The media-driven "cowboy" image of Blackwater security guards is wildly at odds with the reality. Wives and family members of Blackwater personnel on duty in Iraq tell BlackwaterBlog.org some impressive information about the men guarding our diplomats in Baghdad. We verified this information with ex-military people in the private security contractor industry and can report the following:
- Experienced ex-military personnel. Blackwater personnel are experienced former military with an average service time of 9 years. The average rank achieved as enlisted is E-6. 45% were senior enlisted. 25% are former officers. 50% were veterans of multiple wars. All took an oath to defend the US and the Constitution. All by contract must have 5 years honorable military experience. 50% of the personnel made an average of $32,000 a year at the peak of their uniformed service.
- Decorated combat veterans. 35% were decorated for valor while in uniform. 36% have some service connected disability.
- Intense operating envoronment. Blackwater conducts an estimated 3,000 protective missions each year in Iraq. Since summer of 2004 Blackwater has conducted nearly 10,000 protective missions.
- Riskiest missions of any security company. These missions are high risk - more risk than any other mission conducted by any other security company. This is because the protectee is perceived by the enemy as a worthy high value target for attack. The probability a Blackwater protection team will be attacked is driven by the value of the person they protect.
- "Diplomatic" mode more dangerous than military firepower. When the US military conducts protective missions for senior American officials, they roll with massive firepower and military support. Blackwater must conduct its operations in a "diplomatic" mode - striving to act normal and diplomatic in the war torn environment that is Iraq today.
- Most elite contracting support group. These protective missions are conducted by the most elite contracting support group in Iraq. The contract stipulates that those who perform this duty be rigorously screened, trained, and tested. No one is allowed to be on this elite protection contract without prior SWAT or military experience. There are just over 900 Blackwater professionals performing this role. 20% are in support roles as medics, radio operators, command center watch standers, administrative staff, supply and logistics, etc.
- Top of the security pyramid. Of the more than 25,000 private security contractors in Iraq, only 900+ are Blackwater. These elite protective teams, under tight State Department supervision, are the most qualified and experienced in the country.