Shortly after we took off from the check point I saw an old Opel with young men trying to pass us . . . I remember the cracks of the AK-47 bullets when it came through our windscreen. Our driver drew his pistol and fired back with his right hand while trying to control the speeding vehicle with his left.’
Johan Raath and a security team were escorting American engineers to a power plant south of Baghdad when they were ambushed. He had first arrived in Iraq only two weeks before. This was a small taste of what was to come over the next 13 years he worked there as a private military contractor (PMC).
His mission? Not to wage war but to protect lives. Raath acted as a bodyguard for VIPs and, more often, engineers who were involved in construction projects to rebuild the country after the 2003 war. His physical and mental endurance was tested to the limit in his efforts to safeguard construction sites that were regularly subjected to mortar and suicide attacks. Key to his survival was his training as a Special Forces operator, or Recce.
Working in places called the Triangle of Death and driving on the ‘Hell Run’, Raath had numerous hair-raising experiences. As a trained combat medic he also helped to save people’s lives after two suicide bomb attacks on sites he then worked at.
Johan Raath worked in Iraq as a private military contractor from 2004 to 2017. He offered specialized protection services to VIPs and sheiks, as well as engineers working on construction projects, oil field engineers and port construction workers. Raath is a former South African Special Forces operator, or Recce. In 1992 he started a security training company and did high-risk security work in Africa. Since the 1990s he was involved in security missions in over 15 countries. Raath has also worked as a bodyguard for a number of presidents. His training and protection services have won him accolades, including from US government clients and USAID.