This is a guest article by D. Alan Johnson, his latest book Asgaard explores the role of US military Contractors in far flung parts of the globe. D. Alan Johnson is well equipped to write not only Asgaard, but also this article. He is what he writes about! Since the mid 1980’s he has been a private military contractor – Simon

This article is the third in the series illustrating the corporate decision to utilize the unique skills of Private Military Contractors.

Part One showed how corporations are using PMC’s to run and augment their security departments in difficult situations.

Part Two detailed the corporate intelligence mission, and how PMC’s organize and implement this expanding discipline.

Part Three deals with a little known corporate need called Logistics. In many ways Logistics is a complex dance involving acquisition, transportation, handling, legal issues, and in many parts of the world, a mixture of intelligence and security.


Logistics is the planning and control of the flow of goods and materials through an organization. Wal-Mart has become preeminent in the logistics community for their mastery of moving goods from manufacturer to retailer at the right time and in the right amounts. But this type of logistics is not what we are talking about today.

Imagine that the production supervisor of a large oil company receives the following call at 3 am:

“Mr. Calloway. Wake up. This is John Wilson on Enterprise Six Oil Platform. We just burned up the Number One generator. We need both a new motor and a new generator. Drilling is stopped until we can get back up.”

Enterprise Six Oil Platform is located twenty-five miles off the coast of Angola. The oil company is paying $110,000 per day rental rate on the rig, plus salaries, meals and incidentals for the crew. Not counting opportunity losses, $250,000 per day is flying out the door each day.

This is where the production manager calls a retired Air Force logistics officer who now works as a consultant. Having been the logistics officer for Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), this retired colonel is used to 3 am wakeup calls into emergency situations. After all, he’s famous for getting a black Mercedes limo with a white leather interior airdropped to a warlord in Northern Afghanistan to get him to change allegiance.

He calls the oil rig manufacturer, talks to design engineers and obtains model numbers and specifications on power requirements. Then he starts calling his network.

After two hours of calling, he has located a suitable unit in Norway. They agree to pack the generator into a forty-foot shipping container.

By nine am, he has lined up a Russian heavy lift aircraft capable of flying the twenty ton unit from Norway to Lisbon for refuel, and Lisbon to Luanda. He calls ahead and arranges for a team of lawyers (with sacks of money for bribes) to meet the shipment in Angola and speed it through customs.

The aircraft will be met with a crane and flatbed truck to get the container to the docks. The colonel rents the fastest oil service vessel in West Africa and has it racing for Luanda.

The last group that he hires is a Norwegian installation crew specializing in installing this type of generator onto offshore platforms. Then he remembers to charter them a corporate jet to Luanda so that they can be on the rig several hours before the generator arrives.

Seventy-six hours after the Number one generator burned up, Enterprise Six is once again drilling off the shore of Angola. This large oil company hired this consultant for four reasons:

•    His network and its ability to find one-of-kind equipment
•    His process knowledge of shipping sizes, weights, and distances
•    His ability to visualize the needs at each step of the process
•    And, most of all, his quick decision making and cutting through corporate and government bureaucracy.

Other consultants don’t handle the whole enchilada, but specialize in certain areas. One retired SEAL owned a company specializing in getting oil company and airline equipment through customs in a certain backward country. This government was infamous for holding up a shipment of important parts for months due to a particularly toxic mix of corruption and inefficiency.

Normally the importer had to get his documents stamped at the airport then drive across town in traffic we cannot imagine for the next stamp in the series. But the office downtown would close at 1 pm. Mission impossible. Each stop negotiated an import fee plus a bribe for the required stamp. Since US corporations cannot pay bribes, the shipments stayed in customs for months.

On the day that the shipment was to arrive, the SEAL prepositioned members of his team at airport Customs, the Customs headquarters downtown, the President’s office, and Military headquarters. Each team member carried a cellular fax machine. The SEAL’s company negotiated and prepaid the bribes.

The first stamp came in ten minutes, fax the paper onward. Second stamp in ten minutes, fax the paper onwards, and so on. The amazed oil company executive watched the truck with the needed pumps move out of the customs warehouse less than two hours after it arrived. Worth every nickel of the hefty fee paid to the SEAL’s company. I talked with this man and mentioned that I didn’t know that he was in logistics. I thought he was a shooter.

“This is not logistics,” he said. “This is intel. I have to know the location of everyone who has the power to move the process forward. And I have to know who to pay and how much each step costs.”

The “security as logistics” takes place in countries with high crime, drug cartel activity, and/or war or revolution. Several times I have flown overhead security watching for bandits or guerillas positioning themselves to attack a convoy of food, fuel, and machine parts headed for a mining area in “bad guy country”. The term “riding shotgun” takes on a whole new meaning when your PMC buddies are riding right seat in each truck armed with a light machine gun or automatic shotgun.

Corporations need to move men, equipment, and expendables all over the world. When time tables get squashed, when real money is on the table, or when the routes are treacherous, PMC’s often get called in to provide the skill needed to deliver the goods.

D. Alan Johnson

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