Monday, March 31, 2008

Thoughts On Executive Protection Resumes

Rug airs out in the morning sun.

I see a lot of resumes from guys and gals that are trying to enter the executive protection filed. I try to comment on every one that I receive, hopefully giving some decent advice along the way, as many people did for me when I started out.

Last night I responded to one particular resume, and thought that many of the comments were germane to about 95% of the resumes I see. Here is a sanitized version of what I wrote.

  • First and foremost, you have no protection experience that I can see at first glance. You need to attend civilian course, of which there are many, and I can guide you in the right direction if you need help.
  • Your specific military experience counts for naught, unless it's directly related to executive protection. I would remove all of that. I know that hurts, but it's the truth. I see a lot of resumes where guys and gals basically regurgitate their 201 file. That's great if this were a promotion board, but it's not. People that hire protectors are looking for very specific skills and backgrounds. Don't waste time writing/reading about your score on the Bradley Gunnery tables. It's not relevant, but worse yet, it tells me that there's nothing else relevant. Stay with things that are EP-specific or germane.
  • If you're interested in corporate security, join ASIS, and work toward your CPP. There is an EP element in the CPP exam, and all of the corporate types recognize and understand ASIS and CPP.
  • Get your EMT-B. Civilians don't know, nor care about Combat Lifesaver. EMT-B will garner more attention, and then work towards your Paramedic. There are a lot of clients that require advanced medical training in their protectors due to underlying health issues. You're much more likely to use a defibrillator than a Glock.
  • Remember your writing to a civilian audience, get rid of as much military speak/jargon as you can.
  • You mentioned in three different places that you had a Secret clearance. Unless you're on a very specific government contract, civilians don't care. You're a protector, being trustworthy goes almost without saying.
  • Decide what kind of protection you want to do, in other words, which end of the risk/threat continuum. You can do the high-risk PSD work in Iraq or elsewhere, you can do the corporate security detail (Home Depot, Coke, Delta, etc), you can specialize in entertainers, media personalities, etc... You can't do it all so you're going to have to specialize. Again, there are noteworthy schools and course for each of those.
  • Do you speak any languages? Learn some as a hobby. Again, if you're after the high-risk stuff learn Arabic or Farsi. Corporate; Japanese, German, Russian, Spanish, etc... You don't have to be a 3/3 in the language, but know enough so that you can ask for simple things and understand responses. You should know how to say "please, thank you, where, when, who, how, I'm sorry, excuse me, yes, no" in about 6 different languages. It's not as hard as you might think.
  • You're retiring out of the military, have the ACAP program send you to an executive protection course or EMT-B.

Curfew Ends, Fightng Continues

The curfew ended early this morning, so life is returning to relative normalcy here in the city. Our household staff came in this morning and told me that the fighting still continues in Sadr City despite al-Sadr's call for his followers to withdraw from the streets, CNN is reporting the same thing. It's an indicator that al-Sadr's grip on the Mahdi Army may not be as strong as once thought. Also, to be fair, not all of the insurgents belong to the Mahdi Army, as there has been a lot of fracturing of insurgent groups lately, especially around Sadr City.

The staff that live in the northern part of the city complained of being tired from the three days of constant bombardment either by other insurgent groups or by the U.S. military. I can't imagine what it must be like to be hold up in your house with your family as the world erupts around you. Doesn't make for a peaceful night's sleep.

Finally, a lot of guys are talking about the "way ahead" for Iraq. More than one person has likened the future of this country to Lebanon. That's not hard to imagine given the heavy Shi'a influence and weak central government. Certainly there are differences, but all-in-all I think that's a pretty good comparison, albeit not a pretty one.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Meek Shall Inherit

As the fight continues the Iraqi Government has re-instated the general curfew indefinitely. The streets remain empty and with it a complete cessation of services and commerce. People are staying home behind closed and locked doors waiting for the outcome of what has surprisingly turned into an epic struggle for the future of this country.

Trash is piling up in the streets and septic systems threaten to overflow as the service trucks cannot reach their customers. The hellish Baghdad heat is close at hand, garbage is rotting in the dusty streets, and the flies have reached biblical proportions. Many of the unprepared are scrounging for food, buying what very little remains on the shelves of the local shops, mostly potato chips and candy bars.

Aside from the flies, the dogs and cats that roam the streets are also thriving, pawing through torn garbage bags in search of something edible. Once the bags are laid open the flies set in and continue to multiply in the heat and rotting moisture of the reeking garbage.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

By The Dawn's Eary Light

Grrrrrr. Yea, she's not happy about something.

I stood on the rooftop this morning, watching and listening to the battle in and around the city of Baghdad. Standing there in the bright sunlight I heard mortars being launched from Sadr City and impacting inside the Green Zone with a telltale "tha-whump". Several rounds went in but I witnessed little in the way of smoke plumes, which is usually an indicator that they didn't hit anything, and least nothing that would burn.

Moments later two Apaches arrived and orbited Sadr City obviously looking for the launch site. They stayed above the city by a good 2000 feet, circling and searching for the tubes, occasionally dropping flares, and then sauntering away with other things to do.

Gunfire rang out for most of the morning as the Iraqi Army traded blows with the Madhi Army. From the news wires things where not looking bright for the U.S-trained Iraqi Army. At one point I watched a MEDEVAC come in just outside of Sadr City ostensibly picking someone up. The twin Blackhawks lifted off in an explosion of dust and sprinted to the Combat Support Hospital within the Green Zone.

