistics thing between the AK and M-4 - that has been written about so many times, by people who are way more qualified than I am at the technical shit about firearms (I am just a shooter knuckle-dragger).

M-4 Ammunition - Availability and Quality

Thanks to the billions of 5.56×45mm rounds left behind in Iraq by the US mil, given to the Iraqi army and police and the other billions rounds that ‘fell off trucks’ finding all types of 5.56×45mm ammo is pretty easy. Good to high quality brass cased tracers, AP, regular jacketed shit and Hollow Point are all available on the local market.

AK Ammunition - Availability and Quality

Finding 7.62×39mm in the 3rd world is as easy as finding crack in a crack-house in South Philly. Most ranges from cheap ex-commie state stuff with steal casings made from melted down manhole covers, to locally produced shit, that is, well – shit.

But finding high quality brass cased ammo is a bit tricky and requires good contacts. Finding specialty ammo like AP is damn near impossible and US made hollow points will cost you an arm and a leg if you can find them.

AK and M-4 stocks
AK and M-4 stocks


M-4 Stocks

The push-in stock on the M-4 is fast to deploy when getting out of a vehicle and does not require any fiddling around or mashed thumbs. The only criticism I have with the M-4 stock is even with it pushed all the way in it still protrudes a good 6 inches or so out of the ass-end of the M-4.

Not a big deal if you run high to medium profile missions on the roads as a security contractor. But if you are trying to run lo-pro and your rifle is laying on the floorboard or between your knees then the shorter your rifle is the better.

AK Stocks 

You can’t get more old school than a wooden stock, and despite it was probably milled from stolen telephone polls in Algeria most are pretty sturdy – hell, you can make one out of a 2X4. As for the folding stock versions of the AK this is where this weapons system both shines and fails for security contractors.

One problem exists with both the side-folder and (more so) the under-folder is operating the stock release button/lever it not always a quick and smooth transition from folded to open (especially in a vehicle). It seems no amount of WD-40 will make the lever or buttons an easy press, and if you have an especially funky side-folder it could end up being a two handed operation getting it open.

The under-folder has an extra few quirks, you also can’t use drum or 40 round mags with the stock folded or you wont be able to open it, it also can interfere with the safety selector operation.

The under-folder stock has notches cut out of it that supposed make it ‘easy’ for you to operate the safety selector – but in the reality, the safety selector gets hung up easily in the under-folder position.

There are a few ways to fix this in-country:

-You can take a screwdriver and bend the existing notches in the under-folder to make them wider

-You can practice until it is instinct where you push the under-folder from the forward left side with your left hand, thereby giving more space for the safety selector to operate.

-Dremel tool or with a half of a hacksaw blade carefully open the safety selector notch area on the under-folder stock, don’t take too much off or you will weaken the stock.

-Learn how to shoot accurately with an underfunded folded (a skill you should have anyway)

But with alike any weapons system practice makes perfect (or in this case just a little faster) so if you get issued an AK folder then make it a habit of folding and closing it while watching TV every night until it becomes instinct.

When both the side and under folder versions of the AK are in the collapsed position it makes for a compact package, and when you have a ‘shorty” with a 10 inch barrel you can actually conceal it under a windbreaker. I run with my Zastava M92 by my left leg barrel down leaning against the center console of my truck with a shemagh draped over it – it doesn’t get a second look when running through checkpoints.

ak and m-4 toolbox
ak and m-4 toolbox

Parts Availability

M-4 Parts Availability

Sort of like the 5.56×45mm rounds mentioned above, thanks to the tens of thousands of M-4’s left behind in Iraq by now defunct security companies, given to the Iraqi army and police by the US and the other hundreds (thousands) that ‘fell off trucks’ finding parts for the M-4 is easy.

Now finding high quality stuff like kitty-kat uppers and heavy barreled precision uppers can be a bit tricky, that’s more of a “I know a guy with XYZ PMC who has one he is looking to sell or trade” thing.

AK Parts Availability

Getting parts for an AK? It’s the Middle East, nuf’ said

AK and RPK
AK and RPK


If you were expecting a big “This one is Better than That one conclusion, well sorry folks. The above article is more of a ‘Heads up’ for guys going overseas to pull triggers for dollars than a VS article.

This is a business, you use the rifle your company issues and say “thanks boss” while looking at the formally semi-auto AR-15 that has been converted to only fire full-auto now or the AK with a missing front sight. You first thought may be putting some high-speed folding stocks and accessories that would give a Magpul employee a hard-on, well tough shit, there are no more “Golden Connexes” in Iraq or Afghanistan anymore.

But… If you want my personal opinion, well, I tend to lean towards the AK, but that’s just me. But quite frankly as long as my massive paychecks keep hitting my account every month and I get my leave every 90 days I could give a shit what rifle I am issued.

Note: most of the opinions in this article come from me and are hardly impartial, so feel free to comment and agree or disagree.


~James G Founder – Editor in Chief


James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and cleaning his Zastava M92.

CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS: The “I Married a Bargirl” Contractor Douchebag


Soi Cowboy Bangkok, one of the world’s most famous Red Light Districts And Probably NOT the place to meet your future ex-wife

Walking down Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok while on leave would not be complete without seeing some 5.11 wearing fool walking hand in hand with a rough looking ex-bargirl. Now don’t get me wrong, hopping on a plane to Bangkok to blow off some steam after working for months in some 3rd world shit-hole is pretty much tradition in the Contractor Biz.

But I am referring to the guys who, despite being somewhat reasonable folks, somehow come up with the crazy person thought of “I am going to marry a Thai Hooker – And that shit is going to work out for the long run”.

I swear if I had one dollar for every “I lost all the bread I saved up on my past six contracts on some bargirl I married” stories I have heard from contractors I would be retired now. And the most amazing part is the guy telling the story seems to be actually surprised at the outcome.

Thailand has a habit of making old men young, allowing them to relive (or re-envision) their glory days of the past and no place else on earth can you see such a grouping of fat-gutted RBK (hint, hint) Contractors on leave walking hand in hand with teenyboppers young enough to be their granddaughters.

And it is by no means only the older contractor crowd who suffers from this affliction. The younger contractor crowd, who after hearing hundreds of stories about the Wild, Wild East from the old contractor hands also come to the Big Mango to sow their oats, popping from bar to bar, getting drunk, hooking up, having the time of their lives and falling in love with #38.

But the worst part about the guys who marry bargirls on leave is they tend to choose the ugliest broads that have ever swung on a pole on Soi Cowboy. And for some unknown reason they think this train-wreck of a ‘lady’ is actually the hottest thing since the invention of thermite grenades.

After years of saying “hell yes, she is hot as fuck bro” when looking at the pictures of a fellow contractors last leave in Thailand I don’t even bother with bullshitting them anymore. I just say things like “were you doing volunteer work at the local burn clinic?” with a completely serous look in my face.

I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if you’re foolish enough to fall in love with, get involved with, or for fucks sake, marry a bargirl - make sure she’s the sort of girl that makes other men stare in awe of your awesome manliness.

If your ex-bargirl wife oozes sexuality and is drop-dead beautiful, well, at least people will chalk it up to your stupidity or you only thinking with your wiener. If she looks like someone who was hit in the face 68 times with the Ugly Stick, then you really have no excuse for getting angry when you overhear your fellow contractors calling your bargirl wife a “horse-faced looking old whore”.

The inevitable end between contractors on leave and Thai Bargirls will always stem from money, or more specifically, the lack of it. The inability to communicate properly and understand one another can play a factor, but it is pretty much all about the Benjamins.

The sooner folks who are on leave understand their interactions with bargirls is a business transaction, the sooner they’ll resist the urge to lose touch with reality, fall madly in love, and make them their wives.

Money buys a place in line, a stool at the bar - not love. It’s the bargirl’s job to extract as much money as possible while making you feel like a million bucks. Bar girls work for one reason, to make money, and contrary to what the average John Contractor may believe, the vast majority of these gals do not view themselves as the next Pretty Woman.

