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Blackwater - Warriors for Hire

Blackwater - Warriors for Hire

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Published by: heminator on Jun 12, 2010
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01/14/2012

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WARRIORSFOR HIRE
Mark Hemingwayon Blackwater USA andthe rise ofprivate militarycontractors
DECEMBER 18, 2006 $3.95
 
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 Warriorsfor Hire
 Blackwater USA and the rise of private military contractors
 Moyock, N.C.
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or obvious reasons, the location o the headquar-ters o Blackwater USA isn’t well-publicized.Ocially, the only public trace o the world’slargest private military training acility is a postoce box in Moyock, North Carolina, an unre-markable rib-shack pit-stop on the way to the Outer Banks.But the place isn’t hard to nd. From Washington, D.C.,head south. As soon as you cross the state line, ollow thesound o gunre until you nd an armed compound hal the size o Manhattan. Which is not to say the place sticksout—it’s just very, very big. Blackwater is a company mostAmericans rst heard o when our o its contractors weremurdered in Falluja, Iraq, in March 2004, and their bod-ies desecrated on camera. It is the most prominent o theprivate security contractors in Iraq. You might think o theNorth Carolina acility as Blackwater’s Fort Benning orQuantico.Still largely subsumed by the swampland it occupies, thecompound is mostly au naturel except or odd aircrat lyingaround. The company name sounds mysterious, but it’s justthe name o the region. I you dig a ew eet underground,the hole will quickly ll with the thick, dark peat water justunder the surace. The only building o any real size housesthe company’s brand new 60,000-square-oot corporateoces, a low prole building with a massive stone entry-way that blends into the surroundings nicely. (The massivedouble-door handles made rom .50 caliber machine gunbarrels get noticed, however.) In act, the company logo—atarget sight superimposed over a bear claw—isn’t entirelygurative. Black bears—at least one o which tops 800pounds—roam reely all over the property.O course, running into a bear is probably the least o your saety concerns at Blackwater. Firing ranges abound onthe property. For years, the company’s bread and butter wasits multimillion-dollar business designing and manuactur-ing targets and shooting ranges. From its original product—a patented, reactive, reinorced steel target—the companynow makes everything rom modular, endlessly congu-rable “shoothouses,” with doors and rooms that simulateurban combat, to concrete, reinorced shipping containersthat can be set up anywhere in the world as sel-containedranges. (A personal avorite is the “Dueling Tree”—anupright stand with three targets on each side. Hit the targetand it gets knocked over to your opponent’s side where hecan knock it back. The rst shooter with all six targets onhis side loses. Think o it as tetherball with guns.)But we’re only scratching the surace. Though the com-pany is less than ten years old, it’s already become the alphaand omega o military outsourcing. The target systemsremain a multimillion-dollar business, but now the corpo-rate fagship is just one part o a very large feet. Indeed, itwould be hard to understate Blackwater’s capabilities:A burgeoning logistics operation that can deliver 100-or 200-ton sel-contained humanitarian relie responsepackages aster than the Red Cross.A Florida aviation division with 26 dierent platorms,rom helicopter gunships to a massive Boeing 767. Thecompany even has a Zeppelin.The country’s largest tactical driving track, with multi-surace, multi-elevation positive and negative camberedturns, a skid pad, and a ram pad or drivers learning how toescape ambushes.A 20-acre manmade lake with shipping containers thathave been mocked up with ship rails and portholes, foatingon pontoons, used to teach how to board a hostile ship.A K-9 training acility that currently has 80 dog teamsdeployed around the world. Ever wondered how to rappeldown the side o nine stacked shipping containers with abomb-sning German shepherd dog strapped to yourchest? Blackwater can teach you.A 1,200-yard-long ring range or sniper training.A sizable private armory. The one gun locker I sawcontained close to 100 9mm handguns—mostly mili-tary issue Beretta M9s, law enorcement avorite AustrianGlocks, and Sig Sauers.
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 Mark Hemingway is a writer in Washington.
 
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An armored vehicle still in develop-ment called the Grizzly; the prototype’sangular steel plates are erocious-look-ing. The suspension is being built by oneo Blackwater’s North Carolina neigh-bors—Dennis Anderson, monster truckchampion and the man responsible or the“Grave Digger” (the ne plus ultra o mon-ster trucks).And there’s much, much more. Sittingin his second-story oce with expansiveviews o the grounds, Blackwater vice pres-ident or strategic initiatives and ormerrecon Marine Chris Taylor makes a soundbusiness case or the Blackwater acil-ity. “One o the single greatest actors thatmakes us who we are today is, one, we arealways complete, correct, and on time withour services and, two, this acility—this isthe greatest barrier to entry in the marketo doing training and security operations; nobody else hasthis.” Taylor continues: “To build this acility today—$40or $50 million, and nobody’s got that kind o coin. Nobodywants to invest that, especially i you are going into a mar-ket where there already is a big dog.”Still, at a certain point touring their acilities, theimmensity o the place seems like, well, overkill. O all thecuriosities littered throughout the gargantuan property, it’shard not to be taken aback by “R U Ready High”—a ringrange modeled ater a high school, as well as an old schoolbus used or training in tactical hostage situations.Taylor patiently explains that the company built itimmediately ater Columbine and that local police orcesand SWAT teams oten have woeully inadequate trainingor such situations even to this day. Sure enough, shortlyater my tour o the acilities, there were two school hostagesituations within days o each other, again in Colorado andin Pennsylvania. Neither ended well.It may seem callous that Blackwater is making a buckpreparing police to deal with such horric events. Butsomebody has to be in the business o worst case scenar-ios. It’s not their ault that everywhere—rom Colorado toIraq—business is so good.
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hile Blackwater’s training and logistics operationsmight be the heart o their operation, that’s notthe reason the company is on the verge o becom-ing a household name. Among its initial government con-tracts was one or antiterrorist training in the wake o theUSS
Cole
bombing. A single marksman could have takenout the approaching bomb-laden boat, but most soldiers ondeck weren’t even carrying loaded weapons at the time. Rec-ognizing a major weakness, the Navy awarded an “urgentand compelling need” contract to Blackwater to train20,000 sailors in orce protection. The company still exe-cutes that contract to this day. And rom that start, it gradu-ally expanded its roster o services available to the military.Enter the war on terror, and the military began looking orsomething beyond training and support services—actualmanpower.Blackwater is now one o the largest and most respectedsuppliers o “private military contractors” in Iraq. Thecompany has carried out high-prole assignments—suchas their exclusive contract to guard Ambassador L. PaulBremer when he was the top U.S. civilian in Iraq—whoseperormance by a private company would once have beenunthinkable.The company’s work in Iraq has not been with-out incident. The our American contractors killed inFalluja in March 2004 were providing transport securityor a Kuwaiti ood service company under a BlackwaterSecurity Consulting contract. Their bodies were draggedthrough the streets and the disgured corpses were even-tually strung rom a bridge with an electrical cord. Theamilies o the our men—one o them a revered ormerSEAL instructor—are suing Blackwater, alleging that theywere rushed out on the mission without adequate prepara-tion or protection.Aside rom providing one o the most demoralizingimages o the war, the killing o the our Blackwater employ-ees did two major things. It was the catalyst or the Battle o Falluja, a brutal but ultimately successul attempt to reclaimthe city rom insurgents, which resulted in 83 additionalU.S. troops killed in action. And it drew national attention
 Firing ranges were Blackwater’s original business.
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