I have often said, “While protective service is often dynamic, it should never be random.”
That statement has never been truer then when it comes to staffing an international team. Situation should always dictate the tactics, the tools and the team. I remember coming home from an international trip one day and a fellow associate in the protection business mentioned, “I saw your client’s social media posting, you guys were just in Switzerland? If you ever need an extra hand, I got you.” I then said, “I will keep that in mind but what languages do you speak, outside of English? Because between the two gentlemen that I had working with me on the detail we had 12 languages covered, in addition to basic protective services training one gentleman was also a trained paramedic and the other was also a trained EOD (explosives) expert.” As you look to enhance your marketability ask yourself what do you bring to the party? What is your specialty, and what teams/details have the greatness need for those skills?
When it comes to staffing an international team, I have five major considerations I look for in the team’s composition: Operational Capability, Operational Chemistry, Operational Relevance, Operational Flexibility and Operational Capacity.
Operational Capability refers to a diversity of mission specific skills whether soft or hard designed to enhance the effectiveness of the team by mitigating known mission risks or hazards and better facilitate both the client and team’s objectives. The required competencies may refer to such skills as general communication, specific language or languages, de-escalation, negotiating, computer skills, analysis, medical, driving, defensive tactics, firearms skills, EOD, K9, surveillance detection, skiing, diving, etc. Maximize the diversity of the team, whenever possible whether gender, age, ethnicity, size or religion, this allows you to elevate or lower the profile, through role adaptation or cultural familiarity.
Operational Chemistry refers to team orientation, client indoctrination and acclimation. How well can the team members work together to facilitate the needs of the client. If you are used to being a detail leader can you willingly play another role on this team? I look for people who can check their ego at the door and not undermine the current detail leaders authority? Secondarily does the team have to ability to establish rapport quickly while maintaining professionalism to understand the peculiar nuances of each specific client.
Operational Relevance speaks to the ability to navigate linguistical, religious, cultural and environmental nuisances. Does the team have the appropriate communication skills? Can they speak the local language, are they street savvy, do they have the relevant emotional intelligence? Do they have cultural, religious, ethnic and gender tolerance? Can they identify the baseline of the local area to understand the normal environmental pulse of the area? If you can’t recognize normal, you won’t be able to identify variances. Does the team have the ability to blend in?
Operational Flexibility speaks to the creativity, initiative, problem solving, and ownership skills required for the team to get quick traction and maintain operational readiness throughout the duration of the detail. On international assignments there are always a ton of moving parts and you need team members who can hit the ground running with little to no ramp up time or can change course midstream based on environmental or mission dynamics. Managing logistics as example are often some of the biggest challenges internationally.
Operational Capacity speaks to operational stamina. Protective services, surveillance or surveillance detection or rarely 9 – 5 jobs. Does the team have both the energy and experience in working the required shifts or hours or ability to navigate the terrain in some cases? Does the team have the global travel readiness this borne from having the global travel experiences in understanding how to alter their body clock before and during an assignment to adapt to a detail that while involve a radical adjustment in time zones.
Two final points understand in advance the stamps in a respective team member’s passport or consider having a second passport to use when traveling to counties with known hostilities toward each other. Since the USA as example allows you to have two passports many Americans as example may use a second passport when they travel to Israel and their other passport when they travel to other countries in the Middle East. You don’t want your entire team detained because they question a team member’s travel profile or at worst case lose a team member in the process because they deny them access into the country. Whenever possible and particularly in third world countries consider supplementing the team with local authorities. I remember a couple of years ago during trip to an African country, I hired two members of the equivalent of their Country’s Secret Service. This allowed us to move about the Country with ease and we were able to bypass without harassment traditional hostile law enforcement or military check points and roadblocks, which often look to extort money from local or particularly foreign nationals. I wish you all safe travels an may you always travel under the safety of the wings of the Angels.
Staffing an International Team
Mark “Six” James CPO, EPS, CAS
Mark “Six” James is Founder and Executive Director of Panther Protection Services, LLC. www.pantherprotectionservices.com. He is an internationally published author, keynote speaker, security consultant to educational institutions and frequent contributor to a number of print, broadcast and online media, and the author of a number of security, firearm and protection publications. Panther Protection Services is a full-service protection agency focusing on Risk and Crisis Mitigation, Protective Services, Self-Defense Training, and Firearm Instruction.