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NAMIBIA: All Hiring for Iraq Halted

by Brigitte WeidlichThe Namibian
October 16th, 2007

A Namibian labour hire company, which processed the applications of Namibian ex-combatants who wanted to become 'security' guards in Iraq and Afghanistan, has stopped the process.

The move comes after Government deported two US citizens over the weekend and closed down the Namibian branch of Special Operations Consulting - Security Management Group (SOC-SMG).

Government's action sparked international headlines.

"Africa Personnel Services will do no more recruitment on behalf of SOC-SMG Namibia", AFP said Monday.

"We were asked to assist in certain ways and the assurance was given by the client (SOC-SMG) that the Namibian Government was satisfied with all the operations of that company."

Government announced on Friday that it was closing the outfit and deporting its two bosses, Paul Grimes and Frederic Piry.

"APS will also refrain to do any business with the now illegal entity SOC in Namibia," APS said in a statements.

Hundreds of unemployed and desperate Namibians queued up at APS offices in the Northern Industrial area last week to apply for the high-risk jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan for a monthly salary of about N$4 200.

Unemployment in Namibia is officially put at around a conservative 35 per cent.

One of the two US citizens who were deported on Friday has a long military career.

Frederic Piry, one of the six founders of SOC-SMG, was awarded the US Department of State's Medal of Valour, six Superior Honour Awards, and three Meritorious Honour Awards.

He is the Chief Operating Officer for SOC-SMG.

Prior to joining the security outfit, Piry was Division Chief, for high threat protection for the Diplomatic Security Service of the US Department of State.

He directed, supervised, and co-ordinated the State Department's Worldwide Personal Protective Services (WPPS) operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Bosnia, and Haiti.

Piry also served as Special Agent-in-Charge of former US Foreign Secretary Madeleine Albright's protection.

He is an expert in the areas of counter-terrorism and international operations, and was an integral member in the investigation and capture of the World Trade Centre bomber, Ramzi Yousef.

SOC-SMG, which is based in the US, was formed a few years ago to assist government agencies, corporations, and multi-national entities which need security consulting, investigation, and protective services.

The six partners have backgrounds from either the elite US Navy Seal Team 6, the National Security Agency and law enforcement agencies.

It won lucrative multi-million dollar contracts from the US defence department to protect its military bases in war-torn countries.

Robert Shiells is the SOC-SMG board chairman and its Chief Executive Officer.

Before forming SOC-SMG, he was the president of a California based security consulting, corporate investigation and threat management company.

Luis A Vega Jr is SOC-SMG Vice President and responsible for business development.

Vega has ten years of service with the Sheriff's Office in Florida behind him.

Anthony L Casas Jr is the company's Chief Administrative Office and a veteran of the US Army's Intelligence and Security Command and the California Army National Guard's Training Operations.

Mark Lumpkin is the company's Director for global security and training.

He is a retired US Army Special Forces Warrant Officer with more than 31 years experience.

Christy L Beach, the only woman among the six, is Director for Special Government Programmes.

Before co-founding SOC-SMG, she served as acquisition management analyst for the US Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

Michael A Bermudez, the sixth co-founder is also the Managing Director of SOC-SMG's training centre, High Desert Special Operations Centre (HDSOC) in Hawthorne, Nevada.

His responsibilities include day-to-day management of the facility and oversight of training for both Government and commercial clients including US military, government agencies, executive protection, homeland defence, and law enforcement.

Details about Paul Grimes, who was deported with Piry on Friday, are sketchy, but it could be established that he also has a background in the US military.

Meanwhile, the National Society of Human Rights (NSHR) has lauded the Namibian Government for "doing the right thing" declaring the two representatives of SOC-SMG persona non grata.

"NSHR is totally against all and any mercenary activities on Namibian soil and beyond.

Such activities pose a real threat to peace and security for the country," the NSHR said in a statement yesterday.

It urged Government to ratify, without delay the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries.

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