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  • Writer's pictureLeMareschal

Executive Protection – The Realities of the Industry and the Ugly Truth




Let’s talk about the real world of Executive Protection with all its fantasy myths and all its brutal truths.


     Many newcomers in our Craft have a completely different idea of what the profession truly is or what it appears to be, because their view is primarily based on what they have heard, seen in staged pictures, or what Hollywood tells them it is. This lack of honesty will always leave them either very disappointed about the actual day-to-day operations and/or leaves them vulnerable to making some serious mistakes while on duty.

It is common in our industry to see many of our colleagues posting pictures on the internet social media sites of “selfies” taken in first-class airline seats or in the client’s private jet. Some “selfies” show them with their feet up on a suitcase claiming “another classy trip”, or posting from 4 and 5-star hotel rooms, from poolside at an exclusive resort, from the finest restaurants, or next to a limousine parked next to a jet.


     However, what is known to all of us who have been in the industry for some time, this type of showboating does a serious injustice to the actuality of the nature of the business. Those “selfies”, pictures, and embellished stories of grandeur don’t do the profession any favors as many practitioners new to the industry, or those contemplating a career change, see a life of luxury and make a judgement call based on smoke and mirrors. And an even more important point to remember is that the client has the extravagant life…You do not! You happen to be present for the sole reason that you must be present to provide protection for the client, not because this life of leisure is yours. Distinguishing the difference is critical.


     The reality is- The majority of these pictures are either staged or were taken while not actually working a security detail. We have seen colleagues ask, or even offer to pay, to stand next to a private jet. They put on their best 100-dollar suit, shiny 30-dollar Timex watch, and 12-dollar dark sunglasses and “pose” next to someone else’s 10-million-dollar jet. And we have seen aircraft tail numbers show up in these photos and, for fun, ran the numbers, located the owners, and even tracked the flights. (Now, because you wanted to look “cool”, you have violated another aspect of security, exposed your client, his possessions, and possibly his/her travel schedule, and leaked information that was to be kept confidential…Remember, OPSEC is always first priority, not your ego or accolades from your buddies!)


     The reality is- Anyone can pose anywhere, at any time, and make it look like they are working. Anyone can ask a limo driver to take a picture of them next to that limo. If you feel such a dire need to brag about your job to others that you put your client’s health and safety at risk, who in our industry would ever work with you or recommend you to others? If this is how you see it, this is NOT the career for you. If we could only call out all the people we know who were on vacations with their families, and they post pictures pretending to be on a detail. We even know people who traveled to third-world countries to meet their online “girlfriend” or “boyfriend”, and then they posted pictures as if they were working a detail in those countries!


     The reality is- When you work for someone, it is rare to have a first-class airline seat next to them on a 6-hour flight. Most clients, no matter how wealthy they are, will book you an economy seat back in the aircraft somewhere. Yes, there are a scarce few clients who will book first-class for their CPOs, but to qualify to work for these clients, you must already be well-established in the industry and have a plethora of industry history and references. And quite often, the CPO has worked for the client for quite some time and there is a close familiarity between the client and the CPO, not unlike the trust a patient might give to their personal physician.


     The reality is- When you work with a busy, well-trained team, you will work on rotations and have a schedule that allows for only two things: keeping the client safe and getting to bed to get enough sleep to be able to do it again tomorrow. Anyone who has the time to “enjoy” taking pictures probably has too much time on their hands, isn’t watching their client closely enough, or maybe isn’t working at all. And if you happen to be working alone, you cannot spare any lapse in focus or attention away from your client for your own personal enjoyment. We have been in rotations where after work, we were so tired that we didn’t have the energy or interest to exercise, call our family members or friends, or even eat! Sleep becomes paramount under circumstances like this. This type of scenario is usually due to working long shifts alone or with very little relief staffing, but that is a situation worth discussing in another article.


     The reality is- When your client travels, they may be working or on vacation, but you are ALWAYS working. You will ALWAYS get less sleep than your client. When they finally retire for the evening, you are up another few hours planning and preparing for the next day. When they wake, it might be because you are responsible for waking them, or you have to plan for any/all requests they may have upon waking, which means you are up a couple of hours before them. While working, you have to focus on your client’s needs. Finding time to eat and go to the bathroom is not your client’s responsibility or even on their mind. If you want to eat, you have to find your own way to do it quickly and efficiently. If you need to empty your bladder, you have to leave sight of your client and return quickly. If it is not safe to leave your client, then you choose to either hold it or make other arrangements. This is hard enough as a male, but as a female, it is nearly impossible to improvise. Again, a subject for future articles!

