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Seeking Professional Change in the EP Industry

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I’d like to start this article by saying this isn’t intended to disparage anyone in this industry, and it’s my opinion. Everyone has an opinion and mine is no more important than anyone else’s. Recently, I made an error in judgement trying to help someone in the EP industry that was promoting incorrect tactics online as a promotional platform for their services.

Through that interaction I discovered that we operate in an industry where “You don’t know what you don’t know and Image is everything.” Taking personal criticisms involving your livelihood is often difficult, even if the critique is necessary. However, as a group of professionals we should be genuinely concerned about the direction our industry has taken unchecked over the years, regardless of whether you identify as Executive Protection, Private Contractor, or Bodyguard.

Recently, I was sent a video from a friend who is a well-respected leader in the EP industry. The video depicted a high-speed live fire range event where members of what I assume was an “EP training class” were shooting from moving vehicles at stationary targets as the vehicles sped into the range area. The shooters then exited the vehicles and aggressed the same targets on the command of cadre. After emptying their weapons on the targets (but more likely the backstop), the entire group motorcaded quickly out of the range area while the company’s promotional logo filled the screen.

Throughout my lengthy career, I have trained and protected people at the highest levels and led teams of agents while conducting protective operations worldwide. I can honestly say that I have never fired a weapon from a moving vehicle. While I initially thought the video was a parody, I realized it was not after viewing other similar videos.

A sad reality is that hundreds of schools throughout the country conduct similar training to target unknowing and eager applicants seeking exciting employment in the field of executive protection. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’re new in this industry and haven’t shot out of a window yet, it’s okay, you’re not in the minority and you probably never will.

It’s hard not to be jealous; what could be more enjoyable than shooting from a moving vehicle? Its sexy and we all know sex sells. What it is not is representative of the hard work of experienced agents in this industry who consistently promote professionalism. I’m sure that after the 6 day, two-week, two month or “hard” skills class offered by a former Airborne Ranger IDF Seal Ninja (not joking) and instructed by a group of models for the next 5.11 catalog complete with black t-shirts and Shemagh’s (Arabic for stupid scarf), participants are ready to shoot upside down doing cartwheels. Everyone (100%) in the class receives a cool participation certificate that is as worthless as the training itself because failure does not equate to dollars. Few, if any, will secure meaningful employment in the EP industry and those that do will be working midnights in a SOC for minimum wage for one of the same companies that promote this type of training.

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To the credit of many of these so-called academies, they do push the narrative that Law Enforcement and Military training “isn’t enough” to be considered for most EP positions.  This is factually, and in some cases legally, correct but that narrative is meant fill seats in a classroom rather than be truthful. We all know the combination of experience, training and networking is what secures employment. The problem is that training in EP and protective services in the United States is more varied than in any other career field. The reason is, there is no U.S. national training standards and most training is unregulated in many States or underregulated in those States that do have existing standards.

For example, in California, all “security officers” must be “licensed and trained.” The California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) is the State agency that oversees the training and licensing of security guards conducted by top California BSIS security guard training schools, courses, and classes. Training in one of these courses secures your “guard card” license requirement. The State asserts there is “no way you can be a hired as a security officer without a guard card” as the hiring company would violate State law and be pursued by the authorities or subject to fines. The State also asserts on their website “It’s not expensive or time-consuming to get certified.” The program can be finished within 10 days for the initial 16 hours of required training and can cost less than $65.00. Applicants in California must complete their 16 hours of security training from a “State certified” company within 30 days of receiving their interim license which they can receive without stepping foot in a single classroom. Within the first six months of their initial 16 hours of training they must complete an additional 16 hours in security officer skills. California, one of the most regulated States for protective services, has over 615,821 active licenses/certificates for protective operations practitioners on file. The need for third party verification is real and warranted.

To make matters worse, these companies are now venturing into other security fields such as school safety, travel safety, counter surveillance, and even public event safety with no State or Federal certifications, training, or experience. Reading a book, taking a two-hour online class, or watching a YouTube video does not give you the expertise you need to even comment on these areas, let alone train others in them.

Why am I concerned about this? We were all young once and needed help and guidance even if we were too stubborn to admit it.  If not for the hand of God and a few lucky breaks, I simply would not be here professionally or maybe at all. When I left the military, I was fortunate to have already completed graduate school before separation. Most enlisted soldiers and sailors aren’t that lucky but leave the military with considerable GI educational benefits intending to apply them to career training or college for future employment. There is a natural attraction for former military and police in the protective services, because fundamentally that’s what they’ve been trained to do. Regrettably, many so called training academies and schools have seized on the financial windfall of the mass exodus of military veterans following decades of wars by offering them training at the industry “minimum standards” to collect these benefits with no return on their investment. Like the video mentioned at the beginning of this article, the training can often lean to the absurd.  Unscrupulous companies have found the deep pockets of the GI Bill to be lucrative and have diversified their portfolio of training opportunities to include more courses with limited and worthless content. You’ve all seen them, “Soft Skills, Hard Skills, Vehicle Courses designed for Route Irish, Combat Pistol Course.” Thank you for your service and your hard-earned government benefits, here’s a piece of paper and good luck.

Many years ago, I had a commander tell me “Don’t come to me with a problem without a solution to fix it.” I’ve operated throughout my life under that philosophy and even settled on a career where the job is to “make problems go away.” Fortunately, I am not alone and found there are many people in our field that are trying to progress it beyond the knuckle dragging bullet catcher characterization. After doing some research, I discovered several likeminded protectors that were working towards creating a U.S. National Standard under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This group of respected industry leaders, under the guidance of the Board of Executive Protection Professionals (BEPP), is actively collecting, evaluating, screening, and writing a set of national standards for executive protection that is intended to be the basis for all private protective operations training and certifications in the United States. More than a “certificate” or “hard skills class,” this set of standards provides the collective institutional and professional knowledge that will eventually be the core of professional development and training for all “certified” protection agents in America. While States will still have individual licensing authority, schools and agents will have to be trained and tested in the fundamentals of the new ANSI Standards to be certified by the BEPP. The ANSI standard covers every aspect of protective operations from the protective advance model to team formation and everything in between. Some schools will exceed the minimum standards set forth in the guidance, but it will level the playing field for those that don’t by providing a foundation for all protectors where there isn’t one now. The standard is still being completed and peer reviewed but the window of opportunity for unscrupulous companies who take money and educational benefits from unsuspecting young people trying to enter this industry is closing fast.

I believe the timing has never been better for EP to undergo change, so I am actively offering my own time and experience to the BEPP and encourage you to do the same.  Surely, we can all do without seeing another embarrassing video of a major celebrity criticizing her protective detail after an event and even offering advice on how to improve it.  We can all do without the endless “Master Class” and advice videos and posts offering softball information that amounts to nothing aside from wasting someone’s time for a promotional opportunity.  I do not need additional training on the contents of a “go bag.”  Most importantly, as a professional career field, we can all do without companies taking money from our honorable servicemen and women who, in good faith, want to enter our ranks.

Let me close with a quote.

The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.

— Charles Kettering

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