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!
My anger has finally caught up
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
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
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
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
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
“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
I’ve started to confront my anger issues through therapy and
Transcendental Meditation. I’ll do anything to bring this baby into a happy
Colin L Palmer