Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Light Reading

Clad only in seaweed, Ultra Services' John Dawkins makes an appearance in Honeymoon With My Brother by Franz Wisner.

It's really more of a summer time kind of read but might also make a good choice for waiting areas during holiday travels.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dia De Los Muertos

Mexico is a long way from Iraq. Dia De Los Muertos is a three-day Mexican holiday to honor and celebrate loved ones who have died.

Needless to say, it caught me by surprise to see the name of Ryan Manelick listed in an honor roll at a Dia De Los Muertos installation in Los Angleles, California. One of the altars was comprised of lists of names of just some those who have died in Iraq: civilian contractors, American military personnel and Iraqis.

So while Iraq and Mexico may be thousands of miles apart, it turns out it's a very small world indeed.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

TV Ads in Iraq

Army Produces Ads To Find Missing Service Members
Fox News, October 13, 2006

A public service announcement airing on television stations in Iraq asks people to call a hotline so they can help the families of missing people find their relatives including Army Staff Sergeant Matt Maupin.

...the ad aired 108 times in August...
The US Embassy in Iraq has previously reported 13 Americans are known to be missing. Of those, five are civilian contractors. It is unknown if recent efforts by the US Army in Iraq included Kirk von Ackermann. CID determined von Ackermann died on the day he disappeared but his remains have not been found.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Three years

It was three years ago today that Kirk von Ackermann disappeared on a road in Iraq. His life is so much more than just that one day.

I hope you'll take the time to visit the blog written by his family Missing in Iraq. For it is there that you can learn about the person, the husband, the father, rather than just the contractor in news stories who mysteriously disappeared.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Counter Terrorism and Kirk von Ackermann

There were a number of articles recently on the failure of the 9-11 Commission to include details of a July 10, 2001 briefing by George Tenet and Cofer Black to Condoleezza Rice regarding perceived threats of by Al Qaeda against the United States. What follows at the end of this long post is a brief review of some of those articles.

While this may seem out of place here at the Missing Man, I'd like to take this opportunity to remind visitors that Kirk von Ackermann was a former Air Force Captain who was assigned to a counter terrorism team. You'll find no mention of either Kirk von Ackermann or his team in the 9-11 Commission report.

Von Ackermann's family have a blog, Missing In Iraq. While the family admit to knowing little of his work, they have posted several entries that describe his role in protecting the United States from Terrorism that I'd like to call your attention to.

Well before 9-11, Kirk von Ackermann predicted aircraft could be hijacked and used as weapons against the United States. He also predicted potential targets.

Excerpts from Missing In Iraq

Getting to Iraq part two: Counter Terrorism March 24, 2006

After Y2K, Kirk became more and more consumed by the counter-terrorism world. He was read into higher and higher clearances, learned more and more about the largest threats to the US and her allies. Specifically he became deeply aware of Osama Bin Ladin and his organization.

Kirk was involved with designing readiness excercises - scenarios to be used by various units as they tested their skills. He proposed that a small boat filled with explosives be used as a weapon against a large warship - and was told it was an unrealistic idea. This was, of course, well prior to the USS Cole attack.

He also, along with his team, not only suggested that a commercial jet could be used as a terrorist weapon, but predicted the most likely targets that would be chosen. Again, he was ignored, and sometimes laughed at.
Moving and the British Navy July 26, 2006
Kirk had been doing some pretty amazing stuff over the last year or so. He had, I understand, been literally writing the book on info-ops. His theories, concepts and methods were innovative and exciting, and getting a fair amount of notice. Naturally this was all opaque to me. I heard things about 'briefings' and gradually recognized that the briefings were often to quite senior officers. I know there were commendations and awards, but details were obscured.
November, 1999. Welcome to Virginia. August 04, 2006
Within a week Kirk reported to the Naval base for work. He went through the rigmarole of getting a pass and signing in, and walked onto the floor. Ah, they said, the Air Force guy. Right. Well, actually we’ve decided we don’t really want an info ops unit. Instead, you’re going to join the counter terrorism group. We’re putting you in charge of Y2K.
How to Defeat Y2K Without Really Trying August 07, 2006
Anyway, Kirk became the Y2K goat. There was already a counter-terrorism unit so he was sort of cobbled onto that, and had to suddenly come up to speed on the counter-terrorism world in a matter of weeks. His initial focus was supposed to be on the rollover situation. He did his research, looked into the whole thing thoroughly, and when the briefing came around, he was ready.
A New Approach to The Pamper Problem August 22, 2006
They had a pretty major coup within weeks of Kirk's arrival. As always I don't know details. I think it might be the incident that got a little publicity - the one that was to come through Canada. I do remember Kirk saying there were some Mounties somewhere that he really wanted to buy a drink. And I remember the quote from the unit commander when they gave the briefing after it was all over.
New Year, New World August 25, 2006
There was a silent battle going on, one most people still know nothing about. It had nothing to do with computers or millennium viruses. It was the fight for the next millennium, and it was deadly.
A Little (off-white, clunky) Security August 29, 2006
'They're going to put a secure line in the house,' Kirk announced one day. It was well after Y2K, and no naturally I don't know why. I also didn't ask.

Hmmm... a secure line. Like in 'get the president on the line' - the secure line.
Writing Reality August 31, 2006
So in the Spring or Summer of 2000 Kirk wrote up a little scenario that involved a large navy ship. The idea was that a few terrorists would load up a small zodiac - an inflatable boat with a great little engine and no draft - with explosives, then float it up right next to the ship and detonate it.

The navy was not amused. Their ships, their nice, big, powerful ships, were not vulnerable to things like this. Terrorists would never attack a heavily armed and armored vessel - it just didn't make sense. The scenario was disgarded, never seriously looked at.

The USS Cole was bombed on October 12th, 2000. 17 sailors were killed.
dual lives September 05, 2006
One afternoon we were driving up the highway outside of Langley. I was reading a magazine - the Smithsonian I think - and I was chatting to Kirk about an article discussing the greatest achievement of modern medicine: the successful campaign against smallpox. Wasn't it amazing, I said, the way the WHO had managed it, wasn't it wonderful that the world was safe now from a disease that had been a deadly threat for thousands of years. Very quietly, his hands stiff on the wheel, he said 'it's not gone.'

Just that. But I knew - I knew that not only did he know that more than one country had kept live samples of the virus, he knew intimately the infection rate, the symptoms, the horrific scarring that those lucky enough to survive would suffer. He knew how it could be weaponized, had thought about delivery systems, had worked through countless scenarios in which various populations were targeted and infected.

And gradually I realized that he was living like that constantly. Everywhere we went, there was part of him looking around and evaluating targets, thinking about blast zones, considering mortality rates, political value, public reaction.
Torn September 06, 2006
The intelligence world is a strange place, a place where sources and information are impossibly valuable and are fiercely guarded - not just from the enemy without, but from other intelligence branches. CIA, DIA - all of those 'men in black' view eachother with deep suspicion. They do not, to put it mildly, play well with others.

And then there was the entrenched mindset, the very conservative status quo above Kirk. The people at that level had come into the intel world during the cold war, and their focus had never really changed. They were used to a particular kind of enemy - one that was established, codified, predictable; a known quantity with a home to protect. They were extremely good at dealing with this enemy, they knew it cold. But the new world, the world of Bin Laden was not like that, and they were slow to change. So Kirk was endlessly fighting against people who did not want to listen, people who firmly believed they knew everything.
Dies Irae September 27, 2006
He had written it. He had suggested that a terrorist could use a commercial plane, one loaded wtih fuel, as an effective bomb. What if, he had written, what would we do if... and they had laughed. No one would do that. No one had ever done that. It has never happened before.

There are buildings that will be targeted, he said. Bin Laden failed once with the Trade Center - he's going to try again. And there are others, and he listed them. The Pentagon. The White House.
Regrets October 03, 2006
He was approached about going back - not into the military, but as a civilian. There were a couple of offers, and he did seriously think about it. It would mean uprooting again, returning to the East Coast and taking the kids out of school yet again. And it would mean accepting the counter-terrorism world as his world for the rest of his career; there would be no going back from this one.

