AN Open Letter to My Last Employer

I know that the XXXX contract is small and barely worthy of notice in the grand scheme of XX’s overseas OEF/OIF contracts.  However, I have a few items which I would like to discuss.

I worked on the XXXX contract in Afghanistan for two 1 year periods — April 11 — Apr 12 & Mar 13 to Apr 14.  Prior to that, I worked with MPRI as a Logistics Team Lead with the MOI in Herat.  With your company, I served as a Senior Trainer at KMTC  (11/12) and with the PMO as the Operations Manager and Property Manager (13/14).

First term, I did my year and went home well satisfied that I’d accomplished something at KMTC and felt that I’d left an impact of some sort.  

This last iteration, I spent the year in the PMO.  First as Operations Manager where I replaced a guy who was being gently released after having alienated everyone else on the contract.  My issues begin here.  I assumed the duties of a broken operation.  I was charged with sending supplies and equipment out to the Corps teams in the Field.  There was a backlog of equipment and supplies that had sat in connex containers for up to a year (possibly more).  In any other case, this would be a severe case of fraud, waste and abuse as well as utter incompetence.  Personnel in Kabul could not get my predecessor to issue them supplies and equipment.  Personnel in the Corps had given up on the supply system completely.  Despite the fact that their orders had been fulfilled and stored at the PMO, these supplies were “stored” in a container in the East Lot of Camp Eggers.  I use the term “stored” but that does not describe the actual circumstances.  More accurately, these supplies were abandoned and locked away forgotten.  The Program Manager was apparently satisfied with this state of affairs or was too intimidated by my predecessor to ask that he actually DO his job. 

When I arrived, the PM escorted me to the container yard, unlocked the containers and explained to me that I would need to find a way to ship the supplies out to the Corps.  When he opened the containers, they were so full that boxes started falling out of the containers as we opened the doors.  We had to stuff  boxes back inside so that we could close  and secure the doors.  This was the Program Manager telling me to accomplish a task that he had not been able to get my predecessor or anyone else in HIS PMO office to accomplish for more than a year.  This is XXXXXXX leadership in action.

It took me three days to come up with a plan and two weeks to accomplish that plan and get the supplies out to the field.  Three days/Two weeks.  Mission accomplished.

The folks in the field were astonished.  I was flabbergasted.  What had the PM been doing.  How had he allowed a year and more to pass without his Operations Manager accomplishing such a simple task.   I still haven’t figured that out.

The 2nd area with which I was charged was “fixing” the Interpreter/Translator program.  My predecessor had let that program fall into dysfunction.  Out of approximately 250 personnel positions, I was handed a program with over 60 vacancies.  The Afghan personnel in position had been properly vetted.  Nor were they and their US counterparts given the tools and access necessary to accomplish their missions.  There were pay issues at nearly every Corps area.  My predecessor was, apparently, not a fan of answering emails either or questions of any sort.  Another area and another study in dysfunction.  The program stood in disrepair.  Directors and Team Leads had all but given up and the Program Manager was, apparently, satisfied with the status quo.

It took me two weeks to re-design and install a workable system for testing, evaluation, vetting, etc.  After that two weeks, it took me 90 days to get manning up to 98%.  Manning never fell below 95% manning for the remainder of time that I was the responsible officer.

Aside from those two duties, I ran the Vehicle Fleet contract and acted as Billeting Liaison.  I was also the go to guy for the Deputy PM.  If something needed to be done and no one else could do it, I became the point man.  Even when there was a person assigned to accomplish that duty. 

For the majority of my time on contract, the DPM for Staff was the guy who made things happen above me.  If you had put this guy in the PM slot, the XXXX contract would have been golden.  Another excellent selection would have been DS.  Instead, you did what you did and selected the personnel whom you selected.  God only knows what the selection, vetting and evaluation process might have been as I could not figure it out.  It seems that the least qualified personnel possible were selected so as not to alienate the Chosen One who headed the XXXX Contract or perhaps, the XXXXXX contract was there for the sole purpose of providing a landing pad for those ejected from other XXXXXXX contracts.

You’ve got folks in the PMO who have been in over their heads for the past three years and it seems that no one really cares.

In December, I was asked to take over the Property Management slot.

This is where I became angry…or maybe just less than satisfied with XXXXXX International.  I read your stars.  I tried to live by them.  Sometimes, I think I should have done what everyone else did and ignored them.

I took over as Property Manager and immediately evaluated the program.

