Celebrity Bodyguard

By Eliljah Shaw

Source: Circuit –The Magazine for Bodyguards

Let’s face it, in our industry the celebrity bodyguard doesn’t always get a lot of respect. Corporate Protective Agents lump them just above club bouncers on the evolutionary ladder, while our peers that handle personal security details in war zones, such as Iraq or Afghanistan look at us as glorified babysitters. Of course both of these stereotypes are just that, a collection of generalizations that may apply to some, but definitely not to all.

However, the Ten Thousand dollar question is, if you’re in the celebrity protection industry, does it describe you? If your sole qualifications for servicing your clients are, you weigh 300 pounds and you used to play football in college, chances are they might be right. As I look at it, the difference between being a bodyguard or a buddyguard comes down to training.

 Quality training along with experience gained from working with clients on a long-term basis (not just standing next to them one night at a club) means you’re on the right path to doing the right things as a close protection agent. If you’re earning a paycheck, supporting yourself and protecting your principal, you’re a PROFESSIONAL; never let anyone tell you otherwise.

Sometimes in our industry, I find we rely too much on labels. Take a moment to describe yourself in a few words, would you say you’re a Bodyguard? Executive Protection? Close Protection Agent?

All of these are correct in my opinion. At the end of the day, each one of these titles means the same to the client who has a potential threat. Mr. (insert title here) please assist me with getting through my day as safely and securely as possible. If the crap does hit the fan, please remove me from the situation as quickly as possible. Who’s going to do that most effectively, it’s the agent with the proper training.

It’s no secret that most of the agents in our industry come from military or law enforcement backgrounds, of course you can’t just stop there. I’m amazed at the amount of individuals that come to my office and think because they have a long career in law enforcement, that they can walk right into a detail and operate successfully.

The same can be said for those with a military background. Both of these careers are excellent building blocks to a future in the executive protection industry. However, both may also come with some bad habits that you have to unlearn before you will be at the top of your game doing EP work.

Consider this, reduced to its simplest principles, police officers solve crimes and soldiers win battles. Can you see how years and years of training with these underlying philosophies can be a hindrance if you don’t balance that with formal close protection training made specific to the bodyguard field?

So how do you build a better bodyguard? Well in addition to the individual skills that you bring to the profession, a working knowledge of field medicine is important as well as knowledge of business and social etiquette. Outside of that, there are the fundamental skills that are unique to close protection.

The advance work, cover and evacuation drills, and vehicle embussing and debussing techniques. You are only going to become that total package if you train. There are many reputable schools all over the world ranging from one-day seminar to three-month residency programs. Of course the can also rise exponentially into the thousands. Ratings and reviews are in abundance on various sites (including the BBA and the in NABA) so I’ll leave it to the reader to research and make the choice on which one is the best fit for them.

I personally teach a five day hands-on course, which focuses on the celebrity protection side of the business. So in conclusion, no matter where you go, keep in mind that training shouldn’t stop when you receive that certificate at the end of the course. Those on top of their game will continue to read books on the industry, become active in organizations and most importantly drill, drill, drill. Master these and you will do well in a rewarding field that in my mind is a perfect balance between service and leadership hard work and perks.

Elijah Shaw is the CEO of Icon Service Corporation and the National Director of the North American Bodyguard Association.

  • http://www.pantherprotectionservices.com Six

    Well said Elijah. Never stop learning, never stop training. It our job as professionals in the industry to help people understand what we do, and not let uninformed people try to define us. Police Officers are important, Overseas Operators are important and so are Executive Protection Agents or Bodyguards. It is funny we never try and discount anyone else’s profession, but everyone wants to discount ours. Any person who does their job well makes it look easy. Most of the negative comments we receive are born out of people who don’t appreciate all the hard work that went into a professional building their skills and providing servant leadership!

  • Nicole Lawtone

    Nicole Lawtone I agree with you 100%.
    Professionals are predictable.Anmintures are not.

  • Soni Baptiste

    I agree, I’m part of that group who did training with law enforcement and yes there is a difference. for 1 there is no seating in a car with cool a/c.

