Executive Protection Courses

By Damien Richey

What should an Executive Protection course contain? This is an interesting question. Executive protection is one of the only industries in which its practitioners claim responsibility for their client’s safety and wellbeing, yet there are virtually no requirements to enter the field and state regulations vary greatly.

Virginia seems to have the most professional standards while some states have none. California, with all of its billionaires, only requires practitioners to be breathing. If one can make it through the rigorous requirements of the eight-hour Guard Card course, which has nothing to do with protection, one is considered employable in the industry.

Executive protection courses vary in length from 1 day exposures taught by EPI and other schools, to several weeks at places like ESI. Having taught at one of the schools in Hucky’s “Top Executive Protection Schools” and worked as a protection professional, I cannot imagine what a one day seminar would contain that would qualify one for the job.

As amazing at it seems in our profession, one can take a 40-hour class, and work in the field almost immediately. Compare this to a Starbucks barista that gets a minimum of 24 hours of training, albeit in their first two weeks of work.

Granted, there are many EP “professionals” out there with no training working now, or former law enforcement and military with no protection training/experience hired simply because of their status, which has virtually no relevance or application in the field. Getting executive protection training is important.

Executive protection training can be broken down into three areas: soft skills, hard skills and specialty skills. Soft skills are all of the skills required to do the job 99% of the time. They include etiquette, advances, formations, arrivals and departures, vehicle placement and positioning etc.

Hard skills are shooting, driving, and unarmed combat. Specialty skills are PSD, surveillance detection, and medical.  Executive protection training should be conducted to know and learn the job. Hard skills and specialty skills training should be conducted separately from protection training as they all require more time and effort than most schools and practitioners can afford all at once.

There are some out there that say the “big four” ESI, Oatman, EPI and ITG are the only way to go, but consider how many people are working only from these schools. Do not be deterred if your budget will not support one of the “big four” schools. Do not be deterred because “one of my friends told me” X only teaches private military type protection, not Executive Protection. Companies that are famous, or infamous, because of their presence overseas in high threat areas also have Executive Protection courses that are very good.

Soft Skills
The great thing about the soft skills is they can be taught in a roughly a week’s time. Granted this week merely gives aspiring protectors just a glimpse at what executive protection entails, however, the principles and fundamentals can be learned.

This training may need to be revisited every five years or so to remain current, and supplemental training should be conducted periodically.  Those who have done State Department WPPS/WPS or other similar training should also attend an Executive Protection course. Many of the drills are the same, but the nuances for executive protection are different. PSD should be considered a specialty for protection.

From the school selected, it should offer at a minimum: detail positions and functions, how to conduct an advance, what is involved in planning a protective operations order, formations, arrivals and departures, etiquette, threat assessments, and AOP’s or attack on principal drills, on foot and from vehicles and include practical application of all of the above. Some may consider AOP drills hard skills but as they are often conducted unarmed we will leave them here.

Hard Skills
For the most part, driving is a once every few years or more training. The concepts of vehicle dynamics have not changed much in the last 15 years or so, and one can only ram, J-turn and reverse out so many times before they take away the toys anyway.

A driving course should allow you to drive beyond normal limits, drive an armored car if available, practice PIT maneuvers and counter-pits, ramming, motorcade driving, close quarters driving and the like. Moreover, the course you select should offer you everything you need for both offensive and defensive driving skills in your current job or one you intend to pursue.

Unarmed combat skills should initially be a style of combat you can learn in the day and use in the parking lot that night every time you go. If you are learning a system or an art it will take you a long time to master it and thus, may not be effective if you need it right now. It should focus on empty hand, uses of improvised weapons and allow you to stay on your feet or get there quickly if you go down.

Shooting skills is a big one. It is perishable, but it is a tool. Many go armed with a gun, but unarmed in employment, presentation and manipulation of it. While we should be able to think our way out of trouble 1000 more times than shoot our way out of it, it is imperative we are proficient in our weapons handling. If your EP school focuses on shooting, you will need to make up the other lessons lost somewhere else.

Shooting is a skill that requires refinement and practice. Protection shooting drills are different and require thinking of the principal before yourself. One handed shooting is a focus in order to control and move the principal as needed. Many EP schools show you weapons drills but do not focus on marksmanship.  This is a good thing. The idea behind this is you should recognize a weakness and correct it. Get to a shooting course or protective shooting course if this applies to you.

Specialty Skills
Specialties, like PSD, protective intelligence, counter-surveillance and medical, require additional training and a full time focus on the specialty in order to gain and maintain proficiency.

As well, with medical there are national certifications often bolstered by state requirements. Most professional certifications require continuing education units or periodic recertification to maintain the certification. This is also a good thing as the industry strengthens itself with certified professionals and specialties.

Find a School or Course
Do your research, talk to other professionals. Call the schools and talk to the instructors. If you talk to the sales folks, consider what they say with a grain of salt, remember, they are trying to sell you.

Ask the instructor when the last time he worked a detail was. Ask him if he has done overseas assignments and where? All of these things are important because you want the most current training and experience. Consider the course costs; break them down to how much each training day is costing you. Look at schools in your area first unless you have a specific school in mind. Travel, lodging and meals can eat into a budget rather quickly. Use your training dollars to maximize your training base leaving you as a well-rounded EP practitioner as possible.

The author is a practicing protection provider with over 14 years in the industry. He has taught protection courses for several schools, one of which is mentioned in Hucky’s “Top Executive Protection Schools”. He has provided executive protection throughout the United States and Europe, and high-risk protection in several war zones.