Department of Defense officials confirmed that a drone strike in northeast Syria killed a contractor and five regular servicemembers.
The U.S. retaliated with airstrikes on Iranian-linked targets in Syria, which hit buildings that housed drone/aviation assets and vehicles used by groups affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). One activist group said the U.S. strikes killed fighters on the ground.
“The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the I.R.G.C.,” officials said in a statement “The United States took proportionate and deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize casualties,” they added
Combat in Syria
When you carry a load of groceries into the house, the last few steps are usually the hardest. This metaphor applies to the Syrian Civil War. Major combat is over, and although rebels failed to dislodge Syrian strongman Bashar al Assad, he will probably reconsider his heavy-handed tactics. Nevertheless, people are still fighting and dying in this war-torn country.
Ironically, as fighting winds down and troop levels drop, private military contractors face more injury risks. They are as close to the front lines as is legally possible. Additionally, unarmed rebuilding contractors are much more vulnerable than armed security contractors. Arguably, they are also more important. More on that below.
Whether troop levels are low or high, and whether the U.S. commitment to the fight is strong or weak, private military contractors have basically the same responsibilities.
- Training: Since the Arab Spring hit Syria around 2011, American forces have supported rebel groups against Assad and his Russian ally. New rebel recruits have the will to fight but usually not the means to fight. Contractor trainers formally and informally give these individuals the ability to do their jobs.
- Security: Every day, Syrians in rebel-occupied territory must know the rebels are interested in more than political power. They must also know the rebels care about them and are able to provide secure living environments. When they go to a street market, at least one or two armed contractors should be in the crowd.
- Support: Rebels with the will to fight but without military experience cannot possibly maintain anti-aircraft batteries and other advanced weapons systems. Contractors effectively fill this role, mostly because, in many cases, they worked for the company which designed and built the weapons systems they maintain.
These duties often overlap. For example, as contractors work on weapons systems, electronics, and other hardware, they usually train their replacements as well. So, contractor withdrawal doesn’t create a void.
Many regular servicemembers avoid such duties like the plague. But contractors embrace them, giving the rebels a chance to flex their muscles when regular servicemembers leave.
Contractors must empower rebel groups. Assad will not change his ways unless there’s a legitimate threat to his power. Furthermore, it is only a matter of time before the Syrian Civil War resumes. The current fighting is just the latest installment of a civil war that dates back to 1917 when the British and French arbitrarily divided the Middle East. The line they drew essentially bisected what would become Syria.
The cost of fighting in Syria has been astronomical. Many people predict that the cost of rebuilding Syria will be even higher.
Rebuilding usually starts with large capital projects, like hospitals, power plants, and schools. Most refugees will not come back until these basic services are restored. Furthermore, hospitals and schools are usually the area’s largest employers. So, people have something productive to do when they get home.
Productivity begins with the project itself. Usually, private contractors are onsite to manage the workforce and ensure that construction proceeds in a safe and timely manner. Local residents usually swing the hammers and wield the drills. This arrangement not only pumps some much-needed money into the local economy. It also makes residents feel invested in the project. So, they are less likely to participate in sabotage operations and more likely to report individuals who plan such mayhem.
Low-level reconstruction, like filling a bomb crater in a back alley, is important as well. Such attention to detail shows the people that the American government, not Assad and his cronies, cares for them.
Despite the aforementioned community investment, capital and non-capital projects still require armed security. In fact, in many cases, armed security guards outnumber the project’s workers.
Injury Compensation Available
When armed or unarmed contractors are injured overseas, a family usually loses its primary, or only, source of income. The Defense Base Act’s lost wage replacement benefit is therefore vital to a family’s financial well-being, as well as its emotional well-being.
Generally, the DBA pays two-thirds of the victim’s average weekly wage (AWW) for the duration of a temporary or permanent disability. Determining the AWW usually is not a matter of examining the net pay lines on the last six paychecks and dividing by six.
The AWW is not limited to regular cash compensation. It also includes irregular and non-cash compensation. Injured contractors are entitled to compensation for missed performance bonuses and overtime opportunities. Injured contractors are also entitled to compensation for per diem, housing allowance, and other non-cash pay.
Furthermore, if the victim recently changed jobs, the AWW might be misleading. A truck driver in Syria earns a lot more than a truck driver in South Dakota.
Permanently disabled victims are usually entitled to compensation based on their likely future AWW as well as the nature and extent of their disabilities. Attorneys often partner with doctors, accountants, and other outside professionals to make such determinations.
For more information about other DBA benefits, such as medical bill payment benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.