Keep this in mind and you won’t be “that guy” who is on his 5th contract and flat-fucking broke because his ex-bargirl wife convinced him to buy a house for her, her mom and dad, her brother (the same one who you “lent” 3000 dollars after he got into a motorcycle accident) in Issan then dumped him.

The moral of the story is: Don’t be that contractor Douchebag who is going on his 10th contract at 56 years old so he can ‘start over’ after being fleeced by his 22 year old ex-bargirl wife.

If you don’t get it and just laugh this article off, well - when all of your money from the past 4 contracts you busted your ass on has been inserted into Northern Thailand’s economy, don’t dare blame the girl, ya read it here first buddy.

Note: in this article “girl” is in reference to adult “women”


~James G Founder – Editor in Chief


James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and avoiding go-go bars in Bangkok.

CHOW: Bridgford Ready to Eat Sandwiches – Sandwiches for High Speed Low Drag Guys


One of the worst parts about running missions on the roads here in Iraq [or anywhere for that matter] is trying to get a meal in when running 120K down the road with an AK in one had and a radio in the other. When you are driving, scanning for bad guys or working the radios, MTS, GPS and other gadgets on a 14 hour convoy you can hardly make a ham and cheese sandwich in your lap.

MRE’s are a bit of a pain to sort through while mobile in a car and between all the potholes and constant swerving most of it ends on your kit, hands and floor. You also have to eat them cold because using an MRE heater in a sealed armored truck will make you puke.

For the folks here who have eaten 5 cold MRE’s back to back, you know you are lucky to even gag half of one down. Even instant-eat food like canned meats and beef jerky [I swear I have eaten 100 pounds of Beef Jerky on Convoys and PSD missions] are hardly satisfying and not even remotely nutritious.

Plus having to hold your chow in one hand, a fork in another, napkins and a drink between your legs means your AK is lying on the floor and your eyes are on your lap. Not really a good thing when running down the road in one of the most dangerous countries in the world in a big ass bullet/VBIED/IED Sponge SUV with Iraqi Security Company stickers on the side.

Before a mission I usually make a few sandwiches and throw them in the truck. I have always thought that sandwiches were the perfect food – meat, grain, vegetables, sugar, salt – a square meal in the palm of your hand with no utensils required and only requires on hand. The problem is you can only pack a few sandwiches because after a day they turn rancid from lack of refrigeration or become nasty soggy.

So I did a little bit of Googling and found these Bridgford Ready to Eat Sandwiches that were made for the US Military’s "First Strike Ration" MRE.

They are sort of like an MRE version of a Hot Pocket for HSLD and on the move infantry types that does not require heating. All you do is tear open the package and eat.

The packages weigh 3.5-oz, 3.1-oz and 2.5-oz [depending on flavor], are about 9X5 [but you can fold them to 4 ½ X 4] and are a bit less than an Inch thick. I can easily put 3 in my LA Police Gear Operator Pants cargo pocket [2 would fit in the 5.11 pocket] but I usually stuff a couple in the admin pocket on my HSGI Warlord V-4 New Version.

The Bridgford Ready to Eat Sandwiches comes in a bunch of different flavors, Honey Barbecue Beef, Honey Barbecue Chicken, Pepperoni, Italian Style (Sausage, Pepperoni and Sauce) and Bacon Cheddar.

Out of all the different flavors Bacon Cheddar is my favorite [the bacon tastes just like fresh bacon] with Italian Style a close second. They are just a bit dry but not enough to really bother me.

These are great for anyone who needs to eat on the move or in a vehicle and still be able to have a free hand and the ability to concentrate on their environment, Convoy Escort and PSD contractors and Mil guys on the move will especially appreciate these. I also think they would be great for SAR personnel, Cops, EMS folks and hikers.

They will store for 3 years if kept around 80 degrees and 6 months if kept in an environment over 100 degrees. Each one packs about 300 calories depending on the flavor.

The only bad point is the price, at 4 bucks a piece if you eat allot of them like I do it can add up. But for a tasty meal for guys on the move Bridgford Ready to Eat Sandwiches are an excellent choice, I buy em by the case now.

Bridgford Ready to Eat Sandwiches 18.99 for a Five PackBridgford Stay Fresh Sandwiches - Five Pack


~James G Founder - Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and eating cat Sandwiches.

GUNS: The Kalashnikov Rifle in Security Contracting - Part 2

security contractors in iraq carrying ak-47
security contractors in iraq carrying ak-47

My bro did a great overview of humping the AK in International Security Contracting so in this article I wanted to go over some of the issues one will run into when using an AK on contracts overseas, specifically in Iraq.

Unlike most other contractors I am fortunate enough to be in a unique position where I am able to fire thousands of rounds through an AK here in Iraq every week due to the generous range time allotted to my team. Believe it or not most contractors are lucky to get range time a few times a year.

I know some guys over here that have not fired their weapons in way over a year and some who have never even fired the rifle they were issued. I am sure it sounds crazy to some of the folks reading this, but to the old hands in contracting who are reading this you are probably saying “yep – just like that”.

Before I started contracting in Iraq I really didn’t have much experience with the AK outside of some AK’s I owned and didn’t shoot much [I actually bought them as an investment]. And on my first couple of gigs in the Middle East I mostly carried and M4, so when I started working in Iraq this time around the AK was a relativity new weapons platform to me.

So after a shit-load of time training, humping and shooting the AK in Iraq I have noted several operational quirks that folks who are planning to hump an AK in Iraq should know about.

Ammo is Your Worst Enemy

Finding good brass cased quality controlled manufactured 7.62X39 ammo for your AK in Iraq is like finding a virgin the day after prom back home. Most of the AK ammo you get here is cheap steel cased Russian crap made from melted down manhole covers manufactured back when parachute pants were still in style [nothing like seeing a Hammer and Sickle stamped on a tin of ammo to make you weary about that ride through the red zone].

This steel cased ammo has a problem with blowing out in the chamber and getting stuck, like kick-starting won’t even pop the case out. From what I can tell certain rounds will have weak points on the sides and lips of the cases that will bulge or blow a hole completely through the side of the case sometimes.

From my experience this will happen around one time per 1400 rounds. I see AK’s go down almost every day with blown-out rounds in the chamber because of this problem.

Either way around when the case blows-out it is stuck in your AK like a mo-fo; that rifle will be down for the fight. The only way to clear the chamber is to pop the top cover off, yank out the Recoil Spring Assembly, kick-start the bolt open and ram a rod down the barrel then put it all back together. This is a hell of a thing to pull off in the middle of a fight.

Also the ramrod that comes with the AK is too short [I found out that one the hard way].

Another problem with the Russian ammo you get here is accuracy problems. Somewhere around 285 to 310 meters the ammo substantially loses accuracy to the point that taking a shot past 300 meters is just a waste of ammo.

I don’t have the same problem with good US made 7.62X39 ammo so it must be the poor manufacturing quality of the crap ammo that comes out of Russia and Eastern Europe.

Additionally, any ammo with Arabic markings on it should immediately be considered bad

Magazines Are Your Second Worst Enemy

Just like the ammo the AK magazines here in Iraq are made of melted down manhole covers and are so soft that simply dropping one will dent it to the point it is unusable. The springs are also shit, the feed lips break off and many don’t feed reliably for any other reason than they just don’t feed reliably.

Have a Second AK Within Arms Reach

Packing 2 of the same weapon is an old tried and true solution; I believe it is called the “New York Backup”. Because of the above problems and unless you have nerves of steel and a full minute to clear a blown-out round from the chamber while under fire it is better just to pick up the same weapon and stay in the fight.

I know a ton of guys that keep as many as 3 extra AK’s in their trucks; I keep one more AK handy and an M4 for shots outside of 300 meters.

Carry 2 Ramrods

As I mentioned above the ramrods that come with AK’s [at least on the ones here] are a few inches short of the actual length of the barrel. I am not sure what genius decided to design a rod that is made to ram down the barrel of a rifle that is not long enough to ram down the barrel of a rifle. But whoever he is that shit almost got me killed once so fuck him in his fucking face.