  • http://www.sextonsecurity.com John Sexton

    Elijah,

    I wish you could get that muppet that Brittany Spears has hired into one of your classes, as he is in dire need of training. I just wrote a blog (www.thebulletproofblog.com) tonight about the pictures and stories of him escorting her to a restaurant recently. Not only did he have his arm around her waist, but he abandoned his Principal in order to squash a parking ticket from being written! Where do some of these celebrities find them?

  • Don Moe

    E,
    Well stated. As one who came from the Law Enforcement proffession, I can confirm the need for EP training no matter what your background is. No offense to my brothers and sisters in the Criminal Justice field, but we have been trained to respond to the problem. EP or Close protection work is the complete opposite. We move our principle away from the problem and evacuate from the area. It takes time and training to train that into a new way in responding. Also, the one bit of advice that has helped me in my work has been that no matter what your assignement is, apply the principles of protection to every detail you work. Celebrity, Corporate, Family, Political, ect.. The all need the basics: Advance, route preperation, hospital, and local intel and contacts to assist. Be consistent in your approach, professional in your appearence, courteous to all, and seemless in action.

  • http://www.epsusa.us JJ Nederlander

    Elijah,

    That article is dead on. I can’t tell you how much work we have lost to these want-a-Be’s that have no clue on what ep is. Plus they low-ball us on price. Again great article.

  • Joseph

    become a Master of this profession. Learn and train without end.

  • http://www.Industry-Icon.com Elijah Shaw

    Six: Great Motto at the end. One to remember.

    Don: Well said, I think it takes a little bit of “Un”Training but the basics are universal.

    John: I took a look at your (great)Blog. I really wish a few of those celebrity handlers had read it prior to making hiring decisions!

  • http://proprotect.moonfruit.com Jim

    This is all every interesting to read.
    Not all people out there are not former police officers/military. I am an ex trk dr, guarded my loads of dyamite, thur 911, as it went down, even thru Pa., as it accured. And now, I want to be a bodyguard professionally. Street smarts doesn’t have the training to be “RAMBO”, common sense, and alot of so~called people do not have that now a days.
    I can handle myself, my CWW, said I didn’t need a gun!

  • GENE Harrison jr.

    AWESOME ARTICLE IT WAS NECESSARY AND NEEDED TO BE HEARD. AND QUOTED BY THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS.

  • Rob Cowman

    I can see why those high-speed ex-military types & know it all cops could miss out on the true virtues of what it takes to be a professional bodyguard. Additionally, the eye appeal of a 325 lb ex collegiate football player can be alluring.

    Question: Is there a place for a 47 year old ex Recon Marine Officer with planning skills, training skills & a penchant to develop plans based on unique mission criteria? Or am I just old? Too small 210 lbs.?

  • Bob Thompson

    Elijah
    Right on target once again and I concur with all my fellow protection agents out there.I worked 14 years with Donald Trump and the entire Trump family and interviewed many potential candidates for work.I heard it all.I had retired supervisors who couldn’t deal with taking orders from me just because I was a cop and not a supervisor.The other was guys who said they were with dignitary protection and all they did was sit in a squad car a block from the Waldorf stoping people from crossing the street while George Bush stayed at the hotel and they would say I have exec protec experience.

  • Hucky

    Rob, to answer the first part of your question.I think old is a relative concept. Too old for what? It’s all about the individual and the condition he’s in. I’m 47 and fat, thanks to poor choices I like to blame on my environment. Am I too old for high-risk ops? – NO. Am I too fat? – HELL YES.

    On the other hand, a good friend of mine, is older than dirt itself. I suspect he’s older than Methuselah. I know he’s older and meaner than Mr. T. This guy is near 65, skinny, fit, runs everyday and has more personal stamina than most 20 year old service men (Marines not included). Is he too old? – NO.

    I don’t think a fit guy can be too old for executive protection work as long as all his body parts are working and he’s maintained the edge over the years. Me … well I better step away from the refrigerator really soon.

