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War’s Risks Shift to Contractors

Posted February 11, 2012 By Ms Sparky

Contractors from the United States and other countries were wounded in an attack last year in Logar Province, Afghanistan. (NYTimes)

Published: February 11, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan — Even dying is being outsourced here.

This is a war where traditional military jobs, from mess hall cooks to base guards and convoy drivers, have increasingly been shifted to the private sector. Many American generals and diplomats have private contractors for their personal bodyguards. And along with the risks have come the consequences: More civilian contractors working for American companies than American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year for the first time during the war.

American employers here are under no obligation to publicly report the deaths of their employees and frequently do not. While the military announces the names of all its war dead, private companies routinely notify only family members. Most of the contractors die unheralded and uncounted — and in some cases, leave their survivors uncompensated.

“By continuing to outsource high-risk jobs that were previously performed by soldiers, the military, in effect, is privatizing the ultimate sacrifice,” said Steven L. Schooner, a law professor at George Washington University who has studied the civilian casualties issue.

Last year, at least 430 employees of American contractors were reported killed in Afghanistan: 386 working for the Defense Department, 43 for the United States Agency for International Development and one for the State Department, according to data provided by the American Embassy in Kabul and publicly available in part from the United States Department of Labor.

By comparison, 418 American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year, according to Defense Department statistics compiled by icasualties.org, an independent organization that monitors war deaths. Read the remainder of this entry »

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Scandal in Mistreatment of Silent Service Members

Posted September 29, 2011 By Forseti

Scott J. Bloch – September 28, 2011 – I like representing heroes. I did it in the federal government, helping whistleblowers who were taking it on the chin for protecting us. One of the more rewarding things I had the privilege of doing in government as U.S. Special Counsel was protecting the jobs of heroes returning from National Guard or reserve duty under USERRA. Now back in private practice, I have been privileged to protect the rights of our silent service members – private contractors who work in Iraq and Afghanistan and Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

While about 150,000 troops from America have served in Afghanistan and Iraq at any given time over the last few years, we don’t hear much about the 200,000 private contractors, about 100,000 from America, the rest from England, South Africa, Australia and other countries such as Kuwait, Iraq, India, Afghanistan, South America, Uganda and so on. There have been several thousand deaths among these contractors, and over 50,000 injuries, some catastrophic, some psychological, sometimes both.

Many of them are decorated veterans of the two current wars, Operation Desert Storm, the Bosnian conflict, or Vietnam, some with purple hearts, silver and bronze stars and other combat medals and awards. Many have been in the special forces of their countries’ armed services. They believe in helping America fight terrorists and defend freedom. They have placed their lives on the line as security personnel, carrying guns, or as combat drivers, as firefighters on bases where they are attacked, bombarded by mortar fire, shot at, and subjected to extremes of war and heat, during long work days usually seven days a week. These are not“mercenaries,” with all of the negative connotations contained in the word. They are patriots.

Many of these ordinary heroes have suffered physical and mental injuries, including having their limbs blown off, contracting brain injuries from concussion blasts of roadside bombs, or severe post traumatic stress disorder from being subjected to horrifying scenes of dismemberment, death, and threats of same every day. What has the American government done for them, and what have the insurance companies being paid billions done for these men and women?

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T. Christian Miller – (ProPublica) – September 27, 2011 – Private contractors injured while working for the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan filed a class action lawsuit [1] in federal court on Monday, claiming that corporations and insurance companies had unfairly denied them medical treatment and disability payments.

The suit, filed in district court in Washington, D.C., claims that private contracting firms and their insurers routinely lied, cheated and threatened injured workers, while ignoring a federal law requiring compensation for such employees. Attorneys for the workers are seeking $2 billion in damages.

The suit is largely based on the Defense Base Act, an obscure law that creates a workers-compensation system for federal contract employees working overseas. Financed by taxpayers, the system was rarely used until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most privatized conflicts in American history.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians working for federal contractors have been deployed to war zones to deliver mail, cook meals and act as security guards for U.S. soldiers and diplomats. As of June 2011, more than 53,000 civilians have filed claims for injuries in the war zones. Almost 2,500 contract employees have been killed, according to figures [2] kept by the Department of Labor, which oversees the system.

An investigation by ProPublica, the Los Angeles Times and ABC’s 20/20 [3] into the Defense Base Act system found major flaws, including private contractors left without medical care and lax federal oversight. Some Afghan, Iraqi and other foreign workers for U.S. companies were provided with no care at all.

