AUSTRALIA: Big Money in Iraq Lures Cops Away for Contract Work

It is estimated up to 200 Australians, mostly with military or police backgrounds, work for security companies in Iraq. The rewards are enormous - more than $10,000 a week - but they risk their lives in one of the world's most hostile environments.
Publisher Name: 
The Sunday Mail

QUEENSLAND police are quitting the service to earn $1500 a day as hired guns in Iraq.

Despite deadly odds and no promise of a job if they return, some officers are accepting contracts to work with private security firms.

Police confirmed officers had resigned to take up lucrative offers in the war-torn country.

A long-serving officer told The Sunday Mail he knew of four colleagues who had gone to Iraq, including three members of the elite Special Emergency Response Team.

"They are in their late 20s and early 30s and highly trained members of SERT, who are the ones we call for help when we have high-risk crooks we know are armed and dangerous," he said.

The officer, who did not wished to be named, said the talk of big money had several police "sniffing around".

He said that even the high casualty rate, which he had heard could be 30 to 40 per cent, was no deterrent.

"What's stopping plenty from going is that (the police service) is telling them that if they go, they can't come back," the officer said.

"As far as the job's concerned, the worry would be who knows what these guys have been exposed to and what effect it would have on them once they're back on duty."

It is estimated up to 200 Australians, most from military or police backgrounds, are working for security companies in Iraq.

Their main role is safeguarding VIPs, media, government officials and civilian contractors from insurgent attacks.

Others stand watch over oil pipelines and critical infrastructure.

The rewards are enormous - more than $10,000 a week - but the mercenaries risk their lives in one of the world's most hostile environments.

The casualty rate is kept secret by security companies but insiders say as many as one in three is wounded or killed.

The US Defence Department says the "private army" in Iraq now contains 20,000 expatriates.

"These officers hand in their resignation first," she said.

The spokeswoman said officers who had spoken with supervisors about their course of action were provided support and information to help them to make their decision.

"Ultimately, however, the decision to leave the service and to take up work in Iraq is at the discretion of the officer," the spokeswoman said.

Police said there was no policy excluding former officers from rejoining after working elsewhere.

But former members who successfully applied would be employed as recruits or constables.

Those previously in tactical squads such as SERT would return to general policing for two years before being able to reapply for the squad. "Applicants may be required to undertake an interview and medical examination," the spokeswoman said.

Another officer of more than 10 years said he had been tempted to go to Iraq, but the risks were too great.

"It doesn't matter how much money you make if you get killed . . . I couldn't do it to my kids," he said.

One of the largest of the 400 security companies offering private protection services in Iraq is the US-based Triple Canopy.

On its website, it advertises positions for individuals experienced in military special operations, law enforcement (preferably from units such as SERT) or a technical background in chemistry, biology, nuclear power generation, explosives or information systems.

It offers competitive salaries, medical, vision and dental insurance, life insurance and personal accident insurance, short-term and long-term disability insurance, retirement plan and pre-tax-commuting account.

AMP Section Name:War & Disaster Profiteering