    And for the second part of your question, research and preparation aimed at identifying potential threats and contingency plans supersedes the need for big bouncer like bodyguards. Executive protection professionals receive training in skills such as defensive driving, emergency medical response and physical fitness. They know how to prepare for important events ahead of time and counter threats. And they act and dress like their protection subjects.

    So yes, there’s definitely a place for you in the field of executive protection.

    Hucky

  • http://www.icepltd.com Doc Rogers

    Eliljah,
    Very solid advice on an important subjuct that is often misunderstood iun the BG industry.

  • Bill Clason

    Mr.Shaw: Ive been in Law Enforcement all my life, and I got to tell you, your so correct when you say training..training ..training!. In my Department Officers had to attend Training….what about the guy that whats to be a Bodyguard,EPO?

  • http://www.icepltd.com Doc Rogers

    Dear Eliljah:

    Very solid points. We think along the same lines of LEO and MIL personnel; thinking their past training make them eligible for protective details without specific training in personal protection. Very professional article. Thank you.

  • Joe Campbell

    Great article and right on. I am one of those LEO / MIL guys now doing EP (5 years). I had much to learn in EP but my prior background made it easy for me to adapt to and learn the principles of EP. Part of my LEO world included protecting Judges which was nothing more than EP as I look back. I look forward to formal EP training as it will complete the circle of my skill set — 1/3 LEO, 1/3 MIL, 1/3 EP — which should make me a well balanced operator. Mr. Shaw, you give me the motivation to improve myself in the EP world by making me realize my prior background isn’t enough. Thanks to you and all the other professionals in here.

  • http://www.csinvestigation.com Laudelino Solano

    Very Well Said Elijah.
    I can confirm the need for EP training no matter what your background is!
    Many people have entered the executive protection business who are not properly trained in the finer aspects required of the position. There is more to the position than just being a presence.
    If a security presence were all that was required, then the $9.00 an hour “uniform” guard with his whistle, nightstick, radio, and possibly a gun would be sufficient.
    A police background is a good beginning because it is an excellent training ground to develop people skills and to learn that some things are never as they seem. Powers of observation, recognition, analysis, and comprehension and the ability to react to an evolving situation, so necessary to police work, are also common to executive protection professionals.
    However, policing and working the street are not the same as working with the elite personalities of politics, entertainment, big business, and society.
    While executive protection demands many of the skills learned in police work, such expertise with weapons and some combat skills and awareness, it also requires diplomacy, finesse, and patience, and even proper protocol and etiquette.
    Takes years of experience to become fully proficient in the anuances of executive protection, and regardless of how long a person has been providing high-level protective services, there will always be an opportunity to learn something new!!

  • STAN L. NOLLEY

    ELIJAH ”WELL SPOKEN,IAM JUST ENTERING THE WORLD OF EXECUTIVE PROTECTION,I HAVE IAM INCORPERATING MY LAWENFORCEMENT AND MILITARY SKIILS WITH THE LEARNING AND TRAINING THAT I HAVE BEEN GAINING IN THE BUISNESS,I HAVE GAIN SCOLLS OF GREAT INFORMATION FROM YOU AND HUCKY AS WELL AS BENTIFITING FROM BODYGUARDS CAREER AND MANY OTHER PUBLISH ARTICLE PRETAINTING TO THE INDUSTRY, I HAVE MADE GREAT ADVANCEMENT IN THE PAST EIGHT MONTHS TO INCLUDE THE SKILLS THAT I BROUGHT TO THE TABLE WITH ME,I LOK FORWARD IN STLL ATTENDING TRAINING AT ICON SOME POINT IN THE NEAR FUTURE, THANK YOU YOU FOR ALL THAT YOU SHARE WITH OTHE THROUGH YOUR LINK YOU ANV HARLAN AUSTIN.

  • Brian G

    I am currently in the USMC but thinking about getting out to do EP. I am looking into additional training and whatnaught but i think i might be too small. im 5’11” 160 lbs. does anyone in the EP business know if this would effect having EP for my career?