Bodyguards in Iraq: Part 2

Vehicle PSD/CP Operations in Iraq

By Nathan Seabrook: Part 2 of 4

The war in Iraq created many changes with how private security companies operated and conducted missions with in Iraq.  One of the major changes was how PSD/CP teams moved their clients and completed their missions.  Part two of this four part series will examine the various modes of transportation used by these various security organizations.

In the early days of the war in Iraq, a number of small security firms used a mixture of “soft skin” (un armored), armored and up armored (partially armored) vehicles to perform and accomplish their specific missions throughout Iraq.  During my first contract in Iraq, our company ran our PSD/CP missions with a mixture of “soft skin” and hardened vehicles.  The security team in the point vehicle was unarmored, the principal vehicle was a B6 level armored vehicle and the chase/rear security vehicle was un armored.

In retrospect many security experts with-in the industry might look at this mixture of vehicles as “foolish”, or argue that “ABC” security Company was unprofessional, reckless and careless when running their operations, thus cutting corners by not using fully armored vehicles.

I on the other hand, would adamantly argue the simple point that in a B6 armored Tahoe or Expedition your options at being able to defend your client and yourselves are next to zero if you are attacked and your vehicle goes down in the kill zone, you are going to lack the fire superiority that you need to attempt to gain the upper hand in the fight.

A close friend of mine worked for a British security firm in Iraq that ran all hardened vehicles.   During a run from their base camp to the BIAP they were ambushed on airport road and immediately had two vehicles go down on the “X”, as my friend tells it, “There is nothing more terrifying then sitting in an armored vehicle behind ballistic glass and watching rounds start to impact into the glass, and you really start wondering to yourself if the next one is going to breaking thru, there is nothing more unnatural for a operator not to be able to react and return fire.”

Another disadvantage PSD/CP teams found when operating all B6 level vehicles during movement operations was the simple fact that though they were now protected with armor they also lost the instantaneous bursts of speed needed to punch thru the “X” during an ambush or contact, if a B6 armored vehicle was not already traveling at a high rate of speed the potential for disaster was always present.

Anytime one armors a SUV type vehicle to the B6 level you have to remember that you are going to be giving up one characteristic for another, in this case, that characteristic is weight vs. speed, anytime you add an additional 1,500 to 2,500 pounds of armor to an existing 2,827 pound vehicle frame you are going to loose both power, speed and maneuverability.   In Iraq speed helped to save lives and it gave PSD/CP teams the advantage to break out of ambushes and rolling attacks.

Indigenous Vehicles in Iraq

In Iraq the battlefield was ever changing and the Insurgents were extremely proficient, experienced and creative at updating and fine tuning their TTP’s (Targets, Techniques, and Procedures).  Because insurgent/AIF teams were so proficient in their course of actions, PSD/CP teams also had to constantly tailor their movement plans in order to achieve success and arrive at their venues safely.

One of the methods used by a number of security firms in one capacity or the other was the use of indigenous vehicles, that is a vehicle that blends into the background of the local urban and rural environments in Iraq, that would hopefully lead the general public and insurgent groups to believe that the vehicle driving down the road was a “civilian” vehicle and not a vehicle filled with heavily armed PSD/CP operators protecting a client.

Indigenous vehicles used in PSD/CP operations in the Iraq theater of operation (ITO) ran the gambit of disguises that ranged to Suburban’s painted in orange and white and disguised to look like a taxi to vans adored with Muslim religious stickers, drapes covering the windows and pictures or posters of religious clerics taped or glued to the vehicle. Other types of indigenous vehicles used included dark tinted BMW’s, Mercedes and Citrons.

PSD/CP team members in addition to using indig vehicle would often disguise themselves in local Arab garb that would reflect the clothing that the general population would most likely be wearing, these items included the keffiyeh (head scarf) and modified dishdashas (man dress) cut off at the waist.  By dressing the part of local Iraqi’s and using “civilian” type vehicles PSD/CP teams helped to create a ruse that kept both clients and operators alive.

Pick-up Trucks in Iraq

As the insurgency continued to gain momentum and the attacks against PSD/CP teams become more frequent and the encounters more violent, many firms started to build up armored pick up trucks that housed medium to heavy crew served weapon platforms in the rear bed of the pickup.  The rear bed, would have a armored “gun box” built around the weapon platform and the trucks would run advanced reconnaissance/REECE , rear security operations or would work in the role of counter assault operations (CAT) that would run with the actual PSD/CP formation.

In many cases the Pick-up trucks served a dual role besides the gun truck, the trucks in many cases became “mother trucks”, that would carry additional equipment that included weapons, ammunition, water, fuel, tow kits, MRE’s, tires, tools and floor jacks that could be used to change a blown or shot out tire very quickly.

As the war progressed so did the modifications for the gun trucks, In southern Iraq the appearance of a new type of gun truck for PSD/CP team and convoy escorts was put into service, the new modified gun trucks added an armored turret to the gun box in the rear of the vehicle. Another modification was to add the turret directly over the cab of the vehicle almost mimicking the US Army’s Humvees.

Specialized vehicles

With the increased violent IED/EFP attacks the need for specialized armor vehicles that exceeded the B6 level soon started to make their appearance in the ITO.  Some of the vehicles that soon became used in movement operations for PSD/CP operations included South African vehicles like the RG-31 Mamba and the Caspir, other vehicles that soon made their appearances in the ITO were vehicles like the Granite Global “Rock” and  refurbished British Sacreen APC’s and the Saxon APC.

These specialized platforms offered additional armor protection, firing ports and with many of the South African vehicles, V shaped hulls, which helped in deflecting explosions in an upward direction (from both landmines and IED’s/Improvised Explosive Devices) away from the vehicle, while also presenting a sloped armor face. By presenting its armor at an angle, this increased the amount of material a ballistic projectile would need to pass through the vehicle in order to penetrate the vehicle.

As the violence against PSD/CP’s teams increased in Iraq so did the need for creative and tactical solutions in order for these teams to survive and accomplish their missions, the use of these various vehicles throughout the ITO insured that success.

  • Harry Morrison

    Nice article thanks for highlighting the different options and vehicles used.