A quick internet search using the words, “Executive Protection Training” reveals a number of courses that are available for about $250-$500 dollars a day. Add this to the air fare, meals and lodging and you have easily spent thousands of dollars to attend this type of training. The websites that offer this training look slick, with professional rotating pictures of limousines, private jets, yachts, limos and guys with guns. It is testosterone heaven. But wait…..there’s more!
As you click through the tabs you see all the services that are offered: Personal Protection, Witness Protection, Dignitary Protection, Investigations of all types, and a multitude of courses that are offered; from Handgun Training to High Risk Environments. And, if you register for a course now, you get a 10% discount on your next outrageously priced course! With all of these great pictures and all these services that are offered, they must be legitimate and professional, right? Buyer, beware! Many of these websites are more like the Wizard of Oz than the Fantastic Four; because what lies behind the curtain is often a big disappointment. But you wouldn’t know that from looking at the website.
What motivates a man or woman to give an unknown organization thousands of dollars to attend training for a position they will probably never have?
The Spanish and Portuguese roots of this word have to do with masculinity being superior to femininity. Machismo, as commonly interpreted today in the United States is defined as a “strong or exaggerated sense of masculinity stressing attributes such as physical courage, virility and aggressiveness; an exaggerated sense of strength or toughness”. This definition would describe the stereotypical perception many people have of the Executive Protection Agent or Bodyguard. In fact, many of these types of personalities are drawn to the profession. There are other reasons as well.
Author Bron B. Ingoldsby presented a paper at the Annual Meeting of the National Council on Family Relations in 1985 entitled; A Theory for the Development of Machismo. The abstract reads as follows: “With changes in sex role expectations in marriage, family researchers have begun to examine the concept of machismo. Two characteristics dominant in the study of machismo are aggressiveness and hyper-sexuality. A biological model of machismo asserts that males everywhere tend to be more aggressive than females, a sex difference which appears to have a genetic base. A modern theory of sociobiology offers another explanation for macho behavior. According to this theory, much of animal, and perhaps human, behavior is influenced by the drive for one’s genes to reproduce themselves. A generally accepted psychological theory views machismo as an expression of an inferiority complex. Most research on machismo is restricted to the lower classes. Research from Mexico, Puerto Rico, England, and the United States suggests that lower class males suffer from job insecurity and compensate for their feelings of inferiority by exaggerating their masculinity and by subordinating women. Other studies point to distant father-son relationships as one factor leading to feelings of inferiority and to the development of machismo. Women may support machismo by being submissive, dependent, and passive. The combination of feeling inferior and acting superior is machismo, a trait that is repeated generation after generation. If men can be socialized toward male parental investment, the incidence of machismo may decline and the incidences of men feeling self-esteem and women feeling equal to men may rise”.
From this pool of people, we would expect to see men and women enlisting in professions like Executive Protection because they are driven by an inferiority complex and overcompensate by entering a dangerous profession, which in turn helps them feel superior. I can affirmatively assert this is true. The bulk of my business is training, and I have probably trained several thousand students at this point in my career. One of the courses I teach is Executive Safety & Vulnerability. Albeit a small percentage, I have met my fair share of overcompensating students trying to deal with some psychological inadequacy. Does the word, “wannabe” sound familiar?
Why do Boys and Girls Prefer Different Toys, is an article published in Psychology Today. Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at LSE is credited. An excerpt from this article: “Throughout the world, boys and girls prefer to play with different types of toys. Boys typically like to play with cars and trucks, while girls typically choose to play with dolls. Why is this? A traditional sociological explanation is that boys and girls are socialized and encouraged to play with different types of toys by their parents, peers, and the “society.” Growing scientific evidence suggests, however, that boys’ and girls’ toy preferences may have a biological origin. In 2002, Gerianne M. Alexander of Texas A&M University and Melissa Hines of City University in London stunned the scientific world by showing that vervet monkeys showed the same sex-typical toy preferences as humans. In an incredibly ingenious study, published in Evolution and Human Behavior, Alexander and Hines gave two stereotypically masculine toys (a ball and a police car), two stereotypically feminine toys (a soft doll and a cooking pot), and two neutral toys (a picture book and a stuffed dog) to 44 male and 44 female vervet monkeys. They then assessed the monkeys’ preference for each toy by measuring how much time they spent with each. Their data demonstrated that male vervet monkeys showed significantly greater interest in the masculine toys, and the female vervet monkeys showed significantly greater interest in the feminine toys. The two sexes did not differ in their preference for the neutral toys.
In a forthcoming article in Hormones and Behavior, Janice M. Hassett, Erin R. Siebert, and Kim Wallen, of Emory University, replicate the sex preferences in toys among members of another primate species (rhesus monkeys). Their study shows that, when given a choice between stereotypically male “wheeled toys” (such as a wagon, a truck, and a car) and stereotypically female “plush toys” (such as Winnie the Pooh, Raggedy Ann, and a koala bear hand puppet), male rhesus monkeys show strong and significant preference for the masculine toys. Female rhesus monkeys show preference for the feminine toys, but the difference in their preference is not statistically significant”.