A little back history here.  I’ve been in and out of Property Management for about 25 years.  I had never touched any of the areas of responsibility in the Operations Manager position.  Even so, I excelled.  I learned the tasks and accomplished the mission.  In reality, nearly anything that I did would have been well received when replacing a turd like my predecessor but I’m pretty sure that I did a serviceable job while Operations Manager.  I, also, trained the next two guys who took  over the Ops Manager position.

Again, 25 plus years experience in Logistics and Property Management.  

When I arrived and took the Ops Manager position, somehow I got shanghaied  into traveling to the Kabul XXX to sign for property from the XXXX program.  When I returned, I asked why a Property Manager wasn’t going out to accomplish such missions.  I was told by XXXXXXXX that it was a “conflict of interest” for the Property Manager to sign for property.  Imagine my surprise.  I’d been doing property all wrong for 25 years.  That “conflict of interest” story would have made my life a lot easier earlier on.  I asked which contract Property Manager was the lead.  He told me that it was HD. 

I confronted HD about this “conflict of interest” story.  HD assured me that his signing for property was indeed a conflict of interest.  

I cited the FAR and DA Regulations and assured HD that he was mistaken.

At that point, I returned to Mr. X and told him that I would no longer be signing for property as he had two “property managers” available to him who were being paid to do such things.  I, also, cited the specific FAR and DA policies which contradicted HD.

After that, somehow, I was tasked with supplies and equipment receiving.  I asked why exactly is the Operations Manager doing supply and equipment receiving when there were two property/logistics managers and one supply manager on contract.  I was told that this was the way that it had always been.

I laughed, made a sarcastic remark about the contract being dysfunctional and drove on.  I took the training for LOGPRO and was given the rights to receive and issue supplies.  This gave me rights or someone mistakenly gave me access to hand receipts.  Out of curiosity, I started digging through the hand receipt processes.  I found that not one hand receipt had been updated in over a year.  For instance, Mr. JC  who had been the DPM for over a year prior to my arrival, was still hand receipted for FOB G.  This was a contract wide issue.  No site was hand receipted to a person who was at that site.  This problem persisted until I assumed the property manager position in December of 13 which was nearly a full year after I arrived.

I took that issue (site HR accountability) to the DPM and to Mr. X.  I told both of them that HD had no idea what he was doing and that if they weren’t watchful over him that it was going to get them in trouble.  I brought this up several times over the next few months.  Primarily, I brought it up and, finally to a head sometime in July because nearly every day someone came to me asking me to do something property or logistics related.  I wanted my job defined and the log personnel’s jobs defined so that they would finally start doing their jobs and I could do my job.  I was working 15 and 16 hour days while they were having coffee all day and going home at 1700hrs each day.  (There is nothing else to do in Kabul.  So, why not?)

I’m not one to shirk work.  However, I prefer to work on a team where the team members pull their own weight,  The PMO had more dead weight when I arrived than personnel who cared about the mission and the people.  

I say these things to tell you this.  Mr. Z attempted to rectify the HD issue.  He was told to back off by the Program Manager.

By the time the new Program Manager realized how snowed he had been by HD, it was too late.  The COR, ACOR, TPSO and DCMA were already planning on pouncing on the XXXX contract.

One question that I have is this:  What was Corporate doing all of this time.  LOGPRO is supposed to be an auditable system.  No one seemed to care until I audited the system AFTER HD had departed.  I started sending out emails and suddently folks had always been “aware” of the problem.  People at Corporate told me; “I knew something was wrong” or “I never liked having HD in that position.”  AFTER XXXXXXX HAD PAID HIM FULL SALARY FOR TWO YEARS to essentially be on vacation.

I won’t bore you with all of the details.  You can ask RD and DJ.  I gave them a complete rundown prior to my departure.  I could have left XXXXXXX high and dry and with no warning.  However, I wanted to do right by XXXXXXX.  So I made sure that everyone who needed to know about the issues in the Property Management program was fully aware of the issues and challenges.  To be honest, I didn’t want to give two weeks notice.  I wanted to walk away and never speak the name XXXXXXX again.  I had warned everyone about the mess in Property and your PMs did nothing.  I went from the Operations Manager mess which I fixed to the Property Manager mess for which I initiated a solution.

I put in more work and more effort in my 12 months than the previous six employees in the two positions in which I served accomplished collective seven to ten years.  Yet there was no reward…no benefit in doing so.  I could well have served as incompetently as the others and been treated exactly the same.  I’m not certain why the Five Stars exist except as more nonsense serving as a Corporate propaganda piece to inflate the egos of the CEO and other Corporate stooges.

