Blackwater drops Cumberland land deal
Fayetteville Observer (2007-10-02) Henry Cuningham
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The Fayetteville Observer
Published on Tuesday, October 02, 2007
By Henry Cuningham, Military editor
Blackwater USA, the North Carolina-based military contractor under fire in Congress and Iraq, recently decided against buying 1,817 acres for a training site in rural southeastern Cumberland County.
“It happens all the time,” said Anne Tyrrell, a Blackwater spokeswoman. “It had nothing to do with the current news cycle.”
Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater, will testify today before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Rep. Henry Waxman, the chairman and a California Democrat, will hold the hearing titled “Blackwater USA: Private Military Contractor Activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
A statement from the committee said the hearing will consider whether Blackwater is “helping or impeding U.S. efforts in Iraq and whether the costs to the taxpayer are justified.”
Blackwater, which has its headquarters in Moyock, has hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among other things, the company is flying 82nd Airborne paratroopers making supply drops in Afghanistan and providing security to U.S. officials in Iraq.
Blackwater has come under sharp criticism recently for its tactics in Iraq.
According to a report from Waxman’s committee, the company has had to fire 122 people over the past three years for problems ranging from misusing weapons, alcohol and drug violations, inappropriate conduct, and violent behavior.
The committee will probe shooting incidents involving Blackwater employees, including a firefight in Baghdad last month that left 11 civilians dead.
$5.5 million for property
Southern Produce Distributors of Faison owns the isolated tract that Blackwater considered in Cumberland County. The land is between N.C. 210 (Doe Hill Road) and Cedar Creek Road/Turnbull Road. Meinlock Lane is the only road that borders the property.
A large part of the agricultural and forest tract was assessed at about $518,000 in 2002. The proposed sale price was $5.5 million.
“The company is always looking for new opportunities,” Tyrrell said. “That one we determined was not the best of ideas.”
She declined to say why the company decided against the purchase.
“I think its very unfortunate they lost the deal,” said Wayne Miller, president of Southern Produce Distributors. “I think they do a lot of good things for the country.”
James P. Reese, the chief executive officer of Tiger Swan
, was coordinating the land purchase, said Brian Searcy, the president of Tiger Swan
. Former Delta Force operators formed the company to provide training and other services from security and weapons and tactical training to government and private clients.
“We are small-business partners with Blackwater,” Searcy said. “It’s in both of our best interest for Tiger Swan
and Blackwater to partner.”
The end of the land deal apparently does not mean that the region is off the map for a training site.
“Fayetteville and the Fort Bragg area is a good market for that type of training,” Searcy said. “That is something we are very interested in. We are trying to find land for it. We are trying to find the right place for the right price and make it all come together.”
leases ranges in the Fayetteville area, he said.
“We love training soldiers,” Searcy said. “That’s what we like doing.”
Military editor Henry Cuningham can be reached at email@example.com