It was a long, and drawn out decision. We talked endlessly, he called friends for advice, talked to people still in the world, tried to get a feel for what was happening. There was chaos of course. This hit the intel world hard, and people were still trying to sort out the aftermath. Much of it sounded good though - many of the people who were most blind, most hidebound and obstructionist were gone. Change was happening, change that had been needed for years. What sort of useful role Kirk could play, however, wasn't clear. In the end he was afraid that once again he would be drawn into a dark and horrible world and still be unable to make a difference.
There is so much more about Kirk von Ackerman at Missing In Iraq. I hope you'll take the time to read the blog. Please be sure to read the archives.

Recent articles on Al Qaeda Threat in the summer of 2001

Because of the sheer seriousness of the recent articles, I feel the need to include excerpts rather than just providing reference links as I might normally have done. This isn't about politics but rather about the need for the United States to make Counter Terrorism a higher priority. And that means respecting, listening to, and encouraging people like Kirk von Ackermann in the work they do. Even if what they say or think is too far outside of the box to be comfortable to the status quo.


Tenet Recalled Warning Rice By Dan Eggen and Robin Wright, Washington Post, October 3, 2006
According to the transcript, Tenet told Rice there were signs that there could be an al-Qaeda attack in weeks or perhaps months, that there would be multiple, simultaneous attacks causing major human casualties, and that the focus would be U.S. targets, facilities or interests. But the intelligence reporting focused almost entirely on the attacks occurring overseas, Tenet told the commission.
Two Months Before 9/11, an Urgent Warning to Rice Washington Post, October 1, 2006
On July 10, 2001, two months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet met with his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, at CIA headquarters to review the latest on Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Black laid out the case, consisting of communications intercepts and other top-secret intelligence showing the increasing likelihood that al-Qaeda would soon attack the United States. It was a mass of fragments and dots that nonetheless made a compelling case, so compelling to Tenet that he decided he and Black should go to the White House immediately.

Tenet called Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser, from the car and said he needed to see her right away. There was no practical way she could refuse such a request from the CIA director.

For months, Tenet had been pressing Rice to set a clear counterterrorism policy, including specific presidential orders called "findings" that would give the CIA stronger authority to conduct covert action against bin Laden. Perhaps a dramatic appearance -- Black called it an "out of cycle" session, beyond Tenet's regular weekly meeting with Rice -- would get her attention.
As a side note, the threats appear to have been taken seriously enough for John Ashcroft to have stopped flying commercial airlines in July 2001. Ashcroft has denied receiving Tenet's briefing.

Rumsfeld, Ashcroft said to have received warning of attack By Jonathan S. Landay, Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott, McClatchy Newspapers, October 2, 2006
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and former Attorney General John Ashcroft received the same CIA briefing about an imminent al-Qaida strike on an American target that was given to the White House two months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The State Department's disclosure Monday that the pair was briefed within a week after then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was told about the threat on July 10, 2001, raised new questions about what the Bush administration did in response, and about why so many officials have claimed they never received or don't remember the warning.
Ashcroft Flying High, CBS, July 26, 2001
In response to inquiries from CBS News over why Ashcroft was traveling exclusively by leased jet aircraft instead of commercial airlines, the Justice Department cited what it called a "threat assessment" by the FBI, and said Ashcroft has been advised to travel only by private jet for the remainder of his term.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Office of Hostage Affairs

The AFP released an article today that mentions the "Office of Hostage Affairs" at the US Embassy in Baghdad. It sounds like the same organization as the Hostage Working Group also at the US Embassy in Baghdad, first organized in the summer of 2004.

US reveals Iraq 'hostage affairs' office
AFP, September 8, 2006

The White House revealed what may be a US diplomatic first: the US embassy in Baghdad houses a formal "Office of Hostage Affairs" to handle abductions of American citizens and other nationals.

"The United States, through the Office of Hostage Affairs in Embassy Baghdad, is addressing the scourge of kidnapping in
Iraq, a key source of terrorist financing," the White House said in an official document. [...]

The White House offhandedly revealed the office's existence on Thursday in a document released to bolster a speech by US President George W. Bush about the war on terrorism he declared after the September 11 attacks.

The following is the phrase from the White House referenced in the AFP article:

9/11 Five Years Later: Successes and Challenges
See under section heading: Disrupting Financial Support
White House, September 7, 2006
The United States, through the Office of Hostage Affairs in Embassy Baghdad, is addressing the scourge of kidnapping in Iraq, a key source of terrorist financing. Through interagency and international efforts, hostages have been freed and/or rescued.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ryan Manelick - in his office

Two photos of Ryan Manelick in his Iraq office in September 2003. For readers unfamilliar with the background of Manelick, he was a contractor working for Ultra Services of Istanbul, Turkey. Ultra Services fulfilled logistics for the US Army in Iraq. Manelick was shot and killed on December 14, 2003. His colleague, Kirk von Ackermann, disappeared on October 9, 2003. The CID recently determined von Ackermann was killed that day.

According to data collected by Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, Manelick was the 18th contractor to die in Iraq. Today the number of contractors who have died while working in Iraq is over 550 (see ref below).

Ryan Manelick
Ryan Manelick. Photo courtesy of Robert Sinclair.

Ryan Manelick
Ryan Manelick. Photo courtesy of Robert Sinclair.

Civilian Drivers Feel Neglected After Working in Iraq
NPR, May 26, 2006, Morning Edition

Addendum: ABC News reported on September 27, 2006 that 643 contractors have been killed in Iraq according to data from the Department of Labor. The ABC News report includes video of a convoy under attack.

World News: Anatomy of an Ambush
with Brian Ross, ABC News, September 27, 2006

Saturday, August 19, 2006

An Update

CID has apparently determined that Kirk von Ackermann was killed on October 9, 2003.

From Missing in Iraq's important to say that Kirk was killed. On October 9th, 2003, Kirk was killed by Iraqi hostiles when a kidnap attempt went horribly wrong.
Addendum: information on status of the investigation.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Two Weeks in Baghdad

by Robert Sinclair, guest writer at the Missing Man

I met Ryan [Manelick] in the Al-Hamra Hotel in the Al-Jadriah District of Baghdad.

Al-Jadriah District was then, in September 2003, a relatively quiet district in Baghdad. There was a police station about 100 metres away, which then was always lined with potential and hopeful recruits each morning. The Australian embassy was very close and as such there was sometimes a detachment of Australian troops in the hotel who would be guarding Australian Personnel. The Al-Hamra was the ‘other hotel’ that was largely populated by Europeans and American’s who were not in The Palestine or the Sheraton, both which were heavily guarded and hard to go in and out of. By contrast, the Al-Hamra was lightly guarded with only one or two guards at any time along with the inevitable bomb blocks and sealed and taped windows. The Al-Hamra provided a relatively safe haven for weary journalists and contractors. It had a relaxed atmosphere and each evening groups of dusty people would gather around the pool to eat, drink, to discuss their days and to bemoan certain happenings, restrictions and the inevitable security situation.

I was a ‘tourist’ in Baghdad. Ryan introduced himself to me on my first evening there. He asked what I was doing, I told him and he responded ‘Good luck. I have only met one tourist here before and he got shot a few weeks ago’. He laughed and bought me a drink.

Over the two weeks that I knew Ryan he came across as a very friendly and generous character. Ryan believed in living life to the full and he worked hard too. I had a huge respect for Ryan. He was young and was dumped into the middle of a dangerous situation to run a multi-million dollar business whilst his bosses were mainly in Turkey. He did have a ‘fixer’, who was the very able ex-colonel of The Republican Guard, Majid Kadom. I spent one day with Ryan, and he delighted in taking me to the airport Palace, which was of course then used by the American military. He knew that he should not show me some of the sights of the palace, but risked his status by driving me around the grounds, remarking that he was happy to show me something that very few people would ever get to see. That evening, I recall Ryan delighting in listening to a rendition of Ave Maria by a Canadian girl who was practicing for a charity concert she was to perform in. It was certainly a surreal experience hearing this whilst bunkered in the restaurant of the Al-Hamra, which was bricked up and had tape all over the windows, to counter the damage from explosive devices.

Robert Sinclair - waterskiing
Robert Sinclair waterskiing on the Tigris. Photo courtesy of Robert Sinclair.