I don’t expect contract work overseas to be fulfilling.  However, this past experience left much to be desired.  Especially in comparison to how I have been treated with other contracts.  I’m amazed that some of these companies wonder at the lack of loyalty that they receive from employees.  Looking at this past year, is it any wonder that employees are deserting this company in droves.

Incompetence reigns supreme.  Yet, they somehow believe that they are fulfilling their commitment to the government and to their employees.

Flabbergasted, I am flabbergasted.  MPRI had it’s issues.  However, they took care of their people.  They did their best to accomplish the mission and satisfy customer needs.  This was how I expected my last contract to perform.  Disappointed does not describe my feelings or the failed expectations after having worked with this last organization.  The problem was that the Government was so concerned with penny pinching and peripheral issues that they failed to grasp the obvious overall failures. 


October 2003 Uzbekistan — Tashkent and K2

Back in 2003, KBR flew in and out of Afghanistan via Tashkent, Uzbekistan.  You might spend a couple of hours or a few days in a hotel in the capital of Uzbekistan.  Next stop was Karshi-Khanabad or K2.  I spent a week in K2 that first time.
Arriving at Tashkent International Airport was like jumping back into the ‘50s.  It had a ‘50s era looking Soviet gangster movie feel to it.  The drab guys behind the Customs and Immigration cubicles going through their bureaucratically, mindnumbing motions.  These guys were automatons.  No smiles, no greeting.  Hand over your papers.  Stamp your papers.  Move along.  I don’t think they even looked at me to verify that I was the same guy as that pictured in my passport.  STAMP!  STAMP!  STAMP! and your passport comes flying back at you.  No nonsense.  No greeting.  Nothing.  I tried to engage the dude who processed me into country.  Either he was deaf or I was just another number in a long line of the faceless masses who had started passing through in the War on Terror that had suddenly made Tashkent a popular destination for business men, contractors and government bureaucrats.
The airport itself was more drab, cold and grey than the customs troops who worked there.  Men in green and grey uniforms with guns stood about with no real purpose in the air about them.  The building was at least 50 years old pre-dating Perstroika and Glasnost.  Democracy had not been kind to Tashkent.  Cheap, imitation marble lined the floors.  It was an ugly structure and it was run down.  Fake leather padded metal seating was thrown around in a way that spoke to the traveler.  It said; “Keep going.  We don’t want you here.”  The baggage carousels were tattered and frayed.  They were broken when I passed through.  Instead of queuing at the carousel to await my baggage, carts were wheeled in and gnarled Uzbek men in dirty, tattered uniforms hurriedly conveyed our bags to the dirty floor.
Once we grabbed our bags, we were led outside where we were instantly surrounded by a teeming mass of poverty stricken humanity.  Men and boys in tattered, filthy clothes demanded that they be allowed to cart our bags to our vehicles.  “Sir, sir, carry your bag.  One dollar each bag sir.”  They were insistent.  If you carried your own bag to the buses waiting to take us to our hotel, they accompanied you still.  As you climbed aboard, they begged for baqsheesh.  “Tip sir!  Baqsheesh sir!  One dollar sir!”  The kids were especially insistent.  They waited outside the windows of the bus.  Constantly pleaded.  “Sir, one dollar, sir.  One bottle of water, sir.  One dollar, sir.  Gum, sir.”
Only one airline flew in Uzbekistan at that time — Uzbek Airlines.  The airplanes were rickety, ancient machines.  I thought the damn things were going to fall out of the sky.  I’m pretty sure parts of the wing fell off an airplane on one landing.  The airplanes that flew us from Tashkent to K2 were worse.  I flew into K2 on an airplane that had folding seats bolted to the floor.  One passenger was holding a chicken during a flight.
Uzbekistan was a former Soviet satellite state.  It was drab, grey and dreary looking.  The people looked and acted downtrodden.  The economy was dead and jobs were scarce.  The hotel in which KBR put us up in Tashkent had lawyers and doctors working as receptionists, bartenders and bellboys.  The bars were all full of prostitutes.  The first time that I stayed in Tashkent, the going rate for a night of love was fifty bucks.  The rednecks from Texas and Louisiana had run that price up to 300USD within a few months.  The price pretty much stuck there until KBR moved it’s operations to Dubai in 2005.  However, the girls followed us.  Supposedly the big pimpin’, entrepreneur who facilitated the move of half of Tashkent’s female population was the KBR Security Supervisor.  Rumor had it that he had married a Russian mob princess.
Crime in Tashkent was off the charts and the police were part of the problem.  We had a few guys get mugged in Tashkent.  KBR guys leaving out on R&R would get wasted and fall asleep in bars and get ripped off.  Bouncers would roll drunk morons in alleys behind clubs.  Some guys would take girls home and pass out.  Once the guy was passed out, the good little gal would steal anything she could fit in her purse — wallets, rings, watches, money, passports.  Anything she could sell would be gone in the morning.  I got lucky the one time that I passed out with a gal in my room.  She got up in the morning and went home.  I awoke with a start and noted immediately that she was gone.  “Fuck!  What did she take?  How screwed am I?”  I scanned my room.  Everything was right were I’d left it.  Even my wallet and stack of Uzbek Som was sitting on my nightstand unmolested.  My passport was still in my backpack.  Then I noticed a piece of paper beside my desk.  I picked it up.  “Tatiana 02398734”  She’d left her phone number.  That’s when the night came back to me.  I freaked out.  Had I really done that?  Three rules to prostitution.  1.  Don’t forget a condom.  2.  Don’t go down on them.  3.  Don’t pass out until they leave.  I’d broken all three rules that night.  I was lucky.  The only negative consequences to that night was a bit of anxiety.  I remember the girl only vaguely.  She had that sexy Russian accent and I thought it was cool how she said my name.  “Deh ‘veed”  That and she had long, blonde curly hair and a body that a Playboy bunny would kill for.
I, also, passed out one and missed my flight.  I went out with my buddies to a few clubs and came back to my hotel about two hours before I was supposed to catch the bus to the airport.  I took a shower, towel dried myself and sat down butt naked in a chair.   The next thing I know, I wake up with the sun shining in my face.  I was supposed to have been on the bus at 0400hrs that would take me to my 0600hrs flight.  I looked at my watch.  It was 0615hrs.  I got out two days late and had to pay 400USD to change my flight.  It wasn’t a big deal to miss a flight on the way out.  It was your time you were wasting.  I was lucky in that regard.  If you missed your flight on the way back in due to drinking, KBR sent you packing.  FIRED!  Sucks to be you.

