(Beltman713: Links to Blackwater's website were not working at the time I have posted this. The complete first hand account is supposed to be on their site.)

Blackwater USA...offering "relief" at the business end of a Glock 17

Last week we told you about the growing New Orleans presence of Iraq-hardened security firm Blackwater USA, which on its Web site hails its entry into the Katrina "relief" effort. Apparently, at some point there was some "mission creep," since Blackwater's efforts have morphed into hundreds of heavily armed mercenaries patrolling the flooded ciity with M-16s.

Now here's a first-hand account (first spotted at Daily Kos). It was written by Frank Borelli, who identifies himself as a contractor for Blackwater. And it's legit: We found it by going through Blackwater's Web site and finding the newest issue of its Blackwater Tactical Weekly. The whole thing is a must read, but here are a few highlights:

I came into Baton Rouge on Tuesday afternoon, and was picked up at the Baton Rouge Airport for transportation to "Saber Camp". Once there I checked in with the headshed and found a cot. I was lucky in that I knew several guys on site and therefore had friends in the tent I slept in. Before racking out I got a briefing that included info on Wednesday morning, an intel dump on the situation (to include health concerns) and tentative assignments for Weds morning. I was told to be up, dressed and "packed for three" (days) in front of the headshed at 0700. I was issued a Glock 17 and a Mossberg M590A shotgun. I was also issued a shotshell pouch with ten rounds of slug and ten rounds of 00 Buck. There was (at that time) no 9mm ammo available, but I was blessed to be in a camp full of trigger-pullers. Before I racked out I had 51 rounds of 9mm ammo loaded into three magazines for the G17. Thanks, Vince! The lack of ammo IS NOT a negative comment on Blackwater. The logistics effort to support the operation is awesome and I KNOW ammo was just flown in on Monday. More came in on Wednesday. It is a comment on the spirit of the American cop / warrior that Blackwater can put SO MANY men on the ground SO FAST. Supporting them is a daunting challenge.

Before I go further, let me give you a brief rundown about the camp. It's simply amazing what people can do when a disaster strikes. Tents were in abundance. Some are circus-size tents. Others are camping tents. I slept in a six-man cabin tent. Dining tent, storage tent, first-aid station, "City Hall", post office, barber shop, laundry - all were set up and operational. Trailored in were latrines (heads for you Navy guys) and showers. Hot water was available on site. HUNDREDS of cases of bottled water, sodas, hydration drinks, etc were on hand. Food was also available. For the Blackwater guys we could have meals in the Dining tent while in camp, but on assignment we were to take prepackaged food, or MREs...

Wednesday morning saw us going out on assignments. I was ready and standing by at 0700. The assignment I received - and where I sit as I type this - is essentially a static guard site. Restoring public service is a HUGE necessity and some of the facilities are in NOT so good neighborhoods. The site I'm at is a relatively secure 1-acre (give or take) compound surrounded by a six-to-eight foot fence with concertina wire around the top. Access is one controlled gate. Two buildings. To one side of us is the "low rent" district - low income housing where there are still some folks living even though they have no safe water and little food. On the other side is welfare apartment complexes otherwise known to cops as "the projects". It seems that no matter what city you're in there is always The Projects. More people still living in there.

Wow -- hard to know where to start on this one. Isn't this a bizarre account of a flood "relief" effort? Somehow, when we saw the flooding and human suffering in New Orleans, our first thought wasn't to send the "trigger pullers." Heaven forbid we had to respond to a bona fide riot somewhere.

We know there are looters, and a criminal element in New Orleans, and a serious need for security to make sure that relief efforts are directed where they need to go. But...isn't that one of the reasons we've sent thousands of National Guard and active duty military down to the Gulf? Doesn't a bunch of "trigger pullers" from a private company -- with no rules of engagement -- make New Orleans less secure?

Also, is it just us, or is there some sick irony in a mercenary sitting atop "HUNDREDS of cases of bottled water, sodas, hydration drinks, etc" sitting behind barbed wire and casually observing that apparently people are still living in the "low rent district...even though they have no safe water and little food"? Quite a humanitarian effort.

We wrote last week that we didn't like Blackwater USA's presence in New Orleans.

We still don't.