I had decided to water ski on the Tigris and suggested to Ryan that he might like to come too. His enthusiasm was infectious; however, we had no skis. Ryan set a contact on to designing a pair of skis for us. When this failed, he ordered his contact to ‘procure’ a pair. This happened. Ryan then drove us, along with some armed guards, to the Tigris. Majid Kadom was very nervous about the whole affair. One bank of the river was safe for us, yet the other was where there were a lot of drunks and also Saddam loyalists – the bank that we were skiing from. It was only as we were getting into the boat that Ryan told me that he had never been on water skis. This amused me and I thought how typical of Ryan to risk being shot at whilst performing his debut ski. In the event, I am proud to say that Ryan managed to get up on one (!) ski for a few wobbly moments. I was very proud of him. He also boogey boarded along the Tigris.

In his typically generous way, Ryan organised for safe transport for me to leave Baghdad at a moments notice. He also offered to loan me some money, as I was short of cash. Ryan was an interesting and informed character, who was often smiling, was kind hearted and too trusting. His death saddened me – he was one of life’s givers and doers – a rare commodity. I remember him to have huge affection for his family and he often spoke of his Father. It would be nice to think that his murderers will be found and punished in that hot, dusty lawless country. He helped me to have two memorable and rich weeks in Baghdad.

Robert Sinclair, Ryan Manelick, and Majid Kadom were featured in an article in a popular British tabloid: My Waterski Hol on Saddam River by Philip Cardy, The Sun, September 22, 2003

See previous posts:

Waterskiing on the Tigris

Waterskiing on the Tigris - Part 2

Saturday, July 29, 2006


The following is a list of all posts at the Missing Man. It will be updated as new posts appear.

Note: In May of 2008, I added labels (also known as 'tags') to help locate related posts. A list of the labels is shown in the lower right hand side bar.

Truthout - Intelligence Witheld from Congress
June 13, 2011

Truthout - Unasked Questions
May 23, 2011

Dead Contractors
May 10, 2011

Counter Terrorism and JFIC
May 6, 2011

The Gossip Grapevine or the Anatomy of a Lie
April 14, 2011

Timothy E. Bell - missing 7 years
April 8, 2011

Infrared Video
March 20, 2011

The Birthday Boys - theater
March 6, 2011

Captivity - book
March 4, 2011

Old Photos
March 2, 2011

Hostage Negotiation
March 1, 2011

DBA Summary Reports at the Dept of Labor
February 25, 2011

Reading Room - bibliography of missing person resources
February 22, 2011

Missing Deserter
February 15, 2011

Kidnap & Rescue - Discovery Channel
February 1, 2011

Bob Hamza - missing
January 23, 2011

AP Article on Missing Americans
January 21, 2011

Homeland TV Pilot
January 7, 2011

Happy New Year
January 1, 2011

State Department Statistics
December 31, 2010

SIGACT Reports of Americans Missing in Iraq
December 17, 2010

New WikiLeaks Release - kidnapping reports
October 25, 2010

Come Hell or High Water
September 24, 2010

Coming Soon - Buried
September 5, 2010

Fantasy Finale
August 22, 2010

Joint Personnel Recovery Agency
August 13, 2010

Issa Salomi
August 12, 2010

August 8, 2010

Americans Missing in Iraq - - chart of missing Americans (master)
August 1, 2010
This chart is subject to revision and update.

July 29, 2010

July 25, 2010

July 9, 2010

July 8, 2010

June 28, 2010

June 21, 2010

Iraq Personnel Revocery Division June 2010 - chart of missing Americans
June 15, 2010

Searching for One White Nissan Patrol in Iraq
June 8, 2010

News on the South African Hostages
May 17, 2010

Miles Per Gallon
May 9, 2010

Jeffrey Ake - missing since April 11, 2005 - chart of missing Americans
April 11, 2010

Op-Ed on Hostage Reporting - strange editorial
April 9, 2010

Aerial Surveillance Footage - pt 2
April 6, 2010

Reintegration Program for Hostages
April 6, 2010

Lawsuit Filed Against US State Department
March 31, 2010

Issa Salomi - released
March 28, 2010

Alan McMenemy of Scotland
March 21, 2010

Evidence - physical and other
March 6, 2010

Foreign Affairs Manual - hostage and missing
March 5, 2010

1457 Civilian Contractors Have Died in Iraq
March 01, 2010

AFP - update on Issa Salomi
February 28, 2010

Route Clemson
February 24, 2010

DoD Instruction 1300.18 - update
February 22, 2010

February 16, 2010

Uncertainty surrounding al-Taayie
February 14, 2010

Former Xe guards asked to leave Iraq
February 11, 2010

18 Americans Missing in Iraq - February 2010
February 08, 2010

Salomi and al-Taayie
February 06, 2010

Contractor Kidnapped in Iraq
February 05, 2010

Buried at Sundance
February 03, 2010

1459 Civilian Contractors Have Died in Iraq
February 01, 2010

Aerial Surveillance Footage
January 27, 2010

Questions for John Dawkins
January 18, 2010

January 15, 2010

T. Christian Miller on Fresh Air - radio interview
January 11, 2010

A Sliver of Justice - thank you note
January 10, 2010

Safety in Afghanistan
December 30, 2009

Roy Hallums Memoir
November 29, 2009

Americans Missing in Iraq - November 2009 - chart
November 30, 2009

Dream - about Ryan Manelick & Kirk von Ackermann
October 30, 2009

Wild Dogs - Anaconda burn pits
October 20, 2009

October 19, 2009

Six Years
October 9, 2009

Quiet on the Western Front
September 28, 2009

Hostage Remains Released to UK
September 2, 2009

Who Killed Jim Kitterman?
August 7, 2009

Remains of Capt Speicher found and Identified
August 2, 2009

Two More UK Hostages Believed Dead
August 1, 2009

Wandering Patrols
July 25, 2009

Update on Kitterman
July 20, 2009

New Satellite Imagery (satellite image)
July 19, 2009

Iraq Transition & Missing Americans in Iraq
June 25, 2009

Bodies of Two UK Hostages Identified
June 21, 2009

Satellite Phone GPS
June 20, 2009

Satellite Phone Delay
June 20, 2009

Contractor abducted and killed in Iraq with updates - photo
May 24, 2009

May 22, 2009

Website for Joint Base Balad
May 20, 2009

Contractors and Overseas Clinics
May 7, 2009

May 5, 2009

25 Fraud Investigations Underway
April 22, 2009

Iraq Contractors Fight for Care
April 17, 2009

FOIA Update
April 16, 2009

New Ruling on 2003 Iraq Fraud
April 11, 2009

Holder Memo
March 28, 2009

Contractor Deployment Guide
March 26, 2009

Base Access - images of id badges
March 20, 2009

Annual Longshore Conference - image
March 3, 2009

February 23, 2009

Super Double Secret
February 21, 2009

New Remains Identified - Fouty and Jimenez
February 20, 2009

New Graft in Iraq Investigation
February 15, 2009

Colin Freeman - video
February 7, 2009

POW/MIA - National Security Act of 1947 - image
February 6, 2009

January 23, 2009

The Missing Personal Effects - map
January 2, 2009

Defense Base Act vs War Hazards Compensation Act - graphic
December 23, 2008

Websites of Interest
December 15, 2008

Un-Justice for a Contractor in Iraq
December 11, 2008

Ultra Services Procured Cars - translation French news article
December 3, 2008

Contractor Fatalities as of September 2008
December 2, 2008

Book - Big Boy Rules by Steve Fainaru - image
November 23, 2008

Satellite Image of the Road - map & link
November 22, 2008

Passing Patrol & the Checkpoint - map, satellite image
November 21, 2008

From Point A to Point B
November 20, 2008

Five Years
November 12, 2008

Anaconda Burn Pit - photos
November 4, 2008

Ronald Schulz - remains recovered photo
October 30, 2008

Iraq Court Conviction in Kidnapping
October 28, 2008

Defense Base Act Conference
October 24, 2008

Defense Intelligence Agency - on hostages
October 13, 2008

Phone Taps
October 9, 2008

Baghdad to Samarra (map)
October 4, 2008

The Big Base Near Balad (map)
September 27, 2008

National POW/MIA Recognition Day (photos)
September 19, 2008

August 31, 2008

Omar Taleb and Omar Hadi
August 28, 2008

Ahmed al-Taie (photo)
August 24, 2008

Curse of the al Dulaimi Hotel - Pt II (image)
August 16, 2008

Curse of the al Dulaimi Hotel - Pt I (image)
August 4, 2008

Casualty Status of Missing
July 26, 2008

Iraq, Contractors, and the Missing Persons Act
July 24, 2008

Remains of Two Missing Soldiers Identified (video & photos)
July 13, 2008

Map of Camp Anaconda (image & photo)
June 21, 2008

June 12, 2008

The Missing Notebook (image)
June 11, 2008

Irex Ltd (graphic)
June 2, 2008

Americans Missing in Iraq - June 2008 (photos)
June 1, 2008

Contractor Casualties: An Update
May 26, 2008

Spring Cleaning
May 25, 2008

Questions (von Ackermann)
May 13, 2008

April 28, 2008

Time Line - Work in Progress (table)
April 27, 2008

Note to CID - about the NSA (chart)
April 21, 2008

Missing Contractor: U.S. Military Mechanics May Hold the Keys (full article reprint)
By Susie Dow, ePluribus Media, April 21, 2008