The worst part about flying in Uzbekistan were the Customs Police.  These ragamuffin shitbirds would attempt to intimidate us into paying bribes or steal from you as they searched your baggage.  On the first trip out, I’ll admit that I was intimidated.  Luckily, they didn’t ask me for money or try to take anything out of my bag.  That didn’t happen until my last trip out of Tashkent.  The guard rips through my bag and pulls out a knife that I’d purchased as a gift for my cousin.  “I want this.  Let me have it.” I looked at him like he was crazy and said; “Fuck no!  That’s a gift for my cousin.”  I think I shocked him.  He looked at me for a hot second and then waved me on.  I stuffed everything back into my bag and moved on.

Contracting “US Companies” in Afghanistan

US Contract Companies are hiring 15 to 20 Third Country Nationals (Indians, Filipinos, etc) for every one American in Afghanistan. 10% of Americans out of work and DynCorps, Fluor, CACI, AECOM, KBR and all of these other “American” International Contract companies aren’t interested in hiring any of them.  Maybe they’ll hire some illegal immigrants as well.

They are keeping their bottom line in check with these moves.  Making millions of dollars in profit by stiffing the American worker.  DynCorps, KBR and Fluor can hire 20 Indians for the cost of hiring one US Citizen.  The US Government is awarding these multi-million dollar contracts to these “American” companies and they here 80-90 percent foreign employees.

What I think is even more humorous is that the US Government is making this concerted effort to break up large contracts such as the KBR LOGCAP II contract as well as others.  There are very few companies that can handle the logistics of these operations.  What ends up happening is that Company A wins the contract from the US government.  Company A then subcontracts to KBR (or whatever company) or a subsidiary of KBR.  The same company winds up with all of the contracts that they had before.  The difference is that there is now a middle man.  It’s all a shell game.  I guess Congress and the average American out there are idiots and are fooled by all of this muddling of facts and actions.

Another thing that Company B (KBR) does is form another company/corporation.  It looks like a separate company on paper but it’s indirectly owned by the same people.  They even hire the same folks from earlier contracts to run them.  Same PM, same DPM, same cast and crew.  On the surface, a new company is in business and winning contracts.  In reality, it’s the same group of folks making the same money.

And it’s easy to see.  Easy to investigate, but, the US government is too lazy or incompetent to see the obvious.  I’ve been laughing for 5 years.  Same crooks winning the same contracts and the same Congress and DOD/DOS getting scammed for more and more tax dollars.


It’s been the same story since at least World War II.  I bet that some of these companies can be traced back to the War between the States.  The US Government never learns.  They just open that check book and sign more checks.

No, I’m not a disgruntled employee or former employee.  Most of my contract work requires that I am a US citizenship.  This doesn’t affect me and never will.