This makes sense, since most of the attendees of Executive Protection Training are men. It is genetic.
Peter Langman, Ph.D., is Clinical Director at the national children’s crisis charity KidsPeace and the author of Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters. He wrote an article published in Psychology Today; The Career Aspiration of Shooters. From that article: “The pattern of thwarted careers in law enforcement and/or the military can be found among serial killers and school shooters, as well as at least one spree killer. What significance is there to this pattern of aspiration and failure? First, the shooters’ interest in the military may have been their attempt to channel their fascination with weapons and violence into an acceptable outlet. Their career aspirations could also have been motivated by what Dr. Katherine Newman calls “the failure of manhood.” For young men who had fragile identities, joining the military may have been seen as a way of establishing masculine identities for themselves. Their failures to achieve this goal may have had a devastating impact on them. Perhaps their armed rampages were an attempt to show the world just how capable they were of using weapons. They may have taken their rejections and failures as a personal assault on their masculinity, and thus felt driven to demonstrate to the world that they were powerful men indeed”.
Kind of sounds like a recurring theme, doesn’t it? Feeling inferior and acting superior equals machismo.
Gavin de Becker, in his terrific book, The Gift of Fear; “We trust security guards-you know, the employment pool that gave us the Son of Sam killer, the assassin of John Lennon, the Hillside Strangler, and more arsonists and rapists than you have time to read about. Has the security industry earned your confidence?”
LTC (RET) Dave Grossman’s article; On Sheep, Wolves & Sheepdogs asserts the following:
• Most people are not violent. These are the sheep.
• Wolves are the bad guys and they prey on the sheep.
• The Sheepdog lives to protect the flock and confront the wolf.
Sheepdogs are people who run toward trouble, not away from it. They are the real deal, and thank God we have them. They are the good guys. They are also part of the pool that attends Executive Protection training. Some have disposable income. Some get the tuition for these schools paid by their employer. Not everyone is wired as a Sheepdog. Some people are, but lack training.
Ultimately we find a percentage of people attending these courses that are questionable. They are preparing to work in an industry where there are varying degrees of force authorized, including firearms. This is one reason why observers of the private security industry are critical of it. The industry recruits giant, human slabs of meat that cannot spell their names without help, and give them the professional title of Executive Protection Agent, Bodyguard or Security Guard.
How does the industry reduce the number of questionable people attending their training? The solution is for the vendors who provide training to tighten up their screening procedures, which will never happen. Tightening up screening procedures is not a great business model. Perhaps applicants should be required to submit to some type of psychological exam or personality testing. How about an oral interview on the phone? A background check? There are several instruments readily available which would provide the vendor some minimal information about the mental and emotional state of a prospective student. Society would be far better off, and so would the Security industry at large.
Why? Think about it. Statistically, it is much more likely that an Executive Protection Agent will use his mouth and brain rather than pulling out a firearm, much less pull the trigger. Yet, Executive Protection training traditionally focuses on physical skills, including firearms. Law Enforcement has paved the way in this respect. Law Enforcement requires their officers to qualify regularly with their firearms, but not their brains. There is really no effort made to determine if a student (or officer) possesses a sound mind. Security, Law Enforcement, Corrections and paramilitary organizations would benefit from more stringent screening.
Perception is everything. Perception precedes thought. Thought precedes impulse. Impulse drives behavior. Smart marketing professionals know what neuromarketing is. In the context of a sales pitch, emotions come first. Those feelings can exert a powerful influence over the way we process any factual information that follows. In other words, if I can move your emotions, I can affect your decision-making. Look again at the pool of attendees; above. How can I move them emotionally toward attending one of my courses? Look at a few of these Executive Protection training websites and you will quickly determine how that is done.
The people who provide Executive Protection training are in the business to make money. Often, the instructors are talented ex-law enforcement, secret service and military people who specialize in various aspects of training. Many of them are the real deal. I know a fair share of instructors across the country, which comes about as a result of attending some of these schools and participating in training earlier in my career. Speaking at conferences and becoming a training vendor myself has given me ample opportunity to meet instructors and trainers. The nature of my career path has provided opportunity to meet, evaluate and discuss training with a great number of them.
Here is the problem: A quick glance at one of these Executive Protection website leaves the potential student with the perception that they are dealing with a large organization; including staff in many cities that are extremely well qualified and educated, possessing the necessary experience to provide them with “certified” training so they can enter the field of Executive Protection. The disappointing reality behind the smoke and mirrors is some guy sitting in his basement somewhere working on the website.
