CEO and President of American-Iraqi Solutions Group Carter Andress recently talked to ExecutiveBiz about how he decided to write a book on his four years of being a “contractor combatant” in Iraq, an account chronicling his everyday existence in a war-ravaged country where the U.S. presence was perceived as a symbol of destruction as well as tremendous hope.
“You’re a symbol of the occupation, of the military, all the angst, all the destruction—all the meaning of that, especially as a Department of Defense contractor,” Andress said. “But you’re also a symbol of tremendous hope.”
Being an American in Iraq was not the only thing that was hard. Conducting business in this part of the world was not an easy task, as the culture was very different to what most Westerners are familiar with, Andress said. However, because of his willingness to learn the language, participate in the Iraqi culture and seek out Iraqis, Andress was able to create successful relationships with the natives.
“Most people like to stay in their comfort zone,” he said. “When you’re in a place so foreign, like Ukraine or Iraq, you tend to look to commonalities of sources of comfort. It’s hard to reach out and expose yourself.”
Despite his bold approach in dealing with unfamiliar scenarios, Andress said there were times when he had doubts about his chances of survival. But because of his belief he was working toward a greater good, he never allowed his worries incapacitate him from doing his work.
“It’s one thing to be walking across Connecticut Avenue and get run over by a taxi, or die of lung cancer. And it’s another thing to die doing something you believe in, trying to do something to make a better world, which I think we’re doing in Iraq,” he said.