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The few,the proud...the mercenaries?

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  • The few,the proud...the mercenaries?

    New York Times
    April 2, 2004
    Pg. 1

    Private U.S. Guards Take Big Risks For Right Price

    By James Dao

    MOYOCK, N.C., April 1 Nestled inconspicuously amid the pinelands and horse farms of northeastern North Carolina lies a small but increasingly important part of the nation's campaign to stabilize Iraq.

    Here, at the 6,000-acre training ground of Blackwater U.S.A., scores of former military commandos, police officers and civilians are prepared each month to join the lucrative but often deadly work of providing security for corporations and governments in the toughest corners of the globe.

    On Wednesday, four employees of a Blackwater unit most of them former American military Special Operations personnel were killed in an ambush in the central Iraqi city of Falluja, their bodies mutilated and dragged through the streets by chanting crowds.

    The scene, captured in horrific detail by television and newspaper cameras, shocked the nation and outraged the tightly knit community of current and former Special Operations personnel. But it also shed new light on the rapidly growing and loosely regulated industry of private paramilitary companies like Blackwater that are replacing government troops in conflicts from South America to Africa to the Middle East.

    "This is basically a new phenomenon: corporatized private military services doing the front-line work soldiers used to do," said Peter W. Singer, a national security fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington who has written a book on the industry, "Corporate Warriors" (Cornell University Press, 2003).

    "And they're not out there screening passengers at the airports," Mr. Singer said. "They're taking mortar and sniper fire."

    The Associated Press identified three of the victims as Jerry Zovko, 32, an Army veteran from Willoughby, Ohio; Mike Teague, a 38-year-old Army veteran from Clarksville, Tenn.; and Scott Helvenston, 38, a veteran of the Navy.

    Blackwater declined to identify the dead men, but issued a statement: "We grieve today for the loss of our colleagues and we pray for their families. The graphic images of the unprovoked attack and subsequent heinous mistreatment of our friends exhibits the extraordinary conditions under which we voluntarily work to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people."

    Though there have been private militaries since the dawn of war, the modern corporate version got its start in the 1990's after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    At that time, many nations were sharply reducing their military forces, leaving millions of soldiers without employment. Many of them went into business doing what they knew best: providing security or training others to do the same.

    The proliferation of ethnic conflicts and civil wars in places like the Balkans, Haiti and Liberia provided employment for the personnel of many new companies. Business grew rapidly after the Sept. 11 attacks prompted corporate executives and government officials to bolster their security overseas.

    But it was the occupation of Iraq that brought explosive growth to the young industry, security experts said. There are now dozens, perhaps hundreds of private military concerns around the world. As many as two dozen companies, employing as many as 15,000 people, are working in Iraq.

    They are providing security details for diplomats, private contractors involved in reconstruction, nonprofit organizations and journalists, security experts said. The private guards also protect oil fields, banks, residential compounds and office buildings.

    Though many of the companies are American, others from Britain, South Africa and elsewhere are providing security in Iraq. Among them is Global Risks Strategies, a British company that hired Fijian troops to help protect armored shipments of the new Iraqi currency around the country.

    Blackwater is typical of the new breed. Founded in 1998 by former Navy Seals, the company says it has prepared tens of thousands of security personnel to work in hot spots around the world. At its complex in North Carolina, it has shooting ranges for high-powered weapons, buildings for simulating hostage rescue missions and a bunkhouse for trainees.

    The Blackwater installation is so modern and well-equipped that Navy Seals stationed at the Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Norfolk, Va., routinely use it, military officials said. So do police units from around the country, who come to Blackwater for specialized training.

    "It's world class," said Chris Amos, a spokesman for the Norfolk Police Department.

    In Iraq, Blackwater personnel guard L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the civilian administration, among their other jobs. Around Baghdad, the Blackwater guards, most in their 30's and 40's, are easily identified, with their heavily muscled upper bodies, closely cropped hair or shaven heads and wrap-around sunglasses. Some even wear Blackwater T-shirts. Like Special Operations Forces, they use walkie-talkie earpieces with curled wires disappearing beneath their collars and carry light-weight automatic weapons.

    In the northern city of Mosul, where Mr. Bremer met with about 130 carefully vetted Iraqis on Thursday, Blackwater guards maintained a heavy presence, standing along the walls facing the Iraqi guests with their rifles cradled. More than once, Iraqis and Western reporters moving forward to take their seats in the hall were abruptly challenged by the guards, with warnings that they would be ejected if they resisted.

    The company also received a five-year Navy contract in 2002 worth $35.7 million to train Navy personnel in force protection, shipboard security, search-and-seizure techniques, and armed sentry duties, Pentagon officials said.

