PMC USEC: article from the Soldier magazine

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Article from the Soldier magazine
August 2011 Issue

In this issue we will continue our series of articles about the modern mercenaries, stories of the largest private armies of today and of their operations. Of course, there are a lot of omissions in these stories, after all, neither mercenaries themselves, nor their employers are very eager to share details of their activities. However, a diligent digging into the topic still brings some results.

This time we’ll turn our attention to USEC, the increasingly notorious private military company. The institution of this company is primarily associated with two names: Brian Kernighan, an American businessman, and John Berger, a retired colonel of the Royal Marines.

Early in his career, Brian Kernighan had nothing to do with the armed forces. Having inherited his father's trucking business, he decided to pursue risky, and therefore profitable direction - hauling goods across the Mexican border through the deserts of the southern states. As Kernighan himself admitted in one of his rare interviews, very soon he realized that he had underestimated the danger. From time to time the trucks have been attacked, and sometimes  disappeared altogether.

Then, Kernighan started hiring armed guards, which allowed him to take more valuable orders and receive higher returns. Over time, the businessman realized that in this line of work it makes more sense to run a security detail of your own instead of paying someone else. That is how the company came to employ the professional mercenaries, and run a fleet of armored vehicles. Consecutively, the number of clients who required support services rather than transportation also increased over time. That’s when Kernighan knew it was time to change the line of work.

However, as an experienced businessman, Kernighan quickly realized that he won’t go far without experience of managing military personnel. Hence, he decides to establish his new business on the already existing foundation by acquiring the Red Bird company of George Steiner. Thus came into existence KerniSEC, one of the future halves of USEC.

There is little known about George Steiner - he is a Brigadier General of the United States Army (Ret.), a veteran of the Gulf war, now Member of the Board and COO of USEC. Steiner became the co-owner of the Red Bird private military company after retirement in 1994 by the invitation of an old friend and colleague. The company used to compete pretty well with other PMCs for a while, but after the death of its founder it went under Steiner’s full control. As it turned out, he may have been a good officer, but nothing above mediocre as a businessman, and soon enough the Red Bird went into decline that allowed Kernigan to purchase it for more than a reasonable price, considering its enlisted manning, vehicle fleet and training grounds.

The second significant figure in the USEC foundation history is an old limey John Berger, British Royal Marines Colonel ret., also a veteran of the Gulf war, and a holder of several decorations. A few years ago John Berger gave an extensive interview to our colleagues from the popular British military media, so his biography is known pretty well - provided, of course, that we believe Colonel’s story.

After retirement in 1994, the veteran active duty officer got bored quickly. Once, a former fellow told him in the pub talk that he has been hiring himself out for two years as an escort to the British ships passing the waters of Somalia. Easy and decently paid job. It didn’t take long for Berger to make a decision.

However, Colonel was less fortunate than his friend: the ship was attacked on the first voyage, and Berger, armed with a revolver only, has failed to repel the attack.

Nevertheless, this failure have only spurred Berger. On return to UK, he was once again employed as an escort, but this time in the company of several retired officers and with much better equipment.

Fate challenges Berger yet again, and pirates attack the ship this time as well, but this time he was ready, and the attack was repelled. Returning home, he immediately creates the Safe Sea maritime transport paramilitary escort company, a future second half of the USEC.

The rapid rise of the Safe Sea is closely linked to another intriguing person: a former British civil servant and USEC current Head of Business Development, a shadow director on the company's Board - Ronald Henry Hunt. Berger himself describes their acquaintance as a purely accidental one, happening in 1998 on a sea cruise.

Anyway, the contact was fruitful one - right after this the Safe Sea scored a profitable government contract, then another one and so on. A year later, Hunt quit public service and became Berger’s companion.

According to rumors, it was Ronald Hunt who persuaded Berger that the company needs to move on to the new, international level, and set up the talks about merging with KerniSEC. In any case, the negotiations were successful, leading to establishment of the USEC in 1999.
Business qualities of Kernighan, combat experience of Steiner, management skills of Berger  diplomatic prowess Hunt turned out a very rewarding combination. The newly formed private military company experienced a rapid rise, backed by credibility of the British Government contracts. Soon enough, USEC were noticed by the Pentagon, looking to staff up a new war with Hussein.

However, in Iraq, USEC was just one of the many PMCs, so figuring out what exactly was its role there is now hardly possible. Anyway, its name was not mentioned in any high-profile scandals, unlike some other private militaries.

A new turn in the company development came in 2007, when USEC commenced close partnership with the major international holding Terra Group. Rumors claimed that such a prominent customer came from an unexpected source - thanks to the contacts of George Steiner, who hasn’t been previously marked as an active side of the company development and preferred to run the military side of business.

However, cooperation with Terra Group has brought the company not only a rapid rise, but a certain degree of notoriety as well. The contracts with holding have more often than not marred USEC with scandals, sometimes international ones, like one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2009. Usually, such shady stories were associated with certain Gus Van Sant, a former green beret, and now the head of USEC Special Operations Department, who is probably running the non-standard missions of the company.

At the moment USEC has de-facto turned into the in-house guards of the Terra Group holding, with its ambiguous reputation. Time will tell whether the choice Kernighan and Berger have made is a right one, or it's the beginning of the end of the once glorious company.
The following month we shall continue our series of articles devoted to the phenomenon of mercenarism, and attempt a deeper study of the history of the issue. Stay tuned.



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Wow this was already such a deep study! It's actually relieving for me to now know that USEC was started with good intentions and was not always/ may not even be the shady , rule breaking, evil PMC I first believed it to be! This definitely makes me feel more comfortable to role play USEC as one of my PMCs in EfT now :). 

Of course, this might change once we learn more about their involvement with Terra Group holdings. 

Either way though it makes me feel good that the company started small from good roots as a trucking company :). 

Soon we will learn where the corruption , if any, comes from. 

Great article. 

Edited by Sam_
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well it may not the right time to say, but more and more i'm going to sure that this game has exactly same basics(EXP: shooting system) as the stalker game series, isn't that right?

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yeah i knew as i said but one of the photos above made me to remember that anyway that was not the point ... sorry if i intrude....

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you know it's hard to persons like me to imagine about matters like mercenaries, because in my country there is not such thing existed, even the governess themselves banned us from just a simple knife to carry them in public! so i mean sorry again if i didn't talk about the manner of topic recently 

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2 hours ago, Colonel Twerkins said:

Against forum rules to have french written in the English forum. Maybe @PatrickLaTrick can pm you with translation.

It's done i sent the translation to @raoulospoko and i make a topic in General Discussion of Emissars.

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