Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Leaders

Below a moving experience from a civilian contractor in Iraq. Please take a moment to relflect on all of the tragic losses that this war has incurred, and the many, many  lives that have been touched.


From Founder/OP...

Preface   Below I am sharing a new journal entry that just came in from our friend Harrison who is a govt. contractor at a camp in Iraq that we have been supporting for about two years now.  He is an awesome example of a the most dedicated contractor I think you could ever find.  He has put his heart and soul into his job and even lost his live-in girlfriend over his dedication to his work, by his constant extensions.  He has been there almost three years I think and this is his second time!!  He has been sending me his private journal entries and I usually don't share them but I thought I would share this because it is not only our "troops" that are in harms way, it is many dedicated people such as Harrison, and U.S. civilian employees that are as well.  Harrison is finally leaving Iraq in about 10 days and coming back home to TX to resume his former career as a widely followed radio DJ.  

Here is his entry...  

Too many times now, I have sat down in this old broken chair, at this antiquated computer, to write about some uplifting occasion, or albeit fleeting, some comical moment.  


     Too many times now, in that short space of time, everything changes.  We get sucker punched by life here, as I suppose everyone around the world does on a constant daily basis. 


     Chances are good you won't hear about this in the news. 


     We, as civilian contractors, are "invisible" in these accounting stats.  


     Late yesterday afternoon there was furious traffic on the radio. 


     Something had happened.  Something very bad.


     I called a friend that works at the airstrip and was told a chopper had landed and 4 stretchers were brought off it.  Stretchers completed covered. 

     As Force Protection did not come in and put us on "Communications Blackout", it could only mean one thing.

     They were civilians. 


     As soon as I was relieved, I walked over to the CASH to talk with my sources there to find out what had happened.


     Upon entering the CASH I spotted one of my fellow MWR staffers there.  I was not only shocked to see him, because I thought he was still on R n' R, but shocked at how he looked. 


     He is a big man, from a west Texas ranch, with looks and a country drawl in his voice, that if you saw him, you would think he just stepped out of a western movie. 


     His was dirty, his hair was disheveled, and he was shaking...there was blood all over one shoulder of his shirt.


     I immediately went to where he was sitting and knelt down in front of him.  "Are you OK", I asked, looking at the blood on his shirt.  "It's not mine", he said, as I looked directly into his eyes that were welling up.  I looked down at his hands and they were shaking.  I put my hand over them and held them.  I asked him again if he was ok and he kept saying, "Four"... "Four"..."They got four".  


     In a whisper of a voice, he told me how he helped carry the bodies of the dead and wounded from the Rhino to another vehicle after the explosion.  On his face there was great sadness.


     As I knelt there with him, a medic approached us and said they were ready for him to get checked out.  As we both rose to stand, I hugged him and told him to let me know if there was anything I could do.  Then he and the medic walked away.    


     This much is clear.


     Yesterday afternoon a "Rhino", (an armored bus, about the size of a small RV), was traveling from another camp around Mosul to our camp. 


     On the Rhino's manifest of passengers, were KBR civilian contractors coming back from R n' R, and some new hires just arriving to begin work at our camp.  They were flown into this other camp because our airstrip had been shut down for runway repairs.  After they flew in to that camp, they jumped in the Rhino and joined a convoy to get back here.


      During the short ride here...10 minutes by air on a Blackhawk...on the road between our two camps, known to be a hot spot, an IED detonated almost right underneath the Rhino.  The huge blast lifted the Rhino in the air, blowing off the steel plates and bulletproof glass from the front of it.  It landed some 15 meters from the blast crater.  


     4 were instantly killed, and 4 seriously wounded. 


     When I was at the CASH last night, also in the room were several others that had been on the Rhino.  Many that I knew, that seemed to be physically OK, but the medics were checking them out anyway to make sure.  One man I talked to showed me his leg where some shrapnel had pierced deep into his skin. 


     To compound this already tragic incident, we were told today that one of those killed, another MWR staffer, had just gotten married while on his R n' R. 


     This morning their flag draped coffins were flown out...back to loved ones who saw them, hugged them, and kissed them...only days ago...


     Sadness...that word...just cannot describe this...     


