Deer Lake native working in the oil industry in Iraq

Diane Crocker
Published on July 8, 2014

Perry Easton enjoys adventure.

The Deer Lake native said he’s always looking for “something different,” and that adventuresome spirit led him to getting his pilot’s licence and travelling to other parts of the world.

Most recently it’s taken him on “overseas experience” to Iraq.

Easton works for Sanjel, a Calgary-based company that provides oilfield energy services throughout Canada, the United States, Latin America and the Middle East.

He started working in the oilfields in Alberta after completing a couple of years of college, and said for most entry level positions a class one licence is needed to drive a truck.

“It’s not so much a trades type of business either. It’s more experience and knowledge,” he said. “Do your time and move up through the company that way, and that’s what I’ve done.”

When he started with Sanjel five years ago it was driving a truck in Grand Prairie, Alta. About two years ago he transferred to the company’s San Antonio, Texas location and is currently a district service line manager for the company’s coil tubing division in Erbil, Iraq.

“They had a manager that resigned and moved back to the States, so I had to go basically replace his position,” said Easton, adding it was his choice to take the job.

He first went to the Middle Eastern country Feb. 2 and works on a rotation of 30 days on and 15 days off.

His time off is spent back in Texas with the his wife Sandra and their three children, Rebecca, 15, Jonathan, 13 and Jessica, 12.

The family turned his latest rotation into a vacation at Corner Brook to visit with family in the area.

It’s the first time in four years that Easton has been home.

“I just got enticed to come back to do some salmon fishing,” he said. “Three fish so far.”

Sanjel employs more than 70 people in Iraq and Easton said somewhere close to 40 of them are expats like him.

When Easton accepted the position it was Sandra who researched the country to prepare him and the family for what to expect. He also talked with some people he knew who had been there.

He said safety was the biggest concern, but so far that has not been an issue.

Erbil is in the Kurdistan region, and he said it’s generally a safe place.

“There’s really no threat in that city. A lot of stuff happens in the Mosul area and on that side of the river on the Syrian side, and it gets pretty intense over there,” he said, in reference to the Sunni extremists that have overrun a large part of the country.

“There’s military people everywhere. But you get used to it, living there. Even with this conflict that’s going on, you know we have evacuation plans in place and a certain trigger point that would activate that.”

 The company rents villas, or crew houses, for staff to stay in and the workers follow a strict routine. The company also provides them with security.

“We have armed guards that make the moves with us if we have to travel. We’re well protected and informed of situations that are going on.”

Outside of the ongoing conflict, Easton said life in Erbil is basically normal, and there is a lot of new growth and construction in the city.

“Everybody is busy working, everybody is happy,” he said. “That’s why, when these conflicts come up from other parts of the country, it’s generally not a big threat to Erbil because they have basically their own little country inside of Iraq.”

Driving has been one of the biggest culture shocks that he’s experienced.

“There’s no police system that really enforce any rules or anything. So you kind of just drive with the flow. Eyes all over kind of thing,” he said.

He’s had no trouble getting used to the heat, which is comparable to the climate in Texas.

“Beautiful sunshine, 45 degree heat — yeah, it’s real nice,” he said, adding with a laugh that he’s finding it cold here in Corner Brook.

Being in Iraq is also giving him an opportunity for more adventure and travel. In the past few months he’s not only explored Erbil and other parts of Iraq, but some other countries as well.

When asked how long he’ll continue making the commute, Easton said, “Until the country shuts down. It’s going good so far.”