Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ultra Services - Who, What, Where

On October 9, 2003, the vehicle of an American contractor, Kirk von Ackermann, was found abandoned in the Jabal Hamrin mountains between Tikrit and Kirkuk, Iraq. He worked for Ultra Services of Istanbul, Turkey. Two months later, on December 14, 2003, his colleague, Ryan Manelick, was gunned down shortly after leaving a meeting at a base north of Baghdad. Just days before, he had alleged fraud at his company and that it involved US Army officers.

This is an overview of Ultra Services and the who, what, where surrounding the events of 2003.

The right hand side bar contains links to additional information including this blog's Index of Posts, an extensive Bibliography and Missing in Iraq, the von Ackermann family blog.

The most extensive articles to date are:

Mystery Surrounds US Businessman missing in Iraq's Sunni Triangle
by Colin Freeman, UK Telegraph, November 9, 2003

Bay Area civilian vanishes in Iraq - slight but significant variations of above
by Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, November 11, 2003

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

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

Death of a Contractor: Greed and Murder in Iraq's Lawless Desert
By Dan Halpern, Rolling Stone, March 8, 2007, Issue 1021
pp 70-74, 76-69 (print version includes photos)

Death of a Contractor - alternate link as the original has expired

Missing Contractor: U.S. Military Mechanics May Hold the Keys (full article reprint)
By Susie Dow, ePluribus Media, April 21, 2008
The journalist who first broke the story, Colin Freeman, writes about the people and events at Ultra Services in his book. Of particular note, his book includes the only known first hand description of the location where Kirk von Ackermann's car was discovered (page 136).
Curse of the Al Dulaimi Hotel: And Other Half-truths from Baghdad
By Colin Freeman, Monday Books, July 2008
Where indicated, photos below were found publicly displayed on the web and are intended as "fair use" under Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.


Ultra Services was a small logistics company which fulfilled service and supply contracts in Iraq. They had several offices. The primary office was in Istanbul, Turkey dealing with local suppliers, a second in Baghdad, Iraq coordinating on-site work.

On October 9, 2003, an Ultra Services manager, Kirk von Ackermann, left a meeting at FOB Pacesetter near Balad, just north of Baghdad. Several hours later, von Ackermann called an Iraqi employee and reported a flat tire on an isolated road between Tikrit and Kirkuk in the Jabal Hamrin mountains in north east Iraq. Von Ackermann had recently purchased his car, a white Nissan Patrol SUV. Within minutes of the phone call, a passing patrol reported an abandoned car, it was just a few miles down the road from a checkpoint. The Iraqi employee arrived about forty-five minutes later. Von Ackermann's satellite phone, laptop computer, and a brief case with $40,000 were still in the vehicle. There was no sign of struggle. Von Ackermann remains the longest missing American civilian in Iraq.

Two months later, another Ultra Services manager, Ryan Manelick, alleged von Ackermann's disappearance was tied to fraud and kick backs involving a US Army officer. On December 14, 2003, shortly after leaving a meeting at Camp Anaconda at the Balad Air Base, Manelick, driving a Hyundai Galloper, was killed by gun fire from a 'nice white Land Cruiser.' During the attack, someone in Manelick's car called the satellite phone of another colleague, Charles Phillips. Manelick was shot 3 times, including reports of one 'kill shot' to the back of the neck.

The US Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) later determined von Ackermann was killed in a botched kidnapping. As of February 2008, his body has not been found. The investigation into the death of Ryan Manelick remains open.

The descriptions below are for the Fall of 2003.


John Dawkins was the founder of Ultra Services, based out of Istanbul, Turkey. Prior to Ultra Services, he founded several companies in Central Asia and Russia, as well as working in Sakhalin in the Russian Far East. Married with two children. (photo ref)

Geoff Nordloh was the CFO of TFI International. TFI International, which fulfilled US Army contracts in Afghanistan, held a financial interest through a $50,000 investment in Ultra Services. For putting the company together, John Dawkins would be granted a 50% share through TFI in exchange for contributing his own “sweat equity” by being in Iraq. Nordloh was a former US Air Force officer. He never traveled to Iraq.