Could U.S. Military Mechanics Hold the Keys to Finding Missing Contractor? - my article at ePluribus Media
April 21, 2008

Unanswered Questions - Ryan Manelick
April 14, 2008

Most Wanted - unrelated
April 12, 2008

April 10, 2008

LSA Anaconda - Virtual Tour & Dump (video)
April 08, 2008

Short Note
April 6, 2008

The Demountable Guard Shack (images, screen caps)
April 6, 2008

The Mind of Susie Dow (fiction - my conjecture of events)
April 6, 2008

Into A Dark Place
April 6, 2008

LSA Anaconda - Motor Pool (video, photo)
April 3, 2008

LSA Anaconda - General (satellite image, photo)
April 3, 2008

Americans Missing in Iraq (photos)
March 31, 2008

Thoughts on Conspiracy
March 27, 2008

The Bridge Theory (graphic, chart)
March 25, 2008

Sun, Moon, Weather Data (graphic)
March 17, 2008

Nice White Land Cruiser (images) - driven by Manelick's assailants
March 09, 2008

Ryan Manelick's Hyundai Galloper (images)
March 9, 2008

Kirk von Ackermann's Nissan Patrol SUV (images)
March 5, 2008

Ultra Services - Who, What, Where (photos)
February 19, 2008

Still Missing
February 16, 2008

Military Bases in North East Iraq (maps)
February 12, 2008

The Tikrit & Kirkuk Road (video, satellite image, photos)
January 24, 2008

Jabal Hamrin and Jabal Makhul (satellite image, photo & maps)
January 5, 2008

FOB Pacesetter (satellite image, photo & maps)
December 26, 2007

Safa Shukir & the Phone Call (photo)
December 9, 2007

Kirk's Car
December 4, 2007

Testimony at Oversight Hearing
November 24, 2007

Majid Kadom
September 27, 2007

Contractor Casualties - 1,001
August 10, 2007

Manelick in South Africa (image)
May 25, 2007

We Get Mail (image of ID badge)
April 18, 2007

The ID Badge
April 14, 2007

Jeffrey Ake
April 11, 2007

The Defense Base Act - insurance for contractors
April 6, 2007

Iraq, Contingency Contracting and the Defense Base Act (reprint)
March 4, 2007

Death of a Contractor (image)
February 26, 2007

Obituary for Kirk von Ackermann
January 16, 2007

Von Ackermann in AP Article
January 6, 2007

Light Reading
December 6, 2006

Dia De Los Muertos
October 27, 2006

TV Ads in Iraq
October 14, 2006

Counter terrorism and Kirk von Ackermann (see Missing in Iraq)
October 8, 2006

Office of Hostage Affairs (also see post on Hostage Working Group)
September 8, 2006

Ryan Manelick - in his office (photos)
September 3, 2006

An Update (von Ackermann presumed dead)
August 19, 2006

Two Weeks in Baghdad by Robert Sinclair, guest writer
August 1, 2006

Missing Man Index
July 29, 2006

Ryan Manelick Iraq 2003 (photo)
July 1, 2006

USA Today Article - side bar (image)
June 30, 2006

13 Americans Still Missing
June 21, 2006

One Missing One Dead: An Iraq Contractor in the Fog of War (full article reprint)
By Susie Dow, ePluribus Media, May 21, 2006

An Iraq Contractor in the Fog of War (summary of my article)
May 18, 2006

About Geoff Nordloh (photo)
May 18, 2006

For Kids in Iraq
May 2, 2006

Hostage Working Group
April 1, 2006

March 30, 2006

Missing in Iraq (von Ackermann family blog)
March 24, 2006

March 12, 2006

Kidnapped and Missing in Iraq
March 12, 2006

Letter of Appreciation (image)
March 8, 2006

Waterskiing on the Tigris - Part 2 (photo)
February 18, 2006

One Year
February 16, 2006

Joint Service Commendation (image)
January 26, 2006

December 10, 2005

A Book
November 27, 2005

Obituary for Ryan Manelick
September 13, 2005

Waterskiing on the Tigris
August 8, 2005

August 4, 2005

Short Clip
July 7, 2005

An Open Request
June 29, 2005

Reports of Corruption in Iraq
June 7, 2005

Fighting Fraud and Corruption
June 7, 2005

Memorial Day
May 30, 2005

May 14, 2005

The Investigation
April 16, 2005

Editor's Note
March 12, 2005

Stratex Freedom Services (for complete details see One Missing, One Dead)
March 12, 2005

Irex Corp (inaccurate - see One Missing, One Dead)
March 5, 2005

A Grave Discovery
March 3, 2005

March 3, 2005

Letters to the Editor - Sojourner
February 27, 2005

February 26, 2005

Ultra Services (for a more complete history see One Missing, One Dead)
February 24, 2005

February 22, 2005

February 20, 2005

A Sudden Flurry
February 18, 2005

Ryan Manelick
February 17, 2005

Kirk von Ackermann
February 16, 2005

Into Thin Air
February 16, 2005

Frequently Asked Questions
February 16, 2005 (back dated)

February 16, 2005

Question (reprinted from my old blog)
June 1, 2004

Kirk von Ackermann (reprinted from my old blog)
January 1, 2004

The Employer of a Missing Man (reprinted from my old blog)
November 12, 2003

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Ryan Manelick Iraq 2003

This is a photo of Ryan Manelick (right) taken in Iraq in 2003.

Manelick was killed just after leaving a meeting at a base on December 14, 2003 by an unidentified gunman. Shortly before he died, he maintained the disappearance of his colleague, Kirk von Ackermann, was connected to fraud. Both worked for Ultra Services of Istanbul, Turkey. Ultra Services fulfilled logistics contracts for the US Army in Iraq.

The murder of Ryan Manelick is still under investigation.

Friday, June 30, 2006

USA Today Article - side bar

There seems to be alot more attention from the press to those still missing in Iraq since the kidnapping and later discovery of the bodies of U.S. Army Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas Tucker. Details in the article on what happened to the two men are really gruesome. I've decided not to recount those details here.

Military releases new details about killing, recovery of kidnapped soldiers
From the Associated Press, USA Today, June 27, 2006
In a statement that provided additional details of the killings, the military said the bodies of U.S. Army Pfc. Kristian Menchaca of Houston and Pfc. Thomas Tucker of Madras were found at 7:50 p.m. on June 19 not far from where they were abducted when insurgents attacked their checkpoint.

The military said it waited until the next morning to recover the bodies because an Iraqi in the area had warned that the area was booby-trapped.

Kirk von Ackermann is listed with Timothy Bell, Aban Elias, Sadeq Mohammed Sadeq, and Jeffrey Ake in a side bar to the above article titled Americans Still Missing.
Kirk von Ackermann, 37, contractor from Moss Beach, Calif., disappeared Oct. 9, 2003, while driving alone between Tikrit and Kirkuk; kidnapping suspected.
Earlier articles on the fate of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas Tucker also included the same side bar.

Military: Missing soldiers found dead
By Cesar G. Soriano, USA Today, June 20, 2006

Soldiers' bodies recovered
by Kim Gamel, AP, June 21, 2006

Rules usually protect GIs from capture
by Ryan Lenz, AP, June 21, 2006

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

13 Americans Still Missing

Brief mention today of Kirk von Ackermann in two articles from the Associated Press on Americans missing in Iraq.

13 Americans still listed as missing
AP, June 20, 2006

American military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said Tuesday that there were still 13 Americans missing in Iraq — two soldiers and 11 civilians.

