Irishman lands key job in US company

THE Irishman who led the operation to capture dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 has landed a senior role with the controversial US private security firm formerly known as Blackwater.

Retired Colonel James B Hickey, whose father is from Co Clare and mother from Sligo, has been appointed Military Liaison for Global Training and Security ‘Xe’.

The company, formerly known as Blackwater, changed its name in 2009 as part of a restructuring plan and divested itself completely of is previous leadership. The firm had been involved in several controversial incidents, including the death of Iraqi civilians.

Upon acquiring Xe and its core operating businesses last year, USTC Holdings indicated its desire to rebuild the company into a new entity with enhanced governance, leadership, accountability and transparency.

Col Hickey’s addition to the management team is being seen as the next step in this new phase of corporate development.

“We’re so privileged to have someone of Jim’s stature and experience join us at Xe. It is this kind of talent and know-how that enables us to set the bar for operational excellence across our industry,” said Xe Services CEO Ted Wright.

Col Hickey said: “Xe Services provides critical support to US government operations around the world. It will be my job to ensure that Xe understands our military customers’ needs and continues to provide the best-in-class service that our customers have come to expect. I look forward to continuing to serve in my new capacity.”

In summer 2003, Col Hickey, a 28-year veteran of the US Army, took command of 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division which later, on December 13, 2003, led Operation Red Dawn resulting in the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Jim, as he is known in his father’s home parish of Cooraclare in West Clare, grew up in Hickory Hills, a suburb of Chicago. His father, James Snr, emigrated from Tullycrine near Cooraclare to Chicago in the early 50s, where he met his future wife and Kilbride, Co Sligo, native, Anne Marie O’Hara.

Col Hickey’s aunt Mary Queally was at home in Cooraclare in December 2003 when the world’s media descended on her country cottage. Her nephew was after all being hailed the world over as a hero for capturing the elusive Hussein.

Speaking at the time, Mary Queally said: “Jim always told his mother that they would get Saddam.”

Following the capture of Saddam Hussein, a bottle of whiskey was put aside for Col Hickey in O’Keeffe’s bar in Cooraclare for when he next returned to Clare. After sitting on the shelf for over 6 years, the bottle was finally sent to him in the US about two years ago.

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