It was my last night in Kurdistan before catching a 4 a.m. flight back home. That morning, the commander of German coalition forces in Kurdistan, Colonel Stephan Spoettel, had been found dead in his room at the Crystal Hotel in Erbil. After kebab and beers with former 22SAS operator Phil Campion, I decided to head over to the Crystal Hotel and see if I could find out more about what had happened. The Germans had been doing great work in Kurdistan and the weapons they had been providing were making a tangible difference on the battlefield as the Peshmerga continued to beat back the ISIS hordes. The loss of Colonel Spoettel was no doubt a serious loss to the German troops.

Taking a taxi across Erbil, I found the Crystal Hotel surrounded by concrete barriers. The Germans took their force protection seriously, it seemed. They actually rented out the entire hotel for over a million dollars a month and fortified it to look like an actual forward operating base. As I was snapping a few pictures of the hotel on my cell phone, a gate guard walked up and asked who I was. He wore a black uniform, sported a mohawk, and had an AKM slung over his shoulder. He asked me to wait for his boss to come out and talk to me since he spoke English.

The gate guard’s boss showed up wearing an OD green uniform and began drilling me with questions about who I was and what I was doing taking pictures of the hotel.

“Who are you?” I asked. These guys looked like private security rather than police officers. If so, I was going to hop in my cab and take off.