The security force used for most of the routine, boring security jobs on base is the Ugandan Guards. These are contract employees from Uganda. They are young folks who all formerly served in the Ugandan Army at some point. In order to make more money, they sign up to do security work for a contractor, and they come here to Iraq. The average pay is about $600 to $1,000 a month, which is a very good income considering the alternatives in employment in Africa. When it was more dangerous in Iraq, they were paid more, nearly double their current pay. They are not mercenaries, and are never sent out on missions: That is the job for US Military personnel.
So you will see Ugandan Guards at the entrance to every DFAC (dining facility), the PX’s (shopping), the rec centers and gyms, and anyplace else where there is likely to be a gathering of personnel. They also sit in the towers that line the perimeter of the base, keeping watch at all hours. They are easy to notice in their tan uniforms. Here is a picture of two guys guarding the front entrance to the big DFAC #1:
The Ugandans are very friendly people. I’ve come to know several and we greet each other by name and chat. They are always ready with a greeting when you pass them at a guard post. They speak English quite well, and it’s always interesting to talk with a guard and find out what sort of plans he or she has in life. The Ugandans are also interested about life in America. Here is my friend Kelvin. He and I go have dinner once in a while, then visit the rec center to play a game:
The Ugandans are allowed to use the internet at the East Side rec center, and you’ll always see dozens here, keeping in touch with home:
Or playing pool:
One interesting thing is that many Ugandan Guards are Christian. You will often see them in church or in Bible studies, right alongside us. You never see the other TCN’s, like the Nepali’s, at such gatherings. Here in Balad they have several gospel services, primarily this is for the black soldiers (of course anyone else is welcome). The Ugandans attend this service often, which is interesting because Ugandan Christians have very little in common with African-American Baptist Gospel service. But they all have a good time together, and I’ve even seen a Ugandan group do song and dance performances at these services, which is always very well received.
The Ugandan Guards are cool. They are the only other people besides US Military who carry weapons here on base, and for that reason I feel affinity towards them. And they will use those weapons to fight if need be. There have been no base incursions for years, anywhere in Iraq, but the Ugandans will, and have, put their military training and weapons to good use when needed. So it’s good to know that they are on our side, protecting us. I’m glad to have friends here in Iraq among the Ugandan Guards.