Afghan and Iraqi immigrant actors receiving $3 million after wages lawsuit against military

U.S. Marines with Transportation Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, undergo realistic scenarios while executing a movement rehearsal exercise during Enhanced Mojave Viper (EMV), on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, CA, Sept. 25, 2012. The Marines participate in EMV in order to build unit cohesion and tactical proficiency in preparation for deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom MAGTF. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz / Released)

Immigrants of Iraq and Afghanistan who were hired to be actors in the California desert so US Marines could train for operations overseas have reached a $3,000,000 settlement over what they felt was owed pay for working overtime.

Hired by defense contractors Tatitlek Support Services, both the workers and Tatitlek company requested that a Los Angeles federal judge approve their settlement on Monday, according to Bloomberg.

In 2013, the workers were paid $17 an hour but they felt entitled to more considering the harsh conditions and long hours in the desert.

The workers claimed that from 2013 to 2014, they were to work in mock villages for two-week stints, spending the majority of their time in mock villages that were regularly exposed to the extreme weather and temperature conditions. They argue that despite having a living quarters at the nearby base of Twentynine Palms, they were often forced to stay out “in sector”, as military leadership demanded they be available at all hours to participate in training.

Marines were also embedded with the Iraqi and Afghan actors – working side-by-side in the same conditions – playing the roles of locals.

Lance Cpl. Mary C. McKenna (center) uses a HIDE system to document the iris of man (a Marine playing a local) displaying suspicious behavior here Nov. 18. The data would be entered into a biometrics database used to identify insurgents and criminals. McKenna is a military policeman with Combat Logistics Battalion 4, Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
Lance Cpl. Mary C. McKenna (center) uses a HIDE system to document the iris of man (a Marine playing a local) displaying suspicious behavior.  The data would be entered into a biometrics database used to identify insurgents and criminals. McKenna is a military policeman with Combat Logistics Battalion 4, Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

The training -which went under the name Mojave Viper– is one of many regular-occurring series of training events in California, where the arid environment and large training areas allow entire units to conduct semi-realistic training before deploying to current hot-zones in the War on Terror.

During these exercises, entire mock cities and villages within the training areas are often stocked with actors -such as the workers in the lawsuit- who play roles ranging from village elders to farmers and insurgents. Blank ammunition and simulated explosions used by both the “natives” and US troops, as well as joint training with aviation units, provide realistic training that can better serve units before they deploy to actual combat.

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Author

  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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