He identified the two soldiers as Sgt. Matt Maupin, missing since April 2004, and Capt. Michael Speicher, a Navy pilot missing since the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

"There are also 11 American citizens that today are still listed as missing in action," he said without identifying them. "Either DOD contractors, civilian contractors or others, but American citizens that have been reported as missing over the last three years."

An Associated Press tally shows the following five U.S. civilians still missing:
Kirk von Ackermann, 37: Contractor from Moss Beach, Calif., disappeared Oct. 9, 2003, while driving alone between Tikrit and Kirkuk; kidnapping suspected.

• Timothy Bell, 44: Contractor for Halliburton subsidiary KBR, of Mobile, Ala., disappeared April 9, 2004, after a fuel convoy attack.

• Aban Elias, 41: Iraqi-American engineer from Denver, was seized by the Islamic Rage Brigade on May 3, 2004.

• Sadeq Mohammed Sadeq: Lebanese-American who formerly worked for Virginia-based contractor SkyLink USA, was kidnapped from his home in Baghdad on Nov. 2, 2004.

• Jeffrey Ake, 47: Contract worker from LaPorte, Ind., was abducted April 11, 2005, while working at a water treatment plant near Baghdad.
A second article, also from the AP, includes similar information.

American soldiers and civilians kidnapped or missing in Iraq
AP, June 21, 2006

Sunday, May 21, 2006

One Missing, One Dead

This is a reprint of my first article at ePluribus Media.

One Missing, One Dead: An Iraq Contractor in the Fog of War
By Susie Dow with Steven Reich

May 12, 2006

Author' s note: This article relies in great part on information provided by Geoff Nordloh through interviews and emails over an extended period of time.

Iraq 2003

On the afternoon of October 9th, 2003, after calling an Iraqi co-worker for help with a flat tire, Kirk von Ackermann disappeared from a road between Tikrit and Kirkuk in Iraq. Within an hour, his car would be found with his laptop computer, satellite phone, and $40,000 in cash  —  but no sign of von Ackermann.

His colleague Ryan Manelick remarked to freelance journalist Colin Freeman, “It was as if he had been abducted by aliens.” Manelick would later be reported as having suggested von Ackermann was the victim of foul play, because von Ackermann was about to blow the whistle on kickbacks within their company, Ultra Services, of Istanbul, Turkey.

On December 14th, just two months after Kirk von Ackermann disappeared, Manelick himself was gunned down shortly after leaving a meeting at a base north of Baghdad. Both men had worked for the same contractor, Ultra Services of Istanbul, Turkey. Ultra Services fulfilled logistics contracts for the US Army in Iraq. [1]

Kyrgyzstan 2001

The story of contractor Ultra Services begins in September 2001 at an unlikely event: a wedding.

Geoff Nordloh (informally the Chief Financial Officer of Ultra Services) attended the wedding of a friend and fellow Princeton University alum, Glen Lockwood and his fiancée Sasha, in Kyrgyzstan at a former Soviet Pioneer Camp owned by Sasha’s family on Lake Issyk-Kul. The wedding was followed by several days of hiking and backpacking in the nearby Tien-Shan mountains.

On the morning of September 11th, as the secluded wedding guests enjoyed their stay in the mountains, four airplanes were simultaneously hijacked — two flown into the World Trade Center in New York City, one into the Pentagon, the last, into the ground, its remains spread over rural Pennsylvania. [2] The wedding guests would first hear of the attacks from a passing group of French day-hikers.

One of Glen Lockwood’s wedding guests was John Dawkins, a man who immediately stood out with a “very colorful personality” Charming and charismatic, Dawkins would quickly engage new acquaintances by sharing his thoughts and experiences, suggesting local restaurants to visit or avoid, and offering to show people around.

An American businessman working in the Central Asia region, John Dawkins first met Glen Lockwood during the 1990’s while working in the Russian Far East. Lockwood had worked for various US State Department and non-governmental organizations in the region, including The Eurasia Foundation. According to his bio on the Ultra Services website, Dawkins, who graduated from the University of California in International Relations and Economics, with a minor in Russian, also “lobbied for and managed the permitting process for the $22 billion Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project in Russia.” [3]

Since the signing of Production Sharing Agreements in the mid 1990’s, Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East had become a significant attraction to international oil and gas development. Today, Exxon Neftegas Limited (a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corporation) is one of the participants in the international consortium of the Sakhalin-1 Project. [4]

Moscow 2001 – Best Laid Plans

At the time of Glen Lockwood’s wedding in 2001, Dawkins was part owner and General Director of IPSOTEL, a technology company based in Moscow. IPSOTEL offered “voice and Internet services to Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, India and Egypt.” [5]

A creative entrepreneur, Dawkins was talented in identifying a need and then fulfilling that need by pairing highly skilled people with challenging projects. After their wedding, Lockwood and his new wife Sasha planned to move to Moscow, where he would go to work for Dawkins and IPSOTEL.

Fate had other plans.

With no formal explanation, Russian authorities denied Lockwood entrance into the country, sending him instead back to Kyrgyzstan. Speculation was that Lockwood’s long tenure in the Russian Far East, as well as his work with the US State Department office in the sensitive area of Tomsk [6], had led Russian Security Services to unfairly tag Lockwood as a potential spy.

Uzbekistan 2001 – Supporting the Troops

Within weeks of the wedding in Kyrgyzstan, the United States, in response to the attacks of September 11th, moved forces into Central Asia. With the possibility of working in Moscow no longer an option, Lockwood joined Dawkins to visit the newly leased [7] Karshi-Khanabad (K2) [8] base in Uzbekistan. The two initially approached the US Army offering to set up an IPSOTEL Internet café for American soldiers. The café would be built locally using pre-fabricated shipping containers. However, when the time came to complete the contract, the US Army no longer needed the Internet services of IPSOTEL. But the Army was in need of pre-fabricated buildings like the ones the local Uzbek partners could deliver.

Glen Lockwood went to work with Dawkins’ local Uzbek partners, Ramil Mullayanov and Naum “Neil” Emilfarb. The new business venture, now specializing in containerized buildings, was called Stratex Freedom Services DP. Through his initial investment, Dawkins owned 25% of the company.
From a legal standpoint, Stratex Freedom Services DP was originally a company registered in Uzbekistan. Officially, as translated from the Russian — a ‘daughter-company’ — from a Delaware company [owned by family of a Uzbek partner], called Stratex Inc.

Initially, Stratex Freedom Services DP was a locally registered company. Some time in September of ‘02, we registered Stratex Freedom Services LLC, in Delaware, so that we would actually have a more legitimate company presence in the United States. One that was not primarily controlled by the local partners. – Geoff Nordloh
By the Spring of 2002, Glen Lockwood was recruiting additional help for Stratex Freedom Services DP. Remembering that Geoff Nordloh once expressed to him an interest in working in Central Asia, Lockwood now wrote him. After a brief meeting in Turkey, Nordloh joined Stratex Freedom Services DP as its new Chief Financial Officer, traveling between Central Asia and the United States.

Central Asia 2002 – Partners and Power Plays

By the Fall of 2002, problems were developing with John Dawkins’ Uzbek partners, (Mullayanov and Emilfarb) who by now had relocated their business to Afghanistan. The partners sought to oust Dawkins from Stratex Freedom Services DP, more or less attempting to "hijack" the business.
The two partners from Uzbekistan had us by the balls because they were controlling all the production. We had all these contracts and they basically said, ‘Well, either John’s out, or we're not making any more buildings for you.’ – Geoff Nordloh
Growing animosity would lead to the formal split of Stratex Freedom Services DP in July 2003 — one with jurisdiction in Afghanistan, the other in Uzbekistan. The Americans would later discover close to $75,000 of missing inventory from the books. The American owned entity, Stratex Freedom Services LLC, seeking full credit for the work they had accomplished, would change its name to TFI International LLC, severing any remaining association of the two Stratex entities with each other.

Middle East 2003 – New Company, New Partner

By early 2003, anticipating an invasion of Iraq by US led forces, John Dawkins sought to create a new company modeled on Stratex’s delivery of containerized buildings. With the assistance of Stratex Freedom Services LLC’s Chief Financial Officer, Nordloh, and repeating the successful business model of pairing with a local supplier, Dawkins created the new company, this time with a local Turkish partner, Mete Mutluoglu.

