NEW YORK – FOXNews.com received numerous responses to a four-part series dealing with tensions between some members of the U.S. military and American contractors working and living in Iraq. Check out the various parts of the series and read some of the reaction.
Click on the highlighted words in the descriptions of the four stories by FOXNews.com's Liza Porteus to read the stories.
Part one: an American contractor's experience with one Army officer in the Green Zone.
Part two: the story of 16 American contractors detained for three days by Marines and treated like insurgents.
Part three: how the stress of a war zone and a smaller military is fueling tensions between contractors and military personnel as Iraq rebuilds.
Part four: how contractor families are building their own support networks.
• "I'm one of the detained [Zapata] contractors … I'm not sticking up for the Marines and what they did [See second story in series]. I know what they did was wrong. I worked Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo so I know the military procedure for these things. What I am saying is I don't feel like I was beat. Most of the harassment I received was not physical in nature. Some of the guys had it worse and some not so bad but the focus should be on the fact that while we were detained they didn't allow us to contact anyone, even our company. They would not allow us to talk to the Red Cross. They would not tell us why we were being detained. They would not let us have legal representation. Nothing. All of this and more was not allowed. Even when we spoke to a chaplain, who still falls under military control and orders, and pleaded with him to let our families know that we were not dead, nothing was permitted.
"It's one thing if we were insurgents. I can understand not getting to 'make a phone call.' These guys knew we were Marines. Hell, I think 10 out of the 16 were former Marines. While I was being cuffed, my tattoo showed and the guard pointed at it and said 'how cute.'"
—Darrell Cleland, former contractor with Zapata Engineering
• "I don't know why he was kicked out nor do I care, but it looks like he was in the wrong! [See first story in series] He needs to follow the rules, sounds like he does what he wants when he wants and how he wants!! I do know one thing: These contractors make way too much money for doing the work they do! The military is doing way more dangerous missions and should be getting paid more than them. No wonder enlistments into the Army and Marines are down. What would you do? Accept a job over here for $250,000/year or join the military for about $20,000/year, if you're lucky! He comes off sounding all noble for coming over here, give me a break he has one thing in mind and it is COLD HARD CASH!"
-Greg, U.S. Army, Baghdad, Iraq
• "The contractors should have more respect for the military who are not there for the money but because they were ordered there. These contractors are all about the money and don't want anybody standing in their way. Now they are going to start crying wolf just like the detainees in Gitmo just so there is more bad publicity for the military and less scrutiny on their actions. These contactors are all about making their own rules and making as much money as possible from the war chest."
-Eugene Simpson, Army civilian contractor in civil service, Fairbanks, Alaska
• "I think this brings up the subject of pay for our men and women in uniform. In each instance there seems to be great animosity between the service men and private contractors because of the big difference in pay. I know members of the armed services whose dependants back here in the states collect various forms of public assistance … this is just wrong. Does a Marine lance corporal deserve $100,000 to serve as a guard on a convoy truck? No, but neither does the private contractor. I think a LCPL should be paid $40,000 to $50,000 if he/she is in the middle of a war zone taking enemy fire.
"I have never served in the military. If those Marines did what the Zapata Contractors say they did, they should go to prison. The other 160,000 folks [military personnel] over there should get some big raises."
—Bob Bakewell, Pittsburgh, Pa.
• "Many employees of U.S. government contractors are former military officers and NCOs who on active duty did not like contractors either. I include myself among those who thought contractors were untrustworthy and were only in it for the money. Whereas the reality is that upon leaving active duty to look for another job, we go to work for contractors because not only are we qualified and experienced but because we want to stay involved 'in the fight' for U.S. defense and the war on terrorism. Fortunately, our active duty partners are much more understanding and your story is about an exception."
—Neil Slattery, Fort Worth, Texas
• "Thank you. Excellent article. ...The very first thing on anyone's mind that works as a civilian anywhere in the Mideast is $$$MONEY$$$. End of line. He is not there for 'helping' or the scenery or his health, he's there for the MONEY [See first story in series]. And it is big bucks too … They do not pay us big bucks because it is EASY: far from it. But not even as harsh a deal as the military have it! And we have a choice: we can go home anytime. The military are stuck there … as a civilian, it's the money first; everything else is secondary."
