- Adam Gonzales is a private security specialist and CEO of Hyperion Services.
- His company consists of former military members who work as personal security guards and hostage rescuers.
- This is what his job is like, as told to freelance writer Jenny Powers.
This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Adam Gonzales, a private hostage negotiator and security specialist. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Whenever the national anthem played at a sporting event while I was growing up in Miller Beach, Indiana, I always felt proud to be an American. By the age of 20, I enlisted in the Army and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
For four years, I trained as part of a six-man, long-range surveillance operative charged with parachuting onto enemy lines undetected for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes.
In 2004, I transitioned to the private military sector and became what’s known by former members of the military as a corporate warrior or silent professional, outsourcing myself to the government to help support and augment US war efforts.
My first job as an independent contractor was with a military defense contracting firm that was relatively unknown at the time.
It was the height of the Iraq War, and I was deployed to Baghdad for six months as security to Ambassador Paul Bremer, the US Presidential Envoy to Iraq.
Our team, made up of approximately 50 contractors, provided a wide range of missions which included driving armored Suburbans, close protection, villa protection, and close air support with helicopters.
I worked the night shift, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. When my shift was over, I slept when I could, at times doing double duty as a door gunner on the Little Bird helicopters that provided close air support for the ambassador.
By 2013, I decided it was time to lead a more normal life and get a civilian job.
I had no connections in America since I’d spent my adult life overseas, so I moved to Chicago taking a position as an electrical apprentice.
Each morning I dreaded going to work. I’d sit in my truck at the job site, staring out the window thinking ‘I don’t belong here’ and cry to myself.
I lasted a year before deciding to take advantage of my military experience and make the shift to protect UHNW individuals. No longer part of a security operative, I became a one man show – the driver, the advance team, logistics manager, and protector.
Nine times out of 10, kidnapping is a business transaction.
For some it’s a quick way to make money. A small percentage of cases, however, have nothing to do with money and are about honor or a vendetta. Those are the toughest because the clock is ticking before total loss of life.
In 2015, I was called in on a case involving a woman in her late 20s who’d voluntarily joined a cult in Central America but now wanted out. She was being held against her will, and I was hired to rescue her.
I knew the particular country well and had one man on the ground to gather local intelligence before I went in alone. With an aircraft on the ground waiting in the wings, I created an elaborate cover story feigning interest in joining the cult in order to get inside the compound.
The cult leader bought my story, invited me in, and showed me the lay of the land. He even assigned me a room with access to a swimming pool and computer lab.
On the computer, I downloaded information to share with my team on the outside, including the compound’s floor plans. I also discreetly identified myself to the kidnapped woman by sharing details about her childhood I’d learned from her family.
Under the guise that the woman was sick, I arranged for an outside source posing as an ambulance driver to arrive and whisk her out of the compound. From there, she boarded the private plane safely and headed home. The ordeal lasted three days from when I arrived until the rescue.
I, on the other hand, had to remain in the compound a few more days so as not to raise any red flags. I crafted another story about having to leave due to an emergency with a promise to return, but instead headed straight to a hotel and spent a week decompressing in a hammock on the beach.
It’s hard to find meaning in your work after leaving the military, so I wanted to help fellow vets.
In 2017, I launched Silent Professionals, a free job board for military and law enforcement veterans to find work in the private military and security industries. To date, the site has helped 10,000 veterans transition back into civilian life by using their background and skill set to make a living and discover a renewed sense of purpose.
As our reputation grew, wealthy people with security needs began reaching out, so in 2019 the natural progression was to open Hyperion Services, a global solutions security firm powered by high-level military-trained personnel.
The bulk of our business is in turnkey executive security which runs $US2,000 ($AU2,679) a day and includes lodging, meals, labor, weapons, and equipment. Often clients sign a year-long contract and pay upfront in full.
In addition, we offer hostage rescue starting at $US30,000 ($AU40,188) a day with a month-long commitment, as well as kidnapping prevention and disaster response services.
These days, I live south of DC, in the Quantico Area. I suffer from PTSD, but my wife of five years, who is also a veteran, helps me cope. It’s hard to trust people and I question everything. If a new mailman shows up at our front door or the car behind me makes too many of the same turns as me, my spidey senses go off.
After dealing with the most violent people on the planet and bearing witness to the types of atrocities I’ve seen, I view the world through a very different lens.
Sometimes in bed I wonder how different my life would have been if I’d stuck with being an electrical apprentice, but before long my alarm clock goes off, and I’m back to work.
Editor’s note: Some details in this story were anonymized to protect the identities of the people and companies involved.