From Afghanistan to Louisiana, Global Guardian gets clients out of harm’s way
As U.S. troops began to withdraw from Afghanistan, Tysons-based Global Guardian reached out to its clients there to offer evacuation assistance. On August 5, 10 days before the Afghan government collapsed, the company began evacuating its clients from Kabul and two other cities. By August 18, Global Guardian had successfully evacuated all but one individual, whom it later got out of the country.
With the mission of helping its clients mitigate the risks of traveling and doing business around the world, Global Guardian provides “duty of care” services to clients: emergency response, security, intelligence, evacuation and even kidnap and ransom services. Its clients are primarily executives from Fortune 1000 companies and high-net worth individuals and their families.
“In addition to moving people to the airport before it was besieged, we were able to assist all of our American and European duty-of-care clients out of Afghanistan by utilizing a combination of commercial and charter aircraft,” said Global Guardian CEO and President Dale Buckner.
But he emphasized that it was just the first phase of Global Guardian’s evacuation process.
“Once the airport was shut down and all commercial flights ended and all charter aircraft ended, NATO took over the aircraft and the U.S. military and parts of NATO came in to secure it,” Buckner said. “That became “Phase Two” for us, which was focused on getting out a mix of non-Global Guardian corporate clients, and the Afghan nationals that had supported our clients.”
The next step for Global Guardian was to transport people to the airport, which was “very tricky,” Buckner noted. Once there, Global Guardian ensured that the passengers had the correct paperwork to board a U.S. or NATO aircraft. After the military flights ended, Global Guardian transitioned to transporting people via ground movements through Taliban checkpoints to nearby airports
During these complex operations, Global Guardian was also simultaneously managing crises in other parts of the world, as Afghanistan is just one of the 134 countries in which Global Guardian provides duty-of-care services. Among the company’s most recent initiatives was getting clients in New Orleans and New York out of harm’s way as Hurricane Ida came ashore and spawned severe floods, and securing COVID-19-related medical care for clients in India as cases spiked there.
“Whether responding to the 2015 Paris attacks, the 2016 Turkey coup, the back-to-back hurricanes in the Western Hemisphere in 2017, COVID-19 pandemic border closures of 2020, the collapse of India’s healthcare system in May of 2021 — or the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan, Global Guardian’s ability to move and respond in minutes and hours, delivers positive outcomes and real results to our client base during their greatest time of need,” Buckner said.
From its 24/7 operations center in Tysons, Global Guardian and its corporate employees oversee affiliates in over 130 countries. The company has access to a fleet of armored vehicles and non-U.S.-flagged aircraft, Buckner said.
The overseas operatives possess critical real-time intelligence, foreign language skills, and regional connections, all of which the company deems as essential for conducting effective security and response. A key differentiator between Global Guardian and its competitors, Buckner says, is that the company works with locally based contractors.
“Global Guardian does not want to, if at all feasible, rely on Americans or Brits,” Buckner explained. “I can deploy former Navy SEALs, Special Forces, Secret Service, or British SAS. But they cannot legally carry a weapon in a foreign country. If they don’t speak the language, they’re not effective in that environment. And lastly, if they don’t have relationships into the ministry of the interior, into the ministry of defense, into the presidential palace, they’re not very useful during times of crisis.
Another differentiator is that Global Guardian provides multiple services to its customers.
“Global Guardian was designed, built and is now executing over the last 10 years what we believe to be the most comprehensive security offering in the world,” Buckner said. “We don’t specialize in just one or two services like tracking or medical evacuation. We don’t only do cyber, we don’t only do camera surveillance. We don’t only do kidnap and ransom. Global Guardian is focused on being the one-button solution for corporate America and families that are operating and traveling around the world.”
And Northern Virginia is the best place to Global Guardian to manage its worldwide operations, Buckner said. After starting the company in Arlington in 2011, Global Guardian moved its headquarters to Tysons in 2015.
Buckner said he toured a number of cities to evaluate a potential headquarters location, including Los Angeles, Dallas, Boston and New York. He said he assessed the suitability on the basis of about 10 criteria, including price per square feet, education quality, availability of qualified talent, the tax structure, and more.
Choosing Northern Virginia, and ultimately Fairfax County, was easy because of the kind of person Global Guardian wants to recruit, Buckner said.
“If you join the CIA at 22 years old, or you join the Secret Service, or you join the DEA, or you join the military coming out of college, you are almost guaranteed to do a tour in D.C., because D.C. is where the headquarters is and that’s where all the senior billets are. So if you stay 20 to 30 to 40 years in any of these agencies, you’re going to finish your career in this region.”
“So they stay and are abundantly available,” he said. “And that skill set, it is just magic in our industry. These are the upper top 1 percent of every agency, whether it’s Secret Service, CIA, FBI or DoD or the cyber professionals from NSA.”
“Once we did that calculus, this is where we needed to be. It just it wasn’t even close.”
In addition to the right kind of talent, he said the mix of federal agencies, contractors and corporate headquarters, and the proximity to Washington Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport, make this a business-friendly region with a stable economy.
“There are corporate headquarters in the Fortune 1000 everywhere,” Buckner said. “All the big consulting firms are here. Reston is right down the road. Fairfax County is a tech hub now and it’s getting bigger and bigger when you look at the industries that are present. With this mix of government contractors, combined with all of the corporate presence, this is the perfect place for us.”