YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Victims Part of a Corps at Risk

October 16, 2003|Alex Pham | Times Staff Writer

John Branchizio loved living on the edge.

He rock-climbed. He scuba-dived. He skied.

On Wednesday at dawn, Branchizio's parents in Texas received a phone call from the State Department saying their son had died along with two colleagues in the Gaza Strip, where the three were serving as private security guards for American diplomats.

He had turned 37 on Monday.

The San Antonio native and colleagues Mark T. Parsons, 31, of New York and John Martin Linde Jr., 30, of Missouri were killed when a bomb exploded under their vehicle. An unidentified guard was injured.

As employees of DynCorp, they were among thousands of civilian workers hired by the U.S. government to fill hazardous security jobs around the world.

A spokesman for the company confirmed that the men were employees, but he referred all other questions to the State Department. Reston, Va.-based DynCorp is a subsidiary of Computer Sciences Corp., based in El Segundo.

CSC, which earned 29% of its fiscal 2003 revenue from contracts with the U.S. government, is one of the largest federal contractors. DynCorp workers, for example, supplied a search-and-rescue helicopter crew to retrieve downed U.S. pilots attempting to fumigate Colombia's cocaine fields. Eight DynCorp employees have been killed in Colombia since 1995, mostly in accidents, the company says.

Under a contract with the State Department's Diplomatic Security Services, DynCorp workers also have guarded Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's interim president.

In April, the company won a one-year, $50-million federal contract to provide as many as 1,000 civilian law-enforcement advisors to help rebuild Iraq's police force.

It was into such situations that Branchizio, a divorced father of an 8-year-old son, regularly threw himself.

After spending nine years in the Navy's elite SEALs, Branchizio joined DynCorp and traveled around the world as a security expert, his aunt, Kelly Shaw, said in San Antonio. He was fully aware of the risks he took in his job.

"He knew that every day," she said.

Los Angeles Times Articles