The lawsuit, believed to be the first of its kind, charges that major insurance corporations such as AIG and large federal contractors such as Houston-based KBR deliberately flouted the law, thereby defrauding taxpayers and boosting their profits. In interviews and at congressional hearings, AIG and KBR have denied such allegations and said they fully complied with the law. They blamed problems in the delivery of care and benefits on the chaos of the war zones. (Click HERE for original article) (Click HERE for complaint PDF)

Remembering the Forgotten on Memorial Day

Posted May 31, 2010 By Ms Sparky

Note the three KBR flack vests and hats on the right side of this photo. I don't know exactly when and where this memorial took place. But it is a sobering reminder of the civilian casualties of this war!

For those who died supporting our troops, there is no ceremonial return. There is only heartache for the families left behind locked in combat with employers and insurance companies like AIG.

Thousands of Americans and Foreign Nationals have died in support of our soldiers. Let’s take a moment to show them the respect they have earned.

The folks over at American Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan and Overseas Civilian Contractors have done a fantastic job of tracking contractor issues, deaths, and injuries. They have done and amazing job of putting together a memorial page for contractor employees killed in support of Operation Iraq Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.  I really don’t think anyone else has done that.

For all my contract employee friends and readers working for KBR, Fluor, Dyncorp, SBH, Teng and the list goes on…I am so glad your name is not on that list. For my friends who are on the list, may you rest in peace.

Ms Sparky

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 19, 2010; 2:29 PM

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The Taliban’s brazen assault against the heavily-fortified, city-sized Bagram Air Field on Wednesday demonstrated again the insurgents’ penchant for headline-grabbing strikes at the most potent symbols of foreign power in Afghanistan.

The attack before dawn, with gunfire, rockets, and grenades, killed one U.S. contractor and wounded nine American soldiers. The U.S. soldiers at the base responded by killing 10 insurgents, including four wearing suicide vests.

It was the second ambitious attack in as many days, and possibly a demonstration of the new offensive the Taliban promised earlier this month. As the U.S. military sends thousands of new troops to the southern city of Kandahar, the Taliban vowed to respond by targeting Afghan officials, contractors and NATO forces.

On Tuesday, a suicide car bomber targeted a U.S. convoy in Kabul, killing five U.S. troops, a Canadian and at least a dozen Afghan civilians. The attack, coupled with the death of two American troops in separate bombings, pushed the U.S. death toll past 1,000 for the nine-year Afghan war.

The attack at Bagram involved 20 to 30 insurgents and began before 4 a.m., U.S. military officials said. None of them breached the perimeter, but gun battles continued for several hours.

The Associated Press reported that the attackers wore uniforms that appeared to match those of U.S. or NATO troops. A U.S. military spokesman said this tactic “wouldn’t be uncommon,” but could not confirm it happened in this case.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for both major attacks this week. Fighting usually tapers off in the cold winter months and then accelerates in the spring and summer. American military officials have been expecting an increase in violence, both in response to their troop build-up and because of the season.

But the choice of Bagram as a target surprised many people. Insurgents tend to avoid confronting American military might head-on. The airfield, expanded from an old Soviet military base, houses thousands of U.S. troops, the headquarters of the military operation for eastern Afghanistan, and the primary U.S.-run detention center. Insurgents have fired rockets at the base in the past, but the assault was “not something that commonly happens quite in this way,” said Mst. Sgt. Tom Clementson, a U.S. military spokesman at Bagram.

“That’s a dog chasing a school bus. You don’t attack Bagram with 20 guys,” one U.S. official said. “Either they’re crazy or brave or both.” (click HERE for the original article)

Here are some more articles written by different publications

Bagram attack kills US contractor, wounds nine NATO soldiers

Taliban attack key US base in Afghanistan

If you know who the America Civilian is who was killed please don’t post it in a comment. Email me by clicking HERE I don’t want to publish the name until the family has been notified officially.

My sincere condolences to the friends and family of our soldiers and civilians who were injured or killed during this cowardly attack. As far as the suicide bombers go…..good riddance!

Ms Sparky

Update 5-21-2010: Our friends at Defense Base Comp Blog have determined the contractor who was killed at Bagram was Bryan Keith Farr. I think I’ve been have to determine he worked for KBR at one time but am not sure if he has transitioned to the LOGCAP IV contractor Fluor, which I suspect is the case. I’ve checked out his myspace, facebook and searched the tweets on twitter and will be updating as soon as there is confirmation. Anyone who has information and would like to share it please email me or leave a comment below.