By Maria Newman, The New York Times
The war in Iraq came to roost in tiny Moyock, N.C., when television
footage of four dead Americans, their bodies burned and two of them
dangling from a bridge over the Euphrates River, filled television
The four were employees of Blackwater Security Consulting, an
international security company here that is one of the area's largest
Moyock, an unincorporated town of almost 14,000 in the northeast part
of the state, is home to many people with ties to the military. The
town is less than an hour's drive from the world's largest Navy base
in Norfolk, Va. And Blackwater, as a defense contractor, is one place
where the close bonds between the military and the town's economy can
be clearly seen.
Many people who work for Blackwater, a company that provides security
training and guard services to customers around the world, are former
law enforcement personnel in Moyock and nearby communities, or
military veterans, or both.
Marty Huffstickler, a part-time Blackwater USA employee, said people
in Currituck and nearby Camden counties have always supported the
Blackwater owners, including president Gary Jackson, a former Navy
"They are good people," Mr. Huffstickler said, echoing the sentiment
of many people in Moyock. "That's a good company for the county."
Mr. Huffstickler said the deadly ambush in Iraq stunned everyone at Blackwater.
"I just think it's a useless way to die, the way they are dying over
there," he said.
The four Blackwater employees killed Wednesday in Iraq, who have not
yet been identified, were believed to have been escorting a food
delivery to a United States military base when they were ambushed by
masked gunmen in downtown Falluja. In television footage replayed
around the world, the gunmen could be seen setting their vehicles on
fire, and then an enraged mob dragged the charred bodies of the
Americans through he streets of downtown Falluja, with at least two
of them hung from a bridge. It was one of the most brutal
anti-American demonstrations seen since the war in Iraq began more
than a year ago.
"We grieve today for the loss of our colleagues and we pray for their
families," a statement on Blackwater's Web site said today, adding
that the names of the victims would not be released "out of respect
for their families."
"The graphic images of the unprovoked attack and subsequent heinous
mistreatment of our friends exhibits the extraordinary conditions
under which we voluntarily work to bring freedom and democracy to the
Iraqi people," the statement continued. "Our tasks are dangerous and
while we feel sadness for our fallen colleagues, we also feel pride
and satisfaction that we are making a difference for the people of
Blackwater Security is a subsidiary of Blackwater USA, which provides
a wide range of training and security services. Founded by two former
Navy Seals in 1996, the company keeps a low profile as it operates
its growing enterprise out of a sprawling 6,000-acre complex just
south of the Virginia-North Carolina border in Currituck and Camden
Robert Becker, who lives down the road from the Blackwater USA
complex, said he had no idea the company was training personnel to
serve in Iraq.
"It is a shock," he said. "I didn't realize they had sent anyone from
back there overseas."
Even though Mr. Becker does not know anyone from the Blackwater
staff, the realization that the contractors who died had passed by
his home on the way to training made him pause.
"Even knowing that they were this close to being in my own backyard,
it is an awful thing," he said.
Like other Currituck County residents, Mr. Becker is used to the odd
comings and goings of agents, soldiers, sailors and police officers
who drive into the complex early in the morning and sometimes leave
"You see D.E.A. agents at the Citgo and the F.B.I. agents, I guess,
or whatever they are," he said.