Beg, borrow and Steal Good US Made Brass Cased Ammo

That’s pretty much it, call all of your buddies in country and track down good US made 7.62X39 ammo. Then do whatever to get a few cases - booze and use of your apartment in Bangkok tend to work best but cold hard cash never fails.

Test Each Mag Thoroughly

If you have access to a range then fire 3 to 6 full loads through each of your mags, if you don’t have access to a range then do the same but just rack the rounds out. This is a pain but it will pay off later.

Unfortunately this is not a fool proof way to test magazine reliability, like most things in Iraq mags are quirky and sometimes they just wont work.

Also make sure to load each mag with a full 30 rounds, let them sit for 24 hours and test inserting them into each of the AK’s you will carry. Another problem with magazines here is they will fit fine when unloaded, freshly loaded or even with 29 rounds in them but when fully loaded or a day later no amount of force will make them fit.

One solution that works for me most of the time is only loading AK mags with 25 rounds, sure you loose a few shots but the extra 5 rounds won’t help if you cant get the mag in the first place.

You can try and mail high-quality AK mags like the ones made by US Palm to your APO but the chances of them getting seized or not making it to Iraq are damn close to 100%. I lost 5 US Palm mags that I mailed to myself that simply never made it, my guess is they were seized as “Weapon Parts” by the Army Mail.

And don’t even think about flying commercial with AK mags in your luggage or you will go to jail in some shitty Middle Eastern prison. Basically you just have to work with what you got.

And just like the AK New York Backup have a big ass bag full of AK mags within arm’s reach. Pretty much when you are having problems with a mag don’t even bother trying to work it, immediately drop that mag and go for another.

Learn the Basics of AK Gunsmithing

Knowing how to replace a trigger guard, straighten a front sight and even changing out a barrel will save you a headache and prevent you from having a really cool AK paperweight instead of a mission ready weapon.

I am not saying that you need to have the knowledge to machine parts for an AK, but you should know how to do a bit more than just break it down and replace a cracked stock. Rally car drivers know how to change the transmission in their car, so you should know how to break an AK down to its individual parts. You do this shit for a living, be a professional, know your tools.

Romanian AK’s are the bomb

Out of all the AK’s here in Iraq the Romanian AK’s are far superior to all others I have used. I tested 6 Romanian AK’s by firing thousands of rounds through them every week and then storing them in a damp conex over a 6 month period without a single cleaning and they still ran like new.

Those Romanian AK’s are still going to this day [coming up on 8 months without cleaning]. Even more impressive some of the Romanian AK’s I use and test were made as far back as 1961.

So if you are working in Iraq and you have a choice, get your hands on Romanian made AK’s

On a side note I tried to do the same thing with an M4 and it didn’t make it to the second week before it stopped feeding rounds completely.

In Conclusion

The AK is a great weapon for humping on a gig in Iraq, it is by no means a trouble free weapon system, but most of its faults are due to issues with ammunition and magazines that are not necessarily the fault of the weapon itself [more of the environment].

Overall it is a great low to no-maintenance weapon that is perfectly capable of engaging targets within 280 meters accurately.

But be warned, just because you think know the AK from shooting it in the States it is a completely different ball game when you use one in Iraq.


~James G Founder - Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and Trading Brass Ammo for Booze. James G. on FACEBOOK

CONTRACTORS: You Know You've Been Contracting For Too Long When…


Today I was putting on my Kit when one of my teammates said “You know you've been contracting too long if can put on all your kit with a cigarette hanging out of your mouth and not drop a single ash”

We had a good laugh about it and spent the rest of the day thinking up new ones. Spending all day long cracking on other Contractors and each other is a pretty common thing especially if you are on a team with a tight group of guys. The main thing I will miss from this work when I “retire”  is the camaraderie amongst men who carry guns.

Out of all the different groups of people I have hung out with Contractors are one of the funniest subcultures out there [Expats are a close second]. They share their own lingo, vacation spots, fashion [or lack of fashion] and poor choices in women.

Anyway, the stuff we were coming up with was so funny I had to start taking notes. I have listed the funniest ones the current or former contractors here should totally get. And even if you have never worked as a Civilian Contractor you should still get a kick out of reading it.

You Know You've Been Contracting For Too Long When…

- You know where Issan is

- You ever carried a weapon on a gig that had the word “Launcher” in it's name

- You saw those pictures of the drunken TC Embassy Guard Force guys in Afghanistan and said “So?”

- You can’t take a job with a company that makes you go through the U.S. Army’s CRC because you never turned in your gear the last time you went through [because you jumped ship and went to work for another company mid-contract] and owe them like 4,000.00 Dollars in lost gear.

- You have more than 4 Gorilla Boxes full of shit form other gigs in your house back home.

- You remember when no-one ever got a gig from filling out an online job app.

- You start a sentence with “when I was married”

- You have not been back to the states on leave in 4 years

- You remember when spending 30,000.00 dollars while on leave was no big deal.

- You know 5 or more people on every FOB in Iraq

- When you arrive in Bangkok on leave a local bird picks you up, and you drive

- You start a sentence with “So we started shooting right away” [for guys who have worked in Iraq]

For the Civilian Contractors reading this feel free to add a few more of your own “You Know You've Been Contracting For Too Long When…” in the Comments.


~James G Founder - Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and Smoking too much. James G. on FACEBOOK

CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS: The “Run to Mommy” Contractor Douchebag


The “Run to Mommy” Contractor Douchebag is one of the most pitiful breeds of the Contractorous Douchebagnus. This is a full grown man who despite working in a “tough guy” job as a security contractor in war zones acts like a hurt little puppy whenever someone is “rude” to him.

Just last week I had to run over and talk to one of the Team Leaders [let’s call him “Mr. Vag”] working on another camp about an upcoming mission. As soon as I walked into his hooch I knew he was one of the breeds of the Contractorous Douchebagnus just by the 13 water bottles of Copenhagen spit and dumbbells on his floor.

All I wanted to do was ask him a simple question and he immediately comes at me like I just called his whore mom a whore. If this happened back in the states I would have just walked away but one of the silly things about contracting is if you don’t bite back when someone pushes you it is somehow a sign of weakness.

Anyway, I basically had to jump on his shit and put him in his place. And like all bullies as soon as I pushed back he acted all apologetic and shit like "I" misunderstood him. So after wasting 15 minutes of my time passing on a message that should have taken 3 minutes I wandered back to my team room.

And less than 30 minutes later I got a call to come and see one of the PM’s [contract project managers]. Honestly I didn’t have any idea what it was about, but I did think it was strange because this particular PM really has nothing to do with my team.

So I scuttled over to this PM’s office and before I was even half-way in his door he starts going into a rant about how I should “respect other TL’s” and “act like a professional”.


Apparently Mr. Vag was so hurt by my standing up for myself he called this PM to complain that I hurt his feelings or something. So now I was looking like some sort of bully who barks at people for no reason.

Now if I was the ass-hole in this situation it wouldn’t have annoyed me so much, but considering that the other guy was the Douchebag here I was fucking furious. Luckily this particular PM was an Old School shooter and looter from back in the day so when I gave him the low-down he figured out what was really going on.

So there was another 30 minutes of my life that I will never get back, all because another grown ass man was too much of a wuss-bag to come and talk to me face-to-face when I hurt his feelings.

Back in the beginning days of contracting in Iraq you really didn’t run into too many of the “Run to Mommy” Contractorous Douchebagnus types because during this time most guys were just happy to be making a grand a day or they didn’t want to get left behind by their team if their Suburban got blasted.

But now because of the reduced salaries combined with the self entitled attitude of some of the older contractors along with all of the new green guys entering the business the “Run to Mommy” Contractor Douchebags are popping-up like rats.

These champs are pretty much what would happen if the hall monitor in grade school and a 12 year old girl had a kid who grew up and started injecting steroids because it “would make girls like him if he was buff”.

I mean come on, a grown man who tattle-tales on people

Really? – Like that?


