Dale Buckner was a special forces officer for 24 years and is now the CEO of security solutions company Global Guardians, which operates with its affiliates in 134 countries and has more than 4,700 agents worldwide but primarily in Europe.
In the first three days of Russia’s invasion, the company was focused on helping American expats, corporate executives and senior leadership from firms that hired Global Guardians to leave the country.
“I would say that by day three … firms started to realize that this is real and not going away. And I think by day four, you saw a pivot. The aperture opened because they realized that you can’t just evacuate the executive or your employee. You’ve got to take the whole family. So, by about day five, you know, we were evacuating children, spouses … by day six or seven, grandparents, extended family. This truly did become a humanitarian effort, and I think most of our clients realized that in less than a week,” Buckner told Fox News Digital.
He added that “almost every single evacuation we execute involves family – nuclear family and extended family and, of course, pets.”
The D.C.-based security company has Ukrainian clients in the Fortune 1000, as well as the tech, financial banking, private equity and manufacturing industries.
“Unlike my competitors in the insurance market, I don’t deploy expats, meaning ex-Secret Service, ex-FBI … I don’t deploy people like that. Our teams are standing there. I like to think we were there before the war, we’ll be there during the war, and we’re going to be there after the war. I said that about Afghanistan,” Buckner said.
Global Guardians currently has two teams in Ukraine, and more in Romania, Poland, Hungary and other European countries where Ukrainian refugees are seeking safety.
The company sent an intelligence brief to its clients about a month before Russia’s invasion warning them that it was “highly probable that the Russians are actually going to take action” and that they needed to “get ready,” Buckner said.
The process is complex, and evacuations that would normally take one or two days are taking up to five due to destroyed bridges, a lack of public transportation options and long lines at the Ukrainian border.
“You’re always looking for the safe zone in these scenarios, and so … this all comes down to the following: having good communication, executing an expectation and preparation, and then having a very precise time and location of pickup,” Buckner explained.
Global Guardians receives detailed lists of who needs help, where to find them, and how to communicate with them. Once the company has received that information, it will meet those people at their address or give them instructions on where to meet Global Guardian agents. Those instructions often include a list of what materials to bring and what conditions to dress for, as they may be exposed to the elements from anywhere between 24 and 36 hours.
“The takeaway is good communication, good preparation, and then just expect to wait and expect bridges to be out, expect to get hemmed up in checkpoints, so on and so forth,” Buckner said.
War zones in Ukraine have made evacuations more difficult because the Russians have destroyed roads and bridges and installed mines, booby traps and “carnage on the way out,” Buckner said. Buildings and city centers have been bombed. Buses and trains have been destroyed or blocked from entering certain cities.
In Kyiv, Buckner said his partners on the ground have described a visible decrease in Russian forces after the Kremlin announced about a week ago that it would be scaling back its forces in the Ukrainian capital, but the “caveat” is that Russia is now buying time “to expand” in Donbas, create a land bridge all the way to the Black Sea and attempt to take Odesa. Only then, if they successfully take control of Odesa, will they declare “victory,” Buckner believes.
“They [will] take warm water seaports they did not have for oil and gas delivery and shipment, and then … they can claim that victory. … They will claim that territory as now Russian territory, we will redraw the lines of new Ukraine, if you will,” the former Green Beret said.
He also believes that while negotiations may stop momentarily if Russia gains control of southern Ukraine, Russia will attempt to expand all the way to NATO countries such as Romania, Hungary and Poland in the future.
“I think their ultimate goal is to expand west, all the way right up to the border. They’re not there. They’re incapable of doing it right now. They don’t have the manpower. They don’t have equipment to take the entire country. I think that’s now clear. And I think that’s why … they’ve been forced to change their strategy going from Donbas to Crimea,” Buckner said.