the real hurt locker


Captain Nawa Salah Ahmed was not thinking of Hollywood when he signed up for the bomb-disposal unit in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. It was 2004, and the young policeman was burnt out. He had enlisted in the force when the American military invaded his homeland, taking a job in the local criminal-investigations unit. And as a lawless chaos had come crashing down upon the country, business, so to speak, was booming. Cases flooded in—Ahmed dealt daily with thefts, murders, and worse. But the pressure, he says, was unrelenting. So a year into his police career, he applied for and secured a transfer—one that gave him personal ease, but thrust his family in a roiling dread. He joined the Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit, universally referred to by its English acronym, E.O.D.—and known to Americans as “the Hurt Locker guys.” As his family protested his transfer, he reassured them by saying his new job was actually safer than his old one, in which he was harangued by criminals and terrorists, made a target for revenge. “Bombs,” he would say, “don’t have tongues.”

more from Neil Arun at Vanity Fair here.