Silently among the rolling hills 10 miles from the beautiful Mississippi Palisades, down a country road like fog from the river moving through trees comes a dark presence to disturb the countryside with gun shots. It is not hunters looking for deer this time. It is not children with air rifles shooting pellets at tin cans on fence posts. This time the shots will be from the latest and most sophisticated weapons in the hands of those who are being trained in the art of killing. They are learning the skills required to survive in the quagmire of violence they will soon enter.
The gunshots that will fill the fresh country air of Carroll county this spring will be men and women, most of them former military personal, training to be the new corporate warriors. Seeping in among the trees and fields surrounding Mt. Carroll, the “community that cares,” is a different kind of flood, it is thicker than water, it is the presence of Blackwater, one of the fastest growing of the private military companies that are becoming a critical part of 21st century warfare. Bear paw logos in this area that has no real bears anymore, will now be appearing everywhere.
In a decade the company has grown from an idea to multimillion-dollar operation. On any given day Blackwater has as many as 3,000 security contractors working in hot spots around the globe. In March of 2006 Fast Company business magazine, under the heading Private Army, named Blackwater President Gary Jackson No. 11 in its annual Fast 50 list of leaders who are writing the history of the next 10 years. The magazine made note of the company’s estimated 600 percent revenue growth between 2002 and 2005.
Though they are not the largest in the field of hired mercenaries they have the biggest profile. Blackwater has become one of the most profitable security contractors operating in Iraq. Backed by mega-millionaire, right-wing Christian founder and owner Erik Prince.
In October Jackson said, “This is a billion dollar industry and Blackwater has only scratched the surface. of it.”
Jackson also a former Navy SEAL, like founder Prince, is fond of saying there are two kinds of people in the world, “talkers and doers.”
“That’s what stands special operations out in the U.S. military,” he said. “Those guys (Navy SEALS) are doing stuff every single day. And that’s where we come from. We are about doing.”
Prince said that as his SEAL career took him to Haiti, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, he realized “the men were not getting the cutting-edge training they needed to ensure success.” Sop he and a former Navy SEAL instructor with a million dollars of Prince’s money started the Blackwater venture.
Now they are going to expand into rural Illinois 150 miles west of Chicago outside the small rural town of Mt. Carroll Illinois. The site is presently a training compound for police agencies around Illinois. It is located on Skunk Hallow road. It consists of about 80 acres with various shooting ranges and a large three story tower. Training will begin there in March. A spokesman for Blackwater said that he hopes the community of Mt. Carroll will welcome them and see this as a great opportunity for them.
When Clark and Prince chose the property for their first site in North Carolina all of the water was black and that is how they chose their name. A rather prophetic choice given the toxic nature of their work. See the May 8th issue of The Nation and an article by Jeremy Scahill.
Hopefully the citizens of Mt. Carroll will stand up to this invading private army.
Another interesting irony is that Dennis Hastert has just purchased over 300 acres of rural land in southwest Wisconsin with his profits from his shady Prairie Parkway land deal. His newly purchased land is only about an hour away from this training site—watch this for further developments.
Watch out for the bear claw!