— Paul Rhodes, mechanical field engineer and Vietnam veteran, Navy, Richland, Wash.
• "My fiancé is in Iraq with Halliburton. He is ex-Army and decided to go over to Iraq as a truck driver for Halliburton. He first looked into rejoining the Army but the pay he would have received would not even have covered his bills. Although he does make good money over there by my standards, it is not as much as you might think. He works seven days a week and 12 hours a day driving 'outside the wire' for around $84,000 a year. That comes out to about $19.23 per hour. Because he is a contractor and not military, he is not allowed to carry a weapon to defend himself. So, if an insurgent attempts to drag him from his truck, he basically has no way to defend himself except for his fists. I don't know about you, but I would not risk my life for $19.23 an hour.
"He is a patriotic supporter of the military and he feels like he is doing something that matters. He says that you cannot be over there, no matter how much you make, and do that job if you do not believe in the cause. I KNOW he is over there for a good reason and not solely to make a lot of money. I think there is a huge misconception about how much contractors make. And although my fiancé volunteered to go over to Iraq, last I heard, we had a volunteer military as well. No one was drafted. You volunteer, for good or bad, and you alone make that decision knowing full well what could happen. For those in the military who are that envious of the money, at the end of your contract, step right up to the military contractor recruiting station and sign up. Usually they are within walking distance of the military bases because that's who the majority of their personnel are ... ex-military.
"Can't we all just get along and respect each other's jobs and work together without bickering about the so-called 'difference in pay?' In the end, all that matters is the job gets done and everyone gets to come home. We are all Americans who are dedicated to getting the mission accomplished. Let's start acting like it."
—Tonya Hunt, Tennessee
• "I am extremely pleased to see that FOX News has brought to light some of the infighting (i.e., blue-on-white antagonism) that is going on among Americans in Iraq. From what I have seen, this infighting seems to always take the form of U.S. military personnel and/or U.S. government employees displaying open or subtle hostility towards American civilians working in Iraq as independent contractors. As to why this antagonism exists, I have no idea although I suspect that the amount of money contractors are paid for working in Iraq could be one of the reasons. In any case, it is my hope that maybe by doing a story on this situation, attention will be drawn to it with the end result being that something is done to put an end to it."
—Elton Johnson, Major, U.S. Army Reserve. Johnson worked with four American contractors in Iraq who were kidnapped and beheaded. Says investigators in that case did not try hard enough to determine who killed the contractors.
• "As a wife of a recently retired Army soldier who is now a contractor, I am appalled that the president does not put a stop to this within the ranks. People make choices of where they are for a season in their lives ... Recruitment numbers are down and I am talking to my son, a junior in high school, about recruiters from the services and advise him the military, in our case, the Army is not what we signed up for 21 years ago. I wonder if Lt. Col. Casey knows that there is resentment from the lower enlisted for what he is paid compared to their pay? [See first story in series] Oh, wait we don't allow that thinking to continue — top close to home — maybe it is easier to transfer ill feelings to the poor contractor who seemingly is on the outside of the Army of One."
-Sharon Zornes, Stafford, Va.
• "I know we've been outsourcing construction, transportation and other functions since WWII. However, it seems as though we're outsourcing tasks and jobs that are putting our fighting men and women at risk for no other reason than to maximize the profits of both private and publicly owned companies. I question the use of both our tax dollars and our soldiers to protect people who know they're working in a hot zone and do so because the pay and profit potential is higher than if they were building in the U.S. So, while the companies are making money, the American public losses both money and respect. They should hire protection from private firms and the American public should not be subsidizing their efforts."
— Rob Lewin, Acton, Mass.
• "After reading your well-written article [See first story in series] regarding Mr. Peters and his plight I have only this to say to Mr. Peters: 1. Get over it Peters! Stop whining. 2. What Lt. Col. Casey said may have been hard to hear, but you brought the situation on yourself. You have no way of knowing what Casey was feeling at that moment or what pressures he had on him."
—John Walter, retired LTC, Army Corp of Engineers
• "Frankly, I guarantee the contractor job is more inherently dangerous than the military's at this point. Insurgents want to kill Americans and contractors are easier to get hold of. Joke is: the more dangerous the military makes it for contractors and the harder their jobs become, they will get paid even bigger paychecks."
