In close protection, one of our jobs is to transport our client from Point A to Point B safely. More often than not, we spend a majority of time protecting our client in a vehicle. Since we do spend most of our time in a vehicle, why do we focus our development training on shooting and close quarters combat, but not transportation?
Obviously shooting and CQB are important, but when was the last time you discharged your weapon or cleared a room to rescue a principle? The protection community (Private or Government) needs to focus development training on everyday transportation. Three important aspects of transportation include vehicle familiarization, vehicle contingency planning, and vehicle load out.
Vehicle familiarization ranges from being able to drive the vehicle safely to becoming familiar with the different gadgets and buttons. An example of being unfamiliar with a vehicle is when a protection specialist runs the battery down on his principles private vehicle while on venue. He had no idea how to turn the lights off. Unfortunately he and his principle had to barrow a vehicle from the principles business partner. A situation such as this not only makes the protection specialist look incompetent but more importantly is extremely embarrassing for the principle.
Another example of vehicle familiarization is knowing the location of emergency equipment, for example a tire jack or fire extinguisher. Some vehicle models, such as Mercedes require the jack to be inserted into a small hole located on the bottom side of the vehicle near the tire. If you don’t drive a Mercedes all the time then you won’t know this.
This might sound elementary, but being familiar with how the vehicle shifts gears is detrimental to keeping a client safe. Lots of new vehicles have knobs instead of the typical gear shift. It would make for a bad day if a protection specialist tried to put his vehicle in reverse, and instead shifted into drive hitting another vehicle? Such a mistake would not only embarrass the principle but could injure them or create a situation where an insurance claim is filed, or worse a lawsuit.
Vehicle familiarization is detrimental to principle safety to include prevention of embarrassment. Understanding the vehicle is very important, and so is contingency planning. Yes, planning for attacks on the vehicle is contingency planning, but it’s not the only situation to plan for. Other examples are a flat tire, mechanical failure or medical emergency.
Stranded on the side of the road with your principle is not ideal, for multiple reasons. This not only exposes the principle to passing traffic, but also has the potential to draw unwanted attention. Unwanted attention has the potential to turn into a target of opportunity, but that’s not all. Stranded during extreme weather conditions can put not only the principle, but yourself at the risk of hypothermia or heat exhaustion. In addition such weather conditions could trigger medical issues that the principle might already be struggling with. In regards to medical conditions, what if the principle has a stroke or heart attack? Make sure you know where the nearest medical facilities are located on your route, or close to your venue.
It’s not a bad idea to have a team or company meeting to discuss such contingency plans, in order to form new Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). For instance have another protection specialist on standby that can bring a vehicle to continue on to the venue, or contact a road side assistance company. Most likely we will not have the luxury of traveling with another vehicle, so be prepared to know how to react to such situations. In order to deal with such situations, the vehicle that you’re transporting the principle in needs to have a proper load out
In regards to fuel, making sure your vehicle has at least ¾ tank of gas. Conducting preventive maintenance on the vehicles to check for oil, tire pressure and fluid levels is very important for a safe and uneventful trip. Other items that are good to have handy in your vehicles are a phone charger, extra batteries for a GPS and flashlights, water in case you’re stopped or stranded, including blankets and cold weather gear. A proper medical bag, AED, including any equipment for existing medical conditions the principle might have. In regards to communication equipment an extra phone, a radio or satellite phone is vital, including signaling material such as a strobe. Have a map, know and study your route. The principle does not want witness you looking at your phone or GPS while driving. Plus, taking your eyes off the road is dangerous.
Transporting the principle is a big portion of protecting them; let’s make sure we have the proper training to do so. Take the time to understand and know your vehicle. Instead of attending shooting courses, take the money to attend a driving school. The government is good about this; I have attended multiple driving schools and walked away from each, a better driver then before. The majority of protecting a client is transporting them to the venue. Making sure we are trained to the best of our ability in vehicle familiarization, vehicle contingency planning, and vehicle load out is paramount to the success of a close protection mission.
by: Nicholas Stumpf
Nicholas Stumpf is a former bodyguard and driver for Hamid Karzai – President of Afghanistan, at the time of serving. He has gained considerable experience in many fields including: serving as a Government Agencies Contractor on the Global Response Staff and conducting close protection for wealthy individuals and their estates. Nicholas is currently in the beginning phase of starting up a company named Rim Close Protection and Consulting.