Mutluoglu was the owner of Microserve, a then inactive company registered in Turkey. Microserve agreed to change its name to Ultra Services for a 50–50 split in ownership: 50% of the shares would be owned by Stratex Freedom Services LLC through a $50,000 investment in the new company; the other 50% of the shares would be owned by Mutluoglu. For putting the company together, John Dawkins would be granted a 50% share through Stratex Freedom Services LLC in exchange for contributing his own “sweat equity” by being in Iraq. This arrangement would give Dawkins a 25% share in Ultra Services. Two men from Turkey would also join the company as employee managers, Bora Tuncay and Egeman Çakmak.
We sent the money. We signed a written agreement with Mete about the basis of getting this company set up, what the roles would be, and then I went to Uzbekistan. Things very quickly, of course, heated up in Iraq. John, as he has had a history of doing, got some interesting stuff going pretty quickly. – Geoff Nordloh
By April 2003, Ultra Services had begun to operate out of Mete Mutluoglu’s office in Istanbul, Turkey. Dawkins would secure contracts in Iraq, while back in Istanbul, the contracts would be fulfilled by Turkish suppliers. Ultra Services was dependent on the expert sales skills of John Dawkins with the US Army’s contract officers. As a prime contractor, most of the company’s contracts were with the 4th Infantry Division - the majority of the contracts signed by Major Rich Hall of the US Army.

As Ultra Services’ business in Iraq quickly began to expand, two things occurred.

First, John Dawkins began moving away from working with his Turkish partner, Mutluoglu. Having increased his own local contacts, Dawkins appeared to no longer feel the need to rely on Mutluoglu. The previously clear roles of the 50–50 partnership between Stratex/Dawkins and Mutluoglu began to unravel.

Second, Dawkins asked for more active participation from his Stratex partners, wanting them to join him in Iraq. But, having committed to building up a meaningful business in Central Asia, the Stratex partners were too busy and, in general terms, not interested.

As a result, one of the first Americans to join John Dawkins in Iraq was Ryan Manelick, the son of a close personal friend, Greg Manelick, a retired military officer. Greg Manelick and John Dawkins had maintained a friendship from their days of working together in the Russian Far East, where Manelick continued to work for Exxon in the Sakhalin region.

Ryan Manelick had served in the US Air Force intelligence department as a linguist. Having studied at the Defense Language Institute, he spoke several languages in addition to English, including Chinese and Spanish. [9] When Manelick arrived in Baghdad during the summer of 2003, he quickly took over the “heavy lifting” of Ultra Services’ operations: overseeing the set up and movement of containerized buildings. Initially staying in local hotels, eventually Manelick would work for Ultra Services while living out of a combo apartment-office in Baghdad.

In the meantime, Geoff Nordloh had heard from former Stanford Business School classmate, Albert “Charles” Phillips who read about Nordloh in Stanford’s Alumni notes.

He was particularly interested in Nordloh’s work in Central Asia. While Stratex had no immediate need of Phillips in Central Asia, Dawkins was pressing his Stratex partners for more help in Iraq. After several phone calls, Phillips arrived mid-summer to work for Ultra Services out of their Istanbul office.

Mete Mutluoglu, however, objected to another “expensive American” joining the company' s payroll. As a result, Stratex Freedom Services LLC agreed to pay half of Phillips’ salary for the first three or four months. After those three or four months, Stratex and Ultra Services would need to work out a new deal.
Charles was mostly in Turkey, ostensibly dealing with backside of operations, dealing with suppliers who were building the modular units — prefabricated types of construction.

I know that Charles made at least two trips into Iraq; he might have made two or three more. At first things seemed to be fine, and then later on there seemed to be this conflict that developed between Charles and John [Dawkins]. – Geoff Nordloh
Unsure of the changing nature of the company’s partnerships, and with John Dawkins vague on details, Nordloh was dealing almost exclusively with Phillips in overseeing Stratex’s $50,000 investment in Iraq. Even with the addition of Charles Phillips to Ultra Services, John Dawkins increasingly worked as an independent agent, while simultaneously securing contracts with the US Army. As work progressed, Phillips became the one who was communicating with the suppliers and the Stratex partners, while Dawkins avoided any discussion of the changing partnership. The Stratex partners were growing increasingly alarmed.
In effect, John operated as ‘John Dawkins’ doing business as ‘Ultra Services.’ There’s no such legal company. – Geoff Nordloh
Prior to arriving in Istanbul, Charles Phillips had worked for the software company Siebel Systems of San Mateo, California. While at Siebel, Phillips had met former Air Force Captain Kirk von Ackermann. Von Ackermann had experience working in combat zones, having been assigned to NATO intelligence operations in Kosovo. [10] Through contact with Phillips while he was in Istanbul, von Ackermann would eventually join Ultra Services and begin traveling between Turkey and Iraq.
Kirk von Ackermann was ostensibly coming to work for the company, but the fact is that Charles brought him over. He saw Kirk getting involved as an opportunity to start not being dependent on John [Dawkins] for business development in Iraq. – Geoff Nordloh
By the time von Ackermann joined Ultra Services, Mete Mutluoglu was effectively no longer an active partner. Thus Von Ackermann’s salary would not need to be subsidized by Stratex Freedom Service LLC as Phillips' had. Phillips would pay his salary directly out of Ultra Services funds. Like Manelick, Kirk von Ackermann spoke a number of foreign languages, including Russian, which was useful in Istanbul with its large number of Russian ex-patriots.

As Ultra Services’ work progressed, Phillips was increasingly sending up alarms about Dawkins to Nordloh. He accused Dawkins of being disorganized and endangering people in Iraq. At one point Phillips reported Dawkins had driven up too quickly to a military gate, resulting in the car being fired upon. Phillips made it clear to Nordloh that he felt Dawkins was a risk. He also claimed to be nervous that Dawkins might withhold payments to Turkish suppliers. [11]
I spoke with [Kirk] once on the phone. It was at a point where, Charles had been reading the riot act, vis-à-vis John. At that point Kirk had been with John, had been into Iraq and I wanted to get his ‘take’ on the situation. He was a lot more mellow about the situation with John than Charles [was].” – Geoff Nordloh
Middle East Fall 2003 – Mounting Corporate Tensions

Having established ongoing relationships with local suppliers as well as the Stratex/TFI partners — and as tensions mounted between several of the employees of Ultra Services and John Dawkins — Charles Phillips proposed creating a new venture: with newly renamed TFI International LLC, Geoff Nordloh, and two of Ultra Services’ Turkish managers, Bora Tuncay and Egemen Çakmak.

In an email to Nordloh, on October 8, 2003 [12], Phillips also proposed selecting a board member for the new company from Çakmak, Tuncay or von Ackerrmann who would collectively hold a 20% interest, vested after 2 years. Phillips also noted that Mete Mutluoglu was “under the impression that he is Stratex’ exclusive partner in Turkey”, and that this would need to be resolved. In essence, the group was planning to “shop lift” Ultra Services out from under John Dawkins. The new venture was registered on October 22, 2003 in Bermuda and called Irex Ltd.

Ryan Manelick was also having his share of problems with John Dawkins. Dawkins was alarmed by what he perceived as a willful recklessness in Manelick. For security reasons, Dawkins preferred blending in with the local culture. He maintained a low profile by driving a small sedan with tinted windows and staying at small out of the way hotels. Dawkins felt Manelick called too much attention to himself. Outgoing and friendly, Manelick would even water ski on the Tigris with a British tourist [13], their color photos landing on the front page of London tabloids.

Expressing in no uncertain terms that their security needed to be reviewed and addressed, Dawkins felt his advice ignored by Manelick. For his part, Ryan Manelick, having struck up a close friendship with Charles Phillips, was now prepared to leave Ultra Services to work for Irex Ltd.

Charles Phillips suggested bringing in Michael Finkelstein, a third Stanford Business School classmate, as a shareholder in Irex Ltd. Finkelstein was to look into financing for Irex Ltd but would never travel to Turkey. While little came of Finkelstein’s participation, by February of 2004 a message would be posted on the website that identified Charles Phillips, Michael Finkelstein, and Bora Tuncay in hostile terms. [14] By the end of March 2004, Tuncay’s name would be removed from the hostile message leaving just the names of Phillips and Finkelstein.

