Blackwater USA is considered a private army for hire. Founded in 1997, the company was created by Erik Prince, a former U.S. Navy Seal and the son of billionaire Edgar Prince. The largest of the three security companies hired by the United States, Blackwater USA is currently known as XE Services. With headquarters in Arlington, Va., the company trains former Special Forces operatives as well as foreign military personnel to become mercenaries who are then added to the Blackwater (or XE Services) staff. Training subjects include tactics, weapons training, hand-to-hand combat and tactical and off-road driving. The training is offered at the Impact Training Center and can be attended by any military, government or law enforcement agencies as well.
The name Blackwater USA, and later Blackwater Worldwide, came from the color of the swamp water at the company’s 6,000 acre headquarters on the North Carolina and Virginia border. The headquarters includes a state-of-the-art training facility, which was constructed in an area that is now mainly a wildlife refuge. Erik Prince was concerned with safety and found this location to be the most ideal to allow for the training needed while protecting the people training and the general populace.
Since the creation of Blackwater USA, numerous facilities and training centers have been added to the property holdings. There are also nine business units that make up the company as a whole. Those units include a K-9 unit, airships, armored vehicles, security consulting, maritime security, cargo and passenger aircraft and private security.
The first government contract secured by Blackwater in 2000 was the training of sailors following the bombing of the USS Cole. That contract resulted in the successful training of over 100,000 sailors. The company’s most current contract was to be involved heavily in the Iraq War and to be contracted for work in Afghanistan. Some of the work Blackwater has been hired to do in Iraq includes protecting diplomats at the U.S. embassy in Iraq and for protecting the head of Iraq’s transitional government, L. Paul Bremer of the Coalition Provisional Authority. The company has faced some opposition from Iraq in renewing their operating license for the country.The license was revoked in 2008 and reinstated in 2009. Following that, a request for renewal was denied, and as of 2010, Blackwater’s contract to protect U.S. dignitaries was not renewed by the U.S. State Department. A new contract, however, was awarded to the company by the CIA.