Interview with Leonard Holifield

Prof. Leonard C. Holifield, CPS, is President and CEO of the International Academy of Executive Protection Agents, LLC. Known as the Harvard of Bodyguard Schools, he is an honor graduate of ESI – Executive Security International and former chief security officer and personal bodyguard to the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Chief Justice Roy S. Moore, aka the Ten Commandments Judge. With over 20 years in the security business, Prof. Holifield is one of the most sought after instructors in the United States.

He is the author of SOLO - Security Operations for the Lone Officer (Outskirts Press) and Close Quarter Combat “A Soldiers Guide to Hand-to-Hand Combat” (Paladin Press). He is a frequent lecturer on executive protection, national hate groups and gangs, unarmed self defense and one-man solo security operations. He has been recognized by several national and international organizations; to include Marquis Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who Among Executives and Professionals, WOMA’s Who’s Who in the Martial Arts and Combative Masters of the 20th Century (Lulu Press). As former Chief Combatives Instructor to the United States Army his work in the field of hand-to-hand combat has been featured in major military publications to include Army Trainer, Soldiers, KORUS and Military Police magazines. A former military police officer and highly decorated veteran of the Gulf War, he was credited with capturing the first Iraqi POW during Operation Desert Storm. He is the president and founder of the International Sikaron Karate Federation and holds 3rd, 6th, and 10th degree black belts in Judo, Hapkido and Sikaron Karate respectively.

BGC: How did you get started in the Executive Protection Field?  What  was your very first assignment?

LH:In a nutshell, before I got into executive protection, I was a full time martial arts instructor with over 35 years in the martial arts. I met then, Judge Roy Moore who was interested in karate classes for his three sons, whom I trained for several years. Later Judge Moore ran for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he won, offered me the job to be his Chief Security Officer and the rest is history.

BGC: Who are your typical clients? Celebrities, executives, political figures?

LH: Executives and political figures.

BGC: What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about the bodyguard/EPS field?

LH: The biggest misconception is that people will often mistake the “average” bodyguard with the executive protection agent or certified protection specialist. There’s a fine line here, because the terms Bodyguard and Executive Protection Agent are often used in the same sentence. Don’t misunderstand me; we are all in the same protection business. However, there are vast differences between the two.

For example, in the world of Hip Hop you will often see an entourage accompanying the artist, some of these individuals are acting as bodyguards for that person. In reality they are close friends of the artist, maybe grew up in the same neighborhood, and have great street fighting skills but no formal EP training.

They are not to be confused with a trained executive protection agent, who is trained specifically to protect an individual from harm, often without resorting to physical violence at all.

BGC: What has been the most dangerous or challenging situation you’ve handled while protecting a client?

LH: The most dangerous and challenging situations I’ve had to deal with are protecting my client in crowds. Especially large outdoor crowds. The problem in that situation is the lack of access control points, metal detection and the wide open area that can place me and my client in a vulnerable situation.

BGC: You have an extensive martial arts background, as well as a military background. We have been getting a good number of resumes from soldiers returning from the Middle East and I would like for them to hear from you what they can do to increase their odds of working as an Executive Protection Specialist in the private sector.

LH: Actually, the odds are increased for individuals who want to get into executive protection because of their military training. Those with a military background regardless of his/her MOS (military occupational specialty) are viewed favorably by employers because of the leadership, discipline, attention to detail and the ability to take as well as give orders to get the job done.

A military career is highly respected and welcomed in executive protection. I was in active service in the United States Army from 1987 to 1997 and it has served me well in all of my endeavors. It is important to note that some jobs in the military such as military police, CID (Criminal Investigation Division), MI (Military Intelligence) and special forces may be more attractive to some employers.

No matter what you did in the military or what job you held, once a civilian, it is imperative to get specialized training in executive protection. After you graduate from EP school, update your resume and network, network, network. Networking is the key to working in this business. Don’t sit around waiting for your “Detail Ship” to come in–you will probably be waiting for a long time. You’ve got to put in the work and market what you have to offer to the to the public.

BGC: Can you share both your favorite and least favorite aspects of working in Executive Protection? (We really want to help new people to fully grasp just what this career is about!)

LH: My favorite thing about working in executive protection is the satisfaction I get from doing my job and doing it well. Having protected the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for over 7 years, as well as other high profile executives–without incident–there’s no better reward than that.

My least favorite thing about working EP are clients that are not willing to pay me or any EP agent what he/she is truly worth. This is a reality of the business. I think I speak for many agents when I tell you that there are those who value personal protection and are willing to pay for it, and those who expect full protection service but are not willing to pay what you are worth.

BGC: Your web site is really impressive. How much of an impact has using a web site as a marketing tool had on your  professional career?

My web site has been a great marketing tool primarily because of the millions of people out there using the Internet. I have a constant flow of traffic to my site on a daily basis. Other people link my web site to theirs, which increases exposure and drives more traffic to my web site. This has had a great impact on my professional career. Thousands of individuals visit my web site and learn that I’m an executive protection agent and international instructor. This exposure means more people know about my business (International Academy of Executive Protection Agents, LLC), which means more protection assignments and building an EP network of agents for future assignments.

BGC: What advice do you have for new people who are interested in getting into this field?

LH: There are several things you should do to prepare. First, research the various schools and training academies with executive protection courses. You want to make sure that you’re getting the best training possible for your money.  After all, it’s your life that will be on the line as well as the person you protect, so proper training is essential.

Secondly, you must be ready to sacrifice, dedicate and commit yourself to this profession. Executive protection is not for everyone. The upside is the lavish lifestyle side of the business: five star hotels, private jets, formal dinners, VIP treatment, etc, but along with that come the long hours of standing, sleep deprivation and being on call 24/7 in most cases.

Lastly, and most importantly, you must be ready to die for the person you will protect, because in this business you are as much of a target as your client. If you have doubts about your commitment to this field, then executive protection may not be the field for you.

 

  • Jacquelyn

    Great interview Mr. Holifield thanks for sharing

  • Mike

    Fantastic interview Mr. Holifield. I really enjoyed it!
    Mike (The Bull) Smith

  • Joe, NJ

    Excellent article!
    Master Holifield really lent some insight into the “bodyguard” business of the music world when he spoke of the Hip Hop industry.
    As someone who has worked in the Latin/Crossover music sector I can attest that many in that industry utilize the services of friends from the “hood” or someone reccomended through industry contacts.
    While these individuals may have the mental make up and physical attributes to handle some incidents, it takes training and education, the kind provided by Master Hoilifield and other legitimate entities to be PROFESSIONALY qualified to work in the world of high profile EP.
    While physical training and Martial Arts systems geared toward real world protection skills are prerequisites, EDUCATION is also important.

  • Lance

    Outstanding!!!
    I know his man and he’s the real deal! One of the best in the business, bar none! Great article, keep up the good work!!!

  • Master Fred W. Waters Jr.

    Everything was right on, I enjoyed it all.

  • Dr.Andre Glenn,CMAS,EPS

    All true!!!