Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bold Brigand: Two Weeks of Close Protection

I needed to kill a couple of weeks. I decided to do that by continuing my education... Right after I'd finished and submitted my dissertation. Yep, I'm that guy.

I got in touch with a company called Titas, Ltd. and took their Executive Close Protection course. Despite booking in on short notice, and despite arriving a couple of days after the course had started, I joined with my coursemates and put in a yeoman's effort to catch up on the bits that I'd missed. I was fortunate to join a solid "team" - although we were technically classmates, the two weeks we spent together basically amounted to two weeks of fairly hard work.

"Shorty" was a large Lithuanian doorman/bouncer. He's been in the United Kingdom for several years, and had some excellent local knowledge of the area in which we were conducting our training exercises. As a result, Shorty ended up being our guide for most operations, and we deferred to him when planning routes - and planning routes was a giant part of the preparation for nearly every operation in which we participated. As such, Shorty's local knowledge was priceless, as was his general demeanor. Nothing upset the guy, he was constantly calm, always ready with a joke, and a great sport about the inevitable comparisons to both Borat and Ivan Drago.

"Zulu" is a serving Royal Engineer with two tours in Afghanistan to his credit. He was constantly eager, and constantly fixated on performing well. There was a lot of "young soldier" in Zulu, as evidenced by the repetition of various stock phrases and the sort of demeanor that I generally associate with young initiates to military service - particularly recent graduates of Marine Corps basic training whom I've known over the years. Zulu and I were the only two students who stayed in the affiliated hotel, so we ended up carpooling and eating most of our meals together; as a result, we got to know one another fairly well.

Finally, there was Tom Thumb. Thumb is a former Royal Marine turned roofer, and a family man. Despite his modest stature and age (he was the oldest participant by about fifteen years), Thumb absolutely led the pack, and his reliability and good nature made it easy for the two of us to get along and work well with one another. As he's getting to the age where roofing is likely to get more physically demanding for him, he's looking to close protection as a career that he can transition into that can allow him to continue making an income by applying a bit more brain and a bit less brawn.

Overall, I think the course was valuable. Our instructor had several years of experience in executive close protection for several high profile clients, which allowed him to illustrate a number of concepts with anecdotes from his past. We covered topics including threat and risk assessments, vehicle and building search procedures, operational planning, venue security, convoy security, and surveillance, among others. Many of these were topics I was familiar with, or even fairly expert in, before I took the course; but the practice was good, as was seeing it employed in a different context than the ones I've typically been exposed to. There were a handful of topics that I would have omitted had I been orchestrating the course, but the overall course was a good use of two weeks of my life.

As I write this, I've just received notice that all four of us passed the final exam, and to the best of my knowledge we all received satisfactory marks on the final exercise as well. The certifying authority, Highfield Awarding Body for Compliance, will issue our certificates, at which point my colleagues will submit lengthier applications for their Security Industry Authority licenses, allowing them to work in the United Kingdom (or for UK-based companies operating overseas). For my purposes, the certification alone should be sufficient.

With two weeks down, I was off and running on a Monday morning to take care of some long standing obligations.

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