>The United States is rapidly drawing down troops in Iraq, and contractors are picking up the slack. DynCorp International, in particular, employs hundreds of ex-soldiers and cops to act as bodyguards and shepherds for State Department personnel across the country. The company also trains Iraqi police forces.
DynCorp is under intense pressure to perform without blemish. Private security companies and their employees are under scrutiny from both the U.S. and Iraqi governments more than ever before because of a string of incidents. Within the military, soldiers who quit to join these companies are derided as "mercs." The culture among DynCorp's ranks is similar to that of elite military units -- what happens out there stays out there. It's dangerous. Contractors get killed and injured with regularity. The pay is OK -- it starts at $90,000 a year -- and the working conditions -- living in tents, eating MREs -- are harsh. State Department officials have told me that the U.S. is generally pleased with DynCorp's performance so far ... but DynCorp is pretty much the only company that can do what State needs it to do.
But one member of an elite unit, a former Army Ranger who asked not to be identified, is concerned that DynCorp and the U.S. government are cutting corners unnecessarily.
The U.S. government is responsible for coordinating the vehicle credentialing and registration process with the Iraqis. Iraq's new bureaucracy changed its rules, delaying the renewal efforts. DynCorp International's team leaders are not supposed to leave their bases without valid credentials, period -- no matter the reason.