CNN had some unique footage up this morning, showing young insurgents dancing atop a burnt-out car. What I thought that I saw, and no one picked up, was that one of the insurgents was still wearing the top to his Iraqi Police uniform. Yea, that's about par for the course for the police.

All in all, the fight continues to rage around the country, spreading from one or two isolated cities to most of the major areas. The degree of uprising has surprised the Iraqi Army, and the U.S. military has stepped in in more than a few instances. More tomorrow I suppose.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Game Day

Today is Friday here in Iraq; for Muslims it's akin to the western Sunday, when people have the day off from work and attend religious services with their families. It's also the end of the ultimatum given by Prime Minister al-Maliki for the Shi'a-based Jaysh al-Mahdi militia, better known as the Mahdi Army to lay down its weapons. That is not expected to happen which now brings the Coalition-backed government of Iraq in direct confrontation with the Iranian backed-Shi'a militias.

What occurs in the next 48 hours could very well decide the fate of Iraq for many many months to come. Prime Minister al--Maliki can no longer tolerate having the gun of the al-Sadr's followers, and those of Iran, put to his head.

This is it, game day for the Iraqi Army. The U.S. forces are expected to provide top-level intelligence and operational guidance, but this will be Iraq's problem to solve, and the U.S. military must be seen as being a very distant player if al-Maliki's government will have it's legitimacy.

The Iraqi police force is completely out of the picture, as most of its ranks side with the militias anyway. Baghdad's streets have been noticeable devoid the last few days of the roving band's of blue-clad "police". The joke has been that they're off manning mortar points and lobbing rounds back and forth at each other or into the Green Zone.

Finally, the upcoming fight may be looked at as the litmus test for the "Patraeus Doctrine", i.e., the many months of preparing Iraq's security forces to stand on their own and take positive control of their country outside of major U.S. support. I personally believe that the Iraqi Army is up to the task, but it won't be pretty and most of all we may not like some of the techniques that will likely be employed. At the end of the day, it's their country and the Iraq security forces will have to live with the results and the ramifications of their actions, win, loose or draw.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Just Can't Get Along

The Shi'a spent the night lobbing mortars back and forth at each other in the northern Baghdad neighborhoods, dropping a couple on the Green Zone as well just for good measure. Its only a matter of time before the U.S. military deploys a Predator drone in a counter-battery role to start striking back at the insurgent mortar positions. Traditional counter-battery operations are difficult because the mortars are being fired from within built-up areas. The Predators can loiter over the city for hours on end at night and easily identify the firing point hot spots. Then it's a simple matter of a very fast and accurate response with a Hellfire missile.

The situation has devolved away from Muslim vs Westerner, past Shi'a vs Sunni, to now Shi'a vs Shi'a. The Mahdi Army just can't seem to get along with anyone right now.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Then What?

I'm going to climb up atop my blogging soapbox for a moment. CNN was running footage of anti-war protests this morning, and as I was working on my second cup of instant coffee I watched scenes of people yelling in support of bringing our troops home and ending the war. The news network took the opportunity to outline the Presidential candidates' stances on pulling the U.S. forces out of Iraq. Here's a news flash for you; the only people that want the U.S troops to pull out are 1) the insurgents, and 2) people who have never actually been here.

Oh sure, all of the candidates themselves have all been here, but does anyone seriously think they're not just simply echoing the wishes of their perspective voters for political expediency? It's politically stylish to hold up a sign on the street corner or yell at a public gathering demanding the return of U.S. forces from Iraq, and an end to the illegal war, etc... All very chic, very 1960's.

Ask the troops that are serving over here. The vast, vast majority of them are in favor of staying here and finishing the job that they were sent to do, the job that 4,000 of their friends died for. I've never meet a soldier that doesn't believe deep in his or her soul that being here is the right thing to do. Sure they want to go home and see their families or go to a football game, but that is very different from not believing in the underlying purpose of their presence.

If you spend more than ten minutes in Iraq it's easy to see what will happen when the U.S. forces are prematurely withdrawn from this country. This country will devolve into another Lebanon, but on a massive scale. Hundreds of thousands of people will loose their lives because you've removed the only force capable of barely keeping a lid on the violence that is threatening to explode across Iraq. Trust me when I tell you that the Government of Iraq is no where near ready nor capable to accomplish that feat. The brutal truth is that the Iraqi central government is only a loose coalition of political agendas and is decades away from being able to fairly and freely govern this country to a degree necessary to heal the sectarian divisions.

So here we have our Presidential candidates laying politically expedient plans on the table for the unconditional or accelerated withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Why does no one ask them what they believe Iraq will look like after their plans have been implemented? That's the ugly truth that no one wants to talk about. Someone should make a sign that questions, "Then what?"

Monday, March 24, 2008

In-Coming

Early yesterday morning a series of mortars hit the heavily militarized International Zone or "Green Zone", the part of Baghdad that houses both the Coalition and the Iraqi national Government. Four rounds reportedly fell inside the U.S. Embassy compound, two hit the very busy helicopter landing zone, known as LZ Washington, and one struck the ever-popular Post Exchange (PX) car-park. I'm not aware of anyone being hurt, but I have to hand it to the insurgents, that's some pretty fair shooting.

