Contractors serve all over the world. They take the same risks that regular service members take. In fact, if you see a mixed group on a helicopter, it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between contractors and servicemembers. Upon closer examination, there are some important differences.
Front-line troops and “door kickers” are almost always servicemembers. Support personnel, like mechanics, cooks, and technical specialists, are often contractors. U.S. law bars private military contractors from offensive operations, which is why the U.S. has never signed international agreements limiting the use of mercenaries.
There is also a significant difference in compensation. Contractors make a lot more money than their servicemember counterparts. However, unlike their servicemember brothers and sisters in arms, contractors have no long-term job security and no benefits. So, there are some pros and cons.
The lack of benefits is critical. Servicemembers can turn to the Veterans Administration if they get sick or are injured while on duty. Contractors can rely on the Defense Base Act for similar purposes.
The DBA has been immune from the snafus and scandals that have dogged the VA recently. The Labor Department, which is a separate entity and one of the most reliable components of the federal bureaucracy, administers the DBA.
Republican President Donald Trump has, for the most part, encouraged contractor use. So, there are lots of opportunities.
Almost since the war began, Afghanistan has had a higher percentage of contractors than any other combat theater in the Global War on Terror. At many times in the recent past, the number of Afghanistan contractors eclipsed the number of regular servicemembers.
Contractors provide a flexibility that the DoD cannot match. With one phone call, a number of highly-trained contractors can be right where they need to be. When the mission ends, they go home, and the government has no further obligation.
That flexibility comes at a high price. At many points in time, contractor casualties also outpaced servicemember casualties. Roadside bombs and sudden firefights caused many injuries, as did motor vehicle crashes and aircraft wrecks.
In the chaos of war, initial documentation of your DBA claim is very important. Although injured victims do not have to prove fault, the more evidence they have, the stronger their claims become. If you are hurt in a place like Afghanistan, be sure and get the names and stateside contact information for witnesses. Data like this gives your attorney a head start.
Combat operations are winding down here, but there is still a lot of work for contractors in this war-torn country. Most of that work involves reconstruction projects.
Some reconstruction contractors carry clipboards. They supervise work on projects like roads, bridges, and power plants. Without this kind of infrastructure, displaced refugees do not return, and without these people, there is no sense of normalcy. Terrorist groups like ISIS thrive on that kind of instability. Without diligence, the hard-won progress in Iraq will slip away. It has happened before, and it will happen again.
Other reconstruction contractors carry guns. When it comes to foreign construction projects, security is at a premium. In the United States, a security fence and a camera is usually enough of a deterrent. In Iraq, more is required. In fact, many projects have almost as many armed guards as they have construction workers.
Ever since the Gulf War, this tiny nation has been a regional hub for U.S. forces in the area. The high number of support personnel need a high degree of skill. That usually means contractors.
Many of these support personnel work on electronic warfare projects and other nontraditional military efforts. Drill sergeants and service academies simply do not train people to do this kind of work. Additionally, by the time they arrive in-country, the skills they learned are probably outdated.
Only contractors provide the needed flexibility, which is why they are in such high demand in Qatar. While there is little or no risk of combat-related injury, the risks are still there. Workers fall and succumb to occupational diseases. The DBA is a big help in these cases. Victims not only get immediate treatment at quality facilities. In most cases, DBA victims can choose their own doctors and change physicians during the course of treatment. So, when they go to larger medical facilities in Europe or the United States, they can designate the doctor they need without any grief from DBA bureaucrats.
Things change incredibly quickly in war zones. Syria is a good illustration. In 2018, it looked like this war-torn country might be the epicenter of a superpower conflict between the United States and Russia. A year later, combat operations appear to be winding down.
That situation could turn in a moment’s notice. Even if it does not, contractors will still be needed here. They will be doing most of the rebuilding here, but there is even more urgency in Syria than Afghanistan.
Reconstruction workers need to almost literally follow the heels of departing combat troops. Delays give groups like ISIS a chance to make big promises to desperate people. Delay also gives remaining Assad loyalists a chance to crow about the “good old days” when the strongman was the unquestioned master of Syria.
Estimates vary, but most people believe it will take lots of work and lots of money to rebuild Syria after more than 10 years of civil war. The sooner this Herculean task gets started, the sooner it will be over, and the sooner this global hot spot will cool off.
This Indian Ocean island may not be terribly far from places like Qatar in terms of mileage. But in terms of everything else, it is a long way away. Formally, the sprawling military base on this island is known as Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia. Informally, it is called either Camp Justice or Camp Thunder Cove. Conspiracy theories abound here. Supposedly, during the early years of the Global War on Terror, there was a black ops CIA interrogation center here. More recently, in 2014, the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 supposedly made an emergency landing here, and the fate of the passengers and crew is unknown.
All that stuff might be made up. But it is true that Diego Garcia is a focal point in the War on Terror. Because of its sheer isolation, pretty much everything that comes to or leaves the island does so by ship. So, there is a great need for experienced longshoremen. Try finding these people at the Air Force Academy. This kind of work is some of the most dangerous work in the world, and there is no HMO on Diego Garcia.
Contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A. for more information about contractors and injury compensation.