—Jason Taylor, former Marine linguist, Ft. Worth, Texas
• "There is enough strain on operations to safeguard all the government contractors without adding in the private contractors as well. I served 16 months in Iraq, the first year of which I had many experiences with private and government contracted security contractors. The last five I did close protection for KBR (a Halliburton subsidiary) truck drivers as a safeguard after the April 2004 uprising and rash of kidnappings. I currently work in Qatar as private contractor myself. I have experience from both sides. I can only stress that these environments are high risk, and the defense forces cannot be expected to take on the burden of private citizens who only realize the danger after they arrive."
— A.M. Nelson, Captain, U.S. Army Reserve Military Police Corps, Doha, Qatar.
• "There is even a more dubious point being missed in all of this. The distinction between government contractor and private contractor. The big problem here is that private contractors are under the laws of the host nation, and can take whatever means to protect themselves that they deem necessary. Government contractors however, are at the complete mercy of the military, and are disallowed to carry firearms in many situations due to international law. Government contractors are largely 'non-combatants,' like priests, doctors, medics... In a country where the defenseless are targeted first, a good relationship with the 'soldiers' is needed by contractors for the simple sake of survival. My advice to all the contractors in Iraq: Take some of that massive pay check your getting, and buy Christmas presents, birthday presents, etc… for the soldiers that are responsible for your safety. They will remember you for it, and you'd be surprised how much animosity will be alleviated. Take my word for it, since I have been both contractor, AND lower enlisted working with contractors before.
—Christopher Delaney, Berryville, Va.
• "I am currently in the military … I 100 percent believe our troops are trying to do the best job to make it a safer and more secure area over there, but having contractor complain about moving or giving up there weapon is ridiculous … I have worked with contractors throughout my military career and I can say that the military is dependant on them to perform a critical and important job. The problems you run into with contractors is sometimes they believe that that a job needs to be accomplished by their rules. I believe a lot of prior military contractor, including Mr. Peters, believe they have a certain insight into the current military operations since they were in the military. I have had contractors critique me on how a job is being accomplished or why are we doing that. If contractors would basically keep their minds on their contracts only, and comply fully with the men and women over in Iraq that are serving to protect them by all means possible.
"As a military person you do get upset when see a contractor that is getting paid a lot of money for doing a job, and you are getting paid less to try to protect these people, even if it means with your life, but they want to complain and be complicated on issues that are meant for everybody's safety. I believe overall military personnel are not mad or hold a 'grudge' of contractors that get paid more, but wish they would do their job in full compliance with the order you are given to make them follow. A lot of contractors, in or out of Iraq, believe their job is what we (the military) are there for at all times and cost."
—Gary, U.S. Navy, Brazoria, Texas
• "I spent a year in Iraq with the 120 Engineer Battalion (combat heavy). I was at Al Taqaddum, Camp Fallujah and Al Asad. If those contractors don't like what happened, tell them don't shoot at American troops, don't come to Iraq and stop cashing those paychecks … corporations are strangling the military. The military is a society with laws, rules and traditions all its own. It is organized in such a way to complete a mission. Corporations are like piranhas gorging themselves on the money before it dries up. The soldiers are caught in the middle. The only time politicians do anything for the troops is if corporations can gouge the American people or if politicians can use the issue to support their own agenda."
—SFC VonErick Trim, Tulsa, Okla.
• "I am appalled at the report of Marines mistreating fellow Americans (contractors or not!) If there is truth to these allegations, these Marines should be court-martialed and kicked out of the military [See second story in series]. I am retired from the Air Force and can somewhat sympathize with their concerns about contractors making more money than they do. BUT, you don't beat up and mistreat them because of that — you get discharged and become a contractor (that's what I did after retirement). Mistreating fellow Americans IS NOT going to get you more money — if anything, it will get you less (through a court martial). Please continue to investigate these allegations and thanks for keeping "us" informed.
—L. DeVries, Hampton, Va.