~James G Founder - Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and Plotting his revenge. James G. on FACEBOOK


30 Extra Minutes of Packing Will Save You From 30 Months in a Middle Eastern Prison

bag dump
bag dump

NOTE: This info is not just for Civilian Contractors – anyone who travels internationally should read this

So gents - What is the difference between a spent piece of 9mm brass or an EOTECH and an M-60?

According to many customs agencies in the 3rd world [and even some 1st world countries] there is absolutely zero difference between a single 9mm brass and a Bazooka.

Yep, if you get caught with something as simple as a Fore Grip for an M-4 in your bag when traveling through parts of the 3rd world you will go to prison for smuggling a firearm into the country.

And more than likely due to a combination of your nationality [infidel], occupation [murdering mercenary], the misguided belief that all Westerners are rich [you can pay a fat bribe] and local laws that were written by some guy with a 3rd grade education - you will spend months or years and every penny you and your family has fighting the local Sharia courts.

And that’s if you are lucky.

If you get cut a “break” by the local authorities then you will only spend 2 months [and no doubt all of your money] in some 3rd world shit-hole jail.

If you are not so “lucky” then you will be in jail surrounded by people who hate you because of your nationality with no end in sight like one Security Contractor I know who is currently in a Middle Eastern prison for unknowingly having something in his bag that was considered a firearm.

And if you think your company will help you – well Buster, think again. They may feign like they are helping you for the first 30 days because they are legally responsible for you [because most U.S. based Contractors cannot fire you until you are MIA for a month]. But after those thirty days is up they will stop answering your calls and throw you to the wolves.

And I am not talking about going through some 3rd world customs with a shit-load of tactical gear and firearms accessories like what happened to Nicholas Moody. Most of us now know now that you cannot travel with all that shit anymore.

What I am talking about is something that you did not purposely pack, some little thing that either fell into your bag or is so small that you didn’t even know it was there.


Honestly even after years of traveling around the world I had never even heard of a Bag Dump until after I started working internationally as a Civilian Contractor.

Luckily I have never accidently had something that I should not have had in one of my bags. Considering the fact, that I pack like an 1800’s British Colonial tourist that makes me one lucky mo-fo.

So what exactly is the “Bag Dump”? Well, the current and former military folks here are probably aware of it but for the civilians like myself let me explain.

- The Bag Dump is when you clear a good sized spot out on the floor and individually lay out every single thing that you are going to pack out in a neat manner.

- Then you take whatever bag you are going to pack and lay it down also. Then you go through every single nook and cranny, every corner, under the hard bottom, in every pocket and then you turn it inside-out and visually inspect every inch again.

- After you have inspected your bag set it to the side. Then take the items you are going to pack in the order you are going to pack them and pretty much do the same thing. Turn them inside-out, upside-down and give them a shake.

- After you are sure that the item is “clear” pack it in your bag. Repeat with everything else

- Then Lock your bag and tape any external zippers down [the ones you cannot lock]. I know many guys who don’t lock their bags until they are ready to hop in a car to the airport.

Bad move.

Why? It will prevent you from not thinking if you have to open your “sterile’ bag to throw in that last shirt, the lock will remind you that this bag is clean and you should follow the same procedures when adding things.

And there are some people out there that may hate your guts and stick something into your bag to get your ass locked up [yep, it has happened].

And that is a Bag Dump – Sure it is tedious as fuck, but it is better than getting corn-holed in some Middle Eastern prison for the next year.


Just to make things clear what should you be looking for? [NOTE: this is by no means a comprehensive list, it is just off the top of my head]:

- Ammo Any live or spent ammunition, including links. Yes, a single spent brass will be looked at from a legal standpoint just as if you were smuggling an AK-47.

- Any Medical Supplies IV’s, syringes, auto-injectors – all of that stuff. Basically any medical kit that can cut, puncture or would normally be a restricted item in the West.

- Medication Maybe you got some antibiotics or pain killers from the TMC or from your Dr. stateside and had it in your bag when moving from one room to another. Well when you had the baggie in your suitcase one fell out and is now wedged in the corner.

So when you arrive in Amman, Jordan on a layover to Baghdad and the customs guy finds it in your bag – you are now an international dope smuggler.

- Pyrotechnics You know those tiny flares that you use with pen flares? That is the same as a live grenade in some countries. Pretty much anything that has a tactical or military applications and burns is a no-no.

That is the short-list, there are literally dozens of other shit that will get you man-raped in an Istanbul prison but those are the main ones.


Like I said above, this is tedious as fuck, but a necessary evil if you are around any “tactical” stuff and you travel internationally. And if you don’t think that “it” will happen to you – well, that is what other guys thought before they ended up in a 3rd world jail.


~James G Founder - Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and Dumping His Bags. James G. on FACEBOOK

CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS: Shit, It's What’s For Dinner - Eat Up


Supervisor: “Hey, Unicorns Are Real”

Contractor: “Yes Sir, And Majestic Creatures They Are”

The above may be a bit of an exaggeration when it comes to working as a Civilian Contractor – but unfortunately it is not far from the truth. One of the hardest things for new guys to deal with when they enter the Civilian Contracting world is excepting all of the illogical things you are told or asked to do without arguing them.

For those of you who have never worked as a Civilian Contractor you are probably not familiar with the nonsense you are expected to accept with a smile on your face. And unlike “normal” jobs where you can point out inaccurate information or suggest a way to improve a failed way of doing things – In Contracting if you argue or try to change things it is considered “bad”.

“Bad” as in you are now a trouble-maker and your next stop is the Civilian Contractor equivalent of being transferred to an Alaskan Radar Station, usually the Civilian Contractor Alaskan Radar Station is the most miserable post/job on the contract.

Think going from a cake gig working in a nice AC’d Tactical Operations Center one day to standing at an Entry Control Point in 130 degree heat wearing full Battle-Rattle and working 12 hour shifts on the ass-end of base the next day.

And all this just because you kept harping on management that they should issue IFAK’s to everyone instead of just Team Leaders, you even wrote up an email with a proposal and sent it to the in-country manager when mid-level management shot down your idea.

Yep, even if your argument makes sense you will become “that guy” to management.

During my 10 years [and counting] in Civilian Contracting I have heard shit spewed out by management so ridiculous that you would probably not even believe it.

Some of my favorites are:

“An AK-47 will accurately go out to 400 meters with the ex-soviet bloc surplus ammo we issue”

“You don’t need armor on the roof of your car, only on the bottom and sides”

Now most of the time the stupid shit you are supposed to bite your tongue about is not something that could get you killed like in the above examples, they tend to run somewhere between the “Are you serious?” and “Really?” realm of WTF.

Another Example: “You must submit your leave flight arrangement request 8 weeks before your requested leave date or you will not be compensated for your flight, then you must submit your leave request 4 weeks in advance of your requested leave date, be aware if you cancel your flight you will be responsible for the cancellation fee”

So that basically means you have to get your plane ticket 2 months before you go on leave, but you will not know if your leave dates were approved for another month – and if your leave is not approved then you will have to pay a 100 dollar flight cancelation fee”

Yes, that is really a leave policy with one PMC in Iraq

So Why is Contracting Like This?

Honestly I don’t know – But over the years I have come up with 5 theory’s:

1) Most mid-level managers on contracts are straight-up fucking lazy.

So when you point out something that could be changed but would require some actual work on their part they would rather get rid of you than do that work [hey – the PX won’t sell DVD’s on its own].

2) Most mid-level managers on contracts are straight-up fucking incompetent morons

These guys have “Yes Man” their way into a mid-level management position that they do not have the intellectual ability to actually do. So by pointing out something they should have fixed, you are basically telling them they made a mistake that is so obvious even a guy who has only been on the contract for 3 days saw it.

So their retard survival instinct kicks into self-preservation mode = they better discredit you by telling upper-management that you are a problem child or put you so far out of the way you can’t make them look bad anymore.

3) The “It Has Always Been Done This Way and Anyone Who Questions it is a Troublemaker”Theory

This way of thinking is especially prevalent in [some] ex-mil contractors. They hold onto this “NEVER DARE TO QUESTION AUTHORITY” train of thinking like their house will explode if they think outside of the box.