Mete Mutluoğlu was Dawkins' Turkish partner. Mutluoğlu 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 TFI International through its $50,000 investment; the other 50% of the shares would be owned by Mutluoglu. (photo ref)

Egeman Çakmak was one of three Turkish associates brought in by Mete Mutluoğlu. Çakmak worked in the Istanbul, Turkey office. (photo ref)

Hüseyin Gömleksizoğlu was one of three Turkish associates brought in by Mete Mutluoğlu. Part-time, Gömleksizoğlu was an IT specialist who maintained the company website. Gömleksizoğlu worked in the Istanbul, Turkey office. (photo ref)

Bora Tuncay was one of three Turkish associates brought in by Mete Mutluoğlu. Tuncay attended the meeting at Camp Anaconda on December 14, 2003. He was in a car returning to Turkey with Charles Phillips when they received the phone call that Ryan Manelick, in a second vehicle headed south to Baghdad, was killed. Tuncay worked in the Istanbul, Turkey office.

Albert 'Charles' Phillips went to Stanford Business School with Geoff Nordloh. Phillips was brought in by Nordloh to handle finance in the Istanbul office. Phillips was the son of a career military officer.

At the time von Ackermann disappeared, Charles Phillips was creating a new company, Irex Ltd, with Nordloh, von Ackermann, Çakmak and Tuncay. (photo ref)

Kirk von Ackermann was a manager. Charles Phillips brought in von Ackermann, a friend from his days at the software company, Siebel Systems.

Von Ackermann travelled between Turkey and Iraq. He spoke several languages and was a former US Air Force counter-terrorism intelligence officer. Married with three children. His family was making preliminary plans to move to Turkey when he disappeared on October 9, 2003.

Ryan Gregory Manelick was the son of a close friend of John Dawkins, Greg Manelick. Greg is credited with keeping attention on the case.

Ryan Manelick worked out of the Baghdad office coordinating on-site work at bases in Iraq--the 'heavy lifting.' He was a former US Air Force officer and spoke several languages. Divorced with three children. Shortly after leaving a meeting at Camp Anaconda on December 14, 2003, he was gunned down from a passing vehicle.

Additional Office Staff at Ultra Services included Abu Mazen, Guven Gurses, Necmettin and Macit.

Sanaria was a secretary in Ultra Services' Baghdad office.

Omar Taleb was John Dawkins security adviser (aka body guard). An official in the Iraqi police and a former helicopter pilot in the Iraqi Air Force.

Çuneyt Demirici was an employee of a Turkish supplier. He met with Kirk von Ackermann at FOB Pacesetter on the day he disappeared. Demirici lived in Baghdad at the time.

Safa Shukir was an Iraqi employee who received a phone call from Kirk von Ackermann that he was stranded in the Jabal Hamrin, his tire was flat and to bring a jack. Shukir arrived to find von Ackermann's car abandoned. He called John Dawkins from the location of the car, reaching him at a meeting in Tikrit.

Colin Freeman was an independent journalist from Great Britain working in Baghdad who first covered the story of the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann. Little would be known today without Freeman's early reporting. Colin Freeman first got a ride into Iraq with Omar Hadi and John Dawkins. Of particular note: Ryan Manelick is an unidentified source quoted in Freeman's first article, Bay Area civilian vanishes in Iraq.

Majid (Mohammed) Kadom was Ryan Manelick's Iraqi assistant or 'fixer.' Part body guard, part translator, Kadom was a former Iraqi Staff Colonel. Kadom was first introduced to Manelick by Freeman.

Greg Manelick was Ryan Manelick's father. At the time of events in 2003, he was working for Exxon in Sakhalin. Greg introduced his son Ryan to John Dawkins whom he knew from the Russian Far East. At one point, the name, "Gregory Manelick," was listed on the ultra-services.com website.

Amanda Sprang was Greg Manelick's girlfriend. She was reported as expressing an interest in working for Ultra Services. At one point, her name was also listed on the ultra-services.com website.

Richard Galustian befriended Ryan Manelick in Iraq. He was a security adviser. Galustian later became Managing Director of ISI International, a private security company in Iraq. Manelick at one point told his father he was thinking of going into security with Galustian.