• "I spent a year in Iraq as a contractor employee. I returned to the U.S. in April 2004. Many military personnel make snide comments about the amount of money being made by contractor employees. Many of those making the comments are junior in their careers and can't make as much in the U.S. as their contractor counterparts. And, certainly in the case of officers, they could resign their commissions at any time and go to work for a contractor if they were willing to sacrifice their lucrative retirements. Thus, we all make choices. When I had 'kids,' who do not have one-tenth of my experience level in my field questioning how much money I made, it just made me laugh. I told them in 25 years, when you are my age, you will make more too. The bottom line is that the contractor personnel are mission-essential to the effort and the military leadership needs to reprimand military personnel who don't understand that fact … I have worked for and loved the military my whole life. A few 'bad apples' don't make the whole bunch."
—Jon Tudor, Danville, Ky.
• "It saddens me to read a story like this ('How Do You Like Your Contractor Money') one and it hurts deeply because I myself have witness and notice the negative attitudes form some of the military toward the civilians working here in Iraq. I retired from the U.S. Army after servicing a few days over 22 years. The military was my life (I love the Army) some close friends and family to this day say I should have never retired.
"I been in Iraq since March 2004, I noticed first hand the animosity toward civilians while working for KBR at Camp Anaconda, Iraq. The problem had obviously attracted the attention of higher command; because during a mandatory attendance awards presentation for several KBR civilians last year for their acts heroism when ambushed while on convoy, the commander, a brigadier general (one star), after the presentation addressed the growing complaints he was receiving regarding issues of open resentment, jealously being displayed by some military personnel toward the civilians working alone side of them.
"I myself witnessed a situation were an Army lieutenant (a junior officer) misrepresented his authority and caused a supervisor with KBR to be suspended for three days until after an investigation cleared him. Being a former senior enlisted soldier I knew immediately the lieutenant handled that situation wrong and should have been counseled to correct his actions.
"…Acknowledgment, then action must be taken by all commanders and appointed leaders to address these negative feelings, before we have another embarrassing incident by the BEST MILITARY in the world!! Continued follow up by you and FOX News can bring the attention needed to address this matter and correct it before embarrassing situation occurs … we are in a new era where civilians will now serve on the front lines of combat alone with soldiers; there's no turning back unless we increase the size of our military and that's not likely."
— J.D., Augusta, Ga.
• "I am not a contractor, but I served in the U.S. Army for six years, mostly in combat arms units. Once I got out, I found that the skills I had obtained while in service were not very useful in getting employed in the civilian world and these days my family and I live only a couple of paychecks per month over the poverty line. I had a very hard time adjusting to civilian life even after only six years, I can only imagine how hard it would be to completely give up the military lifestyle after 15 years or more like many of these guys. I know MANY former service members in the same or similar situations.
"I know several fine individuals who have seriously considered becoming contractors not out of greed, but simply because they have the skills and want to support their families above and beyond food stamps. I myself am not willing to become a contractor, but I did consider it and can see where they are coming from, but I see both sides of the issue too. If you want to alleviate a lot of the antagonism between active-duty soldiers and contractors, I suggest this; LET'S CONVINCE OUR LEGISLATORS TO PAY OUR TROOPS A LOT MORE. Let's get them to drastically increase soldier's pay during wartime at the very least."
—Chris R., Tennessee
• "In no way do I think that this is the standard in our courageous military. I in every way support the military especially the Marine Corps 'Semper Fi' and know there job is very important and they are respected by me and all of my associates. I am currently a security contractor in Iraq and recently became an ex-Marine. I feel like I can understand both worlds. In both worlds you have people that can easily misbehave out of boredom. But with close understanding of this incident especially, because I work on a site with guys who with and were employed by Zapata on that exact site.
"I found that contractors are usually the best of the best in the military field, it is a high paying job but more important it is very dangerous job and I have yet met one who is unprofessional and blatantly careless. I was a Marine I fought with 1 Marine Division at the very beginning of the war. I know how one feels after they detain someone right after they shot at them or even if they think they might shoot at him. But, I think the Marines in the Zapata case were very, very unprofessional. In my opinion, a contractor would be out of his mind to even appear even the sliest bit hostile to the military, 1.) Because they are out gunned and the military has better equipment in everyway and 2.) Because those are our brothers in arms, most of us if not all of us have been in their shoes. And 3.) Also the military isn't afraid to shoot because my good friends were shot at by the military because they were in a Iraqi vehicle, with no sign of hostility at all. I think the matter is definitely needs to be investigated and those Marines need to be charged and disciplined. We can see what undisciplined and unprofessional military does to our country by the example of Abu Ghraib, and those were just Iraqi prisoners, not Americans, former military. I understand war sucks and it is difficult to be away from home, but there is no excuse to misbehave in this type of environment in, anyway, it is life that is on the balance."