Attacks like this used to be a daily occurrence, and were rarely lethal; more psychological than anything else. The same still holds true today as the number of rounds-to-fatality ratio is immense given the early warning systems and plethora of protected bunkers in the Zone. Nevertheless, the major news networks carried the story yesterday, internationalizing the psychological effect of the event. Overall, pretty good result for seven mortar rounds.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Counter-Flow!

A metal plate covers over an access hole in a blast wall

A good friend of mine is providing convoy security for one of the big, “high-profile” security contractors in Iraq. We talked on the phone the other day and were comparing notes on tactics and techniques. I asked him why personal security detachments (PSD)s will cross their convoys over the highway median and barrel down the road heading directly into unsuspecting, on-coming traffic.

Apparently that’s what the PSDs refer to as ‘counter-flow’, but no one can explain to me why heading directly into traffic at high speeds is any more safe than just continuing on through traffic that is already yielding the right of way to the convoy. I must have missed that class in my security education.

My compatriots and I all agree that the biggest threat to our safety and that of our clients' is the western PSDs doing stupid things like “counter-flow” on a busy Iraqi highway. Iraqis are bad enough drivers as it is and we don’t need to add speeding, grossly overweight SUVs to the mix. Sometimes I think many of the security details have lost sight of what they are really supposed to be doing. Testosterone and immaturity have won out over reason and professionalism. Someone needs to put an end to stupidly unnecessary practices like this before even more civilians, contractors, and clients die in motor vehicle accidents than already have.

Lessons Of A Rookie Photog

While I’ve been taking photos my entire life, I purchased my first serious camera about a year ago, a Nikon D200. Since that time I’ve taken thousands of shots, some have made it up on this blog, others into the Flickr community; most just sit idly on my MacBook Pro.

Here are some of the things that I’ve learned in my rookie year as an ‘enthusiastic’ photographer:

• Carry your camera with you. You can’t shoot if you don’t have it. Learn how to carry it unobtrusively in various situations so it doesn’t always have to be hanging around your neck like a tourist.

• When in doubt, shoot it. A digital shot doesn’t cost anything, so fire away.

• Try to go on photowalks where your primary purpose is to take shots of things. It makes you look at the world differently.

• Read your camera’s manual over and over again. Same for the lens and flash manuals. Know where all of the buttons and settings are and what they do.

• Learn your photo editing software. You’d be surprised with what you can do with a lousy shot and some editing skills.

• Don’t delete anything. Go back and look at your archives, there are some real gems there that you missed many months before when you were quickly picking shots to edit.

• Look at photos from other people either online or in magazines. You pick up things without even knowing it.

• Learn to be fast. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Be able to bring the lens to bare, frame, focus, shoot, and keep shooting.

• Learn some people skills. Some people don’t like thier photos taken, especially in other parts of the world. Learn to ask with a smile and a gesture towards the lens. Afterwards, show them the shots in the viewer as sort of a gesture of thanks and an acknowledgment of trust.

• Work on shooting unobtrusively. Again, slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

• Pay attention to light.

• Set you camera up ahead of time, ISO, White Balance, lens and AF settings. It saves from fumbling around with things when you should be shooting.

• Experiment with everything, and then experiment some more.

• Focus is everything. Almost everything can be fixed in post-production except poor focus.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Anecdotal Information

Iraqi man that has been working at the same ancient history museum since he was fourteen years-old. There's something fitting about that.

One of our English correspondents was reading some anecdotal information online about the number of female prostitutes in Germany. After doing some quick math he shockingly announced that 1% of the German male population has a prostitute everyday.

At that, our German cameraman, in dead seriousness exclaimed, “Well, that’s not much, is it?” I fell over laughing.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Life's Neccessities

I began to explore Buddhism back in the summer of 2003 when I was seeking something that would bring a bit calm and spirituality to my hectic life. During my search I was recommended Lama Surya Das’ book Awakening The Buddha Within, which deals less about Buddhism and more of finding spirituality in one’s everyday life. Since then the book has remained one of my favorite having reread it many, many times over.

Surya Das offers a list of daily necessities. I used to carry around this list on my Palm Pilot, but it’s pretty well memorized now.

• Pray
• Meditate
• Be aware/ Stay awake
• Bow
• Practice yoga
• Feel
• Chant and sing
• Breathe and smile
• Relax / Enjoy /Laugh / Play
• Create / Envision
• Let go / Forgive / Accept
• Walk / Exercise / Move
• Work / Serve / Contribute
• Listen / Learn / Inquire
• Consider / Reflect
• Cultivate oneself / Enhance competencies
• Cultivate contentment
• Cultivate flexibility
• Cultivate friendship and collaboration
• Open up / Expand / Include
• Lighten up
• Dream
• Celebrate and appreciate
• Give thanks
• Evolve
• Love
• Share / Give / Receive
• Walk softly / Live gently
• Expand / Radiate / Dissolve
• Simplify
• Surrender / Trust
• Be born anew

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Day At The Museum

Today we visited an ancient history museum in Baghdad, one that was looted shortly after the Coalition took over the city five years ago. We spoke with the General Manger, who emotionally described her efforts to try to recover the stolen pieces as well as put an end to all looting of Iraqi's historical treasures. I couldn't help but think back to the first Gulf War when much of neighboring Kuwait's wealth and heritage was loaded onto trucks and driven back to Iraq by Saddam's regime. Karma applies to nations as well.

