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  • Writer's pictureKev Thomas Writes

An Iraq Interlude

Above: The book cover shows an Erinys Iraq close protection officer on duty while visiting a reconstruction site with USACE principals.

My latest book, An Iraq Interlude (available on Amazon), which I completed earlier this year, started as an idea. Some of what I've written has previously appeared as the closing chapter of my first book Shadows in an African Twilight (2008). At the time I was probably impatient, and although Shadows in an African Twilight was my first book, perhaps I should have listened to those a lot more experienced than me when it comes to book publication. A standalone book from the onset, about my two-years in Iraq, would have been a better option. However, I guess we all err so during late 2021 I started writing a more in-depth book on my Iraq experiences.

Readers may wonder why a PH decided to go to Iraq, however, we had been experiencing a bit of a cashflow problem in our safari business when a friend, Joe Bresler, who was later KIA in Iraq emailed me and asked if I was interested in joining the newly raised Erinys Iraq. Joe was a friend of longstanding and we had served together in the Selous Scouts, with Joe having come across from the Rhodesian SAS. He made his way to Baghdad with a colleague in September 2003 with the specific intention of finding work in the close protection industry. Shortly after his arrival he was contracted by Erinys Iraq, and in December 2003 contacted me with a job offer.

There certainly wasn't anything gung-ho about what I spent two-years doing in Iraq. Truth be known, when I arrived there at 53 years old in January 2003, I was already borderline by way of age. Mind you, so were a fair number of others. Initially, my first month or so with Erinys Iraq was spent as a 'shooter' on what was referred to as a SET (Security Escort Team) operating out of the Green Zone. Our main principal was a senior ranking USACE General.

Above: Erinys Iraq escort vehicles at a USACE personnel collection point

Thereafter, I took over the security management from a colleague of another Erinys contract. It was outside the security bubble living in the Green Zone afforded one, and was in Baghdad's bustling Karrada suburb. The contract was managing a team of Iraqi security guards for the IRD (International Relief Development), an American NGO based out of Arlington, Virginia. It was a lonely existence and my nights were spent in a cavernous house on my own. My immediate neighbour was a huge and constantly busy Shiite Mosque, meaning with me being a dread infidel I had to maintain an extremely low profile. In time though, and with the violence in Iraq spiralling out of control, the IRD, and like several other NGOs closed shop and went home.

Above: Veteran Basra Security Escort Team Eagle 3 member, South African, Oosie Oosthuizen.

Thereafter, Erinys HQ transferred me to the British enclave in Basrah as Project Lead for Eagle 3, one of the company's Security Escort Teams operating in the Gulf Region South. We operated out of Camp OIL in support of the Gulf Region South USACE projects, and I couldn't have wished to have worked with a better group of ex-soldiers and policemen. Granted, Erinys Team Eagle 3 were a cosmopolitan mix of British, American, Canadian, South African, and Zimbabwean. And yet, the sense of team was incredible, and our esprit de corps outstanding for such a diverse group of men. Obviously though, there was a bit of grumbling, and the odd personality clash, but that too is par for the course wherever soldiers, or ex-soldiers gather. However, the good times far outweighed the bad, and to use a clichéd soldier's phrase, you only remember the good times.

Above: Daz Salmon, Dan Nicklen, and SET Eagle 3 TL Chris Smith about to go into the desert for a bit of range practise.

An Iraq Interlude, my sixth book is an easy read and is my recall of working in Iraq from January 2004 until April 2006. It is also a means of me being able to pay tribute to those colleagues of mine who never made it home. Others who were there will obviously have a different perspective about their experiences in Iraq, for such is life. With me not being IT literate An Iraq Interlude has still to be uploaded onto my website, as it's our youngest son who does these tasks for me but being in the corporate world he's rather busy right now.

Above: SET Eagle 3 in Basra circa February 2006, with me standing at centre.

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