Erik Prince gets his guests to the runway seconds before the turboprop's approach. The financiers hop out of his black Chevy Suburban and gawk as the pilots drop a pair of packages that float to within feet of their target — just as they might on a mission for Blackwater Worldwide in the Afghan backcountry.
His audience is captivated by the show, but the Blackwater founder and CEO focuses on a seemingly minor detail: the parachutes.
"They're made out of the same stuff sandbags are made out of," Prince tells the group in hurried, staccato sentences. "They are truly disposable. The normal parachutes you put a human out under are much more expensive. With these, you can use them, repack them. It's very cheap."
The State described other aspects of a media visit: Prince "whipped his Chevy Suburban down Blackwater's driving course, where drivers can practice wet and dry runs around corners blinded by berms. Company officials opened up an airplane hangar where the company was working to improve 10 helicopters for a 'Middle East client,'" believed to be one of the Gulf states, which are increasingly threatened by Iran.
Just as Blackwater is preparing to transition away from the security business, it seems the media is coming to realize the quality and importance of its work. The AP writes, "Blackwater Worldwide built a reputation by successfully protecting the nation's top diplomats on the world's most volatile streets. Now the company is looking to... build up other aspects of its business."
By tapping the expertise of its veterans — from ex-SEALs to former Coast Guard officers to FBI agents — Blackwater instead sees a future in using its mobility and flexibility to seek out and quickly fill other gaps that present themselves.
"There's always been gaps. The military can't be all things to all people all the time," Prince said while standing on a gleaming Blackwater logo in the airy lobby of his company headquarters. "There are always going to be some pieces that the private sector can help in."
When Prince noticed a shortage of US combat medics, he developed a school and program to train his own. They practice rescues and vehicle extractions across on Blackwater's campus, and Prince is now looking for customers who want to hire medics as contractors.