The museum itself reminded me of a prison; long dark hallways lined with East German-like offices, green painted bars on all of the doors and windows. Florescent bulbs lit the rooms, and only the best offices had plastic plants adorning the corners. The museum remains closed to the public for fear that a bombing or some other violent act will further rob this country of what ancient historic treasures it has remaining.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

So Ya Wanna Be A Bodyguard?

I'm approached almost daily by people that want to begin work in the glamorous, high-paying, luxurious world of executive protection, or "bodyguarding". I tell them, when they figure it out let me know as well.

Below is an article written by Kirian Fitzgibbons that, to me, is the most succinct and truthful guide for beginning a career in the executive protection field that I have ever come across. The article began as a post to an Internet forum, but since has been reproduced several times and handed around the security community to assist people in starting out in the security industry. I've reproduced it here with the permission of Mr. Fitzgibbons.

BASIC REQUIREMENTS FOR THE JOB:

Be advised just because you are a current or former; 1.) SEAL, 2.) DELTA, 3.) LEO, 4.) Black Belt/Ninja, 5.) Trained Shooter/Sniper, or what ever you are does not mean you are qualified to do THIS job.

Keep the following in mind:

- Just because you can storm a beach does not make you an expert in protective services

- Just because you can kill a terrorist does not mean can prevent your client from being killed

- Just because you can Protect & Serve a community does not me you know how protect a single client

- Just because you can protect yourself does not mean you can protect someone else

- Just because you can shoot someone does not mean you can prevent someone from shooting your client

The only thing that makes you qualified to do this job is Protective Services “SPECIFIC” training and practical work experience in this field. Don’t get me wrong some of the best operators in this field are from the above mentioned groups (1-5), but not because they are SEALS, DELTA, LEO's, MA's etc but because they are SEALS, DELTA, LEO's, MA's, etc with Protective Services "Specific" training and experience.

With that said, the number one requirement in the executive protection field is training. You have to know how to do the job to be successful at it. Continual training is the key, for your personal education and building your network. Any training is a plus and the more you have the better off you will be. There are so many LEO’s, military and government agents who get into executive protection, that it is necessary for their private-sector counter parts to have at least similar if not superior training to compete. It is important to mention here that the more training you have, the more likely you will be able to work into better positions. It is up to you to show initiative and start the process. While some will, most companies are not going to train you to do this job. Why should they, there are so many people with relevant training who are willing to do the job. You must “level” the playing field. You must seek out quality training and often.

While we are on the subject of training. There are three types of "private sector" training in the Protective Services field. Big-name, Lesser-name and Bad. Plain and simple. You have the “Big Schools”, who’s names are well known and respected in the industry. If you have no practical work experience or training then you should probably go through on of these to get the needed credibility on your resume and to begin your network. Then you have the lesser names who don’t have the same name brand recognition as the “Big Names”, but they offer a comparable, some times better, training experience for the money. If you are looking to keep your skills fresh, need to network or don’t have the wherewithal or desire to spend money on the “Big schools”, then this may be the way to go. Then, sadly, we have the “Bad”. The reality is that we have far more “Bad” training then anything else in this business and for some one who doesn’t know any better it’s very difficult to tell who the players are with out a playbook. My recommendation is get references from prospective schools and training institutes, who have they trained and what are their numbers. Get refrences from those in the industry, get their feedback. Do your homework or you will get burned. If you are serious you will want to get at least one of the big EP schools under your belt, one of the big Driving schools under your belt and supplement them with as many of smaller” quality” schools as you can muster. Keep in mind that training should never stop and you should dedicate yourself to this concept early on. This will build your resume, keep your skills fresh and develop your network.

Keep in mind that there are thousands of prospective protection agents that go through various training programs around the world every year. Yet only a handful of these people will be successful in making the transition into this field. Why is that? Because they’re simply aren’t enough jobs out there to meet the demand. Also, because most training programs don’t want ruin the illusion of “The Bodyguard”. To tell you that you may not make it in this business is counter productive to the “bottom line”.

If you are currently an LEO and you are serious about transitioning into the private sector, while you are with the department get as much EP training or practical work experience as you can get while your still in. The USSS runs sponsored training for certain LEO's and Departments. Does your states Governors detail run sponsored training? Many do. The DOJ runs Dignitary Protection courses in many states and even if they don’t offer one in your state, sign up for one in another and go there to get the “Official” training on your resume. With that said, I would also still recommend seeking out as many “Private Sector” schools as your availability and budget will allow.

I always recommend to people who are interested in the business, but have no training or experience, to read a quality book on the subject. At least this way you didn’t just spend $3,000.00 + dollars finding out that it's more then "Kicking A** and taking names". By no means can a book replace training, but it can provide a degree of education before you make the leap on to an expensive career path.