Omar Hadi was a British Iraqi who first gave John Dawkins and the journalist Colin Freeman a ride into Iraq from Jordan arriving on May 1, 2003. Hadi was described as a business associate of John Dawkins whom he had first met in Kazakhstan. Hadi stayed with Dawkins and Freeman at the Al Majalis Hotel in Baghdad. Omar Hadi and Richard Galustian eventually founded ISI Group of Iraq.

Unknown Iraqi Employee #1 was traveling with Ryan Manelick. He survived the attack.

Unknown Iraqi Employee #2 was traveling with Ryan Manelick. He died in the attack.

Aydin was the hired driver for the car with Bora Tuncay and Charles Phillips. He was reported as translating the shouting Arabic voices heard on Phillips satellite phone, "Ryan is dead!"

Baki Güzelçiftçi was at one point listed on the ultra-services.com website as the Chairman of the Board, having joined Ultra Services in December 2003. He owned a company that was said to be interested in manufacturing the demountable guard shack first designed by Kirk von Ackermann and his wife, Megan.

Major Rich Hall was a US Army contracting officer in Tikrit. Hall signed the majority of Ultra Services contracts.

Captain Tyr Brenner was a US Air Force contracting officer in Tikrit.

Captain Richard Otton was a US Air Force contracting officer in Tikrit.

Lt. Colonel Steven Russell was a battalion commander in the 4th Infantry Division (ID) under whose jurisdiction the investigation first fell. The investigation was later transferred to the US Army Criminal Investigation Division (HQCID) Major Procurement Fraud Unit (MPFU) headquartered in Belvoir, Virginia.

Colonel Ismael Abdullah Jassim was the Baiji police commander who first led area searches in the days immediately after the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann. According to Colin Freeman, Col. Jassim left his post one month after the incident without briefing his successor.

Lt. Muhamad Abdullah Jassim was Jassim's deputy. He accompanied patrols through the area, giving out photos of Kirk von Ackermann to tribal leaders.

Robert McNally agent with U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, lead investigator. Retired.

Stephen Grant former Commander of the 286th Military Police Detachment. Took over the investigation from Robert McNally.

David Allen director of the Major Procurement Fraud Unit.

Thomas Wilkin agent with U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command with Procurement Fraud.

James Scheel agent with U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command with Procurement Fraud.

Ferdinand Vazquez agent with U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command with Procurement Fraud.

David Balwinski agent with U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.

David W. Jenkins agent with U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.

Unidentified Junior Agent (female) of Fort Bliss, TX.


FOB Pacesetter was an isolated air base north of Balad and east of the Tigris River, also known as Samarra East Air Base. It was later renamed FOB McKenzie. In December 2003, FOB Pacesetter became the initial headquarters for the new Stryker Brigade. The region surrounding the base is flat, described as 'windy, muddy, dreary.'

Camp Anaconda at Balad Air Base, later renamed FSA Anaconda then Joint Base Balad, was one of the largest air bases in Iraq. Anaconda is just south of Balad and just west of the Tigris River. Depending on the route driven, Anaconda is about 20-25 miles from FOB Pacesetter. In 2008, LSA Anaconda was reported as 'the busiest air base in the world operated by the Pentagon' and 'the second busiest airport in the world.' (ref)

Addujayal, Iraq listed by the US State Department as the location of a Death of U.S. Citizens Abroad in its annual report. The date matches that of Ryan Manelick's death. Found on maps as al Dujail, a small community just outside Camp Anaconda along Highway 1, the route on which Ryan Manelick was traveling when killed in a drive-by shooting. (ref)

Jabal Hamrin mountains form a ridge between the cities of Tikrit and Kirkuk. It's a sparsely populated area. Driving from Tikrit to Kirkuk, it's described as 'about 65 miles' and taking about '2 hours, 45 minutes' one way. Kirk von Ackermann described the ridgeline as the most dangerous part of the journey between Tikrit and Kirkuk. His car would later be discovered abandoned there.

Al Majalis was a hotel in Baghdad. John Dawkins, Colin Freeman and Omar Hadi stayed at this hotel when they first arrived in Iraq.

Al Hamra was a hotel in Baghdad. Frequented by journalists and contractors who would hang out around the pool at night.

Note: this post will occasionally be updated as new information becomes available. Corrections welcome.

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