"America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on
imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand." - Harry
There are silent warriors among us. They represent the backbone of the continuity that has sustained the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Often derided by many back home as overpaid byproducts of pork-barrel politics, they drive on and stay focused on the people they care about most – the Soldiers. I’m referring to the civilian contractors. We depend on them here. They always deliver quality in all they do. Civilians can be found toiling at every FOB. Perhaps best known for the amazing dining facilities that keep us fed, the civilian workforce also provides various other services. These include laundry, facilities maintenance, air terminal operations, MWR facilities, fuel issue points, water treatment plants, military equipment maintenance, and many other services. They also risk their lives every day driving trucks alongside Soldiers while conducting convoy operations on some of the most dangerous roads in the world. Unlike Soldiers, civilians don’t deploy for one year. They stay as long as their contract continues. There are contractors in Iraq who have been faithfully serving Soldiers since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. They will be with us all the way to the end of Operation New Dawn. Many of them will then move on to Afghanistan and continue their faithful service. They are amazing people who we’ve come to respect immensely for their dedication.
My Battalion manages some of the contracts at Speicher. While the civilian contractors involved with those contracts don’t work for me, they are still accountable to our mission. As such, we have civilians driving trucks on convoys planned by my staff, managing fuel yards that issue thousands of gallons of various types of fuel daily, and provide maintenance support to the tenant units. I am extremely proud of all of them. We try to give them recognition whenever we can. Since we can’t give them an achievement medal, we make do with special gatherings to honor them. Normally, this means we also hand out a few Certificates of Appreciation to thank them for their hard work. Recently, my Direct Support Maintenance section held a special breakfast to thank the civilian contractors who are part of their operation. CSM and I attended and shared a few words of praise and thanks. I had them hold their hands up if they had been in Iraq at least a year and keep them up as I counted up additional years in country. Every one of them had been in Iraq for at least two years. One of our mechanics had been serving the DS Maintenance at Speicher for seven years. Now that is continuity. The Soldiers have come and gone but the contractors have labored on in selfless dedication.
I have little tolerance for people back home who have never deployed yet feel they need to wax eloquent to me with their various opinions about the reasons we’re in Iraq. Often times they’ll use the civilian contractors as “proof” to their argument that the war was concocted for oil or to pad a politician’s stock portfolio. It’s a tired, sad argument at this point. It’s also an argument that shows complete ignorance with regards to really knowing who the contractors are. Simply stated, the contractors are a Soldier’s best friends in this war. They are truly “salt of the earth”. They are the unsung heroes of this war and will always have my respect.