Right at the top of the list of the many cardinal rules of working on a Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) project which are constantly iterated and reiterated from the time a candidate arrives for orientation, throughout transit, all the way through their time in country until the day they DEMOB, is the requirement to practice communications security, aka COMSEC.
This applies to everyone on the project whether they have a security clearance or not. COMSEC is sacrosanct regardless of what the person’s actual job is, whether it is a truck driver operating mobility fuels equipment on some obscure FARP (Forward Air Refueling Point), or a project manager charged with overseeing the services to design, construct, operate and maintain an enduring base populated by thousands of military and civilian personnel.
A particularly challenging facet to COMSEC is transiting through Dubai, a veritable bastion of decadence and debauchery just waiting to happen for those looking for it (or not). Without going into politics or ideology, suffice it to say that despite Dubai’s efforts to tout itself to the world as a conservative, family oriented resort destination, Dubai is well known as the Arab playground of the uber-wealthy, with all the trappings of Las Vegas on steroids – just in a more nuanced nod and a wink kind of way.
In this fifty shades of grey atmosphere of wild indulgence, if there is anything that will loosen the lips of a paid-by-the-hour LOGCAP employee self seduced into thinking they are James Bond 007, it is a toxic combination of ego, narcissism and prodigious amounts of flattery washed down with generous libations of Vesper Martini’s shaken, not stirred. Okay, Heinekens more likely.
Ah, yesh…a clashic caysh of the shpy who loved me – gone horribly awry.
Given Dubai’s geographical proximity to a number of Middle East and North African state nations with parties having a vested interest in surreptitiously ensuring the failure of any regional attempts at establishing a democracy, the UAE is a target rich environment for practicing clandestine operations. Think an average run of the mill civilian contractor on their way into or out of the AO would be of no interest to a cogent agent practiced in the ways of deception and subterfuge? Think again my friend.
All Source Intelligence is the art and science of gathering information both classified and unclassified, and deftly assembling a diverse mosaic of puzzle pieces – which alone may seem insignificant and unrelated – but when viewed in context to one another presents a clear and intelligible master piece delivering enemy capabilities, vulnerabilities, and probable courses of action.
Before Dubai was the transit point for going into Afghanistan, it was Karshi-Khanabad Air Base, Uzbekistan – aka K2 – by way of Tashkent, a deceptively beautiful, deadly-dangerous city, which even after the new millennium was a throwback to another era with its public trolleys, Soviet architecture and a history which includes being laid-waste by Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes. One of the best things about Tashkent was that when flying to Frankfurt you could present your passport to the ticketing agent with a $100 bill tucked discretely inside, and you were automatically upgraded to business class, no questions asked. Nice.
Going back a little further in the history of LOGCAP it was Zagreb, Croatia that was the transit point for rotating into and out of Bosnia, and what an interesting little place that was. When I flew into Zagreb in March of 1996, you could hear distant gunfire at night from the hotel my group was staying in, juxtaposed in stark contrast to the posters around town announcing the upcoming BB King concert, clearly creating a paradox that defied rational elucidation. That, and the fact that in less than 2 hours flight time of departing Frankfurt, I went from one of the most heavily industrialized nations on the planet, to a region utterly decimated, razed and ravaged by war.
COMSEC was the first in-briefing we received when we landed.