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Blackwater USA to open facilities in California, Philippines Print

By BILL SIZEMORE, The Virginian-Pilot
May 15, 2006

MOYOCK, N.C. — Fast-growing private military company Blackwater USA is expanding westward.Blackwater executives say they plan to soon open a branch facility in southern California and a jungle survival skills training center on the site of the former Subic Bay naval base in the Philippines.Both projects will be smaller versions of Blackwater’s 7,000-acre compound in Camden and Currituck counties, where thousands of military and law enforcement personnel come each year for training.

The company says it is the largest tactical training facility in the United States, if not the world.

The 8-year-old company has enjoyed phenomenal growth, winning hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of federal contracts to provide security and training services in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.

Chris Taylor, Blackwater’s vice president for strategic initiatives, referred to the planned facility in southern California as "Blackwater West." He did not specify where it will be or when it will open.

In the Philippines, Blackwater president Gary Jackson said the company has acquired about 25 acres at Subic Bay and will have access to thousands of acres of adjacent jungle for conducting jungle environment survival training, known by the acronym JEST.

Subic Bay, once the largest U.S. military base in Asia, was closed by the Navy and turned over to the Philippines in 1992. It is now a commercial and industrial zone known as Subic Bay Freeport.

Earlier this spring, Blackwater announced it is moving its aviation division from Florida to Camden County. Plans call for a 6,000-foot runway and a 20,000-square-foot hangar to accommodate 22 rotary and fixed-wing aircraft.

The company has nearly 400 permanent employees and maintains a database of 14,000 independent contractors, most of them former military or law enforcement personnel, who make up its security teams.Six weeks ago, Blackwater vice chairman Cofer Black said the company is interested in creating a small army for hire – a brigade-size force that could be contracted for peacekeeping and stability operations in troubled regions of the world.

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