     Somehow here in the everyday grind, we kinda forget that we are in a war zone...a "for keeps" combat life and death zone...the lull allows is at those very get the shit slapped out of you in a most horrific way...  



Comments (5)

Veronica DeCarolis
Weidel Realtors - Flemington, NJ

Thanks for your post. I can only hope that someday soon all of our people can come home. Today I was reading about how the owner of the NY Mets is raising money to help veterns who need counseling when they get home. I don't know if these funds would be available to independent contractors but they deserve our thanks too.  Veronica

Jul 12, 2008 07:00 AM
ron wilson

On the morning of the 7th of July 2008, there were about 30 or so KBR contractors at an US Army camp in Northern Iraq call, Q- west. These individuals were preparing to travel to Mosul, Iraq which is about 68 miles to the north. This seemed like and easy task, since this route had been travelled so many times before. On that day we were to ride in what KBR calls,"Rhino Bus."
The Rhino Bus is this huge RV looking bus that is fully armored. It has think layers of armored protection all around the vehicle. It also has window that are about 6 inches thick.
There were a few guys who stood outside smoking and joking, while the rest of us waiting in the office. At about 10:45 am, we were told to load the Rhino bus, while I was gathering my bags, I noticed that the guys outside were running to the bus to get a seat up front. I quickly grabbed my bags and got to the bus but by the time I got there it was only two seats left on the bus. One guy who boarded just before me took one seats and I remember a nice young white guy moved his helmet out of an empty seat and told me to sit here. At that time I sat down and the bus was full. KBR travel had already planned for the over flow so there were to harden SUV that were to travel with us also.
After the Rhino Bus was loaded and ready to depart for the staging lanes at Q-West. We drove for about five minute and we stopped just outside of the staging lanes. We were told by the driver that we would be sitting at the gate until 13:00 hours, which is 1:00pm. He opened the door and showed everyone how to open and close the door properly. He informed us of the important of the door being handled with care. It is about 11:00 am at this time. Most of the people got off the bus for a quick bath room break and the smoker did what they do. I my self went to the bathroom which was a Porter-John in the staging yard. On my way back to the bus I met an African-American young lady who was one of the drivers of the bus. I asked her,"How many times have you driven this route"? Her answer was,"Lots
of times"!(Smiling brightly) That young lady's name was Pamela Mayo-Brown and those were the only words that I had with her.
We departed Q-west with and Army convoy consisting of over 60 vehicles. I am not sure of the exact number but it was a very only convoy. Our vehicle was placed somewhere in the middle of this convoy and we were on our way. Approximately two hours into our trip, while I was nodding off, I vehicle was hit by an IED, improvised explosive devices. As soon as we were hit I knew exactly what it was. It did not sound as loud as I thought it would. I remember the look on the face of the young lady who was sitting to the left of me, she looked straight in to my eyes just as my daughter does, it is a look that I am very familiar with.
After the explosion the vehicles rolled for about 50 meter totally out of control because the Driver had been knock unconscious at impact. While rolling out of control the vehicle was falling apart. The initial burst called the door to blow completely off and the roof of the vehicle was almost totally gone.
Three of the four died was killed instantly. They felt no pain, they did not suffer. From the time of the initial detonation till the vehicle came to a stop, the grace of God was with me just as always but I realized his grace more than ever. The vehicle stop in little ditch that divide the road. Everyone in the vehicle was covered with dirt and dust, it was very dusty and I could not see everyone in the vehicle. The young lady that was beside me, her name was Doris Lowery, the floor boards beneath her had collapsed. I quickly helped her up and tried to help a man that was in front of me up. I then begin to remove the broken pieces of the interior of the vehicle.

Oct 20, 2008 09:55 AM

I was on that convoy and know both H.C. And RW. That day will not be forgotten. I see it everytime I close my eyes.

Jan 20, 2009 12:32 PM

RW, would you please just let it were working in a combat zone as a civilian contractor. Stuff happens, deal with it.

Jul 13, 2009 06:14 PM
Ron Wilson

Those are the words on a weak mind "WTF" ! History must be recorded and the ignorant will live on! July 7th, 2008, KBR Rhino "Failed" !

Jul 07, 2014 06:10 PM