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Interview with Jerry Heying: The Benefits of Traditional EP Training

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Jerry Heying is a highly respected figure in the field of EP with over 40 years of experience in protective services. He is the CEO of the Executive Protection Institute and IPG and is a member of several prestigious security associations such as the ASIS Executive Protection Council. In an interview with EP Wired, Heying provides his opinion on the benefits of traditional EP training and shares his thoughts on some critical issues in our industry.

How does the efficacy and practicality of traditional EP training compare to that of online courses, particularly in the context of emerging trends and technologies in the field of security? What do you see as the benefits or drawbacks in those different approaches and is there room for synergy? 

There is a place for online learning such as specialty or introductory informational courses, but for someone to enter the industry and expect to be accepted as ready to work after taking an online course is questionable at best. What if the person has a physical or emotional disability for example, how would that be detected by the online instructor (if course is live, and no observation if the course is just recorded sessions) as they are only able to see the student sitting in front of their screen. A serious concern is that some online students are being told that they are now “certified protection agents”. This is quite concerning as there is no real basis for them being certified to a standard or by a certifying body other than just completing a course of study.  

As an employer of protection agents, I would not hire someone who only attended an online program. I would also question a candidate if they attended an unknown training school to find out the quality of what was taught and by whom and their experience level. In conclusion, traditional EP training can be supplemented with online courses to provide a more comprehensive security training program, helping to ensure that learners have access to the most up-to-date information and resources. 

We are seeing more and more courses concentrating on hard skills and especially highly tactical training. What is the reason behind this in your opinion – is it a fad or are those skills really as necessary for the profession as we are led to believe? 

The images of folks wearing tactical gear, body armor, carrying M-4’s in advertisements for “EP Courses” pretty much comes right out of movies and in all honesty is seriously misleading as most executive protection assignments are rarely done with all that gear except in war zones.

Dr. Kobetz, the founder of the Executive Protection Institute (EPI) and who is one of the original pioneers in traditional EP training called that type of training as “run, jump, shoot, scream fantasy camps”.

I believe that one reason for the rise in this type of training is from military folks returning for war zones and because it’s sexy and exciting. Realistic? Again, only in high threat war zones. If I needed protection agents for a high threat detail, I would hire highly experienced individuals and not graduates of a fantasy camp.  

This is closely connected to the question of whether firearms are a necessary tool in executive protection. How does that relate to debates about gun control and the use of force in security contexts? 

The use of deadly force can only be used legally as an absolute last resort when no other option was available, and as protectors, we should do everything humanly possible to avoid having to use deadly force. Personally, I have carried a licensed firearm in New York City for close to 40 years, and thank God, I have not had to use it even once.

Protection is not about the gun. It is a tool we can use in the event it becomes necessary against the ultimate threat of deadly force being used against our client and ourselves.

Protectors who carry should have an advanced level of training specifically in consideration of the environment where they are working, and they should only carry if properly licensed to do so. Too many entry level protectors put too much emphasis on guns, when our total focus should be on problem avoidance. The debate on gun control and the use of guns will continue on and on with no end.  

Traditional EP Training
Interview with Jerry Heying: The Benefits of Traditional EP Training

The EP industry is growing, and services are becoming more complex in light of the changing and evolving threat landscape. Has this affected what we can call the “purpose” of executive protection? Also, where is our industry heading in the next, say, five years? 

Executive Protection or Bodyguards is an old established industry, often called the “5th Profession”. However, modern EP is relatively young and has undergone much development over the years, especially recently with the development of technology, particularly the use of smart phones and apps. The traditional “Secret Service” type protection with agents working within arm’s reach of the principal wearing earpieces has seemed to have faded for a more conservative covert style of protection, slightly more distanced, except for notable people at high profile events.  

The protection industry is rapidly expanding and is showing no sign of slowing down. ASIS International is working on publishing EP Standards and Guidelines (as are some others) which should help the overall industry be recognized as trained professionals. Nearly all 50 states have regulations and training requirements for security and protection services, and we are in touch with some states who want to increase the training requirements for providing executive protection. All of this will help the industry grow and develop over the next 5-10 years.   

As we said, to a certain extent the market is being flooded with various courses and instructors that pertain to teaching skills important to EP agents. What do you think, what are the advantages and what are the disadvantages of such a profusion of offerings? And how much should we diversify our skillset or training schools?  

I have always been an advocate that professional protectors should constantly investing in themselves and train continuously and be a student of the profession. However, one should be prudent with their money and make sure that the training will provide you with a return on investment.

The “fantasy camp” type training may provide “entra-trainment” (meaning they are entertaining and fun) but will that training provide serious employment opportunities, or will it just be something to add on the resume?

And honestly, corporations are generally not thrilled to see run jump shoot scream courses as they may see that training as potential liability. Those considering taking a training program should carefully evaluate the value of the course and how it can be leveraged to strengthen their existing skillset 

Finally, in your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good training program? How do we find the right fit or make a good choice? Instructor numbers and backgrounds? History of an institution? 

In considering attending a school, I strongly recommend looking at a number of factors, such as how long has the school has been in operation? How many Instructors? Who are the instructors and what is their background and experience? What is the school’s reputation? Do they have an alumni network or will attending the school provide potential job opportunities?  

A good training program should offer comprehensive and up-to-date courses that cover the latest developments in executive protection. The instructor numbers and backgrounds should be diverse and include experts from the field who can provide hands-on experience. The history of an institution should also be considered, as a longer-term track record indicates a higher level of expertise and experience. Additionally, it’s important to assess the student to instructor ratio, as individual attention is often key to success.

Finally, consider the support provided throughout the program, as well as the post-course job assistance and networking opportunities. All these factors should be considered when making an informed decision. After attending one school, consider attending another school soon to multiply your opportunities and expand your learning and capabilities.

Over the years, I have attended quite a few schools and courses and have benefited from all of them. 

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