California contractor struggles to flee Balad, Iraq

Byby Sergio Quintana KGO logo
Friday, June 13, 2014
California contractor struggles to flee Balad, Iraq
ABC7 News spoke to the brother of a California contractor struggling to get out of harm's way in Balad, Iraq.

There is growing concern over militants taking control in Iraq. President Barack Obama is ruling out boots on the ground, but is ready to use the military.

For the families of so many civilian contractors working in Iraq, this is a very worrisome time. American contractors are scrambling to get out.

Most U.S. troops left Iraq back in December 2011, but there are still thousands of contractors there. Quite a few are security personnel, others are firefighters and trainers.

According to one California contractor, in Balad, Iraq he and about six others have been trying to get out for most of the week.

Militants, calling themselves the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, posted propaganda video showing their fighters celebrating the capture of tanks used by the Iraqi military.

Fighters pushed south taking over Tikrit and moving towards Balad, on their way toward Baghdad. In Balad United States contractors have been trying to get out of danger for days.

Mitchell McCann has been in close contact with his brother Michael McCann -- a firefighter and private contractor with a company called Sallyport Global. He says there has been no U.S. military support there.

"My brother said that it was all commercial flights that the company Sallyport was trying to get, but they were basically unable to find any commercial or any private companies willing to fly into Balad," Mitchell said to ABC7 News.

So Michael resorted to social media to focus more attention on their plight.

He started #Balad600 on Twitter, which is a reference to the number of U.S. contractors reportedly stranded there. Michael made it to Baghdad on Friday, but communications hit another problem there.

"While he was in Balad, he was able to access Facebook and Twitter. But in the city of Baghdad, the government has blocked Facebook and Twitter. Then he just has texts," Mitchell said.

Right now, Michael is on his way to Dubai, but it's not yet clear if all 600 contractors have made it out of the danger zone.