The second requirement is experience. But if you don’t have it how are you supposed to get it? Ahh that’s the age-old question isn’t it? The bottom line is, if you haven’t done this work in an “official” capacity i.e., LEO, Military, Government, etc. Then you are going to have to get someone to give you a shot and the only way to do that is with the proper training and networking. If I have a position on a protection detail and I have two candidates in front of me one is a civilian with no relevant training or experience and the other is an LEO who spent time on the local Mayor’s Detail and has attended the Secret Service’s protection training module, who am I going to pick? Easy, the LEO. Now wait, what if I have a civilian who has invested in him self, received quality training and has worked in the field vs. a Leo who spent his career on patrol and has no relevant experience or training? Again easy, I go with the civilian. I want and need protection experience and if you don’t have it you need to at least show me you’re training. If your former Military or LEO and you have no relevant training or experience, you need to realize that your competing with guys that do and until you get some of each you are less marketable then your competitors. If you’re a civilian the toughest part will be getting your shot, but don’t expect one if you haven’t invested in yourself.

The next requirement is appearance. Many qualified agents will not get the calls or the jobs because they look the part. You must spend money on your presentation. Your watch, your shoes, the cut of your suit, it all means something in this business. I once interviewed with a former Secret Service Agent who ran a very successful protection agency. He would not hire anyone that wore a cheap watch or didn’t shine their shoes before the interview. His thought process was one of looking at agents as his clients would (1st impressions) and if you didn’t care enough to shine your shoes or if you weren’t successful enough to buy a nice watch you weren’t worth his time. Say what you want, but this is more the norm then the reverse. He was just honest enough to come out and say it. Fortunately for me these were lessons that I learned long ago and we made each other a great deal of money. Much of what we do is based on first impressions and presentation. You may be "Kevin Costner" incarnate from “The Bodyguard", but if you don’t look the part you wont get the respect or the shot to prove yourself. If you look professional, you’ll be viewed as professional and that’s half the battle. Perception is key and your ability to do the job will be determined within the first two minutes of companies and clients looking at you.

Here’s another pointer, criminals need not apply! If you have a criminal history you will not go far in this business. Regrettably, there are companies in this business that do not do their "due diligence" or backgrounds and undesirables can slip through the cracks. Legitimate companies wont hire you if you have a record, so don’t bother.

Other skills or requirements that MAY help you get a position, depending on the company and/or client, are;

· Military training
· LEO training
· Emergency medical training
· Defensive Tactics training
· Computer literacy
· Concealed weapon permits
· Weapons training and familiarization
· Licensing
· Insurance
· Investigative training
· Languages
· Other specialized skills; skiing, scuba, pilot, etc.

We have covered what you need to "DO" the job, but how do you "GET" the job. Sadly, sometimes it's more about "WHO" you know, then "WHAT" you know. EP jobs are not handed out in the local classifieds (most of the time). Protection Details are usually referred from one person to the next, detail-to-detail, etc. If you do not know how or who to network with your skills as a protector will not mean much, because no one will ever get to see them. You must be aggressive, just handing out business cards is not enough. If you network in a small pond you will work in a small pond.
The larger your circle of associates the larger your circle of influence i.e, the bigger your job pool. You have to network with people that do the work. You need to cultivate relationships and trust. The attitude in the industry is very secretive and protective, not just in relation to clients but in relation to "territory". It's the "less work for me principal”, i.e., "if I help this guy then there’s less work for me." They only way around this is developing relationships and providing quality services that make your contacts look good. But you have to give not just take, if you hear of a job that you cant do, refer it to someone you know. You'd be amazed at how willing people are to help you, once you've helped them. The most successful networking will happen during training and working, the more you do of both the bigger your network will be. If you have worked with someone, and they like you, they will refer business to you before they refer business to someone they have met at a trade show.

While we are on the subject of networking lets talk about associations. The benefit of these associations is the exchange of information and networking opportunities. The idea being the more people you know the more knowledge you have at your fingertips, the more resources you have available to you and yes the more referrals you can give and get.

The Director of Security for XYZ Corporation is not going to look at your resume and say, "YES, he's a member of the ABC, hire him right away" sight unseen. But maybe this same Director is also a member of ABC and you met him at the national conference, you did a little quasi bonding with him there, stayed in contact with him and now they have an opening on the team. See where I'm going here. The key is to choose your associations and affiliations well. You don’t want your name associated with an un-reputable group. Also these groups can be expensive so pick the ones that fit your expertise and AO.

Be advised though, until there is a true governing body for protective services (which I doubt there ever will be) the letters mean very little. Other than certain state requirements; PPS, PSS, PSA, CPS, CPO, etc are just letters that follow your name.

Something that is not touched on often, but unfortunately is very important is Location…... Location, Location, Location. Straight up, you are not going to have as many opportunities in Indiana or Nebraska as you will in California, Florida, New York, etc. Now don’t get me wrong there are plenty of successful operators in all ports of call, but if your in a none metropolitan area you are in for a tough up hill battle. Per capita you will have less EP clients to pull from. So you have a few choices:

1.) Try to get on with the biggest detail in your area, if there is one.
2.) You can expand your service offerings. If you offer Investigative services as well as protective services, or open up a “Uniformed” division you will be giving yourself additional income opportunities in your area when EP is slow.
3.) Find a company that is willing to fly you around the world for different jobs, possible, but less likely.
4.) MOVE.

Again your choice.

There are three reasons that this business is "referral" based. Ego, the Wanna be's and the risk.