— Security contractor stationed near Fallujah, Iraq
• "I am a former U.S. Army corporal who just returned from a year and a half in Iraq. I would have to honestly say that many of the contractors that we dealt with in Iraq were there for other than genuine reasons … Yes, soldiers may join the Army to pay the bills, but once they are in the Army, the idea of service develops and becomes most important next to families. Contractors rarely develop a sense of service or duty, most are there for the easy money, and the lines of morality become blurred. People killing and performing military services for the highest bidder are in fact mercenaries, putting them in a totally different category than soldiers. I can't tell you how many times we tried (as soldiers) gaining access to civilian contractor facilities only to be turned away by elitist contractors who thought they were better than soldiers. …There are good contractors in Iraq, like the ones working in the chow halls and transporting goods. Many of the fighting contractors are quite simply sadists and socially deviant individuals with weak morals. Yes, that sounds a bit radical — but it is true.
—Dan Thompson, Friedberg, Germany
• "I just finished a tour in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, last month and I wanted to comment on your series about the problems between soldiers and American contractors abroad. I am not speaking on behalf of the Army, but only for myself. Your series so far seems very favorable towards the contractors. I can tell you from first hand experience that many of the American contractors in Iraq are lazy and are absolutely over there for nothing more than to make the most amount of money while doing the least amount of work possible. The biggest shame is that most of them are, as you indicated, former members of the U.S. military themselves.
"For example, we used civilian generators for electricity in Ramadi, and contractors from Kellogg, Brown and Root were supposed to keep them running since they were not military equipment. Right when the temperature began to heat up, the generator for our barracks broke, making life miserable for everyone living in it. The contractors from KBR refused to work on it, saying that their contract did not cover our specific generator and they were not required to help us. For two weeks we were without power. Soldiers from my own unit went out to work on it themselves during their free time and had to fix it without the benefit of even a technical manual. One contractor came over by himself to attempt to help once, but his supervisor threatened to fire him if he did it again, so we were on our own.
"We also did a lot of convoys and people from KBR always attempted to put their vehicles into our convoy, which were Arab contracted tractor-trailer trucks. They would routinely want us to take as many as 10 at one time. These vehicles are driven and operated by Arab civilians and are notorious for driving very slow and breaking down a lot. Worst of all, once we reach our destination, they are not allowed to enter the base until they have been searched, so someone has to stay with them until their entire vehicle is looked over. At first we did KBR favors and took their vehicles. They promised that a KBR representative would be at the gate when we arrived to take responsibility for the Arab truckers. Never once did they ever come through with that promise. That meant that my soldiers had to sit there in the middle of the night while these trucks were searched, and it takes an hour to search one truck. If the convoy arrived at 1 a.m. and we had five of these trucks, my Soldiers would not be free until 6 a.m. and then they would have to start their own missions with only an hour of sleep and would have to drive back again later that night. When we contacted KBR they simply said that they did not want to come to the gate because they were sleeping, even though all they would have to do is drive to the gate and sit in their truck. We stopped taking trucks for them and then they went over our head to the next link in our chain of command with very similar sounding sob stories of mistreatment and people being mean to them that you have reported on. We were then forced to take their trucks several times. The biggest joke was that the cargo on those trucks was always for the contractors; it was never anything that the military needed.
"It is incidents like these that cause the friction between military and contractor. Imagine someone who goes out on patrol every day, getting shot at and getting hit with IEDs, maybe even seeing one of his friends get killed. Then he comes back at night to a room with no electricity or AC in 100-degree heat and is told by a contractor who sat in his room and played PlayStation all day, 'We don't have to help you because it's not in our contract.'
"The worst part is that many young enlisted soldiers see how lazy the contractors are and how much they get paid for the small amount of work that they do and they wonder why they are over there getting paid next to nothing to risk getting killed every day. A lot of the ones I have talked to have even made plans to get out of the military so they can come back as a contractor. I hope that the last part of your story will have a little more of the military's perspective on this matter, because there is a lot more to it than what you have written so far."
