Here’s a fascinating little story. There’s been a battle royale up in Wisconsin over an effort to establish a big iron mining operation near Lake Superior, to be owned and operated by a company called Gogebic Taconite. The Republican legislature approved the mine in March over environmentalists’ objections. Some protests have been staged since the operation got started. But people started to get freaked out over the weekend when the company brought in what the Wisconsin State Journal calls “masked security guards who are toting semi-automatic rifles and wearing camouflaged uniforms.”
Now two state legislators are asking the company to withdraw the guards/paramilitaries. One of them, Bob Jauch, “said he was especially concerned that the guards are carrying high-powered rifles more appropriate for fighting wars than for guarding construction equipment in a scenic forest that draws scores of hikers and vacationers in addition to mine protesters.”
Now masked guards in camoflage carrying assault rifles do seem a bit more mid-80s Latin American death squad than protecting some mining equipment in Wisconsin. So I started looking into the security company behind the paramilitaries, an outfit called Bulletproof Securities out of Scottsdale, Arizona that Gogebic brought in for the job.
[photo credit: Jim Limbach, h/t BlueCheddar]
Here’s the Bulletproof website which lists all sorts of security/paramilitary type services. They even have their own ‘border security force’, which is something I thought the federal government took care of. But apparently not without occasional help from Bulletproof.
Indeed, as the site notes, “BPS has at its disposal the latest cache of specialized equipment for border security operations, not typically found in the private sector. As example, BPS owns heavily armored Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV’s), Tactical All Terrain Vehicles (T-ATV’s), FLIR (mobile thermal systems), mast equipment (eye in the sky), and many other state-of-the-art assets … The presence of BPS will prevent criminal organizations from posing a threat to your personnel or your mission.”
If your needs are different, Bulletproof can also provide “a QRF (quick reaction force) tactical unit to secure a manufacturing plant during a heated worker strike.”
The company’s website provides an extremely wide range of services and suggests it has a huge amount of equipment to provide Quick Reaction Force services “in ALL conditions.”
As this picture shows, they’re ready for some sort of alpine mountain armored vehicle rescue in heavy snow.
Anyway, if you look around the site, Bulletproof clearly has a pretty big arsenal and a reasonably sized paramilitary at the ready to help you. So I thought I’d look Bulletproof owner Tom Parrella. And here’s where things took an even more interesting turn. Parrella isn’t just in the private security/paramilitary business. He’s also owns a major real estate agency in Scottsdale.
In fact, they’re run out of the same office on Gelding Drive.
So if you’re looking for a new McMansion in the Scottsdale area and also need paramilitary protection for your border personnel, they’ve got you covered. I had never realized there were synergies between residential real estate and paramilitary security services and force protection. But this 2007 article from the East Valley Tribune from 2007 gives some of the background and how it all works.
Parrella used his experience as a police offer and profits from his still flourishing real estate business to start Bulletproof Securities, an elite personal protection service, in — where else? — Scottsdale.
The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, lack of sufficient border security and the U.S. position in world conflicts convinced him of the need, he said.
“We see things changing and the threats coming here,” Parrella said. “And it’s something that is going to be more frequent in the future.”
The same year he told the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce “”There’s no way our government can secure and protect with the situation we’re in. We’re trying to bridge the gaps between private security contractors and local government and law enforcement.”
Here’s a local TV news piece on them (unfortunately you have to crank up the volume, it’s very low). It’s sort of a 90s era Taliban/al Qaida video in reverse, a bunch of guys out in the desert doing monkey bars and shooting targets. The weird thing about it is that the whole rationale is all the violence in Mexico, though they concede that Mexican law prevents them from going into Mexico so they just provide their services in Arizona. And presumably also Wisconsin.