    The rapid growth of the private security industry has come about in part because of the shrinkage of the American military: there are simply fewer military personnel available to protect officials, diplomats and bases overseas, security experts say.

    To meet the rising demand, the companies are offering yearly salaries ranging from $100,000 to nearly $200,000 to entice senior military Special Operations forces to switch careers. Assignments are paying from a few hundred dollars to as much as $1,000 a day, military officials said.

    Gen. Wayne Downing, a retired chief of the United States Special Operations Command, said that on a recent trip to Baghdad he ran into several former Delta Force and Seal Team Six senior noncommissioned officers who were working for private security companies.

    "It was like a reunion," General Downing said.

    Sheriff Susan Johnson of Currituck County, N.C., where the entrance to Blackwater is situated, said several of her deputies had been lured away by the company to work overseas.

    "It's tough to keep them when they can earn as much in one month there as they can in a year here," Sheriff Johnson said.

    But critics say the rapid growth of the industry raises troubling concerns. There is little regulation of the quality of training or recruitment by private companies, they say. The result may be inexperienced, poorly prepared and weakly led units playing vital roles in combat situations. Even elite former commandos may not be well trained for every danger, those critics say.

    Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, has also argued that the United States' growing use of private military companies hides the financial, personal and political costs of military operations overseas, since the concerns face little public scrutiny.

    In particular, Ms. Schakowsky has objected to administration plans to increase the number of private military contractors in Colombia, where three American civilians working for a Northrup Grumman subsidiary have been held hostage by Marxist rebels for more than a year. The three were on a mission to search for cocaine laboratories and drug planes when they were captured.

    "I continue to oppose the use of military contractors who are not subject to the same kind of scrutiny and accountability as U.S. soldiers," Ms. Schakowsky said last week. "When things go wrong for these contractors, they and their families have been shamefully forgotten by their American employers."

    Eric Schmitt, in Washington, and John F. Burns, in Baghdad, contributed reporting for this article.
    Delegate, MN GOP.

    PATRIA SI, COMUNISMO NO!/p...?id=1156276727

  • #2
    SGT Long,

    You and I are on the same brainwave. Just read this article and others just today.

    I've been interested in the history of Mercs for a long time. This latest incident involving the 4 americans in Falluja, has opened up the fact that mercenary work is alive and well in the 21st century.

    I've found some articles about Chiliean security forces (mercs), going through training at this facility you have showcased. Also that Gurka, Phillipine and South Afrikans are being recuited for "security" work in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Some nations do not approve of citizens being recuited for this work though.

    The level of training has been reported to be at both ends of the spectrum. Elite, to, are you willing to go and can you shoot.

    Security Companies (Mercenary Companies!?), are growing and look like the new Outsource for fighting terrorism.

    This is a very interesting subject.
    Thx for sharing.
    Only Tearful, Animal Man Through the Nature of his Being is Destined to
    a Life of Warfare...


    • #3
      Its funny,the first thought in my head was Executive Outcomes back in the 90's.
      Delegate, MN GOP.

      PATRIA SI, COMUNISMO NO!/p...?id=1156276727


      • #4
        This reminds me of that movie with Russell Crowe...what was that movie again?
        "To know the weapons the enemy has is already to beat them!"


        • #5
          Originally posted by hellodoggie
          This reminds me of that movie with Russell Crowe...what was that movie again?
          Proof of Life
          Molon Labe


          • #6
            Favorite "Merc" Movies:

            Wild Geese & Dogs of War.
            Only Tearful, Animal Man Through the Nature of his Being is Destined to
            a Life of Warfare...


            • #7
              These guys aren't MERCS

              They are providing security so that the armed forces can focus on getting the bad guys

              EO was a world apart from what Blackwater is
              Molon Labe


              • #8
                Well,we can always call it "free agency".....

                Ive been trying to find the Wild Geese on DVD,no such luck as of yet.
                Delegate, MN GOP.

                PATRIA SI, COMUNISMO NO



                • #9
                  Thanks Sgt Long for posting this because if you had not I would be unemployed now. See you in Iraq..well 2% of you anyway.

                  Semper Fi


                  • #10
                    Glad I could help man.
                    Delegate, MN GOP.

                    PATRIA SI, COMUNISMO NO



                    • #11
                      Related Article

                      Weary Special Forces
                      Troops Quit For Security Jobs
                      By David Rennie in Washington and Michael Smith
                      Defence Correspondent
                      The Telegraph - UK

                      Exhausted American and British special forces troopers, the West's front line in the war on terrorism, are resigning in record numbers and taking highly-paid jobs as private security guards in Iraq and Afghanistan.

                      Senior US commanders are so alarmed that they have held emergency meetings to agree new deals on pay and conditions for the men.

                      Men from the SAS in Britain and Australia and America's Delta Force are said to be weary after almost 30 months of nearly continuous service since the September 11 attacks.

