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As the bullets slammed into the side of his vehicle; Team Leader Chris called into his radio:
“Hello Zero, this is Charlie One Two, Contact, Wait Out.”
Releasing the Press To Talk (PTT) on the radio mic, he instructed the principals in the rear of the vehicle to get down, and told Mohammed the driver to “drive.”
Instinctively Mohammed got low and pushed his foot through the floor onto the accelerator to move the vehicle out of the killing zone. Rounds continued to rain in from the attackers rifles, as Mohammed maneuvered his vehicle out of the ‘kill zone’ and into perceived safety. The noise was deafening as thump after thump hit the vehicle, with each shot taking a chink of the armour away.
The backup vehicle, piloted by his cousin Ahmed, was following suit until it lurched forward no more, disabled and fast becoming a magnet for every fighters’ bullets. The drill that was well rehearsed in practice scenarios was for the ‘client’ vehicle to carry on and get the VIPs out of the kill zone and out of danger. The unwritten rule was that no man would ever be left behind to the mercy of an unscrupulous enemy.
Mohammed gave Chris a look as if informing him of his intended action and Chris nodded in receipt. Applying the break, Mo placed the vehicle into reverse and sped back through the line of fire to the stricken vehicle. Using Ahmed’s vehicle as a shield it continued to attract fire at an unprecedented rate as the terrorists sought to kill their prey. Seeing what was happening and understanding the drill, Ahmed and his Commander Shaun were responding to the situation and exiting the vehicle on the safe side, taking up firing positions and returning fire, dispatching their own messengers of death into the fray. As Shaun exited the vehicle he saw Ahmed firing across the bonnet and heard the horn sound of Chris and Mo’s vehicle. Chris exited and opened the door for the crew of the abandoned vehicle to enter.
Pulling the pin of an incendiary grenade, Shaun posted the bomb into his vehicle and shut the door before heading for the relative safety of the rescue craft. It was a tight fit in the rear of the Toyota Land Cruiser with two Iraqi Oil Engineers and the two rescued security team members, but for the time being the cosy arrangement was safe. Mohammed gunned the vehicle into moving once more and continued out of the killing zone as the abandoned vehicle caught light with a small explosion inside the cab, destroying any sensitive materials and rendering the vehicle useless for the enemy.
The attackers from the Saddam loyalist group quickly ceased firing as the vehicle moved out of range. A small victory for them in destroying a vehicle, but they did not get the main prize, the lives of Western security personnel or those sympathetic to a new Iraq. Everyone knew the risks when they took contract work of this nature. The British Bodyguards, Chris and Shaun had both voluntarily came to Iraq to work in search of lucrative pay checks and perhaps a return to the comradeship of their former employment in the Armed Forces. For the engineers under the security team’s care, it was business as usual, just working with different pay masters. They too knew the risks involved and it was something that they were paid handsomely for. But for Mohammed and Ahmed, things were a little more complicated.
Prior to the war and its aftermath, Mohammed worked for the Iraqi Tourism Department and Ahmed owned a computer repair business in Basra. With the invasion, what tourists there were visiting Iraq ceased completely and Mohammed found himself out of work. Ahmed’s shop was destroyed in a firefight between remanence of the Iraqi Army and the British Liberators, so he too found himself in the same position as many other Iraqis all over the Country. Recognising an opportunity, it was time to reinvent themselves and make some money and maybe a new life for their families.
The influx of the oil companies brought with them opportunity to make money for the Iraqi men, women and children in a vast array of roles, from laundry work, through to the risky job of being a driver for a security detail. With risk came reward and all Iraqi drivers received a King’s ransom for their service to protecting others. Yet it was when they were with the teams that they were at their safest. They were in an environment that they were partly able to control. They were in armoured vehicles and wearing the latest in protective body armour, and they were armed with new and well serviced weapons. However, at the end of each work cycle, Mohammed, Ahmed and others like them returned home to their families, but without the comfort of team protection. Targets for working with the coalition, they had to maintain their wits and keep themselves and their families as safe as they could under trying circumstances.
As the damaged vehicle approached a friendly forces checkpoint, the British guard commented that the vehicle was in a state of disarray, which was an understatement. Bullet holes had penetrated the outer skin and deteriorated the properties of the armoured glass in places so as vision was severely impaired. Mohammed stopped the vehicle by the compound gate and was waved through to the car park where they parked up and de-bused. Surveying the damage, the team was debriefed by Chris before dispersing to give report to higher command. Another day done, the engineers left, shaken but alive and the team looked forward to another day where they had to be luckier than the next man, relying on a hope that their kit was up to the job.
“Inshallah - God’s will,” said Mohammed as Chris patted his back, and with that; the unsung heroes were safe for another night.