I started off in the industry in 2006 following completion of my close protection course with the Military Police Close Protection Unit, eight weeks of intense theory, drills and fitness. There's no secrets, the syllabus is all available online as with any close protection course so if you're about to do a course, research it and turn up prepared.
In 2007 I started pre deployment training in order to take a team out to Baghdad to look after the British Ambassador. We had a 10 person team and a mixture of personnel from operators with no close protection experience to operators with a full career in protection.
The tour itself was pretty hard but an absolutely fantastic experience. At the time Muqtar Al Sadr was making his mark on Baghdad and the team played a pivotal role in ensuring the political decision makers were able to get together. One of the key things I learnt from this is that it pays to give people an opportunity to prove themselves and with some guidance and good leadership you can have a real influence over someone's career. One of the guys on the team was new to CP and in pre-deployment training his performance was poor. At this point I tried to get him removed from the team but due to manning issues I had to take him. So, on the tour I worked very closely with him making him my driver to start with. I worked out he had a keen interest in cars and he was therefore given the team motor transport role. He began to shine in this role and with hard work from the rest of the team to bring on his drills he turned into a quality operator and one I would deploy with again most definitely. He now works as a TL in Iraq with one of the big companies and I know he is highly regarded by those he operates with. The lesson I learnt from this was that it's too easy sometimes to dismiss someone because you don't have the time to work closely with them and unlock their potential. However with a little nurturing and working out how they tick you can be rewarded with some excellent work. Part of leadership is making sure you take those in your team with you, whether developing their skills or preparing someone for your role should you move on.
I eventually left the Army and started my first CP role thanks to an offer of employment from a friend, something I'm very thankful for as I know it is this commercial opportunity that has got me to where I am today, giving me that first step on the ladder. My role was to drive and provide security guidance to a client of very high net worth. The job itself wasn't anything fancy but gave me my first exposure to the commercial security industry. I wanted to make sure I was fully prepped for the job and being driving had to make sure I was alert at all times so being fed and watered was key. One hot summers day as the principle was walking towards the car I went to take a handful of my chocolate peanuts for that all important energy. However in the mid day heat they'd melted and as he got in the car I was left with a big chocolate peanut covered hand and the only way I could get it off was to slyly lick it throughout the journey. I received a good review for the work so he either never saw what i did or thought I was mental and didn't want to upset me!
From here I landed a dream role, so new to the industry, with Control Risks as a full time consultant in protection, planning, implementing and conducting their tasks worldwide. One day I could be shopping in Paris with a CEO and his wife and the next minute running round Somalia........... very quickly. This is where I got my first real taste of commercial experience and the need to make sure what you are doing is part of the wider company aim and realise the additional repercussions should it go wrong especially on the reputation and image of the company.
In a role like this you work with a wide array of operators from all sorts of backgrounds which really gives you an opportunity to learn about the industry from the inside out. Two occasions spring to mind for me to write about. One I was at an AGM and providing the link between the client and team that CR had put together. Unfortunately the TL just wasn't up to standard and the reason was very simple. He just did not understand the theory around the job he was meant to be doing. The auditorium was packed with a 1000 people, some of which were very angry as at that time it was the height of the economic downturn and some had lost their whole pension. He positioned the team, with a little help from yours truly, and went on to sit himself on the front row. Therefore he had no idea what was going on behind him and no real situational awareness. At this point I stepped in and took over the team, positioned to see what was going on around me and able to manage the team in the event of an incident. For those new operators to the industry, make sure you understand the theory of what you are doing, situational awareness and the ability to adapt to the ground is key.
The second incident was with a "consultant" who was doing some very well paid work for Control Risks. He had all the qauls (gear) and no idea. The work he submitted would have been best placed as part of his university course work, loads of theory and data but no real analysis which is what we needed. At the end of it we were non the wiser as what he submitted just didn't tell us anything specific to the task he was conducting.
Security isn't difficult, it's about mitigating risk so adapting what you are doing to the situation and managing it accordingly. Applying a one size fits all security solution is lazy. For me the epitome of poor security is someone who throws money and resources at a problem rather than using the threat assessment which should be the basis of everything we do.
So what have I learnt about the security industry. It can be a fantastic career but you have to work at it, it's not going to fall into your lap. Make a realistic five year plan which outlines key goals or roles and what you need to do in order to achieve them. Networking is essential but that doesn't mean being a keyboard warrior, get out there and meet people for an informal coffee, go to networking events but don't stand there with your mates, go up and introduce yourself to new people. In the corporate environment you have to be able to adapt, make sure you understand the principle you look after and company they work for, especially the image they try to portray. Preparation is key, never overlook a recce if you have time to do it, walk it through or talk it through with your team until you are happy with the initial plan but be ready to adapt. Don't take the role for granted, you will learn a lot from those around you whether it's the principal's PA or other members of your team. Analyse what you have done and be self critical in order to improve your performance every time you deploy. Overall, try to enjoy it, you'll meet some great people and have some fantastic experiences.