Blackwater Lodge and Training Center was the brainchild of Al Clark, a Navy SEAL and instructor. Dissatisfied with the Navy's rented training grounds, Clark told colleagues he would open his own when he left the service. Clark hooked up with Erik Prince, a young Navy SEAL who shared his interest in training.... When the two broke ground on Blackwater Lodge and Training Center in Currituck and Camden counties in northeast North Carolina in 1997, the timing was good. The military had closed and consolidated bases after the Cold War and neglected training facilities. Blackwater built the largest shooting facility in the country, with indoor ranges, mock urban landscapes, a 1,200-yard firing range, driving tracks and a lake for naval training. Blackwater boasted it could design any sort of training a client might want. The location was excellent, within four hours of the Pentagon in Washington, and Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The country's biggest naval base in Norfolk, Va., was less than an hour away.
But Blackwater's service really began after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the launching of the Global War on Terror:
The CIA was stretched thin in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the invasion of Afghanistan. Blackwater landed a… contract to provide security at CIA stations in Afghanistan…. The contract was not a big one; it called for 16 Blackwater security personnel, plus dozens of Afghan guards hired locally.... In August 2003, Blackwater won a… contract to guard Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority and probably the top assassination target of insurgents. The contract called for helicopters to fly Bremer around Iraq. Blackwater was well positioned for that; the company had bought a Florida aviation company four months earlier.
Blackwater's patriotism and business acumen converge when it comes to identifying new threats to the United States and pouncing on them. “They are very good and very savvy at identifying market needs and pushing hard to enter into those markets, even before clients have recognized the need,” Peter Singer, an expert on private military contractors said.
For all the controversy, Blackwater has an unblemished record on its main task in Iraq: None of the diplomats in the company's care have been killed or wounded. Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy recently told The New York Times that the diplomats could not function in Iraq without Blackwater: “If the contractors were removed, we would have to leave Iraq.”