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St. Pete company prepares troops, civilians for new threats

Mark Parker



A small business headquartered in the St. Petersburg Innovation District trains military and intelligence personnel for irregular and conventional warfare, and helps civilian companies protect critical infrastructure.

Seven Serpents is a service-disabled veteran-owned security training company now based at the Maritime and Defense Technology Hub. It began operating from the facility in January, and Tuesday’s Tech X-change event served as a community introduction of sorts for President Peyton Donald.

Donald, a former operator with the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), told attendees that supporting “sensitive activities” is Seven Serpents’ primary focus. He also oversees Grey Area Services, a commercial intelligence and private investigation sister company.

Seven Serpents currently employs a nine-person team, and Donald said he utilizes “a bunch” of privately contracted instructors from every military branch.

“I deal with the Army Special Forces community, but being able to have somebody with Marine Special Operations or a Navy SEAL as part of our team, you basically provide a well-rounded package for our customers,” Donald said. “We also have several former agency personnel. So, folks from the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) and the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) on the team.”

In addition to sensitive – or classified – endeavors, Donald said irregular warfare is an increasing focus due to geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe and China. That is “a violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population,” according to the Department of Defense.

Other operational areas include nonstandard logistics training and “both defending and destroying infrastructure.” Donald explained that partnerships with utility companies, including Duke Energy, allow Seven Serpents to provide special operations troops with behind-the-scenes access to critical U.S. infrastructure before they deploy overseas.

“I don’t want it to be their first time going into a power generation facility in the Philippines, you know, or somewhere else in Asia or in Europe,” he said.

Donald also noted that U.S. facilities are “extremely vulnerable.” He said Seven Serpents instructors flew to North Carolina to help analyze recent attacks on the electrical grid – from the assailants’ perspective.

“Like why did they select those specific sites,” Donald added. “Now, we know on a couple of occasions it was just folks that maybe were out there just to steal stuff, but the one in North Carolina was a little bit bigger of a deal.”

He said the company is also increasing its personnel recovery training. Seven Serpents operates an expansive training facility in Utah, and “hundreds of miles” of isolation provides an ideal setting to teach navigational and search-and-rescue skills.

Donald explained that company employees and contractors could go anywhere with U.S. troops, and special licensing allows them to operate independently in European countries like Poland and Lithuania. He said the company adjusts its operations to stay relevant and recently hired someone proficient in space communications and defending satellite ground stations.

Donald noted that his commercial sector experts, who he’d wanted to lead the presentation, were out of state conducting exercises. While Seven Serpents focuses on military applications, it also provides training and consulting solutions to law enforcement agencies, businesses and individuals.

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