Military & Aerospace

Private Military Companies
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The term “private military companies” or, as some prefer, “private security companies,” has only recently entered the lexicon. The issue became pertinent to a lot of Americans when the headline “Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans” appeared in a September 10, 2005 news report.

Overnight, we were told, squads of heavily-armed private security contractors were out on patrol in the streets of this stricken Louisiana city. That followed serious hurricane and flood damage in the wake of America’s biggest catastrophe since the Civil War.

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Details were sparse. What soon became clear was that some of these mercenaries-many who had just returned from stints of active duty in Iraq-had not only been “deputized” but wore gold Louisiana state law enforcement badges on their chests. That was in addition to their Blackwater USA photo ID cards. The pay, one of them intimated, was $350 a day, only a fraction of what the men were earning out east where a good operator can get anything between $80,000 and $180,000 a year depending on specialties and risk.

Blackwater USA is one of the field leaders among PMCs/PSCs in Iraq an Afghanistan. The company has numerous government contracts! Its men provide security to American embassies, VIPs, government”¦

When asked what they were doing there, those who would talk to the media-there were many who wouldn’t-said that they were part of a Homeland Security deployment. They had the authority to use lethal force to maintain order, they declared, though once the matter had become controversial, that was disputed by Eddie Compass, the New Orleans Police Commissioner.

Whatever the truth, Blackwater is no novice when it comes to operational matters. I know Gary Jackson, the CEO quite well, having visited him at his Moyock, North Carolina headquarters. We stayed in touch afterward and shared a few insights bye-mail including the fact that his men provided security to employees of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, including its former U.S. administrator, L. Paul Bremer.

British-born and a SEAL-team veteran, Gary’s first choice of recruit for work in remote and dangerous parts is somebody with solid Special Forces credentials. He started out by recruiting many of his former SEAL buddies, though by now many nations are represented within the company’s ranks. Essentially the market is something of a moveable feast, with supply dictated by demand, and in Baghdad these ‘lays, the need for such pro e sionals remains desperate.

Also, it is no secret that Blackwater USA is one of the field leaders among PMCs/PSCs in Iraq an Afghanistan. The company has numerous government contracts! Its men provide security to American embassies, VIPs, government officials, workplaces and construction sites (including getting crews to and from them on often-dangerous roads) and so on. In fact, the list is extensive, especially when determined and competent groups of zealots are in the business of killing people.

Blackwater works extensively with private corporations in other parts of the globe. Indeed, Gary told me in late 2004, company contracts were rapidly edging up toward the billion dollar mark, which, he admitted, is nice work if you can get it.

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More recently, the company was involved in a huge and complex retraining program of members of the U.S. Navy following the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden. Its members put several thousand sailors through their paces in an intense training program in the close-quarter use of firearms. For that purpose, the company built a mock ship superstructure on one of Backwater’s extensive properties about ninety minutes by road south of Virginia Beach.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Al J. Venter

Al J. Venter, has been an international war correspondent for nearly forty years. He has produced books and documentary films on subjects from the wars in Africa and Afghanistan to sharkhunting off the Cape of Good Hope.

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