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Stephen "Scott" Helvenston (June 21, 1965 – March 31, 2004) was a United States Navy SEAL. He was working as a security contractor for Blackwater Security when he was killed in the 31 March 2004 Fallujah ambush within days of arriving in Iraq.
Stephen "Scott" Helvenston
|Born||June 21, 1965|
|Died||31 March 2004 (aged 38)|
|Service/||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1982–1994|
|Other work||Personal trainer|
Private military contractor
Helvenston was a personal trainer for Hollywood celebrities such as Demi Moore (for G.I. Jane), and was also featured in the reality shows Combat Missions and Man vs. Beast (in the latter, he completed an obstacle course faster than a chimpanzee). He also starred in a reality series called Extreme Expeditions: Model Behavior months before he left for Iraq. The series was shot in Mexico and is finished, but has not yet aired.
Helvenston began training at Blackwater USA's facilities in March 2004, and developed a personal conflict with head trainer Justin "Shrek" McQuown. Helvenston arrived in Kuwait on March 18, where he was under the management of John and Kathy Potter, whom he knew from Combat Missions.
Employee John Potter had helped Blackwater Security (since renamed Academi) win the contract to provide security for kitchen equipment convoys for the Kuwait company Regency Hotel and Hospital Company and Eurest Support Services (ESS was a subcontractor of Halliburton KBR). The contract billed Regency $815 a day; Helvenston and the other contractors were paid $600 a day.
The original contract called for at least three men per vehicle on security missions "with a minimum of two armored vehicles to support ESS movements". In addition, the contract called for a heavily armed rear gunner, and time before any mission to review the route and conduct a risk assessment and pre-trip inspection.
Blackwater signed a revised contract with Regency on March 12, 2004 that removed the word "armored". Potter insisted that his men be given armored vehicles, however, and was removed as project manager on March 24, replaced by Justin McQuown.
On March 27, two days before Helvenston's scheduled deployment to Iraq, McQuown reassigned him to a team leaving on the 28th, over the objections of numerous other Blackwater employees. Helvenston believed McQuown resented him and deliberately reassigned Helvenston at the last minute. In one of Helvenston's final emails before his death, he wrote to the owner of Blackwater, claiming McQuown's behavior was "very manipulative, duplicitive [sic], immature and unprofessional," with the hidden agenda "Lets [sic] see if we can screw with Scott."
On March 30, McQuown sent Helvenston out with three other contractors, Jerry Zovko, Wesley Batalona and Michael Teague, to guard a convoy for ESS traveling from Baghdad to a military base west of Fallujah. They were in two unarmored vehicles and had no map.
Along with squad members Jerry "Jerko" Zovko, Wesley Batalona and Michael Teague, Helvenston was transporting food and other equipment in unarmored vehicles to the center of the city of Fallujah when the team was ambushed by insurgents. The four contractors were killed with grenades and small arms fire. Their bodies were dragged from their vehicles, beaten and set ablaze. Their burned and mutilated corpses were then dragged through the streets, and two of them hung from a bridge crossing the Euphrates.
Photos of the event were released to news agencies worldwide.
The families of the four dead contractors, led by Helvenston's mother Katy Helvenston-Wettengel and Jerry Zovko's mother Donna Zovko, filed suit against Blackwater with lawyer Daniel Callahan on January 5, 2005 (Helvenston et al. v. Blackwater Security), alleging wrongful death. Blackwater responded by counter-suing for $10 million.
In January 2011, both cases were thrown out of court by a federal judge. Counsel for the plaintiffs announced they would appeal the ruling.
- Jeremy Scahill (May 8, 2006). "Blood Is Thicker Than Blackwater". The Nation.
- "Worker Killed In Fallujah Laid To Rest In Florida". News 4 Jacksonville, Fl. April 13, 2004. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011.
- "Mothers Say Mistakes Led to Fallujah Tragedy". Primetime, ABC News. April 7, 2005.
- Baker, Mike, (Associated Press), "Blackwater Death Suit Tossed After Six Years", Washington Post, 26 January 2011, p. 4.