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
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Iraq in renewing their operating license for the country.The license was revoked in 2008 and reinstated in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.
Updated: December 16, 2011.