The Truth Behind Contract Security Companies

dyncrpIn January 1999, I answered a classified ad in the Los Angeles Times for security guards at a U.S. Army facility in Qatar. It was a one year contract.

The company placing the ad was Dyn-Corp. They were looking for former military police or civilian law enforcement officers. I had been both. The applicant had to qualify with an M-16 rifle and a 9mm pistol. I could do that also. The ad didn’t mention the six .50 caliber M-2 machine guns that we would also man, on duty. That qualification would take place in country.

I completed the application, background check and qualified with a 9-mm pistol in California.At the end of May, I was contacted by a Dyn-Corp recruiter. He gave me a date in June and travel arrangements were made by the company for me to fly to Fort Worth, Texas for psychological screening, drug testing, medical tests, immunizations, oral review board, physical fitness test and uniform and gear issue.

I was selected along with six other applicants for the job. About half of the group was washed out or DQed, as the Army calls it during the screening process. Of the five men that were selected along with me, two had prior overseas security contract experience and were former police officers. Two more were former law enforcement officers and the only one that wasn’t a cop was former Marine Corps Force Recon.

After a twenty three hours flight, including layovers, we arrived at Doha, Qatar. The living conditions were good. The company paid for three man villas, with private bedrooms. 

We would soon find out that work conditions at the base were bad. Soldiers and former soldiers referred to the base as a hardship tour. We were all assigned to the same team and the constant grumbling from guards about work conditions started as soon as we got out of the van, at the base. The contract was based on a forty hour work week, but we were working twelve hour days and being paid for eight hours per day. This included about an hour and a half travel time from the housing area to the base.

There were four teams to cover twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Team members began to question the work schedule. We rotated shifts, five days of day shift, followed by five days of swing shifts and then five days of midnights and then back to days again. Our eating and sleeping habits were constantly disrupted.

The Force Recon Marine I went overseas with and his Force Recon roommate filed a labor complaint, seeking overtime pay. The Project Manager addressed each team at briefing and advised them that he could have guards
work as many hours as needed, because we were classified as D.O.D. police officers. This was not correct. Nothing in our contract said anything about being D.O.D. police officers.

By then moral has dropped to an all time low and guards were not returning from their rest and relaxation leave after their six months in country. Three of the five men that I had come over with, left at the six month date. It was not uncommon for guards to go to the airport on their days off and buy their own tickets home without finishing their contracts. All the teams were stretched thin and new hires began arriving. Most of them were not former M.P.’s
or civilian law enforcement officers.  

When the word got out that I had worked at a District Attorney’s office in California, I was approached by members of my team and one other team. I was not an attorney, but I had experience working with attorneys in court. Three of us were asked to represent the guards in a labor lawsuit against Dyn-Corp and we hired a Qatari Attorney to represent us in labor court.

The suit was settled about one month before I was scheduled to go home. The other two guards involved in the lawsuit had already finished their contracts and returned to their homes. The Peninsula (Doha, Qatar) newspaper printed the story about our settlement in May 2000. The company was described only as a technical service company from the U.S.A.  At that time, it was the largest labor settlement in the Gulf States and was described as the first of its kind in the Gulf.

The Department of Labor found that the company had paid guards for eight hour work days and ordered the company to pay overtime at four hours per day, based on hours worked by the guards. After I signed the documents, on behalf of the guards settling the lawsuit, we had gone on twelve hour shifts, seven days per week because of a man power shortage. We were now being paid overtime for any hours over forty in any week that we worked.

It wasn’t all bad. I met and worked with a lot of interesting people and had a chance to live and work in a very strange, but interesting country. Contract security is not for everyone, but you can make some good money, if you don’t mind putting up with hardships at times.

One of the men that I had gone overseas with left Qatar after six months. He went back to the United Nations Police in Bosnia as a Commander, on a Dyn-Corp contract. We had dinner together the night before he left and he told me that Dyn-Corp wasn’t a bad company to work for. He stated that there were just some bad contracts with some companies. It had a lot to do with the person in charge of the contract at a facility, in his opinion.

This was written in response to an article that appeared in Western Shooting Journal about the largest private security companies in the world. 

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