These Guys Build the World’s Tallest Flagpoles for Dictators
Marc Summers and David Chambers have a pretty unusual job. Together, through their company Trident Support Corporation, they build the world’s tallest flagpoles for the authoritarian regimes of Central Asia and the Middle East.
The pair came along at the right time; over the past decade, a largely unnoticed arms race has played out across that part of the world. And not over anything so prosaic as tanks, heat-seeking missiles, or armed drones, but rather massive fucking flagpoles. Currently the world’s tallest flagpole stands at 541 feet in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. The previous record was held by by Baku, Azerbaijan at 531 feet, and, before that, Ashgabat in Turkmenistan at a paltry 436 feet. Trident built all three of them.
I first heard about the company while in Tajikistan, where an NGO worker described this bizarre competition for Earth’s biggest flagpole as a “dictators’ dick-waving contest.” But locals in Dushanbe seemed genuinely effusive about their record-breaking structure, and I was fascinated as to how an American start-up had managed to carve themselves such a weird niche—capitalizing on this odd wave of global flagpole envy. So I gave them a call to talk about it.
Marc (left) and David meeting King Abdullah of Jordan
VICE: Hey, guys. So how did Trident start? I can’t imagine it was easy to spot a gap in the market for giant flagpoles.
Marc: If you’d told me 15 years ago that we were going to be building flagpoles as our primary business, I would have said you were crazy. We started out 18 years ago, working in defense logistics, and we were working in Abu Dhabi when our business sponsor—a fairly influential person in the UAE—came to us and said they wanted to build a flagpole. He’d been to Mexico, seen some big flagpoles there, and thought one would look great in Abu Dhabi as a monument to the ruler. They trusted us and asked if we could do it. So we said, “Well, we haven’t built flagpoles, but how hard can it be? How big do you want it, sir?” And he said he wanted the tallest in the world.