1.) This business is overrun with ego. You can’t walk into an industry trade show or into a training session and not feel it. Every body is "sizing" up the competition and everybody is an expert in everything. People will hire people they know vs. hiring people they don’t know because the unknown threatens many in this business. Sometimes it's for good reason, which leads to number two.

2.)There are far to many "wanna-be's" in this business. You cannot trust what you see on paper or what you are told about people’s backgrounds at face value. Many of the individuals who claim to be experts in everything, have no practical training or experience in any of it. So who do you trust? You really have to "Vett" your resourses and that takes time and effort, sometimes it's just cheaper and easier to utilize the people you know. Because at least you know what your getting. Which leads to number three.

3.) The risk. When I say "The Risk" I'm not talking about traditional "Condition White-Black" or which ever scale you use. I'm talking about the risk of using an unproven commodity. Because of our perceived role in the economic food chain security is not always given the respect, credit or appreciation that it should. Generally we are viewed as a "cost center" and not a "profit center". Meaning most decision makers don’t see the money we save or the loss we prevent, only the money they spend. Security can be viewed as a profit center, but that’s a whole different subject, in most cases we are not. This is one of the only businesses where the better you do your job, the less valuable you seem. Oh don’t get me wrong when "IT" hits the fan your every bodies "Daddy", but when things are going well your expendable. In most cases security is always the first place someone will skimp or cut or the last thing people will budget for. Why? Because in a perfect world, people wouldn’t need us, would they? So when someone is paying for security usually they are doing so begrudgingly. With this in mind, every thing you do is analyzed; security is always under a microscope. What this means is our positions are tenuous, anyone can lose their job for any reason, at any time, and when one bad agent can cost a whole detail their jobs, it's a big risk to take when hiring a "New Guy".

Keep this in mind when networking, much goes into the dynamics of this business it is not black and white. The good guys should get the work and the bad guys should fade away, but that’s not always the case and all of the above is at least part of the cause.

Now, once you are working in the field as a protection specialist, you have two equally important areas requiring constant attention. The first is of course your skills as a protector. Your most important job is to keep your client safe and secure. To do so you need to keep your skills sharp. Protective services skills are perishable and if you don’t keep them fresh they will spoil.

The second area of importance is your image and the value-added contribution you can make to your employer. This area is often overlooked. Remember your clients and bosses perceptions are the only ones that matter. You may think you are doing a great job, but if you are the only one who thinks so, the work calls will stop.

Keep in mind that the people you work with on assignments will be the “Sounding Board” for the supervisors of any given company. When they want to know how you work, they will ask your co-workers. Remember that egos are fragile in this industry and people are territorial over work and the lack there of. The general attitude is the better he looks the less work for me. So if you give someone an excuse to talk bad about you they will. Try not to ruffle feathers, this industry can be run by the “Good Ol’ Boys Network” and you very well may end up working with people who may have no idea what they are doing. They are strictly working that job because they ”Know” somebody. These types are usually the ones who know it all and because you are the newbie, any disagreement will be taken personally. Go slow in the beginning, don’t make waves, speak when spoken to, etc, etc, etc.

So, there you have it. What have we learned? If you are serious about getting into the business, spend less time/money on CQB, shooting and "Ninja" tactics and spend more time/money on learning how to do the job first.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Swaying Pines Of Youth

An old birdhouse stands in the Maine woods, not far from where I spent my youth.

I grew up in the woods of Maine. For those that have never visited Maine in the late Spring or Summer, it is an experience that you have to feel to truly understand.

I walked out of the Baghdad villa this morning and was met by a cool, dry breeze and bright sunshine. The birds were chirping away and the sky was a fantastic shade of deep blue. I closed my eyes for a moment and the experience rushed me back to my Maine youth, twenty-five years gone. It's amazing how the sound of morning birds, and a slightly chilly breeze can overcome temporal boundaries, and transport you back to the happy carefree moments of youth.

In the end, I smiled at the gift that the morning had provided me, knowing that the magic of growing up in Maine still existed inside of me. I've never been anyplace else that could compare, and for an unknown reason, I find great comfort in that.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

My Kingdom For A Horse


CNN reported that a tornado touched down in downtown Atlanta the other day, within yards of the front of CNN Center, the headquarters of the cable news network. I watched the CNN footage of the aftermath of the storm and was shocked that it was absolute shit. It looked like someone emerged from the building after the storm and shot the video on their cell phone. It was all over the map, shaky and dark. I was samazed that in that huge building CNN couldn’t scrounge up a proper cameraman with a camera to shoot the video. We all had a good chuckle, especially our cameramen.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Observations Of The Arab Culture

