“Since staring this project some of my team have been killed in action. They do not appear on a military casualty list. They are not classed as soldiers. They have not made the headlines and many get just a few paragraphs in their local paper. They don’t get medals either, although many have carried out deeds worthy of such recognition. The uninformed call them overpaid mercenaries and say they get what they deserve. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Simon Chambers is a friend and he was also the first British Soldier to be employed by the (in)famous American Private Military Company, Blackwater.
Having served for 30 plus years in the British Army in both the Regulars and Reserves, he was now out and, having had a good look at what was going on both at home in the UK and elsewhere around the World, decided that this form, of “peace” was not something he was particularly interested in – especially when companies were paying silly amounts of money for him to go back to what he’d just spent 30 years learning to do! But how to get into that line of work?
Fate, it would seem had already got it sorted, in the form of a phone call from an ex-Para buddy: “Hey mate, guess where I’m phoning from! Bleeding Baghdad! It’s a job creation scheme. You want the work, get your arse in gear and get over here!”
From this point the book charts Simon’s course as he applies and get turned down by a number of companies in favor of younger people until, out of the blue an email arrives inviting out to the USA.
It turned out that he would be the first British National to go through the American vetting system and test it out for future Foreign National applicants, a sort of “Crash Test Dummy”! And so it was onto training at Blackwater in Maycock and thereafter deployment to Karbala, in Iraq.
Devil’s Playground is not some whimsical fairy tale and Simon makes no bones about his thoughts and feelings, not only of his fellow Contractors and the companies they worked for but also the conditions under which they lived, worked and died.
His descriptions of some of the actions he took part in are almost matter-of-fact… not that he tries to make light of the situations, it is just that is the way it happened, no gloss, no hype, no Hollywood.
The book contains a number of photographs of Simon’s friends and colleagues and one of the things that really struck me, were the number of times the words “Wounded” and “Killed” were used in the captions underneath.
No punches pulled, this is what life is really like as a Private Military Contractor and I highly recommend you read it.