(Name changes in effect for identity security) They call me Braithwaite. I’m a special operations man by trade, or at least I fancy myself one. I left the Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and the Army in January of 2001 to work a job in Las Vegas as a contractor for the Department of Energy (DOE), executing high-risk projects at the Nevada Test Site (NTS). Due to my background, all Department of Defense (DoD) projects coming to the NTS came to me. Since only Tier One DoD units could afford to use the exorbitantly expensive NTS, I had the pleasure of the company of the great American warriors I had only recently left behind.

Humor me while I walk you through a quick familiarization of the NTS: This is where the vast majority of nuclear underground and aboveground test shots were conducted in the U.S.—roughly a dozen were detonated above ground, and nearly 1000 were detonated underground. Once the nuclear test moratorium set in, all nuclear test infrastructure just froze in place. Representation of the seven national laboratories of the nation remain active there to this day.

The NTS is roughly the size of Rhode Island, boasting vast expanses of open wasteland in the south, and high desert mountainous regions up north—remarkable replications of the rugged regions of Afghanistan. Tier One loved the terrain, and routinely came to NTS to shake out weapons and tactics prior to deploying to the two Middle Eastern theaters.

To work as a civilian contractor for a government agency is like no other experience I have ever endured. It is difficult to even explain, as I simply know of nothing to compare it to. It’s so insanely fornicated-up that the mind simply can’t hold it all at once. To try and take the concept of operations of a Tier One live-fire combat-training venue and sell it first to my own company, and then to the DOE, was like trying to stack greased ball bearings in the back seat of a Pakistani taxi.

The DOE’s adversity to risk, translated by my company’s senior management, which was too smart to think its way out of a paper bag, turned the work environment from an accident-free work zone into a work-free safety zone. Folks, the answer to the ultimate elimination of accidents in the work place is rules and regulations, policies and procedures: the ridiculous Rs and the pusillanimous Ps. Enough RRPPs, and you can preclude all possibility of any work being accomplished. We had so many of those RRPPs, you could put in 40 hours per week just obeying rules while accomplishing nothing else.

I witnessed: company employees who were caretakers for pieces of real estate, old abandoned buildings, and other facilities. Their sole responsibility all year long was to go out and inspect their pieces of real estate, guard them like a kid with a pile of marbles, and keep all NTS projects away from their real estate. Projects mean problems, and problems mean work…and they would have none of that at the NTS.

“Why can’t my Tier One project use your abandoned building for project support?”

“Well, because somebody else might want to use it, like the National Labs, and your military guys might shoot bazookas or throw hand grenades at it.”