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WAR & A PAYCHECK: Memoirs of a Commando Writer - ANGER

Jan 30, 2013 6:50PM


Colin Palmer submitted his extraordinary screenplays to the NexTV Writing & Pitch Competition last year (new competition begins Jan. 25, 2013).  Crawl inside the head of a military contractor in war-torn Iraq in this weekly blog series. We're all fans at NexTV....We promise you're in for quite a ride!

ANGER

 

My anger has finally caught up with me.

 

I was adopted. (I wanted to meet my real mother.) I was a football player. (I wanted to win the Heisman.) I was a skateboarder. (I wanted to go pro.) I was a lacrosse player. (I wanted to win a National Championship.) I was a Navy SEAL. (I wanted to kill bad guys and save good guys.) I was a mercenary….

 

On a Tuesday morning, January 2005, someone from Blackwater called me as I answered the phone hung over, by myself, in my king size bed. “Would you like to go to Iraq, tomorrow?” Thank fucking God. I’m broke! I just spent the last 6 months drinking my ass off after 6 months in Fallujah and a break-up with a former girlfriend of 3 years. She had been fucking some dickhead from Dev Group the whole time I was gone, but I still took her to Bali. That’s another story. My money was just about gone and I had just turned 30.

 

The contract for Blackwater, in Iraq, was called a LOW PRO contract, which meant we were to travel and operate in a low profile posture, which was interpreted as driving a fleet of BMWs, Mercedes, and eventually Infinity’s through the streets of war-torn Baghdad. It didn’t take long for me to realize how much the company cared more about the dollar, than supporting their “troops” with proper, accessible equipment.

 

The company would buy shoddy armored cars and charge the client, IRI (International Republican Institute, John McCain’s thing,) a fortune. They’d either rent or buy the cars and charge them an arm and a leg. But, it was all government funded, so no one cared. This was the beginning of Blackwater nailing some giant contracts with the State Department.

 

Here's the aftermath of a driver
of a car bomb

 

We lived in the Red Zone. The way we had it set up was pretty sweet, I thought.  It was COOL to live in the Red Zone.  We could drink on the roof and hear the mortars fly over us into the Green Zone. The company hired Jordanians and Iraqi security guards. They would protect the perimeter of the compound despite being treated like shit from the so-called leadership. It would always surprise me that they were treated like shit since they could easily let a car bomb drive right up to the house we stayed in if they got pissed at us. I was eventually tasked with having to pay these people in cash for their monthly, or bi-weekly paychecks.

 

In the beginning of the contracting bonanza, all the companies hiring would have SEAL TEAM, or RANGERS, or SPECIAL FORCES on the top of the job application or webpage. But, BW and other companies ended up hiring anyone that fit the bill and would train/vet them in their own 2-4-8 week PSD (Personal Security Detail) training thing.

 

I learned all I needed to know in the SEAL Teams. So, it was a “JOY” to work with a handful of guys with shit for experience. Don’t get me wrong, half the guys were great. But, some guys had over 20 years in the Army and additional years on the force, but no real tactical experience. One guy said that we would NEVER use a sniper over-watch in a PSD mission, as I suggested, and the team was shocked. Criticism of this shitbag leadership was greeted with threatening our jobs. To be honest, I’d rather loose my job than loose my life. These certain people had just graduated from the Blackwater Academy and thought they knew everything about how to do the job. Of course this one particular douche bag ended up running teams for the State Department where they always had sniper over-watches.

 

When I got on this contract, we had, “Soft Skin,” Beamers. The operators would typically have the rear gunners lean out of these UNARMORED vehicles and shoot WARNING SHOTS at the Baghdad traffic behind them to keep them 100 yards at bay. The whole point of LOW PRO, or LOW PROFILE is to… ugh, KEEP A LOW PROFILE! These guys would ride around Baghdad, Iraq, in 2005 (which means very dangerous,) like a bunch of LA GANGSTERS!

 

“ROUTE IRISH”, as it was called in Iraq, was one of the most dangerous places on Earth. Car bombs and small arms fire would frequent that road. It was on the news everyday. Anyone and everyone were susceptible to an attack including children going to school. I was doing that joyride every day!

