Saturday, March 12, 2005

Stratex Freedom Services

Note: Kirk von Ackermann and Ryan Manelick did not work for Stratex Freedom Services. They were employed by Ultra Services.

The successful business model of Stratex Freedom Services appears similar to what Ultra Services sought to repeat in Iraq. The following is provided as background and context.


Stratex Freedom Services constructs the Team 5-designed Air Operations building on the Karshi-Kahabad base, using conex containers. Closed Circuit, Vol. 25 No. 22, October 24, 2003

John Dawkins, President of Ultra Services, is listed as a founding member of the company, Stratex Freedom Services. Geoff Nordloh, listed as management of Ultra Group, is Chief Finance Officer at Stratex Freedom Services.

According to the Ultra Services website, Stratex appears to have begun work in Fall 2001, under the umbrella of the Ultra Services Group:

Our first contract with the Department of Defense came in October, 2001 in Uzbekistan. We entered Afghanistan in December, 2001.
Like Ultra Services, Stratex Freedom Services is a contractor that provides containerized buildings.
Stratex Freedom Services is pleased to offer top-quality custom conex containerized office and living units throughout Central Asia. The units are made locally using western-quality building materials for a result that is as good as or better than what is available in the West.
Stratex Freedom Services
1 Catamaran Street
Suite A
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

Company locations are listed as: Gator Village, Kabul, Karshi, Afghanistan; Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Baku, Azerbaidjan; Marina del Rey, CA, USA.

Stratex Freedom Services Management is listed as:
Glen H. Lockwood - General Director
Frank A. Edgerly - Director Business Development & Marketing
Geoff Nordloh - Chief Financial Officer
Martyn Taylor - Afghan Project Director
According to the Center for Public Integrity Stratex Freedom Services was awarded a $1,978,175 contract in Afghanistan to provide trailers. The contracting agency was ARCENT*.

It is worth noting that Stratex products are referenced in several articles written and distributed for American military personnel in Afghanistan, an indication that Stratex services were well appreciated by those who relied on them. One such publication, Freedom Watch, was published by the 11th Public Affairs Detachment at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. At least two articles in separate issues of Freedom Watch identify Stratex.

Operation Camp Civi underway (PDF)
by Pfc Christina Carde, Freedom Watch, June 12, 2003
To consolidate all civilian personnel in an organized manner, one compound is being constructed to house every civilian on Bagram.

"About a month ago, we began the construction of Camp Civilian that will consist of 60 B-huts complete with air-conditioning, latrines and four Stratex shower units," said Blancaflor. "The compound is expected to be complete by the end of July, but we will begin relocating civilian employees in about two weeks or whenever the first of the huts is available."

Based on information at the Stratex websites above, the business is still in operation and has expanded: supplying furniture as well as managing a restaurant, The Gator.

As has been previously mentioned, John Dawkins worked in Far East Russia on the Sakhalin 1 Project where he met Greg Manelick, Ryan Manelick's father. Both Frank Edgerly and Glen H. Lockwood of Stratex also worked in Far East Russia. Edgerly as an entrepreneur of small businesses, and Lockwood as the Director of the Far Eastern Regional office of the Eurasia Foundation.

A quick glance shows a consistent pattern of highly intelligent, well-educated, business professionals with a preference to work along trusted colleagues.

Had Kirk von Ackermann and Ryan Manelick seen the accomplishments of Stratex with expectations of replicating the same business model? One team had achieved success in war torn Afghanistan. Manelick and von Ackermann joined a new team for similar work in Iraq.

Following the model of Stratex, Ultra Services appeared ready to roll in Iraq. The company had hired experienced and qualified professionals, knew how to deliver its product, and was familliar with the difficulties of doing business in a war zone. It should have been a big success. But that's not how it played out: Kirk von Ackermann is missing and Ryan Manelick is dead.

We may never know what or why, but clearly something in Iraq went terribly wrong for Ultra Services.

*ARCENT: U.S. Army Forces Central Command (ARCENT), Third Army, located at Fort McPherson, GA is a component command of USCENTCOM.

It is unclear why the Stratex contract, as reported by CPI, was not covered under LOGCAP (currently administered by Halliburton). It is unknown which agency handled contract awards to Ultra Services in Iraq.

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