Tag Archives: Blackwater

Book Review: Blackwater: From The Inside Out

Click the picture to buy on Amazon.com

Love ’em or hate ’em, I’ve met very few people inside or outside the military who have an opinion that rests somewhere in the middle ground. When I was in Special Forces Blackwater was seen as a joke, something to be laughed at rather than the insidious right wing paramilitary organization that the media had made them out to be. Mostly, I had heard second hand stories from friends who had trained at the Moyock facility and found the Blackwater instructors to be a bunch of blowhards. That said, I’ve never worked for Blackwater and have no first hand experience with them, so in that sense, Tim Beckman’s work is refreshing as it does walk the middle ground and talks about both the good and the bad.

Tim comes to Blackwater after retiring from 10th Special Forces Group, having put in his twenty years. He described the event that put him over the top and left him with no doubt that it was time to retire. After his SF Battalion, stationed in Germany, gets sidelined during OIF and OEF they are then forced to watch a hooyah ceremony about what the rest of 10th Group had accomplished during the war, a blatant slap in the face to veteran SF operators who had wanted to get into the fight as much as anyone else. Sadly, this is the type of shenanigans the leadership in Special Forces often engages in. In 5th Group we had a Sergeant Major handing out haircut tickets at a memorial service. Sillyness like this ends up alienating a lot of soldiers.

This short book (or long article if you prefer) starts off with an incident in which Tim worked with a Blackwater team as a Designated Marksmen before rewinding and talking about his recruitment and refresher training at the Blackwater Compound in Virginia. The corporatization of warfare comes into full view as this former Team Sergeant is blown away by how smooth Blackwater’s operation is. They’ve got a first class training facility that can fabricate pretty much any targetry or training aids the instructors want, a brand new warehouse that issues out equipment that is better than what the author had access to in 10th Group in many cases, even a squared away chow hall.

This book covers two deployments the author had with BW where he held an impressive array of positions that in addition to the Designated Marksmen position, he also worked as a trainer, body guard to for the US ambassador, and worked a staff position in the headquarters doing intel analysis and deconflicting battle space with the US military. Tim doesn’t flinch at describing the uncomfortable details. He talks about the gritty realities of combat as well as some of the hijinx that some of his BW colleges got themselves into. There was an accusation of rape (later disproved), a drunk dude jumping into a pool with an air conditioner, steroid use, and of course, corporate favoritism and backstabbing.

The latter makes for an interesting comparison to the military and how the corporate structure is better in some cases and worse in others. The author does mention that he is against the military over-outsourcing logistical operations that they should be taking responsibility for. He also mentions, if I read right, that he believes there is a role for governmental regulation in this industry.

This work provides a great snapshot of Blackwater and the type of operations they ran in Iraq. For the average person, or even a former Special Forces guy like me, who doesn’t know much about this industry, Tim has a lot of good insights and dispels many of the misconceptions that people have about this company. My only complaint is that it is a little short and I would have liked to have seen him elaborate on some topics a little more but in a short amount of text he does hit all the points you would expect him too. The pictures are also very helpful and give an idea of what it was like to live in work in a Blackwater employee’s shoes. For my money, I think its worth a couple bucks for the insider details and personal accounts that Tim writes about.

PS: This book is self published on Amazon so this account wasn’t filtered through some corporate committee, “fixed” by publishers, or approved by some bullshit government censor so I think the author is giving us the real deal.


Filed under Action Adventure, Special Forces, Writing

Blackwater sets up mercenary army in the UAE

Reflexive Fire is due out sooner rather than later.  As many of you know my novel is about former US Special Forces soldiers setting up a mercenary army in Kazakhstan, using so-called Third Country Nationals (TCNs) as infantry troops.  These mercenaries are than deployed with their American, British, French, and South African advisers to fight dirty little wars around the globe.

A fanciful work of fiction?

NY Times: Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder

We all know that Blackwater founder Erik Prince fled to the UAE to avoid the increasing legal trouble he was in, not to mention scrutiny from the media.  Today, the NY Times is reporting that Prince has been hired by the UAE to set up a commando force consisting of Colombian and other foreign troops at a secret training center out in the desert.  The foreign veterans of South American conflicts were apparently recruited through Thor Global Enterprises, an offshore outfit based on the island of Tortola.

The article also states that Prince feels that Muslims can’t be relied on to kill Muslims, hence the use of TCNs.  That statement is so shallowly superficial that I wonder if this quote can really be attributed to him.  Like him or hate him, I don’t think Prince is an idiot and a statement like this shows a profound misunderstanding of the region.

Apparently, Thor’s quality control blows because they mostly sent a bunch of kids to the UAE, some of whom had never fired a gun before.  The trainers were so disappointed that they than realized that they would have to change roles from mere advisers to being combat leadership, de facto Green Berets.  Between this and the drug use among the recruits, the article states that a shock unit was put together to compensate, consisting of South Africans, some allegedly being former Executive Outcomes men, the mercenaries who fought against the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone back in the 90’s.

This is also where the reporting gets sloppy, based on my research, and may call into question some of the other allegations made.

“To bolster the force, R2 recruited a platoon of South African mercenaries, including some veterans of Executive Outcomes, a South African company notorious for staging coup attempts or suppressing rebellions against African strongmen in the 1990s.”

EO fought for the democratically elected government of Angola and against the RUF butchers so I would like to see the reporter elaborate on this claim.  What coup did EO participate in?  News to me.

I think, that to keep all this on context, we have to also remember that very few Private Military Companies (PMCs) are actually private.  Most operate with the approval of the State Department and Central Intelligence.  We should also keep in mind that the New York Times has been a useful tool to certain elements on the intelligence community stretching back to the Vietnam War.  I’m not saying we need to get our tin foil hats on, but please take these statement into your analysis.

Overall, even I am shocked at how similar this operation is to the one I first wrote about in my novel almost a year ago.  How was I able to extrapolate the future use of TCNs and the off shoring of mercenary operations in this manner?  Simple.  Its what I would have done.

*Update 1

BW/UAE contract

I’ve been browsing through it for some tidbits.

Basic duties and responsibilities.

The formation of a Light Infantry Battalion

Special Teams and attachments

The fact that the UAE wants to bring in foreign troops is telling.  The contract calls for the creation of a Light Infantry Battalion with all the necessary attachments for fighting a modern counter insurgency, including intelligence assets and enablers for Direct Action (DA) operations.  It could be that the UAE is bracing themselves for the “Arab Spring” that has been tearing across the Middle East since Tunisia fell apart.


Filed under News, Special Forces, Weapons and Tactics