I have seen this every day for the past 10 years of working with the Military, any soldier who dares to speak up about a problem is immediately branded with a red-hot “troublemaker” iron.

This is where the phrase “Offline” came from in the Army, as in “We will discuss that offline Corporal” – This is usually said by an Officer or Senior NCO when a low ranking soldier openly questions a stupid policy/order/unnecessarily dangerous mission in front of higher ranking people.

If your comment actually made logical sense you might as well throw your military career for the next 6 months in the toilet.

4) The Manager Has a Small Penis

Because these guys have a tiny wiener they can’t deal with anyone questioning them because in their mind you are somehow challenging them when all you wanted to do was improve things.

The usual response to someone pointing out illogical shit is acting like an insecure Asshole who was beaten up in high school by the cool kids.

You can usually find these douchebags in the gym getting “buff” because they think if they become disgustingly big; girls will like them.

5) They Are “Turd Catchers”

These people follow around anyone who is in a position higher than them all day long hunched over with their hands in a cup waiting for a turd to fall out so they can catch it and possible get “kudos” or a promotion.

So if you question something that could make them look bad you are manning a Civilian Contractor Alaskan Radar Station before the ink on your transfer paperwork is dry.

In the civilian world they are simply called “ass-kissers”

So What to Do?

Simple, just say “ok” and collect your paycheck. Seriously as long as it isn’t something that could get someone hurt then who really gives a shit? You are a Civilian Contractor pretty much for one reason – Money.

Due to the transient nature of working as a Civilian Contractor why would you make things miserable for yourself when it is not necessary? Hell, in 8 months you will be on another contract anyway.

I have seen guys literally give themselves ulcers trying to change things on contracts, I know one guy who stressed himself out over stupid shit so much he actually had a stroke. Seriously, no job is worth your health and sanity.

Especially when you can’t change anything. Did I forget to mention that? Yes, you cannot change the way things are done on contracts - Period.

And even if you could - why would you spend months stressing and fighting to change some stupid policy on a contract when by all likelihood you will be on a totally different job for a totally different contractor in 8 months?

This is one of the reasons why so many guys “ring the bell” within the first few months of working as a Civilian Contractor or are constantly angry and miserable for a year when they could just chill and get paid.

Personally I can’t stand working with theses “this is Bullshit, that is Bullshit, things need to change around here” Civilian Contractor Greenhorn types [90% of people like this are new to the Civilian Contractor racket]. Their constant crying about “how things are fucked up on this contract;” makes me want to stab them.

So if you are they type that cannot say “sure, ok boss” and keep getting paid when faced with immensely illogical things that are being presented to you - then you may want to reconsider pursuing a career in Civilian Contracting.

If you are a Civilian Contractor who is constantly stressing about stupid shit on your contract then take a chill pill because you are making everyone else on the contract who is just trying to pay off their credit cards miserable.

Or fuck it, keep trying to change shit that doesn’t matter – I will toss you a RipIt when my convoy goes through your ECP.


~James G

Founder - Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and laughing all the way to the bank. James G. on FACEBOOK

PSD: Relax – You Are Not on the Presidents Security Detail in the Congo


[NOTE: This article is focused towards PSD Agents who work domestic details]

During my once a week email read/reply marathon I came across an email from a buddy of mine back in the states who I used to work with here in Iraq [he is now working on the domestic PSD/EP circuit because his wife forced him to stop working overseas]. He was ranting about how his client would not listen to his security recommendations, would constantly change his plans half-way through the day, and would always tell his detail to stop standing so close.

Basically this guy was the typical nightmare client who only had a PSD team because he was forced to by his company, insurance or situation. For anyone reading this who has done PSD work in the U.S; this is a story they have heard a hundred times from a hundred different guys.

I was sort of curious as to the threat level the client had on him, more specifically if it was an actual threat or a perceived one. So I met my buddy on chat and he immediately launched into a rage filled rant about how his client was a self-absorbed arrogant jerk-off who only had a PSD team because the company he worked for forced him to despite the fact there was pretty much a zero chance of anything happening to him.

Having been in this exact same situation before [I started out in this business doing low-risk details in the U.S.] I told him to just “go with the flow” and there was no need to run his detail like they were escorting a politician through Bagdad or something. You see my buddy had never really worked on a low-threat detail before [having only done HSLD PSD stuff overseas] so he was going mad because he could not run a strict 3rd world “by the book” high-risk style detail.

He also said things like “Well if he gets zapped then it’s on him, I did everything I could but he didn’t listen” – My response was “seriously dude, I have worked stateside details just like that and the toughest adversary you will be up against will be trying not to fall asleep”

I know a ton of guys like this; they think that they are some sort of high speed ninja bodyguard when in reality they are actually on a glorified babysitting gig. And if you work stateside then 90% of all your gigs will be low-threat ones like this. Giving yourself an ulcer because you are trying to run a detail like you are protecting someone who is constantly under an assassin’s crosshairs is just not necessary.


Don’t be one of the “I AM A BODYGUARD!” PSD Douchebags who takes themselves WAY too seriously that everyone hates to work with. You know the type, the guy who squelches across the radio to scan the rooftops for snipers when the client is just some middle executive at a french-fry packaging plant during a labor dispute.

Unless you want to be known as “that guy” – you know the one I am talking about, he has a nickname amongst his fellow PSD Agents like “Costner” or “Steven Seagal” [You know you are a PSD Douchebag if your “behind your back” nickname is an action stars name]. I suspect my buddies PSD Teammates are calling him “Arnold” or “Marcinko” behind his back.

On a low [practically non-existent]-threat PSD Detail where your client is uncooperative you [as a professional PSD Agent] need to just take a deep breath, remember you are not protecting a wittiness who is testifying against the mob and just be flexible with the detail.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying to let the client run wild – just cater how strict you will be with running your detail. If that means your client may be a bit exposed because he decides to suddenly grab a bucket of KFC on the way back from the mall without telling you beforehand or he wants to shit in a public bathroom alone then just go with it – it is not like someone is going to jump out from the shadows and throw poisoned ninja stars at him.

As for my buddy, well he launched back into a rant that included outlandish things like IED’s and L-Shaped ambushes and how the blood of his client would not be on his hands because he ran a fucked-up detail.

All I could say was: “Whatever ‘Serpico’, you do what you have to do bro – I got to hit the chow hall, later”


~James G Founder - Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and calling people names behind their backs. James G. on FACEBOOK

CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS: The Nepali Gurkha in International Security Contracting


“If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha” ~ Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw Former Chief of staff of the Indian Army

If you work in the Civilian Contracting business as a PSC (Private Security Contractor) one of the most common things you will do is work side by side with ex-military guys recruited from countries around the world (oftentimes referred to as “TCN Guards” [1]). The US Department of Defense allows PMC’s (Private Military Contractors) to hire these individuals for security jobs on Military Bases because they are able to have experienced ex-soldiers for security operations at a fraction of the cost of an American or Brit.

These TCN Guards are always recruited from parts of the 3rd world, with Asia and now Africa being the most popular recruiting grounds for PMC’s looking for the unemployed ex-soldier. But ex-Brit Gurkhas have always been the first choice when PMC’s are looking to recruit highly skilled and disciplined ex- soldiers from the 3rd world.

Most ex-Gurkha PSC’s work on Force Protection contracts doing everything from checking ID’s at gates to manning ECP’s, with the majority of the contracts in the Middle East. Some ex-Gurkha PSC’s work in higher risk jobs like convoy escort, I remember seeing these guys running the roads as turret gunners back in 03-05 during the “golden years” of security contracting work in Iraq.

Being a big Military history buff I was already somewhat familiar with the history of the Gurkhas before I started working overseas as a PSC. The story of the Gurkhas working for foreign Army’s all started back in the early 1800’s when the British East India Company rolled into Nepal thinking they could just throw up the Union Jack and start building white columned colonial houses after crushing whatever native resistance there was – well, they were in for a bit of a surprise.


"Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali" – Translation: "Glory be to the Goddess of War, here come the Gurkhas!" ~ The Gurkha War Cry

The Gurkha was not the rock throwing native adversary the British East India Company Army was used to fighting. After getting their ass whooped into a stalemate with Nepal after fighting the Gurkhas for 3 years the British were so impressed with their bravery and fighting skills they ended up hiring them into the British Army after a protectorate deal between Nepal and Britain was reached.

From then on the Nepali Gurkhas have fought in the British Army in every war and conflict the United Kingdom has been involved in. From the First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars in the mid-1800’s to World War I and II in the beginning of the 20 century the Nepali Gurkha has bravely fought and died in service to the United Kingdom.

To this day Gurkhas still serve in the British Military; besides the UK other countries have also recruited Gurkhas into their Military and Police Forces. You will see Gurkhas working as Policemen in Singapore, Brunei and Hong Kong, as royal guards in Qatar and as soldiers in the Indian Army.


“10 Expat PSC’s aren’t equal to 1 Gurkha PSC – These self entitled US or UK PSC’s always have sand in their vaginas despite the fact they get paid 20 times more and do 1/50th the amount of work an ex-Gurkha PSC does.”

~ John Smith[2] Security Contractor, Convoy Escort TL Baghdad, Iraq 2004

Considering how brave, disciplined and fierce the Gurkha is, it is no wonder the private military industry has tapped into the large pool of ex-Brit Gurkhas for international security work. Back in my late 20’s when I first started working in Security Contracting pretty much all TCN PSC’s were ex-Gurkhas.

Having had the pleasure of working side by side with Gurkhas a few times throughout my contracting career I can attest to their discipline and professionalism. Out of all the groups of people I have worked with the ex-Brit Gurkha is by far my favorite.

You will never meet an ex-Brit Gurkha PSC who has the Douchebag Affliction shirt wearing, beard growing, shitty attitude that is unfortunately so prevalent in this industry these days. These guys have zero ego despite having more combat experience in their pinky than most people have in their entire body – and I am talking about old school combat experience like “wearing face-paint in the jungle” type of fighting.


“As I write these last words, my thoughts return to you who were my comrades, the stubborn and indomitable peasants of Nepal. Once more I hear the laughter with which you greeted every hardship. Once more I see you in your bivouacs or about your fires, on forced march or in the trenches, now shivering with wet and cold, now scorched by a pitiless and burning sun. Uncomplaining you endure hunger and thirst and wounds; and at the last your unwavering lines disappear into the smoke and wrath of battle. Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you.”

~ Professor Sir Ralph Turner, MC 3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles World War I

Old Sir Ralph couldn’t be more accurate in his description of the Gurkha, these guys will work a 12 hour shift on their feet in 130 degree weather for years and never cry or bitch about it once. Not only that, they will be polite to you the entire time – this is one of the things that separate the Gurkhas from all other PSC’s – they are nice guys.

Now you may be thinking “what does being nice have to do with shootin’ and lootin’?” – well, when you have to work all day long with someone in the blazing Middle Eastern sun or on an extremely dangerous and stressful gig in some hell-hole excuse of a failed state, then being surrounded by guys who are not ass-holes is a pretty big deal.

And from a PMC business standpoint having employees who are polite and friendly (especially for force protection contracts) is just a wise business decision – how your people on the ground interact with the customer and the public directly reflects on the company they work for.

I remember when I started hearing people complain about how “rude the guards were,” when the ex-Brit Gurkha PSC’s doing force protection in the IZ (International Zone Baghdad, Iraq) were replaced by South Americans and then Africans.

The 25th Royal Gurkha Rifles marching through Kure, Japan soon after their arrival in Japan as part of the Allied forces of occupation
The 25th Royal Gurkha Rifles marching through Kure, Japan soon after their arrival in Japan as part of the Allied forces of occupation

The 25th Royal Gurkha Rifles marching through Kure, Japan soon after their arrival in Japan as part of the Allied forces of occupation

And you want to talk about bravery? This is a story from a WW II vet [3]:

“I saw a group of Gurkhas assaulting a trench full of Germans; most of the Gurkhas were killed or wounded while trying to take the trench, when the last Gurkha ran out of ammo he pulled out his Kukri and jumped into the trench. He then ran down the trench line lobbing off the heads of every German in his path – the last few Germans at the end of the trench were so horrified at seeing this they threw down their guns and ran away”

Now how bad-ass it that? This Gurkha was so fucking hard-core that Nazis’ with machine guns threw their guns down and ran away at the very sight of him armed with only a knife. That shit is pimp, stories like that give me a hard-on.

In Conclusion...

The future of Gurkhas in Security Contracting is unclear these days; the US Military is ever whittling down the money for security contracts in war zones. One of the results of this disturbing trend is the PMC’s have less money to pay their TCN Guard Force. So most PMC’s have resorted to using ex-soldiers from the poorest countries in the world (Uganda for instance). An ex-Brit Gurkha PSC makes about 1200+ bucks a month versus 400 a month for an ex- soldier from Uganda – you do the math.

I think the Ugandans I have run into and have personally worked with in the past were good guys, and the American and Brit PSC’s I know who supervise and work with them in Iraq now generally say that Ugandans are good guards outside of some minor behavioral quirks (but they would not work out on the roads with them). So I am by no means hatin’ on Ugandan PSC’s.

But no one can deny that an ex-Gurkha who was trained by and served in the British Army combined with the long warrior history of the Gurkha working in foreign lands as quasi-mercenaries simply produces a superior PSC than an unstable 3rd world Army with a laundry list of human rights violations in a failed state does.

But like everything else in life it is all about the Benjamin’s, and if the US Military insists on continuing its trend of considering cost over quality when putting security contracts out for bid then the future of ex-Brit Gurkha PSC’s working in places like Iraq is pretty grim.


[1] Some people within the Civilian Contracting community consider the term “TCN” to be derogatory in nature. There is a lot of debate about this that I won’t get into here, but my using the term “TCN” in this article is in no way intended to be an insult to anyone. [2] Real name withheld for OPSEC, this guy is still an active security contractor [3] I heard it on a documentary, can’t remember which one offhand [Note] Gurkha, Gorkha and Ghurka are all common spellings, I chose Gurkha for no particular reason except it was the first


~James G Founder - Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and getting drunk under the table by Gurkhas. James G. on FACEBOOK

K-9: The Nose Knows


One of the frustrations I have had since arriving in country is the lack of K-9 understanding by both military and contractors. It is not anyone’s fault in particular, but it leads to confusion about what the dogs are capable of and what exactly they tell us when they are searching.

Dogs search for odor, not for actual explosives

Dogs are trained to sniff for the odor of explosives. This does not mean that there are actual explosives at the source of the odor. For example, is someone borrowed your car and smoked in it (assuming you had never smoked in it before); the odor of the cigarettes would remain in the car for several days after the car was returned.

You might not be able to tell how much that person smoked in your car or how long before it was returned, just that the car still smells like cigarettes. This is similar to what happens when the dogs “alert” to the odor of explosives. We have no way of knowing (outside of a controlled training scenario) how much explosives were in a vehicle or how long ago they were removed.

Another thing to consider is what substances might smell close enough to explosives to gain the interest of the K-9. Ammonium fertilizer being transported in a diesel truck (Ammonium Nitrate)? Glycerin soap used around fatty meats (Nitroglycerin)? Both might resemble the smell of materials that the dogs are trained to sniff for but not actually be an explosive material.

Does this mean that the dog is wrong? No, it just means that the odor has lingered longer than the actual material or some combination of substances has triggered the dog’s interest.

Just because there isn’t a bomb, it’s not a false alert

The term “false alert” is used by people with little K-9 experience. In their mind, because the dog sits and nothing is found, the dog is wrong. Now I’m not saying the dogs are never wrong, but as I explained above, the odor of an explosive material can remain long after the item is moved. A seasoned handler should be able to tell you if the dog is responding to odor or just messing around.

