By Eliljah Shaw
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.