—U.S. Army member
• "First, thank you for an informative and engaging series. I'm sending my thoughts as a Marine, a Marine wife and the daughter-in-law of a contractor serving in Iraq.
"My husband deployed twice to Iraq, though I have not. My father-in-law, at the tender age of 49, set aside his private business and sought employment with a personal security firm contracted to care for American diplomats contributing to the reconstruction of Iraq's infrastructure and government.
"Dad, himself a Marine veteran with 25 years of law enforcement experience, went to Iraq to be part of what his son was doing. He went to Iraq be cause he supports our president and his decision to send troops in. He went to Iraq because he recognized a need and had an opportunity to contribute.
"Does he get paid more than we do? Yes. Does that make him any safer over there? No ... unless they pay him in SAPI plates and Kevlar helmets, which, to the best of my knowledge, they don't. Do mama and my sister worry any less because of the size of his paycheck? Of course not. Lastly, and, in my opinion, most important, does the difference in pay make Dad's contribution and the contributions of the thousands of civilian contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan any less significant? I say it does not. Dad, like so many contractors, and like so many young men and women choosing to join the ranks or continue to serve in the U. S. armed forces, volunteered to do his part.
"The sooner the rest of the country volunteers to do their part, (whether here or abroad) and the sooner we all remember we're on the same team, working towards the same goal, the sooner we'll accomplish our goal."
—Jennie, 29 Palms Marine Corps base, Calif.
• "Overall, there was always some tension between military and civilian contractors in all of my assignments, but no more than you would find between, say, the Marine Corps and the Air Force … Most of the time the contractors and the military get along great!
"Iraq was a different story entirely. The Army soldiers who we replaced in Camp Scania could go home once we arrived. There was definitely a mixed feeling of, "Thank god you're here, I can go home to my family now, and you can worry about this hellhole," and 'who the hell do you think you are, coming in here and trying doing our job?'
"Some of the problems definitely come from contractors getting paid what we do, but there are other issues as well, that only compound the problem. Money is not the biggest issue, it's only the most tangible. Pride is probably the biggest issue, and it goes both ways. A lot of soldiers don't think that a civilian belongs anywhere near a military unit. Most of the contractors are veterans, but the military doesn't often recognize that. The civilians, in turn, don't always recognize that we are yesterday's soldiers, a group of has-beens, and that today's soldiers might not do things the way that we did them, but that doesn't mean that they're wrong.
"…Most of the contractors I work with are veterans. In Iraq, I was with two 'Iraq-War-2' Veteran-contractors. The military in Iraq actually seemed to scorn the Iraq-War-2 veterans more than they did me! We had some really great Army friends in Iraq, who would invite us over for cookouts (Yup! Roasted boar!) or whatnot, but for the most part, it was a definite 'Us and Them,' situation. Most of the time, when a military service-member would get upset with a contractor, it was always, 'These guys get paid all this money, and...'"
"…I think that the main problems with blue v. white, are experience and pride. Most military contractors have 'been there, done that.' It’s annoying enough for the military when the civilians are right, but so much more annoying when the contractor, speaking from their 'vast experience,' gives unsolicited advice that doesn't help any, or is completely way off-base. Today's military is the best-equipped to handle the current situation. They have more intel than the average contractor, but as the saying goes, 'When you earnestly believe that you can make up for a lack of skill and experience by a doubling in effort, there's no end to what you cannot accomplish."
"…I had an Army officer wave a pistol in my face, weapon off-safe and the hammer pulled back, because he was upset that I was used Sergeant's rifle to 'cover' the Sergeant while he urinated … If that man would have tripped or sneezed, he would have blown my head clean off of my neck. Of course, nothing was ever done about it, even though I raised the issue up the chain.
"There are many more examples of this kind of behavior. What it all boils down to is pride and experience. The pride of inexperienced soldiers, and the experience of prideful former soldiers."
—Bryce Trapier, former U.S. Army sergeant and current contractor, Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq
•"I have been in Iraq as a civilian contractor for 17 months. For 16 months I have lived and worked closely with Army units, Marine units and, now, National Guard units. At no time have I ever had any bad experiences with the military because of my pay or the fact that I am a contractor. In my role as an advisor to the Iraqi police I am dependent upon the military for movement within my region to do my job. I have been fortunate to work with military personnel that want to help me fulfil my mandate.