A better term to use is “unproductive search”. This implies that the dog responded to odor, the handler determined that it was a legitimate response, and then a search was conducted of the area and nothing was found. It is important to treat these unproductive searches the same way every time, according to standard procedures, to prevent complacency.

The last thing we want is for the bad guys to see that we are no longer conducting thorough searches because so many have been unproductive. What better time to pass an actual device through a secure checkpoint.


If you are in a position where K-9’s are part of your duty assignment, take the time to ask questions about what you see and what you’re being told. While it may look obvious to you, there are unseen factors involved that might shed some light on what the K-9 is really doing.


~Frazier D Civilian Contractor EOD K-9 Correspondent

Frazier D
Frazier D

Frazier D was a police officer for 14 years, 8 as a K-9 handler. He is currently a Civilian Contractor bomb dog handler in Iraq.

CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS: The Thing About Checkpoints in Iraq


You can’t move on the ground anywhere in Iraq without encountering check points. As matter of fact, there are places along the roads where you can’t get your vehicles up to 80 kph because you run into another checkpoint immediately following the one you just cleared.

So, with all these checkpoints, is Iraq more secure?

The short answer, NO.


Here’s the thing, Checkpoints are certainly effective in disrupting convoys, PSDs, and local civilian traffic, but observably accomplish little more than that on the surface. They don’t stop the rat-line of bad guys and support coming into regional centers, and they most certainly don’t provide security past a plain view inspection of most vehicles.

However, they do provide an overt symbol of authority and maybe it’s as simple an explanation as that.

But, certain things do occur at checkpoints that must be noted and dealt with on frequent occasion by contractors running the roads…


If you are a contractor, expect a hassle at every stop. The days of blowing past check points in an effort to secure your safety and mission objectives are long gone. You are now required to show your company paperwork and supporting documents at EVERY turn.

If that’s not enough, some checkpoints have you document your passing in a ‘book’. You, the assets you protect, and your team sit exposed like ducks while the checkpoint monkeys thump their chests in authority every 1000’ feet. It is to the point of ridiculousness, but unavoidable.

The “Papers Please” drama is a large hassle and often confusing for all the parties involved because the standards and document requirements change all the time. Just when you think you are 100% square with your papers, the MOI changes the game causing havoc and disruption that isn’t always solved with a smile and shrug of the shoulders.


To make matters worse, no two checkpoints seem to be manned by Iraqi personnel that share a professional standard or common command. You can go from a very organized Iraqi Army checkpoint and run smack into an Iraqi Police checkpoint that seems operated more by reformed insurgents and militia types than Police Officers.

This type of non-uniformity and characteristically poor behavior causes unease and tensions more often than not. Professionalism is very up to base interpretation in Iraq. One thing is for sure, it’s less about the legal standards and national security measures they are trying to institute and enforce and more about one very important notion to the denizens of Iraq – R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

As a Contractor, you can’t drop your guard at checkpoint. You can never trust the agenda of those manning them.


Highway tolls; it’s a running annoyance, but expect to get a hassle for bottled water at every checkpoint you roll through. It’s become known as the ‘water tax’. It used to be a courtesy to hand a bottle of water to the Uniformed Officers stopping you at his checkpoint for the perfunctory ‘inspection’.

Now, it’s a demand, and not just for a single bottle of water but for two or three, or more. A small courtesy went straight to being an entitlement and expected practice in a matter of weeks. …and it doesn’t end there.

Worse, The Iraqis manning checkpoints have become bold filchers ready to snatch anything that’s not nailed to your person or your vehicle; if it’s in arms reach or they see it when you crack your door open at inspection, there’s a real possibility that they’ll just grab it or make an open demand for it – flashlights, drinks, pens, and gear. This is COMMON. First they demand respect, and then they attempt to steal from you and often do.

These are the Army and Police of Iraq. I assert that if this is what can be expected as a common practice, things will certainly continue to deteriorate and all good nature will be replaced with something less savory.


When you approach a checkpoint, take in the big picture and assess the readiness and posture being taken at the checkpoint you’re crossing. Are the soldiers or police switched on? How many of them are there? What’s their posture?

If there is on overly large presence of checkpoint personnel and vehicles, this is a sign to watch for. When Iraqis are confrontational they swarm their targets. So, an overabundant amount of personnel and Iraqi gun trucks congregated at a checkpoint can signal potential trouble. Be ready.


Given the status quo, there’s a few things you can do to be prepped for your almost certain check point encounter:

• Be polite and ready to be a diplomat. Even to the point of nausea. Iraqi’s regardless of uniform and unit are emotional people. If you act like an ass, expect trouble. Well, expect hassles either way…REMEMBER, YOU ARE SUBJECT TO IRAQI LAW, show the requested documents, sign what is needed and move on as soon as possible.

• Petty tribute. Have ample bottled water handy. Nothing aggravates me more than this, but you’ve got to offer these brigands something. Water is the cheapest form of presently accepted tribute available.

• Have nothing within arms reach inside your vehicle that you don’t want stolen. Also, it has been my experience that Iraqi Police tend to be faster to steal than Iraqi soldiers, but I have seen both. They will also try and pick things off your person. They are more and more aggressive with this type of behavior.

• Never commit your whole convoy to the checkpoint entry. This is Iraq. Your next contact could be right at a checkpoint where you’re stopped. Make sure you and your guys are switched on, not distracted, and continue to use proper Tactics.

• Trust no one. It goes without saying, but I am going to say it – The Iraqi military and Police force are seriously corrupt and the lack of clear National leadership lends to the problem. Escalation of force can happen at a checkpoint in a snap second due to the simplest misconstrued action. Evaluate every checkpoint upon approach and be deliberate.

• Insure your comms and panic alarm to your command are in order. If warranted, hit the panic alarm and let folks know you’re in trouble. As well, report any issue or trouble being realized to at a checkpoint to your operations officer at first notice. • Document and Record. Take pictures, roll video, take MGRS grids, and keep notes on all difficult encounters. You’ll need these resources for an investigation or to insure your name is clear of any complaint if one arises. Seriously, do this.

Realize the game being played out in the red zone and be ready to deal with the complexities offered. Your skills, diplomacy, and professionalism will make the difference.


~Bubba G Editor at Large


Bubba G is an active protective professional presently performing contract duties in the Middle East and has well over 15 years of military, high risk contracting, international training and martial arts experience.

K-9: Civilian Contractor K-9 Teams


Most of us working in the overseas contractor biz will come into contact with a working dog team occasionally. You might work with a Narcotics Detection Dog (NDD) or an Explosives Detection Dog (EDD). You may also run across a Cadaver Dog, a.k.a Human Remains Dog (HRD).

No matter which type of team you are in contact with, there are some similarities that you might not know about. Also, here are some things that can help the dog be as successful as possible.

The Nose Knows...

1. All dogs, no matter the breed, have noses that are thousands of times better than ours. A good example of just how good is this...

If we were to walk into a pizza joint, we (humans) would likely smell pizza. Not any specific kind, just pizza.

If Canis Familiaris (that means dog) were to walk into said pizza joint, they would smell pizza, too. They would also smell every individual topping offered. They would smell the three types of cheese. They would smell the tomato sauce and garlic butter (this is making me hungry).

They would also smell the Polo aftershave that Guido put on this morning, the syrup for the pop machine and the little mints they put in the urinals (don't eat those, by the way).

This is why drug traffickers have such a hard time masking the scent of the 20 kilos of Colombia's finest. Attempts to cover-up the odor only succeed in adding more scents for the dog to pick from. Dog's can take in multiple odors and distinguish them individually, not just the entire pizza like we can.

Dog Days of Summer

2. Dogs can't sweat. Here in the desert, we are all sweating buckets just to stay cool. Imagine wearing a fur coat and only being able to sweat from the soles of your feet and by wagging your tongue around. Now you understand why the dogs will work for a couple of minutes and then head for the A/C. It's not because the handler is lazy (even if they are), it's to keep the dog from going into heat stress and possibly even dying.

Plus, if the dog's mouth is open because it's panting, it's not breathing through it's nose and sniffing.