It was in this environment, that on the afternoon of October 9, 2003, one week after the website for Irex Ltd had been registered, and as the clash of personalities was rapidly giving way to open hostility among several of those at Ultra Services, Kirk von Ackermann mysteriously disappeared.
It was in this area that I’ve heard John describe to me. This area where there's a rise: you go up a hill or up a long slope and, there’s some rock out-croppings at the top. Where the car was found — was just past this area. It was an area that when John and Kirk had driven past it a number of times before, Kirk had remarked was dangerous. ‘If somebody’s gonna make trouble for you on this road, this is the most dangerous spot.’ I had this image that you’re coming up this hill, and then these rock out-croppings, and you can hide a thousand people in the rocks and you would never see them until it's too late.
And that’s exactly where Kirk ended up going missing from. – Geoff Nordloh
After his disappearance, von Ackermann’s previous contacts with Russians in Istanbul would later lead some of his colleagues to wonder if he had left voluntarily or perhaps been “picked up” by Russian agents. Since von Ackermann was licensed to carry a pistol, Ryan Manelick had told Colin Freeman, “[Kirk] would usually have shot the hell out of anybody who tried to harm him.” [15] There were no signs of struggle or a gunfight where his car had been found.

Iraq 2003 – A Growing Corporate Insurgency

Back when John Dawkins had first arrived in the region, he and an Iraqi employee, Omar, had given a ride to British journalist Colin Freeman then traveling into Baghdad from Jordan.

A local part time Iraqi assistant to Freeman eventually became Manelick’s full time assistant. On the day Manelick was killed, his assistant was elsewhere. As a result, the assistant’s lucky timing also caused some at Ultra Services to suspect him as having had a hand in Manelick’s death.

Freeman would later write the two most extensive articles to date on the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann and the murder of Ryan Manelick.

Colin Freeman reported that according to Ryan’s father, Greg Manelick, his son maintained that the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann was connected to corruption: that large sums of money were being paid in kickbacks to a US Army officer in Iraq in return for contracts to another business associate at Ultra Services. [16] However, the allegations of corruption would not immediately surface with von Ackermann’s disappearance.

It was not until Freeman's second article [17] and a simultaneous article by Doug Waller in Time magazine, [18] both published in February of 2005, that corruption allegations would surface in public in connection to the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann.

Having expressed similar fears to his family [19] and an Army investigator by email, [20] Ryan Manelick told a reporter the night before he died that he was in fear for his life. [21] In less than 24 hours, his fears were realized.
There were two cars, Charles [Phillips] and Bora [Tuncay] were in one car and Ryan [Manelick] was in another with two Iraqi guys.

What Charles told me was, ‘We both left the base at the same time. We got out to the main road, and we went north to go back to Turkey, and Ryan’s car turned south to go back to Baghdad."

Charles said that maybe five to ten minutes after they split up and went their separate ways, his satellite phone rang, and all he heard was somebody screaming and yelling in Arabic.

He said he knew something was the matter.

Charles said he talked to the military to get them to do something, but he didn’t really stick around. He claimed he was afraid that John [Dawkins] had been involved in it somehow. So Charles and Bora raced back to Turkey as fast as they could.

When Charles called me he was, what’s the word?

A basket case. – Geoff Nordloh
Ryan Manelick is said to have told colleagues that if anything happened to him that John Dawkins would be responsible. John Dawkins would later maintain that the allegations of corruption originated with Charles Phillips as a means to discredit him in Iraq. Dawkins also believed that close to a quarter of a million dollars of Ultra Services’ funds were never properly accounted for, in addition to tens of thousands of dollars per month he believed were being “skimmed” from the company’s Baghdad office.
Toward the end of the year there’s open warfare between Charles and John.

Charles drew a bunch of money out of a joint account he had with John into an account that only he had access to. Charles’ claim was that he did it because he was worried that John might run off with the money he made and he wouldn’t be able to pay the suppliers, and that he would get virtually kneecapped by the Turkish suppliers. That’s the scenario he was painting. – Geoff Nordloh
By January of 2004, relations had completely soured at Ultra Services resulting in a confrontation between Dawkins and Phillips. Dawkins threatened Phillips with arrest, resulting in Phillips staying at the American Embassy until he could leave for the US. Phillips’ and Nordloh’s business venture, Irex Ltd, would exist only as a legal entity having never received a single contract. Still, after his death, Irex Ltd. — mistakenly identified as Irex Corp — would be listed along side of Ultra Services as one of Ryan Manelick’s employers in his obituary. [22]

Central Asia 2004 – Getting It Right

In the spring of 2004, John Dawkins approached Geoff Nordloh about starting a new venture, Mesopotamia Group LLC. Dawkins felt he had learned a lot of lessons in the past and was now prepared and determined to get it right. He understood his previous shortcomings, which he thought would be strength in his favor. Nordloh, having recently reached a contentious point in his relationship with his TFI partners, was willing to give it a try. He enjoyed the type of work and was looking for a collaborative working relationship where his input was more highly valued.

TFI International LLC also owed Nordloh money. Nordloh felt his advice unappreciated and ignored, and that the company was repeating mistakes stemming from a perceived lack of decision making on CEO Glen Lockwood's part. Meanwhile, Dawkins had continually reached out to Nordloh to ‘put something together.’ Mesopotamia Group LLC was an opportunity for a fresh start: to build a company that would use Nordloh’s skills and talents with someone who was ready to value his input.

Initially created to resume work in Iraq, the new company, Mesopotamia Group LLC, found that the growing insurgency prevented it from getting a foothold. The decision was made to shift to Central Asia, initially working on contracts in partnership with TFI International.

Mesopotamia Group LLC brought in Ultra Services’ Turkish managers, Bora Tuncay and Egemen Çakmak. Notably, the timing of the addition of Çakmak and Tuncay would coincide with the removal of Tuncay’s name from the hostile message on the Irex website.

But according to Geoff Nordloh, within a year, the Turkish partners were sent packing back to Turkey after having been perceived as "back stabbers." They were believed to have been concurrently accepting payment from a Turkish construction company, Metag, active in Afghanistan, and were thought to have been paid to interfere with Mesopotamia Group LLC's business operations. Bora Tuncay, however, was adamant that they left Mesopotamia Group LLC voluntarily and that Nordloh mischaracterized their abrupt departure.

Also, within that first year, Mesopotamia Group LLC partnered with TFI International LLC and landed a subcontract with defense giant, Perini, for the Afghan National Army brigade facilities contracts. Currently in dispute, it is estimated that Perini owes the group upwards of $1.2 million.

By the end of 2004, in part due to the problems surrounding Ultra Services, CEO Glen Lockwood and TFI International LLC essentially "fired" Geoff Nordloh from the company. While Nordloh is still a 22% owner in TFI International LLC, the board without notice, would add a new partner, Mike Mertz, who had replaced Nordloh as Chief Financial Officer.
To further complicate matters, the website domain for Mesopotamia Group LLC,, was hijacked in the summer of 2005.

Despite these difficulties, Mesopotamia Group LLC remains in operation today in Central Asia, with John Dawkins and Geoff Nordloh having established a successful working relationship.

The Investigation

In 2004, eight months after the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann and six months after the death of Ryan Manelick, it appeared that the US Army had finally begun an aggressive investigation into what had happened to the two men. Initially the investigation was assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the U.S. Army’s Fourth Infantry Division, based in Tikrit, Iraq. By May, the case had moved to the Major Procurement Fraud Unit (MPFU) of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (HQCID) in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. [23] The general assumption is that the Army’s renewed interest was the result of Greg Manelick’s tireless efforts to uncover the truth of who killed his son.

In August of 2005, Geoff Nordloh met with agents of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division for a second time. The investigation into the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann and the murder of Ryan Manelick was said to be close to “wrapping up.“

The following information about the various companies mentioned above accompanied the original article in side bars.


Founded April 2000

Locations based in Moscow, Russia

Note IPSOTEL conducted business in many locations including: Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, India and Egypt
Key Personnel 
John Dawkins -- General Director. Backed by a German financier

Stratex Inc. - US

Founded May 1998

Locations Delaware

Key Personnel
 Founded by relatives of Ramil Mullayanov, a citizen of Uzbekistan

Stratex Freedom Services DP - Uzbekistan

Founded late 2001
Locations Uzbekistan

Note Founded as a legal subsidiary or "daughter company" of Stratex Inc. John Dawkins made an initial investment in the new company. He was later forced out by the Uzbek partners in 2002. The company formally split with the American partners in July of 2003. After the split, the Americans discovered close to $75,000 of missing inventory on the books.

