Monday, March 19, 2007

...Time to clear the Air...

Ever since I stopped working in Afghanistan, I've continued supplying the company I worked for with fresh bodies for the grinder.

Just kiddin' about the grinder part. But seriously, I enjoy hooking people up with the company -- they're an amazing group of guys who have somehow managed to run a contracting company with integrity and a solid reputation, and I like introducing them to solid guys I know who don't mind a little bullshit for a 6 figure salary.

Right now I'm trying to hook up another friend of mine, and we talked about some of the dangers involved. I told him a little about my token carbomb experience, which I briefly wrote about here after it happened.

Today at work I decided to google the names of one of the guys that I knew who got killed, and I found an article that had me somewhat incredulous, linked here. The story was written last Christmas, which one would think would give everyone time to reflect and maybe get their facts straight. I'd like to go ahead and point out some aspects of it that I found silly or just not true. I'm not trying to be disrespectful or rude, I just want to set the record straight on a few key points. This is one of those times where I can honestly say I was there, before, during, and after, and know some background on the situation. I know some of the key members of the story and I know a lot of the facts (or factual errors) contained within. It awoke some of my sleeping demons, and I've never really written about it but I think about it all the time.

Ok, let's dive in.

Mr. Owens' predecessor was killed in an al-Qaeda bomb attack in 2004. In May, a DynCorp police trainer was killed in a suicide bomb attack while sitting behind armored plating in an SUV identical to the one Mr. Owens uses to transport his boss.

  • The attack was a suicide bomber

    According to this article, the bomber was not a suicide bomber. One of their names is Mohammed Haider, who was responsible for orchestrating the attack. He drove up to the side of the building, jumped out of the car, ran down the street, and blew up the car.

  • He was not sitting inside an armored car.

    None of the excursions we used at the time were up-armored. His predecessor, who is mentioned below and who we nicknamed "Tactical Steve" because he was always decked out in highspeed gear, was standing outside when it happened.


    Retired Army Brig. Gen. Herbert Lloyd, whom Mr. Owens guards as DynCorp's top commander in Afghanistan, refers to the company's mission as "God's work." Whenever he sits down to eat inside one of DynCorp's communal mess halls, he bows his head in silent prayer while his staff members either bow their own heads or sit silently.

    This is completely true. Herb Lloyd was the project manager of our get up and insisted on being called "The General", which none of us would. I always got a kick out of him because he was so obese that he couldn't even close his body armor. His front plate was constantly at a 45 degree angle and he was unable to fasten the velcro straps. After almost getting whacked, he would run around waving his arms talking about God and Jesus, sometimes to the Nepalese workers, who weren't Christians and couldn't understand English hardly at all. No one liked Mr Lloyd. He wanted to be treated like a King, and didn't like people from our company because we didn't show enough reverence. Funny though, he would never talk to us, he would just call our boss and tell him that we were disrespectful and lazy because we wouldn't hop to our feet when he walked in the room. Anytime we were working on something he would come in and demand to know what we were doing, then call our boss and bitch about something.

    Here's my favorite quote:

    "I loved John Deuley (Tactical Steve). We were really close. ... I don't think there was anything we could've done to prevent that [attack]. I really believe that," Gen. Lloyd said.

    This is ridiculous. Check out this picture of the bomb site, that my friend took from the top of the building:

    As you can see, there's about 12 feet between the crater (the giant pothole) and the building. There were no barriers, and people moved back and forth through that street unopposed. One of the reasons we were not there when the bomb went off is because we knew it was going to get hit. We knew that from day one. We avoided that house at all costs. Based on common sense and a basic understanding of "soft targets" and which of our compounds was the most likey to get hit we avoided that house like the plague.

    Another DynCorp executive back in Texas, Richard Cashon, is named in the widows' suit as another "agent" of what they allege is the company's lax decision-making on security. Although neither he nor Gen. Lloyd are listed as defendants, both are accused of putting financial concerns ahead of the lives of their employees and not taking even minimal precautions, such as parking company vehicles to block the street and serve as deterrent barriers, to protect the staff from attack.

    Ya think? Just look at the picture. There was a huge sliding blue metal door into the compound. They never found it.

    The suit also suggests that DynCorp had taunted al-Qaeda into attacking by choosing a house formerly used by its leader, Osama bin Laden, as the DynHouse headquarters.

    This was the big fucking joke. People yucked this one up a lot. "This here was Oosama Beiin Laaahden's hayuss! He done planned naain wuun wuun heyurr!!" But they didn't hit that house because Osama lived there. They hit it because they could. Fortunately, the kitchen was under renovations, or it would have been a complete bloodbath. Coincidence that they hit it at 5:30pm? I think not. That was the height of dinner. The place had been cased, but lucky for us AQ was about a week off from killing 50+ people. (We ate at a different compound anyway.) If the house we stayed at just down the road had been hit at the exact time, I would be hamburger meat right now, because we were outside on the street the instant the bomb went off.

