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.

  • John Sexton

    Very practical and useful information in this article – well done. I agree that a one day course will not prepare anyone new to the field to go out and conduct an E.P. detail.

    They are meant to give an insight into the role of an E.P. Agent. This is of great value to new personnel who may discover that they are not as suited to this lifestyle as they had thought. Better to discover that fact, after spending $150 on a one day seminar than to charge two or three thousand on a credit card.

    I especially liked the idea of speaking with the instructors. Training schools should be transparent if they are asking people to hand over their hard earned wages. They should be prepared to give instructors’ credentials and to allow the student to speak with the instructor, as we do. Checking to see if instructors are active in the field is another great point.

  • Greg

    I’m a proponent of transparency. A lot of security training firms, steep themselves in mystique and for “security reasons” claim that their instructors are veterans of this, that and the other thing. If the instructors are in fact “active” in providing close protection for high ranking members of government, provide cover and response duties on intelligence missions, or are involved in direct action military strikes, then I agree that that it makes sense to conceal the identity of instructors. Good instructors should not only be experienced providing EP, but should also be active in the field of instruction and always seek how to improve their teaching methodologies.

  • Alonzo Gomez

    Great article and comments. For the record, California requires 40 hours of instruction followed by an 8 hour course each year, but as the author stated, this is security guard, not EP, training, and a simple formality anyway. I do see MANY take on this job without any clue.

    Since I’m one of those who got their start before having the specific training (that I did acquire later), I was able to tell whether the instruction was relevant or not when shopping for it. But I’m a bit worried about the brand new agents who take one course and think they’re now “trained” and fully operational. Courses available in the private sector, even week-long ones, are only introductions (as Mr. Sexton rightly points out). Schools should make this very clear. You don’t expect people to get a driver’s license and go race the Indy 500, after all.

    There’s also a few scammers out there, promising jobs at the course’s end and/or not providing quality or adequate instruction, and this is why homework is so critical for the trainee-to-be. This article (and many others on this site) gives solid pointers on how to avoid those pitfalls.

  • Donny Emerick

    I as well say this is a great article with much to ponder for the starting E.P. Professional.

    Like Mr. Sexton said the one day and some two day seminars are designed to introduction to the professional career field of executive protection. They are also designed as a refresher course for those already in the field to review new practices and those not practiced routinely.

    As for the ultimate school of personal protection there is only one i’ve heard to have a long enough class to cover all the skills to get started out the door.

    I feel it’s best served to locate a good school that teaches the fundamentals of “soft arts” followed by other companies specializing in the “hard arts” to gain a competent level of training without coming to the field with military or law enforcement training. The fact is a training facility can only provide you the fundamentals of a specific art of protection. I see the training courses offered as a supplement to professional training elsewhere. Most come from law enforcement and military and use the core of their training to supplement the E.P. courses thus making a more rounded approach, and the reason why so many professionals have one or both in their history.

    Realistically it’s my opinion that if you want to learn the complete art of protection in a single approach it would be to join the Secret Service or other government branch that provides training for close protection. However that in-mind not every training academy will provide you with a 100% transferable education.

    Some retired government agents I know well tell me there are many that leave the public protection field once they taste the realities of the work.

    Go with to top schools ask them which other schools would supplement your experience and do the same with them. in the end experience is what you make it and knowing the right people, being humble and working hard will get you where you want to be. Ask anyone in the top positions they will tell you the course at XYZ was good but was not the encompassing end to a successful career.

  • Damien: Great article; very important subject! Keep safe.

  • Agreed, Training is everything. As well as continued training the industry is constantly changing. I reside and operate out of Los Angeles, CA. Yes standards here are low. But Clients and potential clients must also be taught about what EP work is. Sexton’s name is known in the industry by operators. I am a graduate of ESI, Vance Intl, RL Oatmans, IFS2I and Risk-Inc. Do your homework, learn your skills

  • Damien, I read your article with great interest and appreciated many of the points that you brought up. I especially liked the emphasis on soft, hard, and specialty skills.

    I would like to mention the EPI one day program (as you brought it up); it is an introduction and overview to Executive Protection information seminar, and under no circumstances is it advertised as a course you can take and jump right in to EP. As was mentioned by several, it is to give an overview of the industry and what is involved and to help someone to decide if they should pursue getting into it or not, and a good refresher too. It also explains the difference between an untrained bodyguard and a trained professional (we go by many names-PPS, CPS, etc). We advocate not only taking a comprehensive course, but to become a continuous student of this profession. I felt compelled to make that clarification.

    EPI’s 7 day program is a serious and intense course with over 100 hours of training taught by over 20 highly skilled and experienced subject matter experts, and as you mentioned correctly, this is essentially an introduction to EP. The EPI 7 day course was studyied by the State of Virginia and became a model for the VA “Personal Protection Specialist” course (VA even used this name created by Dr. Kobetz). The course has also been a model that many other schools have utilized.

    I agree strongly with your point that those interested in training should weigh all the costs involved and consider the overall investment. My first formal EP course was a 5 day 40 hour classroom only Dignitary Protection course taught by one Instructor for the IACP. Good basic fundamental course that got me more interested. I continually attend courses, seminars, and conferences, and I highly recommend for all EP practitioners to do the same.

    And I couldn’t agree more with the point about talking with Instructors and being able to look over all the Instructor’s bios.

    Thanks again for writing a good article that helps prospective EP professionals to consider all the points you make (and the follow up commentary too).

    Jerry Heying, CPP, PPS
    Executive Director
    Executive Protection Institute