Monday, July 30, 2007

For Abducted Guards, Iraq Wasn't Just About Money - washingtonpost.com

The Washington post has this update on a story we have been following (Previous posts here and here) It is an in-depth article with additional video footage of Jonathan Cotes.
ON MAIN SUPPLY ROUTE TAMPA, Iraq -- Surrounded by darkness, an AK-47 at his side, Jonathon Cote considered his future from the driver's seat of a black Chevy Avalanche hurtling through southern Iraq early last November.

Months earlier, Cote had been a reluctant accounting major at the University of Florida, a popular 23-year-old freshman who'd enrolled after four years in the Army. Cote pledged Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and collected $5 covers at a bar called the Whiskey Room. He drove a red Yamaha R1 motorcycle around campus until one evening he did a wheelie and was arrested for drunk driving.

Broke and despondent, Cote spoke to an Army buddy, who told him he could make $7,000 a month protecting supply convoys in Iraq. On his days off, his friend told him, he'd get to go jet-skiing on the Persian Gulf. Cote was concerned that he might lose his Florida driver's license, but in Iraq he would pilot a company "gun truck" with a belt-fed machine gun mounted in back.

"Basically I was looking for a feeling that I didn't have, and this job provided that," Cote said, his iPod set to shuffle as he steered his truck through the soft Iraqi night. "It's a distraction from the DUI, how I couldn't find a degree that I liked in college. And then there's the money. I have $30,000, and I'm going back to school with a plan."

"Life-threatening situations straighten you up fast," he said.

He had already announced his intention to return home on his U.S. voice mail and had picked a new major, exercise physiology.

On Nov. 16, Cote's plan was undone by the realities of Iraq. Driving their gun trucks along the same stretch of highway where he had sketched his future, he and four colleagues from Crescent Security Group, a small private firm, were ambushed and taken hostage. The status of the four Americans and one Austrian, 25-year-old Bert Nussbaumer of Vienna, is unknown. Cote's 24th birthday passed Feb. 11. His drunk-driving case was dismissed after the seizure.
For Abducted Guards, Iraq Wasn't Just About Money - washingtonpost.com