    DynCorp, which was a contractor to the State Department and therefore a representative of the U.S. government, could not simply block streets or install machine-gun posts without the host government's approval, Mr. Cashon said.

    The day after the attack, huge jersey barriers blocked off the streets around all the compounds with three armed guards manning the checkpoints at all times. Didn't seem to take too much time then.

  • God's Work

  • Funny how God and Money are mutually inexclusive. Before I went to work in Afghanistan, my dad asked me if I was doing it to serve patriotism or whatever. I chuckled and said, "No, it's all about the money." Anyone who says any differently is delusional. Let's see how many people apply for work in Afghanistan or the middle east for $30k a year. Oh wait, they do. They're called "service members".

    Everyone who works for a contracting company knows the score. Some people do it because they want to look cool, some people want some adventure, but in the end, it all comes down to money. It's all about money. The companies want money. The employees want money. I figured as long as there was money to get, I may as well get it while the gettin' was good, and I got my small slice of the pie, but it's nowhere near what these companies are making.

    I don't think that Herb Lloyd is a bad man. I'm sure he was deeply affected by the deaths of those involved, because he is a person and because he acted like a complete loon for a while after the blast -- I can't say I'd act any differently. But that article is blowing some serious smoke, and I found it a little bit tough to swallow. I don't know if the families of those killed got their money in the suits they filed against the company, but there is no doubt in my mind or the minds of anyone I worked with that it could have and should have been avoided. We knew from day one that it was not a matter of if, but a matter of when, and if we were thinking that than policy makers must have been thinking the same thing.

    John picked me up from the airport after I'd flown on a mission somewhere, I think to Jalalabad, the day before the bomb. I sometimes think about him running his mouth up in the front seat, joking about this and that, all of us completely oblivious that he would be blown in half the next day. I think about all he left behind (three children), and other people I've known who have died prematurely for whatever reason when I kiss my girl good night and thank my lucky stars that I was just down the street and not at the blast site -- it seems disrespectful not to.


    Blogger A Unique Alias said...

    That reporter is trying to bank off the war business just the same as anyone else. The difference is, I think, he's not really adding value; just cashing in.

    He has every incentive in the world to try and use as many buzzwords (suicide bomber!) and slick turns of phrase (Working for DynCorp is a betting man's game) as he can.

    Who cares about the facts, right?

    12:05 AM  
    Blogger brando said...

    Yeah, even light security can work wonders. A couple of jersey barriers, and some random car searches. If you can put some friction on the enemy, it can save lives.

    At least they ramped it up after the attack.

    1:41 AM  
    Blogger Paul said...

    AUA -- good point. the article was written in true holster sniffer fashion. the story brought back a lot of memories of Mr Lloyd theatrics.

    brando -- they're overreaction in ramping it up made it clear that knew they fucked up. all of a sudden our posture changed from gilligan's island to Da Nang. and like i said, the compound where mr lloyd lived was pretty much made out of sandbags. if it got hit by a bomb everyone would have been killed by flying sandbags.

    7:44 AM  
    Blogger brando said...

    Well, at least learning the lesson is a good thing. Just because you lose someone, doesn't mean you should throw up your arms, and go pack your bags. Iraqis have their fatalism with everything, and won't change their posture, even after they get hit. It was almost like they don't want to admit that they have anything to do with it. At the very least as Americans, we change our tone when we get kicked in the teeth.

    [after horrible attack in Hillah]
    Me: "OK, Now we see they have patient car bombers, and we can adjust our TTPs. We can learn from it. The Americans have been trying to get you to search every car coming into your base. This is a good example of why. It's a good chance to learn."

    ING officer: "Why do people have to die before we change?"

    Me: "Um. OK. What I need you to do is search every single car. Starting now. I'm not blaming you. Let Hillah be a good motivator."

    ING officer: "We should have been doing it all along. It's too late!"

    Me: "It isn't too late. Are you going to search the cars or not?"

    ING officer "Incha Allah"

    9:14 AM  
    Blogger Paul said...

    allah has a sick sense of humor, doesn't he?

    the insha'allah thing kills me -- seems like a convenient excuse to be lazy to me. it seems people have been throwing around the proverb, "When you pray, move your feet". for whatever nefarios purposes it's being used, it's still a pretty good one.

    9:47 AM  
    Blogger Paul said...


    9:47 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Thanks for the blog, there is a lot of information that I needed to hear but never got from the "company". All of my info is from the good men who worked there and worked hard. I think you know who this is - hint: August 29,2004

    9:38 PM  
    Blogger A Unique Alias said...

    I'm not as familiar with the concept of ensha allah as being a fatalist thing per se. I know that "if Al (that's what his friends call him) wills it" is often used as a way to weasel out of commitments.

    "Oh sure, I'll totally come to your barbecue, and I'll bring my famous khabkhalash, if Allah wills" is like saying "if I feel like it."

    And, Paul, what the fuck was up with Maryman Monroe there? Yeeesh.

    9:57 PM  
    Blogger Jinxy said...

    I'm sorry I missed this article the first time. Good read.

    P.S. Where do I pick up "I Was There, Too" bumper sticker?