Key Personnel
Ramil Mullayanov -- citizen of Uzbekistan,
Naum "Neil" Emilfarb -- citizen of Uzbekistan,
John Dawkins -- initial investor and 25% owner,
Glen H. Lockwood -- General Director,
Geoff Nordloh -- CFO

Stratex Freedom Services -- Kabul, Afghanistan

Founded 2003
Locations Kabul, Afghanistan 

Note Formed from the split of Stratex Freedom Services DP
Key Personnel 
Ramil Mullayanov -- citizen of Uzbekistan,
Naum "Neil" Emilfarb -- citizen of Uzbekistan 

Stratex Freedom Services LLC - US

Founded September 2002
Locations Delaware 

Note Stratex Freedom Services LLC was created to give a more legitimate American presence to the company and as a result of ongoing tensions with the Uzbeki partners at Stratex Freedom Services DP. Stratex Freedom Services LLC had several legal subsidiaries registered in Uzbekistan. The company would later change its name to TFI International LLC in July 2003. The company initially subsidized part of Charles Phillips' salary as well as made an investment of $50,000 to Ultra Services.

Key Personnel 
Glen H. Lockwood - CEO,
Geoff Nordloh - CFO,
Frank Edgerly - joined in late 2002

TFI International LLC

Founded July 2003
Locations Delaware

Note TFI International LLC was the new company created thru a name change from Stratex Freedom Services LLC. TFI International LLC has had several legal subsidiaries registered in Uzbekistan such as TFI International DP, OOO TFI Furniture, etc. TFI International would later be approached to partner in a new company Irex Ltd.
Key Personnel 
Glen H. Lockwood - TFI CEO & President, 
Frank Edgerly - TFI Vice President,
Mike McCall - TFI General Director - joined in early 2003, 
Randolph Lewis - Kyrgyzstan Country Manager, 
Mike Mertz - TFI CFO - joined in early 2005, 
Bertan F. Ersoy - Turkey Country Manager - joined in early 2004,
Evgeny Rojkov - joined in late 2003,
Geoff Nordloh - fired in early 2005 - still retains 22% ownership in TFI


Founded believed to have been founded in May 1998 

Locations Turkey 
Note Microserve Mikro Sistemler ve Teknoloji Ltd. is the name used on website. Mete Mutluoglu also has companies Microserve Technology LLC registered in Pennsylvania and Microserve Technology, Inc in Virginia but it is unknown if any legal relationship exists with Microserve of Turkey. 

Key Personnel 
Mete Mutluoglu - owner

Ultra Services

Founded May 2003 
Locations Iraq, Turkey 

Note Ultra Services was to be the name of a new company created from Microserve to be registered in Turkey. Mete Mutluoglu would own 50% thru Microserve while the other 50% would be owned by Stratex Freedom Services LLC thru its $50,000 investment. Stratex Freedom Services LLC was later renamed TFI International. John Dawkins was originally to have been a 25% owner in Ultra Services thru a 50% share of Stratex investment. Dawkins would pay in "sweat equity" as he would be working out of Iraq. It is not known if the legal paperwork necessary to establish Ultra Services in Turkey was ever completed by Mete Mutluoglu.

Key Personnel 
Mete Mutluoglu - 50% owner thru his company Microserve
John Dawkins - intended to be a 25% owner 
Geoff Nordloh - informally the CFO - represented the interests of the investment from Stratex Freedom Services LLC but was never an officer or employee.
Ryan Manelick,
Albert Charles Phillips,
Kirk von Ackermann, 
Bora Tuncay, 
Egemen Çakmak, 

Irex Ltd

Founded October 22, 2003 
Locations Bermuda 

Note Created in part thru a partnership with TFI International LLC - Irex Ltd was a legal entity only and never completed any contracts. Legal paperwork was never completed to fully form the company. was registered on October 2, 2003 just 7 days before Kirk von Ackermann disappeared. The website included a bio for Charles Phillips. 

Key Personnel
Bora Tuncay,
Egemen Çakmak,
Albert "Charles" Phillips - President,
Geoff Nordloh - CFO,
Michael Finkelstein - was to look into financing but never formally joined the company

Mesopotamia Group LLC

Founded March 2004 

Locations Afghanistan, USA 

Note Created by John Dawkins and Geoff Nordloh to resume work in Iraq. However, the company never got a foothold and chose instead to work in Central Asia. Bora Tuncay and Egeman Çakmak left the company in April 2005.

Key Personnel 
John Dawkins - CEO,
Geoff Nordloh - CFO,
Candice Boulware - Kabul Director,
Bora Tuncay - no longer with the company,
Egemen Çakmak - no longer with the company,
Paul Metz - Controller, left the company in February 2006,
William Dawkins - left the company in February 2005 - website hijacked summer of 2005

Editor's Note: Due to the insurgency in Iraq, ePluribus Media editors have chosen to use only first names for Iraqis mentioned in this article.


Susie Dow is the Editor of the weblog, The Missing Man, which follows articles on Kirk von Ackermann and Ryan Manelick. She is a volunteer researcher and editor at ePluribus Media.

Geoff Nordloh received his bachelor’s degree (magna cum laude) from Princeton University in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He received a full fellowship to study Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University and completed his master’s degree there in 1993 followed by an MBA from its Graduate School of Business in June 1999.

From 1993 to 1997 he served as an officer in the United States Air Force, responsible for the launch, deployment, and operations of several communications satellite programs. Nordloh co-founded Mesopotamia Group LLC and now serves as the company’s CFO traveling between the United States and Afghanistan.

Steven Reich is a writer living in Los Angeles, California.

Research: wanderindiana

Transcription: Willkie Stevens

Contributors: wanderindiana, cho, standingup, vivian, rba, roxy317

Additional Information

A complete bibliography of articles and materials published to date related to the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann and the murder of Ryan Manelick can be found at The Missing Man.

Bay Area civilian vanishes in Iraq by Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, November 11, 2003

Suspicion surrounds missing Bay Area man - by Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, February 13, 2005

Missing in Iraq - Blog written by the wife of Kirk von Ackermann

End notes

[1] Suspicion surrounds missing Bay Area man - by Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, February 13, 2005

[2] The hijackers were reported to have been financed by Osama bin Laden who was thought to be hiding in nearby Afghanistan under the protection of the ruling religious party, the Taliban. 

[3] Ultra Services Management & bios (warning: site links for US are going bad)

[4] Sakhalin-1 Project Information and History

Consortium members

[5] Ultra Services Management & bios

[6] “Glen Lockwood, the recently named coordinator for the State Department’s Regional Investment Initiative in Tomsk Oblast.”

[7] “Uzbekistan gave permission for US troops and aircraft to base operations in the country on October 5, 2001”


8] Defend America The Department of Defense News About the War on Terrorism

[9] Family mourns CV grad killed in Iraq ambush - by Cindy Stauffer, Lancaster New Era, December 18, 2003

[10] Bay Area civilian vanishes in Iraq by Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, November 11, 2003
Batteries Not Included, by David Batstone, Sojourners Magazine

Suspicion surrounds missing Bay Area man - by Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, February 13, 2005

[11] Information from Geoff Nordloh based on contact with Charles Phillips.

[12] Email from Charles Phillips to Geoff Nordloh sent October 8, 2003 10:23 AM

[13] My Waterski Hol on Saddam River - by Philip Cardy, The Sun, September 22, 2003

[14] According to whois records, the technical and administrative contact for the website was one of Irex Ltd's Turkish partners, Egeman Çakmak. 

Text of hostile message on website: February 4, 2004

Revised text of hostile message on website - highlight page to view: March 2, 2004

[15] Suspicion surrounds missing Bay Area man - by Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, February 13, 2005

[16] Suspicion surrounds missing Bay Area man - by Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, February 13, 2005

[17] Suspicion surrounds missing Bay Area man - by Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, February 13, 2005

[18] Foul Play in Iraq? - by Douglas Waller, Time Online, February 13, 2005

[19] Drive-By Shooting In Iraq Kills Civilian CV Graduate - WGAL Channel, December 18, 2003

[20] Foul Play in Iraq? - by Douglas Waller, Time Online, February 13, 2005

[21] Suspicion surrounds missing Bay Area man - by Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, February 13, 2005

[22] Family mourns CV grad killed in Iraq ambush - by Cindy Stauffer, Lancaster New Era, December 18, 2003

[23] Details of the command structure of the investigation with references