Those PSD Teams – June ’07

At this point I’d been moved north to HQ. I was still working the endless, ludicrous Alamo Road project, but now with PSD teams who had never been to the project. Accustomed to my teams down south, and having chalked up the incident with Pete as an anamoly (see Those PSD Teams – May ’07 post), I assumed all PSD teams were flexible, friendly, good-natured, helpful, and quietly, defensively (i.e. not aggressively) professional. I didn’t fully appreciate how easy it was to work with them until I had to travel with these new HQ Erinys teams …

June 2007

HQ’s PSD teams* are at least as irritating as the Alamo project itself. Driving down Alamo yesterday, I asked the men for a UTM grid on the location of a pothole because my own GPS unit was fritzing.

I’m busy watching the environment, the man snapped, truly pissed off. I don’t have time to give you grids.

The stupidity of this stopped me cold. I laughed out loud.

Let’s see … the environment he was watching: sand, and one long asphalt road. Visibility: five to fifty kilometers. The sheikhs in the area have been paid off by the contractor. We’ve been visiting the site weekly for over two years, and daily for six months without a hint or sniff of any trouble, but he can’t take his eyes off the sand for forty seconds to read a UTM grid? Self-important piece of junk.

We continued on down the road in silence. When we reached the contractor’s little fortified outpost camp, I climbed out of the truck and started for the office trailer to chat with the only white man left on the project, Joost, the contractor’s security man.

One of the PSD men stopped me. How long will this take? He asked curtly.

I shrugged. As long as it takes, I told him and turned on my heel and walked away, his next question trailing after me without a response.

After half an hour chatting with Joost, one of the PSD men opened the door and stuck his head in the office. “We have to leave now,” he said.

I’m not finished, I told him, then ignored him, turning back to Joost. I heard the door close.

What’s with this team? Joost said with a scowl. They’re getting paid. Joost, a big bear of a South African, has worked as a personal security guard himself for many years. I shrugged and rolled my eyes. I told him what they’d said when I’d asked for a UTM grid out on the road.

I think perhaps there are too many Americans on this team, Joost said. Perhaps they are short American men. He grinned at me and I grinned back.

The door opened again. How much longer? The same man asked.

Twenty minutes, I told him without turning around, keeping my voice mild.

Forty minutes later I strolled out the door. The team members’ eyes were flat and blank as I walked past them on the way to the truck, and I imagine my own looked the same. We were all doing a poor job of pretending we weren’t pissed off.

Two of the project engineers came out of another trailer, Hassan and Fahd. I waved and veered off my path to greet them. I heard the PSD men muttering to each other behind me.

The engineers looked nervous, shifting on their feet, eyes flickering carefully over the armed PSD men behind me. I caught Hassan’s eye and rolled my own, making a face. He grinned. As I reached the engineers I held out my hand and Fahd took it with a grin, both of us then bringing our palms to our hearts to signify respect and affection. I stood and chatted with the engineers for five or ten minutes, ignoring the PSD men now openly glaring at me, only occasionally tearing their eyes off of me to stare at the Iraqis with scorn and suspicion. Self-important pieces of junk.

One of my teams from down south came up here to HQ today, so I asked Conor what he thinks of the HQ teams. Maybe I just hit them on a bad day …

Seren, Conor said lowering his voice and looking around to be sure we wouldn’t be overheard, I was transferred up here last spring. After one week I called the bosses and told them that they can move me back down south or I’d quit.

I told him what had happened at Alamo Road.

They’re a bunch of morons, he snapped. They don’t do their homework – they could call us to get intel on Alamo.

They’ve never asked you guys what’s up down there? I asked, incredulous. You guys have been going there for two years!

Conor shook his head. They take themselves way too seriously, proving that they’re not anywhere near so good at what they do as they think they are. He made a scornful face. They like to push people around. You know how many times they’ve shot their weapons?

I shook my head.

They’ve gotten into trouble. He waved a hand in front of his face like he could wave away a fetid stench. You know us, Seren, he said. How many times have we shot our weapons? How many times have we had to?

Never, I said nodding.

If they were any good, they would be relaxed enough to be flexible and they’d have more fun doing the job. Be careful going out with them.

So I didn’t just draw them on a bad day.

He told me the names of a couple of good individuals on the teams. I’ll talk to them, Seren, Conor told me. I’ll tell them to take good care of you.

I miss my PSD teams.  

***

 

* We had two companies on contract providing personal security teams for us: Aegis and Erinys. The Erinys team down south was great. It was the Erinys teams at HQ that were so obnoxious and aggressive; Aegis security teams were great, down south and at HQ. Like the Erinys team down south, they were always mature, courteous, highly competent, and wonderfully professional.

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