Blackwater. A name synonymous with private military contracting, controversy, and a dark chapter in modern warfare. Today, however, Blackwater exists only in memory, having undergone several transformations, name changes, and restructurings to emerge as Constellis Holdings, a global security and risk management company under the corporate umbrella of Apollo Global Management. This article delves into the intricate history of Blackwater, its infamous past, and its evolution into its current form.

The Founding of Blackwater

Blackwater was founded in 1997 by two former Navy SEALs, Eric Prince and Al Clark. Prince, motivated by his experiences in the SEALs and the Rwandan Genocide, sought to create a private training facility for military and law enforcement personnel. Clark, frustrated by the Navy’s lack of training resources, joined Prince in this venture. Together, they purchased 7,000 acres in North Carolina’s Great Dismal Swamp and built a state-of-the-art training facility.

Blackwater initially aimed to support the U.S. military by offering training and infrastructure, filling gaps in military capabilities. Their logo, a bear claw in a scope’s crosshairs, symbolized their aggressive approach to security and training.

Early Contracts and the Rise to Prominence

Blackwater’s first significant contract came in 2000 when they provided counterterrorism training to Navy sailors after the USS Cole bombing. However, it was the 9/11 attacks that catapulted Blackwater into a crucial role in America’s War on Terror. In 2002, they secured a contract to protect CIA headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, marking their entry into high-stakes security operations.

Their big break came with the 2003 Iraq invasion. Blackwater was awarded a $28 million contract to protect Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. This marked the beginning of their extensive involvement in Iraq, providing security for diplomats, military installations, and convoys, often in highly volatile environments.

Controversies and Scandals

Blackwater’s operations were marred by numerous controversies. In 2004, four Blackwater contractors were killed in Fallujah, leading to a brutal response from U.S. forces. This incident highlighted the risks faced by private contractors in war zones and the company’s sometimes inadequate preparation.

Between 2005 and 2007, Blackwater contractors were involved in several high-profile incidents, including wrongful killings and arms smuggling. The most notorious of these was the Nisour Square massacre in 2007, where Blackwater contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians. This event led to widespread condemnation, legal actions, and strained U.S.-Iraq relations.

Rebranding and Restructuring

In the face of mounting legal troubles and negative publicity, Blackwater rebranded as Xe Services in 2009 and began shifting its focus away from security operations. Eric Prince resigned, and new leadership aimed to distance the company from its troubled past.

In 2010, Xe Services was acquired by a group of investors and renamed Academi. The company merged with another PMC, Triple Canopy, which had a cleaner record and stricter codes of conduct. This merger and subsequent rebranding efforts were part of a broader strategy to rebuild the company’s reputation and stabilize its operations.

The Emergence of Constellis Holdings

In 2014, Academi, Triple Canopy, and other security firms were consolidated under Constellis Holdings by Apollo Global Management. Constellis aimed to offer a wide range of security services, from executive protection to disaster relief, distancing itself from Blackwater’s legacy.

Today, Constellis operates in over 50 countries, employing around 14,000 people. While it still provides military and security services, the company emphasizes corporate governance, transparency, and compliance with international standards. Despite occasional controversies, Constellis has largely succeeded in presenting itself as a reputable player in the global security industry.


What is Blackwater? Blackwater was a private military company founded in 1997 by former Navy SEALs Eric Prince and Al Clark. It gained notoriety for its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and was involved in several controversies, including the Nisour Square massacre.

Why did Blackwater change its name? Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services in 2009 to distance itself from its controversial past. Later, it rebranded as Academi and eventually merged with other security firms to form Constellis Holdings under Apollo Global Management.

What does Constellis Holdings do? Constellis Holdings provides a wide range of security services, including executive protection, disaster relief, K9 training, nuclear security, and more. It operates in over 50 countries and employs around 14,000 people.

Who founded Blackwater? Blackwater was founded by Eric Prince and Al Clark, both of whom were former Navy SEALs. Prince used his wealth from selling his family’s auto parts company to finance the venture.

What was the Nisour Square massacre? The Nisour Square massacre occurred on September 16, 2007, when Blackwater contractors opened fire in a crowded Baghdad traffic circle, killing 17 Iraqi civilians. The incident led to widespread condemnation and legal actions against Blackwater personnel.


The story of Blackwater is a tale of ambition, controversy, and transformation. From its origins as a private military training facility to its evolution into Constellis Holdings, the company has navigated numerous challenges and scandals. While Blackwater’s name will always be associated with some of the darkest moments of the War on Terror, its successor, Constellis, represents a new chapter, one that strives to uphold higher standards and a commitment to ethical practices in the security industry.

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By Ryan Hite

Ryan Hite is an American author, content creator, podcaster, and media personality. He was born on February 3, 1993, in Colorado and spent his childhood in Conifer, Colorado. He moved to Littleton in 2000 and spent the remainder of his schooling years in the city. Upon graduation from Chatfield Senior High School in 2011, he attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated from the university in 2015 after studying Urban Planning, Business Administration, and Religious Studies. He spent more time in Colorado in the insurance, real estate, and healthcare industries. In 2019, he moved to Las Vegas, NV, where he continued to work in healthcare, insurance, and took his foray into media full time in 2021. His first exposure to the media industry came as a result of the experiences he had in his mid to late teens and early twenties. In 2013, he was compelled to collect a set of stories from his personal experiences and various other writings that he has had. His first book, a 365,000-word epic, Through Minds Eyes, was published in collaboration with Balboa Press. That initial book launched a media explosion. He learned all that he could about creating websites, marketing his published works, and would even contemplate the publication of other works as well. This book also inspired him to create his philosophy, his life work, that still influences the values that he holds in his life. Upon graduating college, he had many books published, blogs and other informative websites uploaded, and would embark on his continued exploration of the world of marketing, sales, and becoming an influencer. Of course, that did not come without challenges that would come his way. His trial-and-error approach of marketing himself and making himself known guided him through his years as a real estate agent, an insurance agent, and would eventually create a marketing plan from scratch with a healthcare startup. The pandemic did not initially create too many challenges to the status quo. Working from home did not affect the quality of his life. However, a series of circumstances such as continued website problems, social media shutdowns, and unemployment, caused him to pause everything between late 2020 and mid-2021. It was another period of loss of momentum and purpose for his life as he tried to navigate the world, as many people may have felt at that time. He attempted to find purpose in insurance again, resulting in failure. There was one thing that sparked his curiosity and would propel him to rediscover the thing that was gone from his life for so long. In 2021, he started his journey by taking on a full-time job in the digital media industry, an industry that he is still a part of today. It was at this point that he would also shut down the rest of the media that he had going at the time. In 2023, he announced that he would be embarking on what has become known as PROJECT30. This initiative will result in the reformation of websites, the reinvigoration of social media accounts, the creation of a Youtube channel and associated podcast, the creation of music, and the continued rediscovery of his creative potential. Unlike past projects, the purpose of this would not expound on the musings of a philosophy, the dissemination of useless news and articles, or the numerous attempts to be someone that he was not. This project is going to be about his authentic self. There are many ways to follow him as he embarks on this journey. Most of all, he wants everyone to be entertained, informed, and, in some ways, maybe a little inspired about the flourishing of the creativity that lies within the mind and soul of Ryan.

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