“MEP instantly became Afghanistanâ€™s biggest linguist shop in 2007, after the defense contractor Titan only managed to muster about half of the translators it promised to the military. The U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command put the translation contract up for competitive bid, and awarded the job to MEP, a startup founded by special forces veterans.
Today, the company, led by former marine and Blackwater vice president Chris Taylor, says it fills 97 percent of the translatorsâ€™ billets, up from Titanâ€™s 41 percent fulfillment rate.
While MEP hasnâ€™t faced the kind of scrutiny paid to contractors like Blackwater, the firm has come under fire for the treatment of its linguists. Chatterjee reported last year that MEP rehired many of Titanâ€™s old interpreters â€” and then promptly cut their salaries by as much as 50 percent. Some were canned, for seemingly flimsy reasons. One linguist, wounded in action, felt he was fired, essentially, for getting hurt.
MEP insists the accusations are way off-base. â€Weâ€™re very committed to making our company a different kind of company. To giving these guys better treatment,â€ Rushton says. â€œWe bend over backwards to provide benefits and medical care.â€
But, according to Chatterjee, MEPâ€™s record of caring for injured translators is far from perfect. When interpreter Abdul Hameed was wounded by an improvised bomb last August, MEP made sure he received disability pay. But it was only â€œ$110.01 a week â€” barely enough to pay for his medical expenses.â€ MEP says they are working with their insurance company to make sure all wounded employees are treated quickly and properly.
2010-05-16 01:57:22 UTC