                      Gen Bryan "Doug" Brown, head of the US special operations command, summoned his commanders to Washington for a crisis meeting last week. He told the Senate armed services committee that the retention of special forces had become "a big issue".

                      US special forces troopers earn up to 30,000 but are being offered packages of 60,000 to 120,000 to work in combat zones.

                      For SAS soldiers earning 250 a week in Iraq, the lure of up to 1,000 a week is easily understood. The most experienced men in the most dangerous jobs are reported to be making 5,000 a week.

                      The manning crisis comes as Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, pushes the military to use special forces more and more widely, favouring them over conventional forces, for their speed, small scale and ability to operate in complete secrecy with only minimal legal oversight.

                      Gen David Grange, a retired army Ranger, Green Beret and member of Delta Force - the elite, top-secret unit modelled on the SAS - told The Telegraph yesterday that family pressures were also taking their toll on his former colleagues.

                      "In my Vietnam platoon two people were married. Now it's maybe 60 per cent. Even if special forces are wild characters, with high divorce rates, there's still enormous pressure from families. They've been away more or less continuously since September 11 and wives are asking, 'Where the hell are you?' "

                      The war on terrorism has placed unprecedented strains on special forces. Gen Grange said: "The US army alone has people in 120 countries.

                      "A lot of those people are special forces - counter-drug, counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism - as well as our own insertions."

                      The US government is also increasingly privatising its most sensitive missions, hiring defence contractors for such tasks as guarding Paul Bremer, the Iraq occupation chief, or Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, or heading overseas to train foreign militaries.

                      Peter Singer, author of Corporate Warriors, a study of such privatisation, said the US defence department was the largest client for such private security contractors, paying companies large sums to supply them with former special forces whose training was paid for by US taxpayers.

                      Gen Grange said special bonuses were now being paid to special forces for overseas deployment and hazardous duty. But money was never the key factor for many of his comrades, he said. "In the private sector you don't have the brotherhood or the sense of duty and country."

                      Though many of Gen Grange's missions remain secret, he conceded that special operations offered greater excitement than private work.

                      "Going out to destroy something or capture or kill someone - those have to be government or military missions unless you're a mercenary or doing something illegal."

                      Green Berets and other special forces receive 18 months' training in combat and survival skills, including airborne and amphibious warfare, and are also required to learn at least one foreign language. They may apply only after six to eight years in the military. Army Rangers are also counted as special forces, specialising in seizing airfields and ports.

                      The precise number of US special forces is shrouded in secrecy, though an overall figure of between 49,000 and 66,000 is quoted for Special Operations Command.

                      However, Jennifer Kibbe, an intelligence specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, said such large numbers included administrative and support personnel. "What they call 'trigger pullers' is more in the vein of 10,000," she said.

                      British officials say more than 300 soldiers have left the armed forces in the past six months to take up lucrative jobs with private companies such as Olive Security, Armour Security, Global and USDID. The problem goes beyond elite special forces. There are more than 160 British former paratroopers working in Baghdad, where the Coalition Provisional Authority has hired a battalion of Fijian soldiers to guard money deliveries to banks.

                      More than 500 former Gurkhas, working for Global Logistics Security, are guarding buildings for the CPA.
                      I hate it when I see one of those road signs that says "Draw Bridge Ahead" and I don't have a pencil.
                      -Lou Chiafullo


                      • #12
                        The problem with this is, since they are not military personnel they are not covered by the Geneva convention.
                        They cannot legally commit an act of war, only an act of murder.
                        And it hearkens back to the British East India company army.
                        Should we allow corporations to have private militaries?
                        A resounding no!!!!!!

                        They have to much power and influence as is, and you want to give them troops too?


                        • #13
                          These guys are (IC) or independant contractors and are hired by companies and organizations like Haliburton, the UN, International Red Cross and even the Peace Corps. If they saved your ass from being kidnapped I bet you wouldn't be bitching about it.

                          "Compaines having private armies".....shutup Mullin
                          make sure you know what your talking about next time

                          Semper FI


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Marines
                            These guys are (IC) or independant contractors and are hired by companies and organizations like Haliburton, the UN, International Red Cross and even the Peace Corps. If they saved your ass from being kidnapped I bet you wouldn't be bitching about it.

                            "Compaines having private armies".....shutup retard
                            make sure you know what your talking about next time

                            Semper FI

                            Skip the retard part and you get a big :thumb: from me

                            FWIW the Blackwater folks were escorting food from Save the Children. Yeah that has Mad Mike Hoare written all over it...........:nonono:
                            Molon Labe


                            • #15
                              Skip the retard part and you get a big thumbs up from me
                              Edited for your supervision:thumb:

                              Semper Fi Captain


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