From the battlefield to the boardroom - FOX 13 News

From the battlefield to the boardroom

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The FOX TV show '24' tracked terrorists in a fictional world. But it's for real at Celestar, a private defense contractor in Tampa.

Owner and CEO Greg Celestan employs more than 100 intelligence analysts and staffers in the Bay Area and in northern Virginia. They all have top security clearance. Many are veterans who have worked in military intelligence.

Unlike 24's 'by-any-means-necessary' approach, Celestar's slogan says their strongest weapon isn't a trigger, blades, or explosives.

Celestan told FOX 13's Denise White that his company analyzes data and intelligence information and provides the military with operational support.

"If you have a terrorist group that might be planning an operation, we have folks that are skilled in the language, in the culture of that area of the world. They understand deeply how that group might think of what the opposition person would do."

He says they can provide "a linguist who speaks Urdu or Pashto or someone who has a technical capability that the military doesn't have."

Celestan recalled the day one of his analysts noticed how a suspected terrorist group kept switching phones, financial accounts, and meeting locations.

"Over six months, they established a pattern, and what our analysts were able to do was to predict this is probably what they're going to do next. Then we passed that information over to the military, and they were able to capture all of these people."

Celestan's interest in the military began in high school as an ROTC cadet in Niagara Falls, New York. He says his parents instilled a desire for success.

"They taught us early on not to let others define who you are. You do that for yourself."

After graduating from West Point, Celestan went on to serve 20 years in the U.S. military. He worked at Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in the Operations Division. He led Centcom's Coalition Intelligence Coordination Center in Qatar during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was in charge of developing intelligence against Al Qaida and the Taliban in Operation Enduring Freedom.

In 2004, the 50-year-old former lieutenant colonel retired. He and Joanne, his wife of 26 years, got into the defense contracting business that sprang up after September 11th.

Celestar became one of the fastest growing businesses in Tampa Bay with $50,000 in revenue the first year to $7-million three years later and $20-million last year. Top awards followed, including the prestigious Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2010.

"There is a level of enjoyment and satisfaction because it's unlike anything you see in a lot of other careers."

Celestan also gives back to the community. He supports youth sports groups, and is the new head of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

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