Private Military Company Builds a New Training Facility


 Private Military Company Builds a New Training Facility

The armed forces of the United States are currently enjoying a training facility that was constructed by a private military company, not the Army or Navy. In June, Blackwater Worldwide broke ground on its twice-yearly training circuit which spans 55 acres in North Carolina and features five gun ranges, three obstacle courses, and enough space for 100 buildings.

The private military company said it would be more cost-efficient to build this facility than to rely on government funding. This is not the first time one of Blackwater's projects has been reported to be federally funded and then built privately because of federal budget shortfalls.

Blackwater began making headlines in 2007 when their training facilities were used by U.S. troops preparing to go to Iraq. The bad publicity quickly followed when four Blackwater employees were killed and their bodies dragged through the streets of Baghdad by Iraqi citizens who were upset with the U.S. for killing civilians during the war effort. The occupation of Iraq is what some believe led to a push for Blackwater, whose founder has close ties to George Bush, to build their own training facility.

Blackwater has more than 600 employees in North Carolina working on a $15 million government contract that provides training for U.S. soldiers heading overseas, but now Blackwater is looking for ways to cash in on their skills as well as invest in future projects that might be funded by the federal government.

"We need to be prepared for the next war and the last thing we want to do is have a state-of-the-art training facility sitting out while Congress decides what to do about the wars," said Clet Galet, Blackwater's local government liaison.

16 buildings will be constructed in less than a year, including an indoor shooting range, small arms ranges and other facilities that will support area security businesses. Blackwater has also pledged to donate $1 million toward community projects over the next 15 years.

Blackwater recently opened its first training facility in North Carolina, which is meant to run in addition to its existing facilities in Utah and Texas. Blackwater will be closing its facilities in Texas and Utah in February. "Blackwater is building a training facility similar to those it operates in the Middle East, to train forces deploying to Afghanistan and other areas of overseas operations," said Blackwater spokesman, Kevin Carroll.

"This project provides employment opportunities for North Carolina's labor force," said Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), which may help state economic development efforts. "It also demonstrates a commitment to the region by a private company seeking opportunities that will help position our workforce for the future. I am confident the facility will be a good neighbor to our citizens and an asset in the surrounding community."

"This will be a very good training facility for many years," said Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), chairwoman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I congratulate Blackwater on this important step in providing cost-effective security."

The company that built this facility is now looking for a state government to provide $2 million in replacement contracts under the current contract, which will now expire on March 31, 2012. The company has offered to pay for any necessary upgrades or renovations by itself. Blackwater can also negotiate replacement contracts with local governments if U.S. government funding is approved.

Blackwater Worldwide currently has 29 federal contracts worth a possible $1 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an oversight report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office released in 2007. Blackwater has also been awarded at least 87 State Department contracts since 2002, use its services for embassy operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan and Iraq.

Blackwater remains under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for several issues including alleged involvement with the CIA planning missions that may be violating international law and allegedly killing as many as 20 civilians at Nisoor Square in Baghdad, according to a recent report from the New York Times .

The company also has a contract worth up to $50 million with the State Department to provide security services in Iraq, including protecting U.S. Embassy personnel in Baghdad and at consulates in Basra, Mosul and Erbil. Blackwater also said it will donate $1 million over 15 years to community projects in North Carolina on top of the $4.5 million it has already donated since September 11, 2001 for tsunami relief efforts, local grants and scholarships, and other community projects .

"We have established an excellent relationship with the local officials and have been very good partners with them," Carroll said. "We are proud to be part of this community. But the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are not ending anytime soon so we need to be prepared as well as we can be."

Blackwater is also close to acquiring another gun training facility in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, according to Carroll. The company is building a $3 million facility with an indoor firing range that seats up to 150 shooters using .22 caliber rifles and .45 caliber pistols. Blackwater has already been operating a gun range in Kings Mountain for the last few months. [See: Blackwater's Gun Training Facility Part of Massive Expansion Plan ]

The company's web site says it has more than 325 employees around the world and its operations span more than 24 countries. Blackwater is registered in the United States and operates out of Moyock, North Carolina.

The new training facility will be used to teach "special warfare skills at both the advanced tactical level and more general special operations forces tactics," according to a U.S. Army solider who has been on a week-long training exercise at Blackwater's facilities in North Carolina recently. The soldier requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the media.

"It was very organized and professionally executed," said the soldier about his experience at Blackwater's facility in Moyock, Virginia. "The facilities are top notch and everything is new. The instructors were very knowledgeable and professional. It was a very good first impression."

"You've got to be flexible in this business and constantly improving your tactics," said the soldier about why he took the course from Blackwater. "Blackwater supplies support services to the Army, Marine Corps and Navy Special Warfare Commands, as well as other U.S. government agencies," according to its web site .

"I haven't seen anything like my experience at Blackwater before," said his son. "My father is normally a pretty quiet guy but I saw him sling an AK- 47 around and fire it comfortably without breaking a sweat.


"I've been in the area for a few weeks, training with the local Defense Department and learning about my new home back home, North Carolina," said another soldier who took the same course at Blackwater's facilities in North Carolina. "We trained at multiple locations but Blackwater sent us to their private facility near Moyock to train before returning to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

We spent a lot of time preparing for our mission ahead of us and Blackwater has a lot of first class equipment.

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