A certification is simply a set of standards that must be met, and these companies are free to set their own standards. There is no national board oversight on standards in the Executive Protection industry. But the word, “certification”, affects your perception. I use that word with my company training, but I also publish the standards we use to drive certification, so a prospective student knows up front how we design our courses. I also have the people who work with me listed as Key Players, because they are. Each one of them lends something important to Assault Prevention and has for a long time. The photography I use on the website is a combination of stock photography and pictures taken from the work we perform. It is entirely up to me, the CEO, as to the degree of integrity and honesty I will require the website to reflect to you, the consumer.
In contrast, the website you look at for Executive Protection training may be a gross exaggeration. The certification may be close to meaningless. The organization may be one or a few people. The backgrounds of the instructors may be exaggerated. It might be nothing more than a mirage. The solution, of course, is for you, the prospective student, to complete your due diligence.
Myths & Money
Written about with some frequency by others, many prospective student’s perception of the Executive Protection Agent comes from movies and the media. This leads them to believe that they will be rubbing shoulders rich and famous while getting paid six-figures a year. Bodyguard and Executive Protection schools know this and they take advantage of it by taking money from people who are willing to pay thousands of dollars in order to fulfill an imaginary fantasy of protecting someone important.
Let me be clear. There is some excellent training available by some well-qualified instructors. But there is also a lot of Executive Protection training founded by people who have had little or no experience around real-life threat or violence. I personally know a number of them. They have held positions in which they may have had the opportunity to protect a celebrity or two, or perhaps an executive. But, they have never been under the stress of a real confrontation. What you learn from them is something theoretical that they learned from someone else who has no real experience. Essentially, they are public relations and marketing wizards looking for an opportunistic way to capitalize on what is primarily a male fantasy.
The Real World
The need for Executive Protection is based on individual circumstances. Most Executive threat in the United States comes from extortion based on sexual infidelity, stalking or burglary; and in these cases the Executive’s need for a good attorney and a home alarm system far outweighs their need for an Executive Protection Agent. Rarely do we hear about an Executive kidnapping or attack in the United States, and you would be hard-pressed to find examples of Executive Protections agents using any type of force, much less pulling a firearm or other weapon in the line-of-duty.
Celebrities have a greater need for protection in the United States than do most Executives, due to their high exposure to the public and the fact that their popularity is generated by a very large population. You read about Celebrities all the time. You see them on television, hear them on the radio and watch them in movies. Not so with most Executives. The greatest threat the Celebrity encounters is the enthusiastic fan, the stalker and the paparazzi. Rarely do we hear about a Celebrity kidnapping or attack in the United States. Celebrity Protection agents rarely use any type of force in the line-of-duty.
There is much hype and mystery that seems to surround this world of Executive Protection. Here are some quick facts about Executive Protection:
• Most graduates of Executive Protection schools never end up procuring a job in the Executive Protection field, because they are so few legitimate jobs available.
• Those who do find a legitimate job are quickly educated on the reality of long hours, a meager hourly rate and the realization that much of the work is more akin to that of an administrative assistant than a protection agent.
• There are approximately 700,000 sworn law enforcement officers in the United States. There are approximately 1 million contract security officers in the United States. There are approximately 1 million guards working directly for United States corporations. Add some bodyguards and administrative people and you have a total of approximately 3 million people working under the banner of “protective service occupations” in the United States. The median salary for people in these occupations is $39,000 annually.
• There are approximately 2.2 million active duty and reserve people in the US Military.
• According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of security guards is expected to grow about 14% by 2018. That represents about 152,000 new positions. Demand for guards also will grow as private security firms increasingly perform duties-such as providing security at public events and in residential neighborhoods-that were formerly handled by police officers. Additionally, private security firms are expected to provide more protection to facilities, such as hospitals and nursing homes.
• The few legitimate Executive Protection positions that are available are primarily filled by off duty law enforcement, retired law enforcement and secret service or retired military people with specialized expertise.
• The required training for a private security guard, private detective or protective agent is non-existent in some states and woefully inadequate and ineffective in most other states. The average civilian who lives in a state that allows the possession of a firearm has more statutory authority to defend themselves or others than most people employed in “protective service occupations”, primarily due to company policies regarding use of force. The median salary for a security guard in the US is $29,000. That is approximately $13.00 an hour.
Does a security positions seem promising?
As a prospective Executive Protection Agent, considering the information presented here, where is your money best spent? Don’t get me wrong. Many people who have a passion for something will overcome enormous odds to reach their dreams and goals, and you should be encouraged to do so. I simply suggest you use some common sense and make prudent decisions about how you get there.
A time-honored dilemma: It is relatively easy to find and attend training, and almost impossible to procure employment in this field without some experience. How do you get experience if no one will hire you because you have no experience?
My suggestion for a career path looks something like this:
• Procure a BA or BS in Criminal Justice or related field; Law, Psychology, Forensic Science or Homeland Security.
