U.S. Firm Mourns Slain Employees
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 2, 2004 The four civilian security specialists killed in a March 31 insurgent attack in Fallujah, Iraq, are being mourned by their company.
"We grieve today for the loss of our colleagues and we pray for their families," their firm, Blackwater Security Counseling, said in an April 1 statement on its Web site.
According to news reports, three of the contractors were Scott Helvenston, Jerko "Jerry" Zovko and Michael Teague. All are reportedly U.S. military veterans. The name of the fourth victim has not been made public.
Blackwater spokesman Steve Capace acknowledged today that that company would not release the victims' names and noted that the media had obtained information from families and other sources.
Capace pointed out that Blackwater has established a memorial fund for the deceased contractors.
During an April 1 Coalition Provisional Authority press conference in Baghdad, CPA chief spokesman Dan Senor told reporters that Blackwater had a government contract to provide security for CPA administrator Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III.
"They are involved with protecting Ambassador Bremer," Senor remarked, adding, "They are, obviously, not the only institution that is involved with his security."
The four contractors were attacked by insurgents while escorting a food convoy driving through the restive town of Fallujah. After being killed, the contractors' bodies were horrifically debased by an irate Iraqi crowd.
Although U.S. forces didn't immediately respond to what Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt cited as "bestial" treatment of the contractors, the general told reporters at the April 1 briefing that "we will be back in Fallujah."
"The graphic images of the unprovoked attack and subsequent heinous mistreatment of our friends exhibits the extraordinary conditions under which we voluntarily work to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people," the Blackwater Web statement read.
"Coalition forces and civilian contractors and administrators work side by side every day with the Iraqi people to provide essential goods and services like food, water, electricity and vital security to the Iraqi citizens and coalition members. Our tasks are dangerous and while we feel sadness for our fallen colleagues, we also feel pride and satisfaction that we are making a difference for the people of Iraq."
On the same day a few miles from where the contractors were killed, five U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division soldiers died when their M-113 personnel carrier ran over an improvised explosive device. DoD today released their names:
- 1st Lt. Doyle M. Hufstedler, 25, of Abilene, Texas.
- Spc. Sean R. Mitchell, 24, of Youngsville, Pa.
- Spc. Michael G. Karr Jr., 23, of San Antonio, Texas.
- Pfc. Cleston C. Raney, 20, of Rupert, Idaho.
- Pvt. Brandon L. Davis, 20, of Cumberland, Md.