Ladies and gents, in anticipation of the imminent release of HC3, allow me to lift just one little corner of the veil...
Private Military Companies operate on the fringes of the international conventions of warfare. They can provide a cost-effective altrnative to regular military personnel and resources, and can be employed for purposes which might be too politically sensitive for national armed forces. From providing security to 'friendly' foreign dignitaries to securing areas officially no longer patrolled by an occupying force to performing duties abroad with native employees, PMCs have grown in international significance over the last few decades.
None more so than Praetor, founded by the reclusive Irish industrialist Connor Skromeda. Early in his career he was mired in controversy surrounding his supposed involvement with the IRA in his youth, and suggestions that he continued to be affiliated, none of which could ever be proved. What was evident however was his ability to evaluate and seize opportunities in a heartbeat.
Founded during the late seventies Praetor was originally a private security company contracting to businesses in Galway and smaller cities in Connacht province, it quickly expanded on a national scale, but it was not until the company branched out to Northern Ireland that its explosive growth truly started. Carefully fostering a corporate culture of unity, Skromeda was able to create teams of employees whose backgrounds suited the area of their deployment that included sufficient diversity to defuse local cultural tensions. Specific examples include a predominantly Irish Catholic law firm operating from an office on the notoriously Protestant Shankill Road in Belfast, which enjoyed a near-perfect security and safety record for the duration of its contract with Praetor.
Seizing on his company's informal reputation as a 'peacemaker' the company began a campaign of European expansion, with each new acquisition overseen by Skromeda personally, whose formula of unity through diversity proved particularly effective in areas of high ethnic tension, such as the contested and unrecognized 'Basque country' which straddles the border of Spain and France at the Bay of Biscay. Creating teams which represented the local and opposing factions, all operating under the Praetor banner, the local operators had high cultural sensitivity and conveyed intimidating strength simply by being seen working together.
Only the Cyprus operation marred this record of excellence, and simultaneously spurred the evolution of the company from private security to private military.
Skromeda had foregone personally overseeing new acquisitions during 1983 to oversee the centralization of the company's administrative facilities, and the lack of hands-on leadership was likely the direct cause of the Cyprus operation's failure. Instead of deterring culturally-motivated aggression through employee diversity, the Praetor staff deployed to cypriot businesses proved a lightning-rod which ignited after the Turkish Cypriots' Unilateral Declaration of Independence.
While the political upheaval didn't include official armed conflict, substantial criminal violence was directed at the Praetor offices in Nicosia, and companies which contracted with Praetor. In response, and without Skromeda's direct involvement, the local management requisitioned personnel and assets that pushed the envelope of acceptable force by private companies.
Skromeda's response, upon becoming aware of the situation and taking personal control, was radical. The local operation was reorganized as an independent subsidiary, its deployment of heavy armament retroactively validated by its designation as a PMC. Rather than face public embarassment and litigation, both by the local governments and by the relatives of the deceased employees, Skromeda spurred the company's second major growth spurt.
Instead of a failure in private security as Praetor Cyprus, the newly formed Praetor PMC became an instant success as a peacekeeping force on the UN-administered border zone between the reshaped Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, paving the way for the global expansion that ingrained Praetor in the global theatre of conflict.
With the original corporate security division continuing to represent the public face of the company, the PMC subsidiary was further bolstered with divisions specializing in counterintelligence, cybercrime, identity theft, as well as training centers throughout the world that provide country-specific training to foreign military personnel serving in the area.
Controversy continues to surround the company, and Skromeda personally, ranging from accusations of fostering local conflicts to prolong their peacekeeping contracts and a long-running investigation into the classified operations performed by Praetor under its contract with the former East-German Bundesrepublik prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, to continued suggestions of Skromeda financing or arming paramiliatary organizations he's personally sympathetic to, including the IRA.
Despite this, Praetor PMC is thriving and stands head and shoulders above their competitors in their ability to operate in conflict areas such as the Israeli-Palestinian border, the Korean Demilitarized zone and the Kurdistan region, especially since the company's reorganization in late 2001.
Most recently the company has been in the American spotlight due to the deployment of Praetor assets in urban pacification, providing SWAT-equivalent services in municipalities whose budget doesn't support the maintenance of standing teams of their own. In some industrial areas where Praetor was already the primary security contractor, local police have outsourced their patrols and crime-response to Praetor units, a trend so successful (and economic) that some larger municipalities are investigating the possibility of replacing portions of their law enforcement bodies with Praetor equivalents.
When asked about the concerns some pundits are voicing about the privatization of the police, and what might be the next frontier for Praetor, Skromeda has been reported to have simply smiled, and is quoted as saying "One brick at a time," declining comment when pressed for expansion on that cryptic statement.
Heathen City 3 will debut next week at Mephit Fur Meet in Tennessee and Eurofurence in Germany. I'll be attending Eurofurence, where I'll give a series of panels on Heathen City, writing, art, editing and publishing. HC3 is currently available for preorder at discounted price with our friends at FurPlanet.com. The Praetor logo was designed by Chris Goodwin.
- Alex F. Vance