Guest Column: Blackwater/Xe flees Jo Daviess County, but training continues
By Dan Kenney
Co-Coordinator, No Private Armies
Nearly four years ago, citizens joined together in a small church near Mt. Carroll, Ill., forming No Private Armies/ Clearwater to Stop Blackwater. The citizens’ group worked for four years to get Blackwater, now Xe, to leave Illinois. The last major demonstration held at the Blackwater/Xe training site in northwest Illinois occurred April 27, 2009, and resulted in 22 arrests.
Blackwater was once the largest and most powerful mercenary company in the U.S., making more than $1 billion in U.S. contracts. But now beleaguered with lawsuits, and having undergone massive changes in the company’s administration, the sole owner of Blackwater, Eric Prince, has moved out of the country, and put the company up for sale.
The Galena Gazette reports (viewable at galenagazette.com/index.asp) that Blackwater/Xe, as of Oct. 1, no longer has a financial interest in the Jo Daviess County facility. It is now a private business, locally owned and operated. According to the current business owner, Eric Davis, who was the manager of the site for Blackwater since 2007, “Blackwater is currently in the process of moving their equipment that still remains back to North Carolina.”
In 2009, Blackwater changed the name of their training facilities to U.S. Training Center. They still operate two training facilities—one in San Diego and the other in Moyock, N.C. Blackwater also owns and operates a mobile training unit that travels the country training law enforcement.
The facility on Skunk Hallow Road 20 miles south of Stockton, Ill., has been renamed North American Weapons and Tactical Training Center (NAWTTC). The new company is owned by Impact Training Group. Davis, former U.S. military, reports that all of the full- and part-time instructors are former law enforcement. The company’s Facebook page states: “Impact Training Group offers the finest and most comprehensive firearms and tactics instruction available.”
The NAWTTC also offers, “a unique training experience that can accommodate any of your training requirements or needs. Whether you or your unit wishes to rent our ranges, participate in IMPACT’s training courses, or just learn basic fundamentals of marksmanship, give us a call and we’ll make the arrangements.”
The North American Weapons Group joins the many other companies that have sprung up around America over the past decade. These companies have moved in to capitalize on the growing trend to outsource the training of local law enforcement and military. Over the past two years, I have been contacted by citizens in California, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and Michigan concerned about start-up Blackwater wannabes.
It is good to know Blackwater was not able to make sufficient profit to continue to operate a training facility in northwest Illinois. However, the fight against the outsourcing of America’s security continues. Currently, contractors outnumber American soldiers in Afghanistan, where there are 206,000 private contractors performing many tasks, and in Iraq where 177,000 contractors remain. More than 40,000 of these contractors are armed and may engage in combat. In the first six months of 2010, contractor casualties outnumbered those of U.S. soldiers; there is an increasing reliance on mercenaries to carry out American operations as U.S. troops are brought home.
We are witnessing the largest transfer of combat fighting and security work from public hands to private in the history of our country. We are also witnessing the privatization of war by multi-billion-dollar companies such as Dyncorp and Blackwater and hundreds of others like them. Some 600 private companies are profiting off the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is reported that nearly half of every tax dollar spent in these conflicts goes to a for-profit military contracting company.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., after a trip to Afghanistan, stated clearly recently one of the dangers this privatization process presents: “The reliance on private security contractors in Afghanistan too often empowers local warlords and powerbrokers who operate outside the Afghan government’s control. There is even evidence that some security contractors work against coalition forces, creating the very threat that they are hired to combat. Not only do these contractors threaten the security of our troops, but they put the success of our mission at risk.”
If American citizens want their security provided by soldiers who take an oath to uphold and protect our constitution and have strong allegiance to our country, then we need to remain vigilant of what is happening to our security and what is happening to the way we conduct our wars. We also need to be watchful of how and by whom our local law enforcement is being trained.
From the Nov. 17-23, 2010 issue