After a year living in the Arab culture, here are some things that I’ve noticed. I’m not claiming that I understand them, nor am I making any sort of judgment. These are just observations from a western point of view.
  • The men are “babied” in the western sense of the word. They’re coddled by their mothers, and soon after by their wives. There’s very little sense of male self-reliance.
  • Lying does not carry the same social or cultural stigma as it does in the west.
  • Many things are left to chance. I attribute that to the ever-popular “inshala attitude”. I’m not talking about simple things either, but rather the safety of your children walking to school in the morning, or crossing a busy street with no regard for on-coming traffic.
  • Traffic laws are non-existent. There's little regard for the written rules of the road nor for any of your fellow travelers. Given an inch, an Arab driver will come up our right-hand side, half-way up onto a busy sidewalk and cut in front of you. Not so much as a wave.
  • If you get run over by the above mentioned vehicle that was driving on the sidewalk it’s God’s will, and not the driver’s fault. Wrap your head around that!
  • The Arab sense of d├ęcor can only be described in English as “gaudy”; bright, ostentatious, shinny things everywhere.
  • Religion dictates almost everything. The entire culture rises, eats, works, and sleeps according to religious customs and traditions, most dating back thousands of years. Some, however, are derived by recent decrees of recognized “holy men” or mullahs, many of who are illiterate. The mullahs can rule on anything from music and movies, to sporting events and manners of dress.
  • Arab countries function better when foreigners are running things. Take a look at Saudi Arabia or the Emirates, the later often called “the best run Indian country outside of India”.
  • There are all sorts of physical contact between men, who view each other as “brothers”, a term used a lot in the culture. Physical contact between men and women outside of marriage is punishable by death in many places. So is homosexuality for that matter.
  • You can get a temporary “marriage” from a mullah that lasts only a couple of hours or days in order to “test drive” a perspective wife.
  • You can commit grievous sins in your lifetime and all is forgiven if you build a big mosque. I guess it’s the same in the west on that one ☺

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cleaning Out The Garage

This is sort of an uninteresting shot that I like for some reason. A sectarian flag dances in the breeze while satellite dishes adorn the background. I wonder if the two can coexist for long?

He’s a bunch of miscellaneous stuff that I have kicking around:

1. I have discovered Mark Sisson’s, Mark’s Daily Apple blog with great delight. Mark writes about the latest developments in diet, exercise and overall health and fitness. On his site he challenges people to discuss, and critically rethink everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness. There's an immense amount of very well organized content on the site that is intended to help the reader toward a healthier and more fulfilling life.

2. The Iranians are having their parliamentary elections today and the clerics of the Guardian Council have banned all “reformists”, some 1,700 0f them, from running for office. That sounds free and fair.

3. Having spent the better part of my adult life thus far in the Latin American culture I have a pretty good understanding of how that culture influences individual’s actions and decisions. I’m currently trying to wrap my head around the Arab culture, which is a complete mystery, one that is steeped in ancient history, an unfamiliar religion, and developmental economics.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

To Each His Own

One of the delivery boys pushes a wooden cart along the dusty street after bringing the daily shipment of fruit and vegetables to the villas

The American soldiers claim that when you come back from Iraq after the long 15-month deployment that you’re either in the best shape of your life or the worst. In other words, you’re going to pass the time taking advantage of some of the world’s best fitness opportunities, or your going to hang out in the mess hall and play Xbox all day and night.

The same holds true for these short six-week deployments that I’m doing. A lot of the staff buckle down and get into the bureau’s gym once, sometimes twice a day. Others are content with eating really well and doing other, non-strenuous activities. Suum cuique, I guess.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dog & Pony Show

A father leads his son through the maze of blast-walls and concertina wire. These children have known nothing but war and violence their entire lives.

The military uncovered an insurgent “torture house” south a Baghdad last week, and invited selected media for a tour and to witness the building’s ultimate destruction. We ended up sending a crew out for the day to cover the event.

When the team returned later that day they described it as a “total dog and pony show”, which is military speak for all form and no substance. Apparently the “torture house” was a tiny, little mud-hut, and the military found it necessary to use two F-16s specially flown in from Turkey, dropping four 500 lbs bombs, as well as some helicopter gunships firing unknown amounts of ordnance. The total cost of the operation was reportedly in the millions of dollars. The correspondent shook her head at the absolute waste of money and exclaimed, “they could have pushed the whole damn thing over with a HMMWV”.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Playing By The Rules

Little Iraqi girl captivated by the camera. I love her haircut.

The media habitually ‘embeds’ itself with the Coalition military to cover various stories around Iraq. As a written policy the Coalition does not allow any of the media’s organic security assets come along on the trips and therefore assumes complete responsibility for the news teams’ safety, security and well-being.

I suppose that it’s the Coalition’s party and it can make the rules, regardless of how much the news organizations rile against this. It’s rumored that some news agencies have gotten around this policy in the past by "labeling" their security guys as “field producers”. This, to me, seems disingenuous and intrinsically wrong, and can get people tossed out of this country very quickly if it goes badly, which things have a tendency to do here.

My organization plays by the rules, no matter how much we dislike ceding the safety and security of our colleagues, and often friends, to an unknown military organization. While I have a great deal of respect for the military units here on the ground, the fact of the matter is that none of them are trained to provide "close protection". It’s just not an Army skill set that any of the units here possess, and it’s either arrogance or ignorance that allows the military to think that it can simply because it poccesses a lot of guns and armor. It’s akin to scattering a bunch of AK-toting Iraqis on the street and claiming that you all of a sudden have security. Nonetheless, in a year when violence against the media is at an all-time high, the military is putting our media teams in greater danger than need be simply because of it’s own ignorance/arrogance. Believe me, as an ex-soldier, it hurts me to say that but it's the truth in this case.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Day With Iraqi Customs

An Iraqi mother hustles her children along as they walk past a media team filming on the street. I hadn't seen the fear in the children's faces until I edited this shot much later.

I spent the day with Iraqi Customs trying to claim a very expensive piece of equipment that we had shipped to Baghdad. I’ve been all over the world in my lifetime and I’ve never seen a organization that is so wantonly corrupt as the Iraqi government in general and specifically Iraqi Customs.