 

I was a new guy on this squad, but was an experienced SEAL and I just did a 6-month contract in Fallujah in the past year. I should fit right in. I would quickly realize that getting along with these shitheads was a pain in the ass.

 

Okay, so picture us. Our “uniform” was regular clothes, pants and usually a tee shirt with a collar. Sunglasses were a must. Some kind of good boot, preferably GORE-TEX to run through puddles of water or diesel fuel is a must, or at least something that will dry fast and support the ankle. Gloves are always good to have in case you have to put your hands in broken glass. On top, of course is your load bearing gear, or chest harness. I carried 9 magazines with a smoke grenade and other little needs. On my M-4 I had a mag doubler with about 56 rounds ready to go. My pistol was on my gun belt where I had two more pistol mags, a med kit, Flex-cuffs, and a drop leg mag holster with 4 mags for my M-4.  


 

SO here comes the point of my story…One day, after I started doing the tactical leading of our movements around Baghdad, we were driving down Route Irish through mild traffic. It was starting to get HOTTER earlier, like as soon as the sun popped up. I looked over to an Iraqi lady navigating three children through this dangerous road. I gave them a quick study in a millisecond and moved my eyes around for any possible threats as we were approaching a major intersection where we would veer left and move to the Green Zone.

 

I looked back at the vehicle, waved at the kids, and winked at the driver.  Often times when stuck in traffic, the local Iraqis would think we were just some assholes and couldn’t see us through our tinted windows unless they gave us a double take. I’d usually just smile, wave and raise the butt-stock of my rifle so they would get the point. No reason to be rude all the time. Once the driver noticed they’d waive back, not necessarily liking it, but they would be respectful and give us a break as we had a job to do and we also had weapons. Respect begets respect. Most other PSD guys would show them their muzzle every time and scare the shit out of them.

 

In this case, I winked and smiled at three children and a woman who was driving them somewhere. It must have been school. I could see their backpacks and they were dressed like regular school kids with jeans and shirts with reds and blues and stripes. The woman was focused on the road. She acknowledged us with a nod, but she had a big job to do. She had to drive some piece of shit car and worry about the military, PSD teams, especially the ones that would typically drive everyone off the road and into a ditch. She’d also have to worry about complex attacks from insurgents, especially car bombs. I got the feeling that she got a breath of fresh air when all I did was wave at her. We veered left for the onramp that took us over the other side of the highway to the Green Zone. As we veered, another car suddenly swerved over from the far right side into the middle of the highway almost bumping the lady and children when he IGNITED. They vaporized.  Kids on their way to school…gone in a flash, right before my eyes.

 

 


It’s been 7 years since I saw that incident.

 

In the past couple years, I’ve come to wonder if I made that memory up. Does it even matter though? Maybe that’s an example of why my anger simmers under my skin. Perhaps I’ve seen so much nonsense that it’s all garbled up in my head and sometimes bits of these subjects poke into other subjects at inappropriate times. As an adopted kid, I always grew up kind of pissed off.  I’m trying to organize experiences like these, and a ton of other negative ones, so I can make sense of them and they don’t bleed into other parts of my life.

 

My girlfriend and I had wanted to get married until recently. It was love at first sight, but after 3 years we began going through a painful break-up, or timeout. Seems I need to confront and fix that anger that boils beneath my skin. It’s anger that her entire family noticed this Thanksgiving holiday. I had no idea. But, I’ll also claim that I’m constantly misunderstood.  That break-up lasted a week until we found out we’re pregnant!

 

So how do you move on?  How do you become a successful civilian? Some people have it easier. A certain discharge that I’ll bring up in later blogs, and emotional wounds of various kinds have fueled my anger over these past few years. I have acted irresponsibly and have certainly been paying the price for certain behaviors, like drinking and driving. Deep emotional wounds have certainly contributed to crazy behavior. That behavior has led to consequences that make it difficult to navigate a normal life. I guess that’s one of the reasons I’ve come to Hollywood to be a screenwriter. I feel like I’ve run out of options for the long term.

 

I’ve started to confront my anger issues through therapy and Transcendental Meditation. I’ll do anything to bring this baby into a happy environment.

 

Colin L Palmer



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