Here’s a question: How do you express something special and meaningful that has occurred during your time in the industry without it coming off as bragging?
I’ve always tried to make sure I ask and answer that question before I write about personal experiences in public settings. In light of that, I must admit I thought about this one a bit longer than most, but felt it was worthy to share because one of the purposes of The Circuit Magazine is to inform and educate while offering unique perspectives within the Close Protection community.
Recently I had one of those full-circle moments, you know the ones that go squarely in the category of “career milestone.” Let me set the stage a bit: After weeks of preparation, I literally spent the *entire* day at the White House working alongside the administration as they hosted a final event for the then outgoing President of the United States. I work with a client who was going to be a special guest at the function, and because of my past experience working with political handlers and my grasp of logistics I was pretty integrated into the planning process very early on.
Beginning at 7am the day of the event, the first half of the day was spent doing what those of us in the craft know is the backbone of a successful assignment, the Advance. For anyone who has had dealings with the United States Secret Service, you know if you are permitted “inside the bubble,” it’s their show, their rules, and nowhere is that more apparent than at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. While there, you try and understand and follow the instructions, making sure you account for and eliminate anything that would cause you or your client to deviate from the plan. For example, if the arrival time is 6:00 pm, 6:05 pm might have you denied entry. Your Protectee forgot his government issued ID? You can have maxim clout and still not make it past the security checkpoint. However, in all my dealings with the logistics related to bringing a client to the White House, the most important is that you realize that your VIP, no matter who he or she is, is always going to be down the ladder from “THE VIP.”
So, after five weeks of preparation, it’s “go time” and you have all your ducks in a row. You have gone over the necessary protocols, got your client through the checkpoints and onto the grounds, and feel honored to have played a small part in the protective equation. Afterwards, it will be wheels up and head home. End of Story.
However, there was another part to this story:
It’s a matter of public record that the outgoing POTUS held a farewell event and that the guest list was restricted and exclusive. While in the preparation phase, I was informed that absolutely no security would be allowed on the grounds with the exception of the USSS. I was prepared for that as was the client, as I mentioned, I had done this dance before. What I wasn’t prepared for was that in the 11th hour I was granted clearance by the powers that be. There was however one condition, I could not be working. Once my site advance and walk through was done during the first half of the day the ONLY security in the White House that night would be the Secret Service. This invitation was a way of both sides saying “thank you” for the services I had done over the years. (I feel like I am getting close to bragging territory now, so if you know me, you know what services, and if you don’t that’s ok too). I was specifically told, “tonight you are not Elijah the security agent, you are Elijah the CEO of ICON.”
So, when the 2nd half of my day kicked in, I had to approach it with a whole new mindset. I’m a firm believer in the art of “Protective Invisibility,” so looking and acting the past was important to blending in. One eye on the Protectee, sparkling water in hand, I was up for the task. Let me end with this, I have been in the industry for over 20 years and have seen a lot of things. Interacting around the glitz and glamour, pomp and circumstance, is just part of the job, you filter it out. I can also honestly say, I don’t impress easily, and well, tonight I was impressed. With respect to OPSEC, all I’ll mention is I spent the next several hours as the definition of the fly on the wall, except the wall was the White House as the titans in politics, entertainment and business said farewell to the outgoing first family of the United States.
End of Story.
Keeping Your Edge, Politics as Un-usual
By: Elijah Shaw
Elijah Shaw is the National Director of the North American Bodyguard Association and an international security consultant.