By Bruce Alexander
Richard Nance’s article From the Mat to the Street: Realistic takedown defense at Officer.com and started thinking about how to apply Rich’s points from the Executive Protection perspective. It’s pretty clear that being on the ground is not where you want to be but you need to accept the fact that you are most likely to end of there at some point in time. However, Rich’s article got me to thinking about whether there was a time when you want to go to the ground despite the inherent dangers. I came to the conclusion that there’s at least two times I can think of in Executive Protection when going to the ground makes sense.
The first instance I can think of when going to the ground is the right response is when you are responding to an Attack on Principal (AOP) and you are arm’s reach from the threat. Quick (and simplified) review here.It the most basic form, the proper response to an AOP is sound off, cover and evacuate. However, let’s assume for the purposes of this explanation that you are arm’s reach to the threat as one of the agents in the protective formation. In this case, you’ve got to engage the threat. Since action is faster than reaction, at this point you are already behind the power curve so what to do? In a situation like this, your options start to narrow very quickly. Therefore since time is of the essence, you move to a situation of neutralizing by containing which can best be accomplished by taking the subject to the ground without any further delay. Taking the subject to the ground at this point reduces his/her ability to present a threat. It doesn’t eliminate the threat entirely but for the very same reasons we don’t want to be on the ground, it places the adversary in a situation of limited mobility, limited options and distracts from their initial intent. Simply put, your objective is two-fold. You want to neutralize the threat while creating sufficient time to evacuate the principal. Taking the subject to the ground answers both of these requirements.
The second situation for taking a hostile to the ground is much clearer but more difficult for us to acknowledge and that is when confronting the suicide bomber. The media has been full of reports these days about teams of suicide bombers heading to the U.S. and Europe. Since suicide bombers have effectively targeted key officials in the past, Ghandi as one example, the Executive Protection community should develop options for countering the suicide bomber to include tactics when that threat gets up close and personal.
When confronting a suicide bomber in an Executive Protection assignment you are trying to prevent the suicide bomber from detonating the device in proximity to your principal. What makes the threat of the suicide bomber particularly difficult to counter in the Executive Protection arena is that the bomber doesn’t need to be glued to your principal in order to be effective. Bombs have the ability to inflict both direct and indirect damage which means that proximity when dealing with suicide bombers is relative. The further away you can detect and neutralize the suicide bomber from your principal obviously the better. However, what about when the suicide bomber gets within close range of your principal? First we should understand that the ability to use lethal force might not be an option, or the most appropriate option at that time. Therefore we have to be prepared to put hands-on that threat with a very clear view that your primary purpose is contain the effects of any blast of any explosion. Your intent should be to force the bomber to the ground so that the blast effects are directed downward and away from your protectee. Just like Rich Nance highlights in his article, mobility is restricted and that’s exactly what we want for the bomber in a case like this. We want to reduce the suicide bomber’s ability to detonate the device and, if detonated, to mitigate the effects of that blast. Taking the suicide bomber to the ground is really the only effective option we have at that moment
Also, lest anyone think that suicide bombers are only a threat to government protectees I would remind everyone that most of the suicide bombings have been directed against predominately civilian targets. If your principal is a corporate, business or entertainment executive you should be just as concerned as someone responsible for a government principal.
You’ll notice I did not address the hardest aspect of responding to a suicide bomber which is coming to grips with neutralizing the suicide bomber at the cost of your life. I’m not a philosopher so don’t look to me to give you soothing words of wisdom on how to deal with that other than to say be sure your will is up to date (I like to provide helpful tidbits wherever I can).
I’d really be interested in getting a discussion going on Executive Protective tactical considerations for dealing with the suicide bomber. Thoughts, comments, (as well as money, free gift certificates, car washes, and lawn care coupons) are most welcome.