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

Thursday, May 18, 2006

An Iraq Contractor in the Fog of War

The following is the summary for my first article published at ePluribus Media where I am also a volunteer researcher and editor.

One Missing, One Dead: an Iraq Contractor in the Fog of War
by Susie Dow with Steven Reich
ePluribus Media

On October 9, 2003, Kirk von Ackermann disappeared from his car on a road in Iraq leaving behind a laptop computer, satellite phone and $40,000 in cash. Two months later, on December 14, 2003, his colleague Ryan Manelick was gunned down shortly after leaving a meeting at a base. Before he died, Manelick said the disppearance of von Ackermann was connected to fraud. Both worked for Ultra Services.

From a chance meeting in 2001 for a wedding in Kyrgyzstan, to an attempt by employees to steal the business, to a new company in Afghanistan, Dow's article traces Ultra Services into the the fog surrounding the company in Iraq with One Missing, One Dead.
The article will formally roll out this Sunday, May 21st. The link to the discussion area at the community site of ePluribus Media will become active at that time.

About Geoff Nordloh

Kirk von Ackermann and Ryan Manelick worked for Ultra Services of Istanbul, Turkey.

One Missing, One Dead: An Iraq Contractor in the Fog of War, which traces the history of Ultra Services, relied extensively on information provided by Geoff Nordloh. Informally the CFO of Ultra Services, Nordloh represented the interests of another company, Stratex Freedom Services LLC, and its $50,000 investment in Ultra Services.

A longer version of Nordloh's bio is provided below.
Geoff Nordloh was born and raised in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana.

From 1982-1983 he lived in Heidelberg, West Germany, while his father taught at the University of Heidelberg under a Fulbright Grant. The experience provided Nordloh with the opportunity to become fluent in German.

In 1992 Geoff received his bachelor's degree from Princeton University in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and a master's degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University in 1993.

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. In this capacity he worked on three highly classified inter-agency programs, and received the Joint Service Commendation Medal for his work.

Starting in the fall of 1997 he was at Stanford again and received an MBA from its Graduate School of Business in June 1999. Following business school, he worked for 15 months as a financial analyst at Primecap Management Company in Pasadena, California
covering the capital goods sector for this manager of two Vanguard Group mutual funds and corporate pension funds.

In early 2001, he returned to active duty as a reservist on special assignment to direct engineering for a new $1.5B US military communications satellite program.

Upon completion of these duties in the Spring of 2002, he followed a long-standing interest in becoming an entrepreneur and co-founded Stratex Freedom Services LLC, an American managed firm with primary operations in Tashkent, Uzbekistan supplying prefabricated buildings, furniture, and logistics and supply services to the US military operating in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan. He served as the
company's CFO as sales grew from nothing to $2M in 2002, and to $7.5M in 2003. In March of 2003, he helped establish Ultra Services Ltd. based in Istanbul, Turkey to
provide similar goods and services to the US military in anticipation of the US invasion of Iraq.

In the Spring of 2004, Geoff co-founded Mesopotamia Group LLC and now serves as the company's CFO traveling between the United States and Afghanistan.

One Missing, One Dead: An Iraq Contractorr in the Fog of War
by Susie Dow with Steven Reich, ePluribus Media, May 15, 2006

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

For Kids in Iraq

The family of Kirk von Ackermann are trying to put something together for kids in Iraq. I'm hoping visitors to the Missing Man might have some resources that would help make their dream into a reality. Follow the link to learn more.

Children in Iraq - I
April 30, 2006

[Kirk] was starting to talk to people he knew about setting up programs for the kids in Iraq and other areas ravaged by war and unrest. We talked a couple of times about the organizations that already existed, about the most important things to bring to these children, about the sort of resources that would be required. I still think that dream is important.

My family doesn't have the resources now to do anything really big, but we all agree that part of our healing process must include doing something if we possibly can, something for those kids.
If you haven't yet visited Missing in Iraq, it really is a must read. The blogger is Kirk von Ackermann's wife.