"Yes, I have heard about bad relationships between contractors and the military and have seen it first hand with some of my colleagues in another region. In most of these incidents I can honestly put the blame on the side of the of the contractors because I took the time to speak with all involved parties to determine what the underlying issues were. In one case it was a combination of laziness and the fear of leaving the forward operating base.
"Other issues that cause the military to look down upon the contractors are the number of unreported shootings and vehicle accidents that the contractors are involved in. If an Iraqi citizen has his vehicle shot up or damaged in an accident with a contractor they respond to the nearest FOB and file a claim with the military unit there. The military is then required to make inquiries in to these incidents.
"I have seen first hand members of one security firm here being warned that if they would be parking their vehicles off of the FOB and on a public roadway if they did not stop driving like idiots. I am sure that there are some isolated incidents where an officer or enlisted soildier has treated a contractor unfailrly because of the salary difference. In my opinion the contractor should just suck it up, collect his pay, and try to go home in one piece."
—Ron, a cop in Iraq
• "I spent a year in Baghdad working with many civilian contractors and I am dismayed by how this article portrays my fellow soldiers over there. I did mobile security missions as both a gunner and as a team leader. We were attached to ISG, the Iraq Survey Group, and worked with numerous civilian contractors in our search for WMDs. While it was hard to talk to the contractors who pumped gas or drove a bus in a perfectly safe area such as BIAP [Baghdad International Airport] or the IZ [International Zone] and made four times more than us, none of us ever ridiculed them. We safeguarded many high-ranking contractors and I developed relationships with many of them. I believe there was a mutual respect as we both had our jobs to do.
"There were times when we questioned certain missions, such as driving down "hell's highway" (the name is RT Irish) as you call it to drop one of them off for lunch in the IZ. Often times the contractors themselves apologized to us when we took them on senselessly dangerous missions. But through all of that myself and my men maintained our professional bearing and never said an unkind word to them. I believe that a few bad apples have irritated the wrong people and it is casting an unfortunate shadow on the military.
"Please don't let yourself be cast into the group that portrays all of us over there as uncivilized and rude. There has been enough criticism on soldiers doing a dangerous job with little repayment other than the appreciation of friends and loved ones. We lost a good soldier over there that I knew for four years and I'd rather see you honoring the memories of our fallen soldiers and their sacrifices be being over there."
—SGT Matthew Deacon, Pittsburgh, Pa.
• "Your story underscores a very dangerous precedent ... it is clear to this reader that the motivations and agenda of these two groups, active duty military and contractors, are at odds. The real dilemma is the contractors are in a very nebulous place regarding their status and perception of their loyalties and allegiances by active duty personnel. I'm sure many of them (contractors) are patriotic Americans, but to the young Marine or soldier, they appear to be mercenaries, plain and simple.
"I can understand the perception, as misguided or distorted it may be. The dangerous precedent is that, though these "contractors" surely view themselves as professionals, to the active duty personnel, they appear to be just the opposite. They left the military so they would not need to be held to the same professional standards or they couldn't cut it, so the perception goes. And as I'm sure the contractors will explain, that they are all 'highly trained,' 'spec ops' types, the perception, once again, is that they took the 'easy way out' and went with an organization or company where they can pick and choose their battles, and have abandoned the Warrior Code of Honor, Duty, Commitment, to turn a quick buck. And to add insult to injury, chances are many will have come from military units still fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan, but now 'enjoy their merc comforts' under the noses of the very kids still 'hacking' the load, and maintaining their professional and duty bound integrity.
"The anger and frustration, though not to be condoned when applying physical or psychological abuses to fellow Americans, is a simple manifestation of what these volunteers (the active duty folks) believe is at the heart of what they do, duty and sacrifice, versus what they perceive is at the heart of what the contractor and their employers believe … the profit margin. We see the struggle of class, social strata, and financial envy played out every day in our news, talk shows, and politics, so why should it be any different in our military? I see it from the perspective of the contractor … A lot more money, choose when and where to fight, more time with the family, higher standard of living, a better, perhaps even more socially acceptable profession 'contractor' … what's there not to like … on the other hand, from a professional soldiers view, what is more to despise?"