Keep Your Hands To Yourself

3. Even some single purpose dogs are trained in bite work. It can help build the dog's confidence and drives during training and it's good exercise for dog's that spend a lot of their time in kennels or crates. If you ask the handler to pet Fido and they say no, don't get butt hurt, they are probably saving you from four puncture wounds to the wrist and a trip to the contractor's med shed.

If a team is working, it's usually best not to get the dog used to interacting with every person it sees, making it difficult to get the dog focused on the task at hand. After the shift is over, ask if you can meet Lassie and you'll probably be ok.


Remember that dogs aren't perfect and their handlers definitely aren't. We still make mistakes and a good handler will be the first to admit it. Dog's can be a tremendous asset if deployed correctly and a little understanding on your part goes a long way to making that happen.


~Frazier D Civilian Contractor EOD K-9 Correspondent

Frazier D
Frazier D

Frazier D was a police officer for 14 years, 8 as a K-9 handler. He is currently a Civilian Contractor bomb dog handler in Iraq.

CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS: The PMC State of Affairs in Iraq and Maintaining Your Posture of Readiness


Here’s some of the latest observations from the Red zone -

The threat environment in Iraq continues to evolve and with it Iraq’s Ministry of Interior ovesight and involvement with PMCs, regulations, and inspections. What does this all equal – MORE HASSLE AND MORE DANGER.


One of the most recent and overt steps taken by the MOI has been the requirement that PKM/PKCs not be used while rolling the roads. This isn’t news to the teams risking their necks to move people and property for the DOD, DOS, and Iraqi Gov’t and it most certainly has not gone unnoticed with our enemies and those that would like to see the continued disruption of the rule of law in the Iraqi state.

I key in on this issue because it has meaning to the guy on the street. The contractor who needs all the weapons and support tools necessary to safely accomplish missions in what is most certainly a semi- permissive and often a hostile operating environment; you see- when a team is attacked, a belt-fed like a PKM/PKC allows a team to establish a controlled base of fire, maneuver against their foes, protect their assets and charges, and effect an escape. Without belt-feds, our defenses are seriously diminished.


Given the downgrade in capabilities fielded by the United States at a time when the presence of effective defense providers are more prudent than ever (Obama’s ‘draw-down’), the new rules being instituted by Iraq’s MOI fly in the face of street level wisdom and common sense unless, of course, you view PMCs as a threat to national interests and sovereignty and promote their vulnerability and effectively want to endanger their mission’s purpose – SUPPORTING THE STATE AND COMMERCIAL INTERESTS OF IRAQ.

So when the Bureaucrats chip away at your capabilities what do you do?


• Master the rudiments of your job. Work your skills set – train, retrain, and become as efficient an operator, detail member, and shooter as possible. Even if you can’t field them, be familiar with all types of belt-fed machine guns. They are everywhere and often pointed at you by the IPs swarming the checkpoints along your route. There is such a thing as battlefield pick-up.

• Have your comms sorted and tested prior to each mission. Make sure that you can get ahold of your Ops Center and call in support. You are going to need this capability more and more when operating in the mean streets of Iraq. Communications may become your most valued asset on the ground.

• Sort your medical kit. If there’s one thing I know, EVERYONE could do with being familiar with a combat lifesaver bag and the contents of your team medical kit. You’ll probably use your medical skills and equipment more often than your trigger finger in today’s Iraq. Trust me on this.

• Be knowledgeable and current with field intel. Keep up to date on the happenings in your area of operations and the tactics, techniques, and procedures that may be fielded by your enemy against you. Develop your drills and ‘actions on’ with this type of intel in mind. Make sure to review this regularly.

• Throw down, when called for. Be ready to fight and fight with savvy if confronted with deadly danger. Surviving is Rule#1, have an exit strategy and a good legal advisor is #2. Play out the possibilities in your head, and visualize what you’ll need to do during an engagement and afterwards. Use your brain and your tools, and come home.

• Be flexible and diplomatic; know when to pull the plug. The contacting game is ever evolving and not always in a reasonable or good direction. Know when a request of something being asked of you is just plain stupid, and be smart enough to articulate your way out of it. Be your own diplomat and always remember that you can find another job if things get too retarded.

As US troops continue to exit the Iraq Theater and a new normal settles in, I am sure contractors will have a larger role as Iraq develops into a more ‘stable’ Nation state. The issue will always be how to manage the changes along with the threats for those treading the red zone.


~Bubba G Editor at Large


Bubba G is an active protective professional presently performing contract duties in the Middle East and has well over 15 years of military, high risk contracting, international training and martial arts experience.

CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS: The "Red Zone E&E Bag" for PSD and Convoys


When you’re rolling the roads in your chosen cesspool, you can get jammed up in some pretty desolate places with little resources available in your AO to effect an escape or survive while you do it; this means that you pack everything needed to supplement your fighting loadout and Team leaders gear with a few more specialized items for just such an occasion… Enter the Red Zone E&E Bag.

I work convoys and protective details regularly and it’s a plausible risk that I may have to tread it on foot if I am separated from my team and vehicle during a contact. I feel the possibility of this is plausible yet remote, but a little planning and gear set aside for an E&E venture is still a part of my readiness and planning routine.

You never know, so have your shit square.

Before I start outlining the gear put in this satchel, let me be clear about what’s NOT listed or a part of this mini-pack. Here’s what’s not included, but carried elsewhere to support me on the ground during hard times in a semi-permissive environment:

• Weapons, frag, smoke, and incendiary (when approved) • 100oz. Water Bladder • Cash – USD and Local Currency. • Extra mags, sight tool, and cleaning kit • Flashlights and cylume marking sticks • Comms – 3 cell phones (all different providers), 2 way radio, PRC • Maps and primary GPS • IFAK

The Red Zone E&E Bag I have put together supports my mission activities as a supplement and so should the one you put together if you are so inclined.

Here are the rudiments of the Red Zone E&E Bag I have prepared…


I went with KIFARU’s E&E Bag as the centerpiece of the kit and attached a DiamondBack Tactical SAW Pouch to the front, and 2 DBT M4 Pouches to the sides of it for more item carry space. Between the bag and the pouches, I have plenty of room for contents and incidental items I add and subtract as called for. It’s the right size and keeps me from getting carried away with stuffing too much gear in the pack thus losing its intended purpose – TO GTFO!!!

Remember, the purpose of this little beauty is to promote evading enemy capture and support being found by the good guys. It supplements all the other war gear I haul around and is not an operational centerpiece I think about every day. It’s a true grab and go combination and part of a layered system.

• The TT Horizontal Survival Pouch • Local maps • Garmin GPS loaded with regional maps/way points • Water bottles x2 • Gerber Multi-plier and small pry bar • Pogey bait (small food stuffs) • VS17 Signals panel • Shemagh wrap/cloth • Ball cap


This Tactical Tailor Survival Pouch organizes all my more specialized E&E bits and bobs. Here’s the specialized contents of this pouch that support my E&E when things go pear-shaped:


• Compass • 550 Cord 20’fts • Orion emergency pop flare • Small LED light • Green Krill light • Lighter • AA Batteries in carrier • Water proof matches • Signal mirror • Emergency blanket • Duct tape • MRE Shit-paper x2 (tinder) • Flint and steel • Steripen (for water treatment)


I actually carry 2 of these– one in my standard kit and one in my Red Zone E&E Bag. There’s no substitute for these gems than a boxed set of mechanics tools. If I need an edge, set of pliers or screw driver in a pinch. This device is my first field answer. They are handle and available. Get a couple and stow one in your E&E bag as well. The Pry bar is a ‘never know’ item I keep available for small jobs available from County Comm.

This isn’t a ditty bag with comfort items; it’s about the business of personal survival. I want to have the rudiments needed to hoof it alone, survive, and support my rescue and my team mates if called for. What’s in your E&E Bag?

Red Zone E&E Bag™ ©


~Bubba G Editor at Large


Bubba G is an active protective professional presently performing contract duties in the Middle East and has well over 15 years of military, high risk contracting, international training and martial arts experience.