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Like many American businesspeople working in Iraq, Tom Peloquin went for the money. He had been hired by private contractor Dynacorp to provide security to its employees in Iraq at pay three times what he earns for comparable work in the U.S. But Peloquin, a former U.S. Marine used to life-threatening situations, never kidded himself about what this fatter paycheck represented. In Iraq, there is a significant risk of being kidnapped and killed by insurgent groups or ordinary criminals, and this money was combat pay. To afford himself the best chance of survival, Peloquin did what every good Marine does: He made sure he got the best training available.

For Peloquin, that meant a four-day stint at an Iraq orientation program at The Crucible, a 88-acre security training center in the woods near Fredericksburg, Va. Here, Peloquin joined 25 other students, a mix that included engineers, truck drivers, journalists, construction workers and a woman he describes as “an executive at a big company,” in firing AK-47 assault rifles, learning how to patch up someone wounded by shrapnel and detecting unexploded ordnance like bombs, mortar shells and landmines.

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