Contractors: "You can shoot very well, have 20 years of Special Forces behind you, but if you do not know languages ​​you will not go anywhere"

(To Giusy Federici)
10/07/18

"Now I'm working with the company GardaWorld, in Libya, I can not tell you who the customer is, I'll just tell you it's a diplomatic mission". Luca is a contractor, serious and certified. Luca is not his name, because promising anonymity to those who decide to tell us about their experiences in the field is a minimum of obligation, for a matter of security while operating. Parachutist in the 183 ° Nembo, "I did the military as Vfp, I joined the '93, at that time you could stay 5 years. My company was 20esima Puma"He says enthusiastically.

"From 10 years I work in the sector, but I know those who do it for over 20 years, people who were in Iraq already in 2004, who have been ambushed, have been injured and have lost companions ...".

How do you get to do this job?

You ask me how do I get in on the contractor tour? I went there through friends, through a person who was in Iraq in the 2004 and who I knew for doing military service with him. In large part we enter this way, through word of mouth with those who are already inside and especially today that the situation has changed compared to the Iraq of 2004, where thousands of people were needed. Today the seats are less, the required preparation is specialized, the circle has become increasingly restricted. The required curriculum is at least from former Special Forces or civil but extremely prepared. For those who have done a "simple" Vfp, which can be a paratrooper, a San Marco etc, there are thousands who aspire to enter but the seats are few.

Does this happen because a Vfp has little experience for fieldwork and so you prefer a career military with specific skills?

The speech for Italians is more complex. As you know, contractor companies are foreign, the market is largely in the hands of English companies. So why should an English company contract an Italian when they have thousands of former soldiers looking for a job? Also ex Sas, Royal marines, paratroopers, etc, people who may have been in Iraq and are available. The English company enlists an Italian when we need to speak our language, usually when the customer is Italian.

Is this the case of companies like Eni that, perhaps, would like Italian personnel, but given our legislation, should they rely on foreign companies like Aegis?

Many companies, for positions as security managers, hire South Africans or English, on the one hand because they have more experience, on the other I do not know if it is an internal policy. The Italians who are now down in Iraq are working with Aegis while in Libya, where I am, there is a diplomatic contract (more I can not tell you) and they need only European personnel and therefore also Italians. Or, if one of our countrymen speaks several languages ​​or is a paramedic, more opportunities open up.

So, among professionals, do you also need combat or polyglot medicine experts?

Absolutely yes. Those figures are in great demand, although it is difficult to enter. Then, once you're inside, if you do your job well, take the word of mouth and call you. However, I repeat, if the English company does not have an Italian client, it is difficult to hire an operator from our country.

Let's talk a little bit about your story: even if you have not been hurt, you've worked in difficult theaters like Nigeria, India and now Libya ...

I very much agree with what Carlo Biffani said (read interview). Today the image of the contractor with the long beard, the tattoos, the rifle in hand, is a figure that does not exist anymore, it is more mythical than real. In Nigeria - when it was me, the customer was Chevron and the contractor company G4S - foreigners can not carry weapons, so we were there as a consultant. There is the local staff to be armed. It happened the same when I was in India, as a bodyguard in Mumbai, where the work was more of coordination with the locals, who were armed ones, and information gathering. In India, a foreigner can not carry arms. Now, in Libya, mine is a job of escort and being the high risk country we are armed. But even there, I confirm what Biffani told you, we go around in a suit and tie and the weapons must be well hidden. The figure of today's contractor is another thing compared to the times of Black Water, in terms of image and engagement. Today the rules of engagement are strict, everything has changed.

Better no? Because the rules to be followed, by companies listed on the stock exchange, give you a professional connotation ...

It's like that. And it is also true that today a company, before hiring, does so much research. For example, I have always had to present many documents and references. It is no longer like a time, when they took almost everyone, there was the good one but also the bad one and we know how it ended. Today, selection is also difficult from this point of view.

How are Italians considered?

Those who work on site are very good, able to make Americans and English eat the dust. The biggest limit, for many Italians, is the language. I saw so many Italians who had every opportunity to get a contract and they did not succeed because they did not speak English. You can shoot very well, have 20 years of Special Forces behind you, but if you do not know languages ​​you will not go anywhere. I have seen people hired to arrive in the country and be hunted after a week for this reason. It's not nice and it's not good for the other Italians who, for the few who "disgrace" the category, then have to work twice as hard to prove they are up to the task.

