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U.S. Hiring Mercenary Air Force for Iraq Rescues

by Spencer Ackerman

It’s January 2012. A convoy of SUVs ferrying American diplomats to a meeting with Iraqi politicians runs over a roadside bomb. Several of the passengers inside are seriously injured. They need to be rescued, now.

But the U.S. military left Iraq on Dec. 31. Which means the only call for help has to go to a team of mercenaries employed by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. They’re the only guys left in Iraq who are running medical evacuation operations — or any other complex air op.

The State Department has already requisitioned an army, part of the roughly 5,000 private security contractors State is hiring to protect diplomats stationed in Iraq. Now, State is hiring someone to provide a little help from the air: an “Aviation Advisor” responsible for “Search and Rescue (SAR), medical evacuations (ME), transporting Quick Reaction Forces (QRF) to respond to incidents, and provid[ing] air transportation for Chief of Mission personnel.” It’s not a familiar job for the diplomatic corps, which is why State is seeking to bring in someone from the outside.

The State Department put out this notice on Nov. 4. That’s 58 days before the withdrawal of U.S. troops. 58 days before State has the skies over Iraq to itself.


There are lots of contractors with long experience in search and rescue and other air operations. The secretive Virginia company Blackbird Technologies, staffed with U.S. special operations veterans, won an $11 million contract in 2010 to rescue missing or kidnapped U.S. troops in Iraq, one of the military’s most important missions.

State has also contracted out for air support in the recent past. ...Read the rest here.

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