—F. Dowse, California
• "I have been in the military and I am here as a government contractor not a private security contractor. I have been in combat with the military and still am as far as I am concerned. I look at it like I am in a support battalion of the military.
"We drive trucks for them delivering military goods, fuel, chow, equipment, a lot of us work daily putting armor on vehicles, we work at fuel points fueling vehicles, we make the water at the water operation units, the warehouses distributing gear and equipment, maintaining the power generation in many cases, so don't think there are not contractors that are not putting their life on the line for the cause whatever the reason may be. I am not doing any less than they, in fact, maybe more. Only 30 percent of the troops here are combat troops, the rest are support. As far as the money, yes I make pretty good money, however being in my forties with the experience I have, if I was working back on the [U.S.] street right now, the same 12-hour, seven-day a week [job] as I am here, I could make pretty close to what I am here. Whenever my compound gets bombed, I am just as much at risk as the military to get hit.
"As far as the young trooper that commented about us not helping them with their power generation and sitting around all day, we can only do work we are turned on to do and that is determined by the military not us. It upsets us when we can't do some work because we are there to support the military and as far as sitting around doing nothing the military I see is not hurting themselves much, I see them in the MWR facilities plenty during the day laid back during the heat of the day playing Nintendo aplenty so don't play that card. We have subcontractors that work for us that take care of the chow halls so the military doesn't have to eat MRE’s all the time, which I did for five months in the Gulf because we didn't have contractors feeding us. We have built bed-down areas at most camps for the military so they can live in two- to four-man air-conditioned rooms instead of tents.
"Now the big question is how many of you young hard chargers would come over here and work for THE MONEY if you could. Well I know many people on the street that will not touch this work because it is too dangerous and doesn't pay enough for their risk. The military man is here because he had no choice, you are here because you have to be unless you joined in the last couple years while this war was going on. You see, I have a choice to be here and we contractors are helping the effort. The military would be in dire straights with out us and could not sustain over here this long without us, the higher military and government officials that are in the know do know this and that is why we are here. It has been mentioned to me by some of the young military folks about the money. I have told them and I mean exactly this when I tell them I would give up every penny for one day back in the Corps. I have never had so much as a ripple working with the military. I wish they would realize that most contractors are former military but even if not, we are Americans and allies of this operation and the enemy is outside the wall."
—Dan Gregory, contractor in Iraq
• "Whether or not they are over there for the money at this point in time is irrelevant, for they find themselves in the same danger as the active duty personnel does. The active Marine or soldier may have been 'ordered' there but at one point in time, they did volunteer themselves. If I could be there right now, I would also. As a former Marine and one who's brother (a once 82nd and now civilian cop) is there now training the IP [Iraqi Police], I disagree with the attitudes of the active duty personnel that have a problem. Get over it, get along with each other — you're on the same side. It seems to me that the hostility stems only from jealousy that some may be getting paid more than others. It is so obvious from statements I read that the money issue is the root of their jealousy and hostility. I think it is completely and utterly wrong what happened to those individuals who where detained. Their police buildings are being blown up, they are confronted with road side bombs everyday, and have skirmishes regularly also. My brother and his group have put their lives on the line many times since being there and has also carried the Army's wounded from incoming fire. So really ... what is the problem here? …oh I remember, I think it was a money issue.
I think people need to rethink the whole issue and think about what the important thing here is. I can recall when this was never an issue. If anything, the military should be thankful they are there since enlistment has been crashing anyway. I'm sure the insurgents are enjoying reading about it.
—B. Rich, former Marine, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Editor's Note: Please continue checking out FOXNews.com for upcoming stories on what policies military personnel have to follow when it comes to using their weapons and how difficult it is to distinguish between friend and foe, particularly with all the contractors working in Iraq, among other topics.
While the series deals with just a few specific scenarios, FOXNews.com welcomes comments on this topic, since both U.S. military personnel and American contractors are working and dying in Iraq and there are many perspectives to consider. Please continue clicking on FOXNews.com for future stories on the difficulties facing both our men and women in uniform, as well as our private civilians, in the war zone.