    6:16 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    You can go to the website made by John's widow (AKA "Tactical Steve" or "Walker's")

    Contact her if you want on the right side where it says contact. She is a real person - nice too.

    She put a lot of work into this site. If I ever die I hope my wife loves me as much as this lady loves John...

    6:54 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "I loved John Deuley (Tactical Steve). We were really close...."

    The only thing that fat, Jabba-like, SOB Field Marshall was close to was a damn heart attack.

    Paul your writing is to my math as your math is to my writing... so i'll leave the elegant prose to you, but everyone over there knew the score. Anyone could have walked anytime they wanted, it doesn't justify the situation but many good men have died for less. The ass pirate reporter was hunting for a head to chop but I think he aimed to high up the food chain. He should have started with Lloyd and his administration and worked his way up from there.


    8:59 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I know that security on that building could have been better, but don't forget that they did mount a .50 cal on top to help stop... wait, that was just an aluminum pipe that they laid across a sandbag. My bad.


    12:54 PM  
    Blogger Paul said...

    anonymous folks -- thanks for dropping by. i actually remember everyone calling john "walker" and i never understood why. i thought it was his last name, so we just called him tactical steve.

    joe#1: thank for the veiled insult/countercompliment/self-brag/pseudo-self-putdown. sneaky!

    joe#2: it wasnt a pipe, it was an anti-aircraft gun barrel. oh, wait, so pretty much a fucking pipe. good security measures.

    jinxy: well, there's a different bumper sticker that says "on this day i about shit my pants". i dunno if you get that one, but i do. it's kinda cool that we were both there only in such different contexts (not knowing the other existed)

    aua: if allah wills its identity to be known to you via my mouth, it shall be done.

    1:44 PM  
    Blogger A Unique Alias said...

    Jesus, man, did you just offer me an Islamic Blowjob???

    3:54 AM  
    Anonymous Tony said...

    Don't take him up on that offer AUA. Islamic or not his blow jobs are awful... he scrapes...on purpose.

    12:35 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Paul! You whore! You told me I was special!


    12:59 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Would love to see more photos of this if you have them. Thanks Paul.

    11:22 AM  
    Blogger calvin said...

    Lloyd, what a waste of human flesh, i spent two years in bosnia with mpri and the biggest shit deposit of conventialy minded has been us army colonekls and generals that had ever ben assembled, i used to wonder how they made it this far in life, if it wasnt for the former sf guys we would still be sittin in the hotel international in zenica laughing every day watching these shitbags stick their heads up lloyds ass trying to figure out what to do. i feel your pain if you had to be in his presense. my tolorance since then has decreased, i am apt to leave them in harms way these days if they act up, i stop the car and say "get the fuck out or readjust your attitude" 10 jobs later, but much happier i will continue to not tolorate their incompetence. the army is a breeding ground for these shitbags, if anyone is reading this, i just want you to know that people like this sometimes have strange accidents that makes them medically incapable of staying in country, it makes everyone much safer not having them around and keeps the others in line, bettter yet send them all home and let us professionals fix these messes all over the world. in the meantime, stay safe, de oppresso liber, Cal

    9:34 AM  
    Anonymous Mrs. John Deuley said...

    Paul & others who have added their comments to this blog -

    Wow, alot of information for a widow to take in at one time. I have never heard the "real" story from anyone from the "company". Any information to fill in the blanks would be appreciated. It has been almost 3 years and I know enough to know that John's death on August 29th 2004, could have & should have been avoided.

    Interesting what Cal had to say about Lloyd. I have heard similar comments from many other people. I met the man once and have no comment about my thoughts on him.

    Anyone who wants to contact me can do so at Be safe and take care.


    7:30 AM  
    Blogger Dean Fetro said...

    I must qualify these comments with the fact that I did not serve in Afghanistan as my time and service had long been passed, and I am not familiar with the specifics of this event apart from what I have read in this post.

    Having said that, If we are speaking of the same man, I do have personal experience with BG Herbert J. Lloyd. I worked for him personally while he was the Commander of the 2nd Brigade 5th Inf Div (Mec) while at Ft. Polk, LA from 1984-1987. BG Lloyd is a legend and an a true American Samuri. He was among the first 300 American advisors on the ground in Vietnam in the early 60's and served several tours with including with the Vietnamese Airborne Battallion and is one of only a handful of Americans to have a combat jump, 3 of them in fact. He is awarded 2 Silver Stars, the Soldiers Medal and count them...7 Bronze Stars with "V" device for valor. There was not a man under his command who as we would say wouldn't " Charge the very gates of hell with a 5 gallon can of Mo-gas" for him. BG Lloyd was the best leader of men I have ever known before or since, a true patriot, a selfless leader of men who never put his comfort or wellbeing before his men's.

    It is my most sincere hope that we are talking about two different men, I have no doubt that the man you describe in your post is nothing like the man I would have fought to the death for. I would invite you to check out these links, they give the account of the man I knew. Among he greatest men this nation has ever known.

    2:47 AM  

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