In order to claim our property we had to go through three separate government ministries to receive signed letters of “permission” to import our cargo. Those letters were then presented to Iraqi Customs who then made us go around and collect nine separate signatures all from within the same Customs office. At each and every stop some official attempted to extort large sums of money from us for their time and effort. I’ll stop at that description alone. Functionaries sat behind cheap desks and clacked away on old typewriters with single fingers, or sat forcing us to watch them eat their lunch before they would attend to us.

It is absolutely scandalous what is going on within the Government of Iraq, and from what little I saw today every single person that we dealt with, bar none, deserved to be in jail. I shudder to think how many hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars have lined the pockets of corrupt Iraqi government “officials”. Consider that the next time the U.S. Government wants to raise your taxes.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Buy Now

Iraqi father shows off his daughter to the camera

During long deployments I have a bad habit of buying things that I see in magazines or online and having them shipped to the house in Atlanta. When I finally arrive home I normally have a dozen or so small boxes waiting for me, most of which I’ve already forgotten about. This drives my wife bananas, and rightfully so.

None of these purchases is essential, just things that I think that I would like to have at the moment. I have to admit that some of them have been pretty extravagant over the years causing my wife to shudder every time the UPS man rings the bell. I think that the key here is the phrase, “at the moment”. I’m sure that if I just delayed hitting the "Buy Now" button that the impulse would soon pass and I’d be on to the next thing, only to have to repeat the delaying process again.

I’m happy to report that having been in Iraq for almost a month I haven’t hit the big “Purchase” button once yet. I’m sure that my wife is waiting for the other shoe to drop, she knows me too well. The only thing I really need when I get back is a couple of warm hugs and a smile.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Misconceptions


I have a small zafu pillow sitting on an old blanket in the corner of my room, and this is where I try to sit zazen several times a day. Not far away is a disposable plastic bowl filled with dirt and some hinoki incense sticks, and a plastic water bottle that the maid sticks fresh flowers in a couple of times a week. That's it, pretty austere, but I'm willing to bet that Bodhidharma had even less than that.

The maids that clean my room look at that set-up and have come to the conclusion that I'm a very pious kind of guy. They equate the zafu and blanket with Muslim prayer rugs and think that I must be very religious. The fact that I shave my head, don't drink or smoke, and am up before the sun only adds to their misconceptions. I don't, however, do anything to dissuade their opinions, and the truth of that matter is that it would be too hard to try to explain the difference between Zen Buddhism and Islam given the language barrier. So I'm quite happy with them thinking that I'm some sort of modern day, western, incarnation of Kwai Chang Caine.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Now That That's Over With...

Correspondent Courtney Kealy in the middle of taping a 'stand-up'.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad left Iraq yesterday afternoon after about 36 hours on the ground here in Baghdad. It was a hectic time for us moving around the city getting the reporting crews to the various interviews, ceremonies and press conferences. Today the Baghdad media is giving a collective sign of relief as the U.S. presidential election primaries are dominating the coverage for the next few days.

Monday, March 3, 2008

CrossFit

I’ve been an competitive athlete since I was 9 years-old; scholarship collegiate basketball player, Special Forces soldier, and later an Ironman triathlete. I’ve never seen anything like the CrossFit strength and conditioning program. It has me completely sold on its brand of high intensity, natural, multi-joint movements that combine Olympic Powerlifting, gymnastics, running, rowing, swimming and other sports. CrossFit is the current rage with people that require elite all-around fitness, such as military special operations units, competitive athletes, police and fire units, etc… Couple CrossFit with a diet that is high in protein, vegetables, nuts and fruit, and cut out starches and sugar and you have an eerily effective, dramatically life-changing fitness program.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

More Is Not Necessarily Better

An old armored plate removed from a car.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in town for the next 36 hours and staying at Iraqi President’s Jalal Talabani’s compound. We dropped off a media team this morning at the Presidential compound so that it could participate in the loosely scheduled press conference later today.

While driving to the site of the press conference I noticed that the streets were heavily lined with Iraqi security, mostly Army, with no sign of American military. I took this as a vision of things to come when the U.S. military ultimately turns over all security operations to the Iraqis. From a security standpoint, it wasn’t a pretty picture.

The approach to the compound was saturated with Iraqi Army troops scattered about as if they were just randomly placed along the road. They served no purpose other than to stand in the middle of the road and haphazardly wave cars on. It was clear from their appearance and how they handled their weapons that they were barely trained and of little or no use. The Iraqi concept of security appears to be “quantity over quality”, i.e., the more armed people I can litter the streets with the greater security I must have. This is a dangerous and often fatal concept, and I would have expected better of the Iraqi Army guarding their Presidential compound.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Perspective

Two Iraqi boys jet passed on a bicycle. I had to laugh as I quickly grabbed this shot. I wonder what their Muslim parents would say if they only knew?


I'm currently doing six-week stints in the Middle East, e.g., six weeks on the road working and then six weeks off at home in Atlanta. Right now six weeks in Baghdad seems an eternity for me. I can't imagine what 15 months is like for the U.S. troops. I remember when I was active duty a six-week trip was akin to a long weekend someplace. It's funny how our perspective changes with time and circumstances.