• If you enlist in the military, choose Military Police, Law Enforcement, Intelligence or Special Forces.
• Volunteer with a Fire Department, Police Department or Sheriff’s Department Reserve. Many departments have civilian police academies. Attend one.
• Procure a part-time job in private security as a guard while attending school. These are entry level jobs but will be a welcome addition to your resume.
• Take a good self defense course or enroll in a certified martial arts program. Get a certificate upon completion. Employers like certificates.
• Learn handgun safety and handgun self defense. If you live in a carry state, procure your permit to carry.
• Learn to handle weapons beyond a firearm including pepper spray, kubaton & control instruments, impact weapons and handcuffs.
• Take a good, basic Executive Protection course to determine if this is something you wish to pursue. You do not need to spend thousands of dollars. You can take one here for $159.00. Upon completion of a basic course, decide if you want to invest thousands of dollars on more training.
• Go on-line and find organizations like the Anti Terrorism Accreditation Board, which, for a fee, will certify you as a Certified Anti-Terrorism Specialist upon completing their course.
• Lurk or join bodyguard and Executive Protection forums online. You can learn a lot from reading them.
Having accomplished these things, not only have you enhanced your ability to actually work in the field of Executive Protection, you also have transferable skills should you decide not to.
If these facts do not sway you about plunking down a few thousand dollars for training, or you are thinking about all the money you can make internationally by working for a private security firm, read this first: Private Military Contractors and US Grand Strategy by David Isenberg, who is an independent, Washington-D.C. based analyst and writer on military, foreign policy, national and international security issues and the author of Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq. Good luck with that overseas thing!
Blackwater (private security company) took such a hit over the debacle in Iraq that massive public relations were needed to try and re-establish their credibility; even to the point of changing the name of the company; now Xe. Private security contractors overseas are, at a minimum, controversial.
Traveling and working abroad carries another risk. Kidnap, Ransom and Extortion is abundant. The average amount paid for reported kidnap cases in 2005 was $62,000. The many unreported cases generate ransoms around several hundred to several thousand dollars. 48% of Kidnap for Ransom incidents occur in Latin America. According to Insurance Carrier AIG’s Crisis Management Division in Philadelphia, “there are over 20,000 reported kidnap for ransom incidents annually, with 48 percent of them occurring in Latin America.” 80% of kidnap for ransom cases are left unreported. Estimates are hard to come by, because sources vary wildly in their reporting methods and definitions. The annual incidence of reported and unreported kidnap for ransom cases are probably between 15,000 and 100,000 per year. Most of these kidnap victims are locals, not foreigners.
According to the US State Department, data shows that there are on average 20 to 25 hostage incidents involving Americans overseas each year, and an administration official said that few of them were politically motivated. Most involved requests for ransom.
We live in a global economy in which international travel is frequent and regular for many company employees. Unfortunately, these employees or their families can be targeted for kidnapping based on the perception of wealth that is available for ransom from the company or the family of the employer.
If you are interested in providing protection to people, you may want to explore this arena of kidnapping overseas. It appears by the numbers alone, there is opportunity. The US State Department, the FBI and Insurance companies like AIG who provide kidnap insurance, are good sources to study the topic more closely. Kidnap and Hostage incidents abroad are a problem, but since most of the victims are locals, not foreigners, if this were to become your specialty, you would probably have to move overseas.
There are a great many “Executive Protection” schools that are traditionally about a week long, held by legitimate instructors, and charging several thousand dollars for the experience. The skills taught at these courses focus on protecting an individual. The transference of these skills into paid employment in the Executive Protection field is difficult at best. If you do attend fee based training, consider courses similar to the Force Science Certification Course sponsored by The Force Science Institute or the Advanced Threat Assessment & Management Academy sponsored by Gavin De Becker & Associates. There is an essential need for critical thinking in the field of Executive Protection which goes far beyond control tactics, martial arts, firearms and positional drills in the field.
There is much the prospective Executive Protection agent can do that will give them transferable skills for a paid position in private security, the criminal justice system or a related profession.
Finally, if you do pursue a position in the Executive Protection field, it’s all about networking. There are a lot of “mom and pop” security companies across the United States. There are good one and bad ones. There are professionals and there are hacks. They all have different niches. One may specialize in “high-end” hotels and bars, another in celebrity protection, or another in insurance fraud. The larger security companies tend to provide primarily uniform guards and plainclothes security. There are some companies who specialize in event security.
If you want to find a position in Executive Protection protecting a person, you will need to network heavily with others in the field. One other thing to consider; in many regional areas the “security company” community is small. Translation: if you develop a reputation that is less than excellent, a lot of people are going to hear about it quickly.
Invest in a long term strategy and spend your money wisely.
Copyright 2010 © Terry Hipp