     

     The reality is- You will need to find time to eat, sleep, shower, go to the bathroom, write reports, call your family, pay your bills, clean your clothes, charge your equipment batteries, train, stretch, exercise, and accomplish other normal life tasks and all outside of the client’s view. And you will inevitably find yourself doing things you wouldn’t do in your personal life because you must adapt to your client’s activities. And you will need to be an expert in your client’s extracurricular activities to enable you to not only accompany them, but to identify threats to their safety all while riding elephants or horses, scuba diving, skydiving, hunting, mountain biking, and so many more excursions. And an important point to keep in mind…If you know you are not qualified or skilled in any particular activity, learn when to partner up with someone who is or hire your own replacement for the activity in question.


     The reality is- You WILL, at some point in your career, find yourself in the presence of an awkward, heated family conversations and you might be asked to take a side. Now, you know its unprofessional to choose a side and you will have to find a diplomatic answer within seconds. You will see behaviors and listen to conversations  that will challenge your own personal and professional ethics. And again, learn when to be present, and when to make yourself scarce…You don’t have the luxury of an opinion…If you think you do, you most certainly find yourself on a plane headed home…Unemployed.


     The reality is- You will find yourself in challenging environments too. (I developed asthma working in Mumbai and Chris contracted cholera while working in the Middle East) You may get food or water poisoning, malaria, and even get worms from food. Making sure all your vaccinations are up to date and you have OTC meds with you will be commonplace. You will have to work with people who have little to no training or they have been trained differently than you. Some “professionals” in our industry are great with weapons and driving, but have no concept of controlling body odor! They speak 4 languages, but can’t drive a car. They can cook a 4-course  meal out of any cookbook from any resemblance of food they can find, but they can’t provide first-aid on an insect bite or gunshot wound.


     The reality is- People who come from different cultures and have different perspectives regarding punctuality, performance of their duties, and the common traits of professionalism, have no clue that every decision they make, from their clothing, to their language skills, to hygiene habits, to interpersonal skills, are all weighed and measured by the clients who would hire them.


     The reality is- Unless they have extensively worked in foreign countries or locations, many practitioners claim this type of experience having never operated under these circumstances. There are people who have done nothing more than stayed in a hotel in a country or had a layover in an airport, and then claim to have experience there. Travel with your client will come with time and you will, likely as not, find yourself slowly filling your passport with stamps from many foreign locales. But in the beginning, it will likely be close to home, short trips, and nothing terribly exciting. Patience is the key component in longevity with close protection.


     The reality is- True professionals will not let themselves be photographed by others and certainly would never photograph themselves while working. And they will not want to work with those who do. True professionals know the difference between ethics and etiquette and follow the rules of each. Doing anything to compromise your client’s business or personal privacy is not just a mistake, it is a catastrophic attack on our industry and our collective ability to earn a living in it. True professionals will know how to dress for any occasion their clients may invite them into and know how to negotiate with the client to avoid unsafe activities and conditions. True professionals will know how to do one hundred things, while in the active company of their client, that will never be acknowledged or appreciated by the client, and a thousand things near their client that will never even be seen or known…Because it’s NOT about you. Never was, isn’t now, never will be.


     The reality is- If you seek personal public recognition in this industry for the delicate function you are being paid to perform, if you are seeking a smooth, cushy job, if you crave personal validation, desperately need the praises of your colleagues, if Hollywood has indelibly imprinted its version of EP on you…Make no mistake…you have picked the wrong career field.


     However, if you have a high sense of honor, professionalism, discretion, integrity, and patience, Welcome! If you take a deep personal pride in a job well done, come join us! Centuries of protectors came before us and lived by a strict code. The Samurai, The Roman Praetorian, The Varangian Guard, to name just a few, are examples of those who truly understood and abided by a Code and provided unquestionably stalwart and unwavering protection and safety for those entrusted to them. There is no greater honor than to provide protection, safety, security, and peace of mind to those who depend on us most!




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