I left school at the age of sixteen with just three, very poor, O levels. Following that I floundered around doing various blue collar jobs: I’ve been a postman, a railway guard and a warehouseman, just to name three of the 20-odd occupations I have had.
I went to college and became a qualified secretary at the age of 30(ish) and after a prosperous career as a sports journalist, I went to University to get a degree in psychology at the ripe old age of 50.
During the intervening years I had done a little pre-SIA security: I’ve done the raw, basic static site security, looked after a band and even done some dubious debt-collecting, but when I went to University I found myself thrown properly into security work, being trained by a psychiatric department to look after hospital personnel, patients and visitors. I enjoyed it and found out I was good at it.
For me, it was a relatively short hop to go on and get my Close Protection badge. I was fully aware that my age was against me reaching the top of the tree, but I was also aware that my lack of contacts in that field would slow me down as well, not to mention my lack of military experience. But I spoke with many people whose opinion I valued and, all things considered, my life experience, my martial arts expertise and my general demeanour suggested that CP was something that I would be able to do and do well, despite my lack of experience and my age.
On reflexion, however, it is precisely my experiences and age that makes me ideal for certain aspects of close protection work. For many years, probably dating back to my secretarial days I have considered that the biggest word in the English language is ‘communication.’ It’s understanding was integral to my career as a journalist, but fully understanding its ramifications comes with age and experience. The nuances of it, including body language, facial expression, tone of voice and distance are all things that you learn through life: I went a step further, studying them from a psychological aspect.
Communications is obviously a key element of close protection work as well. It’s not just about talking, its listening, watching and understanding; it is working in partnership with clients, principals and the public; it is liaison with other agencies and yes it is the utility of violence too. All these things I brought with me to my new role, at a level that, with due respect, many young men simply do not have. I know how not to overstep the mark in terms of familiarity with my principal, but I am not going to be a shrinking violet, either. S/he will see that I know who is the Boss without my disappearing into insignificance, or worse still being sycophantic.
Perhaps that understanding came from my being a trades union rep. Experience, of course, is no guarantee of understanding.
It is said that Napoleon’s donkey went everywhere with Napoleon, but learnt nothing of tactics and strategy. I have learned how to tell somebody something they don’t want to hear without having my head taken off; I know through training and experience when to speak, when to be silent, when to move backwards and when to move forward.
These sort of skills have been put to the test for me in more environments that I can think of. I have acted as an agent for others, I have negotiated my way out of hostile situations and I have planned large events, taking into account everything from accommodation, liaison with police and councils, schedules and travel.
The elephant in the room at this stage, however, is the ability or lack thereof of someone of my age being able to keep up physically with the demands of close protection work. It was remarked recently that perhaps the company that trained me should not have taken my money because I was unlikely to get work due to my age. That is a very short sighted view, and thankfully wrong. I suspect that the person that made the remark was unaware of my history. Not just the stuff I have already alluded to, but my physical capabilities.
Being a martial artists is a seriously useful advantage in this field and I am a serious martial artist: I have taught transferable skills to professional rugby players: I understand body management and I know what violence does to the body in physiological terms. On a weekly basis I get my heart rate up and I sweat to improve my physical condition, my reactions and my general health. I still work the sort of doors where I have to take physical intervention somewhat more seriously that the SIA seem to.
Since I gained my CP badge I have looked after a number of well-known people and I have looked after court witnesses: I have worked in teams and I have worked as an Individual Bodyguard. I have enjoyed my work and my client feedback has been good. I know I have a shelf life in this industry, as do we all, but I would like to think that my potential clients understand that when they get a CP of my age they get experience and knowledge, not an old has been or Napoleon’s Donkey.
I am a late developer
By: David Hammond
David Hammond is judo and self-defence instructor who also works as a Close Protection Officer and Door Supervisor. His experience includes working with bands, television and court witnesses and he specialises in Individual Bodyguarding (IBG). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org