Foreigners always tend to generalize when it comes to Italians ...

Exact. So, for those who today wanted to enter this world, languages ​​are as fundamental as technical preparation. More than spending thousands of euros to go to the shooting range and buy equipment, maybe they should invest in a language course.

Do you also do shooting training on site?

In Libya, no, the situation is too complicated. There it is difficult to have weapons, because there are local companies that provide armed men, imagine going to shoot. We are armed, we do training, but at the level of shooting training we do not talk about it. Now it was thought to take us to a third country just to do this kind of activity, but it is only talking, at least for now. In Iraq or in other places, perhaps it is simpler.

NGOs and international cooperation: they need you even if they deny it and denigrate you, even if you go to save them in sometimes embarrassing situations ...

I have never worked with NGOs in my career, but from what my colleagues say the situation is this. And it is true, in Italy too much is still associated with the word contractor to the concept of "mercenary". I read, a few weeks ago, statements by Defense Minister Elisabetta Trenta who, to make it clear that the contractors are not mercenaries - and it is the truth - has been attacked on several fronts, putting even the ground-air missiles in the middle by Gaddafi. I understand that some journalists have to sell and that talking about mercenaries and operations in Libya helps to do so, but I also think that this is very far from the truth. That some Italian contractor has the opportunity to go to Libya, given the situation before and now, and do something like that, I see it very, very difficult.

Sometimes, you happen to pick up information that could be of intelligence, so useful to our government and maybe not able to report because, since there is no clear legislation, you almost do not exist?

I read that part of the interview in which Biffani talks about it. We gather intelligence, not for the government but for us, because then we go to the field and we need to know what happens. Maybe others have happened and if they want to tell you, not yet. It is true that, in any place you go, you try to tell a certain type of information, but you do it mainly for yourself, because you go out with the customer and you have to know what happens on the ground. But I think that the Italian state, if it wants to gather information, rather than to the contractors, entrusts itself to its men, specially prepared. It can happen that there are contractors who do only that, collect information, but it depends on what country you are, what interests you have or your client, depends on many variations. It did not happen to me, but I do not exclude it. Even if you can not violate the professional code: if I listen to something from my client - and I feel things - it is obvious that I keep them for myself.

You now work in Libya: how do you see the situation for Italians who want to go?

In Libya, for the next 10 years and beyond, there will be work and there are many Italian companies that want to go down and restart the business and, surely, they will need security. But I think there are limits for Italians. And, in agreement with Biffani, it is true that today there is no company, in Italy, able to handle large contracts, because it does not have the means. I think, however, that the day when there will be an Italian company at the level of G4S or GardaWorld, then with the means to handle large numbers, will go to recruit Eastern European staff because it pays them less. This is always the limit. Moreover, if today an English company, for example, needs 200 Italians, it would be very difficult to find them, for what I told you before, for the limit of languages. And then, today, it is true that Italian companies working abroad are trying to change their minds a bit and have realized that they need a security department or security manager within them. The Bonatti company is the most famous landmark case that has made school, in this sense.

Change of mentality or opportunism?

What I think is that today we are looking for security managers, but only to "parse the ass" if there were other deaths and not because they really have the awareness that security is needed. Because the mentality of Italian companies, in relation to security, has always been like something annoying that blocks the business. But it's not like that if you have a prepared security manager. This is why I, like many other colleagues, I am following ad hoc courses with English institutes to take diplomas at the 6 level, the highest one, that certify us in this sense. Because the future is that, if you want to stay in the loop, you need to focus on training: study, graduate and then look for a job as a security consultant. And the risk with Italian companies is that the security manager is only taken as a lightning rod if some employee were to die tomorrow. Because today, as you know, for the process underway at Bonatti, they are the top managers who risk prison. Tomorrow, with a security manager, he would take all the responsibility. I saw it around the world, in Nigeria as it is now in Libya. Italian entrepreneurs were always averse to everything, wondering why they had to build a wall instead of keeping the gates open. Then the riots followed and they realized that the gate and the wall were needed. I think that in Italy, to acquire the mentality and understand the importance of having security professionals who protect you, it still takes some time.

(photo: US DoD / Sky TG24)