Behind all the glitz and glam the day to day side of the job can often mean long hours, a lot of travel, monotonous hotel rooms and time away from family and friends.
The task normally starts with an e-mail or phone call from a personal assistant (PA) with a basic overview of the potential job to read over prior to meeting face to face to talk it through in detail. An itinerary is always helpful but as long as there is a description of what is happening, who is being looked after and when, then that normally suffices to start with.
The example in question that I am going to write about occurred around three years ago which I am happy to detail and don't feel this compromises my own personal security (persec), the confidentiality of the principal or company I was working for.
I left the office at around 1800 after a full day at work, catching up from being in Somalia the week previous, and was at home when I received a distraught phone call from a PA at 2000 who told me that her boss was in Paris with his wife on their wedding anniversary and that they had been mugged. They had left the hotel for a walk before dinner when approached and the gentlemen had his wallet taken from him, thankfully there were no injuries. The couple were understandably shook up but didn't want to waste the last day of their anniversary stuck in a hotel room to scared to go out. The PA asked if I could get someone local in Paris to meet them the following day, take them shopping and to the airport on what was the final day of their visit. The time was now 2130 and after numerous phone calls to some of the vetted French operators that the company used, unfortunately the very short time scale meant I was unable to task a local operator. There was therefore only one other option and that was that I would deploy and meet the couple for breakfast, providing them protective surveillance / executive protection throughout the day.
The time now around 2200 I rang my boss to let him know what my plan was and started to put the operation order (op order) together. Transport to Paris was clearly going to be a problem at such short notice as I was in London so had to start looking at this first. After researching numerous options the only one to get me to the hotel anywhere near the requested time would be the first Eurostar from St Pancras. A quick call to the PA to inform her that we were able to do the task and on with the rest of the planning. I find when working as an individual bodyguard (IBG) if I put a full operation order for myself together including an annexed itinerary and principal profile, with the information available, that it means I don't forget anything. This occasion was no different, especially being in such a rush, and I spent the next hour putting the op order together. From a threat perspective I was happy that the mugging was an opportunist attack. After speaking to the PA, and from the profiling of the principal that I had conducted, i was happy there was no specific threat against the couple or anything that caused me concern. My role was therefore to provide peace of mind and mitigate risks from low level crime such as pickpocketing which can be a problem in affluent shopping areas of Paris as it can be in any other European City. The other vital need for an op order is that if anything should go wrong you can show your planning to the enquiry and how you made the decisions you did. I then had to put the contract of engagement together and invoice which totalled around £1000 plus additional expenses (£300) for a fifteen hour task due to it being such short notice. It was now midnight and time to sort my clothes, plus a small medical grab bag. Finally some sleep, it was just before 0100 and I was up at 0300 to get my taxi to the station.
On the train it gave me time to order a croissant practicing my GCSE French, chance to read over my op order, a power nap and working on my bodyguard introduction to the client which focused on providing peace of mind, reassurance, and that I would be with them throughout the day so there would be nothing to worry about. On arrival in Paris early in the morning the traffic was of course horrendous and I had very limited time to get to the hotel for the meet and greet. After joining a huge taxi queue it was quite apparent I was going to be late until a stroke of genius from the Parisian's.................. a motorbike taxi, there is only one way to get through the Paris traffic in rush and that is on the back of a bike. This was a first in my protective security career but sometimes you need to improvise. Arriving at the hotel with ten minutes to spare it was time to sort my helmet hair out before meeting the principal.
I met the principal in the lobby of a lovely 5* hotel of which they were staying at so we could go over the detail of the incident without having to put his wife through the ordeal again. My initial assessment had been right about it being an opportunist attack. I went through a little about my background so he knew I had experience working with people at his level and then we went through the order of the day. Nice and simple, meet with a driver and then provide security to them as they went about their day. There was no itinerary as they were out shopping and would go wherever they would like choosing an appropriate restaurant for lunch. We then met with his wife and had breakfast, this was really an opportunity for us to get to know each other and it's vital at this point that you conduct yourself in a manner befitting the person that you are looking after. It's your opportunity to showcase yourself, show you are confident, collected and able to interact with the persons you are working with on a personal level as well as professional. For those of you who focus on one area of the industry such as corporate or celebrity for example this is where you can really shine. So my business knowledge, travel experience and working with persons in the higher echelon of the corporate environment meant I was the appropriate person for the job where as someone who always worked on the celebrity side of protection may not have been able to interact at the same level, which I'm sure would be the same for me if I started to work in celebrity security.
Once breakfast was finished they went to their room to freshen up and I went to meet the driver. Personally when I meet a driver who I am working with for short amount of time I will introduce myself and explain the role I am conducting, take their number of course so you can arrange the pick ups but that is pretty much it. I find if you start trying to tell someone how you would like them to drive which differs from their normal way of driving then you actually increase the risk of an accident because you try and make them do something that they are not used to doing. This is different if you will be working with a driver over an extended period of time as you can work together to gradually introduce them to the standard you require. The only thing I would ask is that they always lock the doors on departure, however with most modern cars, of which we were in a new S Class, this is done automatically.
Once the car and driver were prepped I went into the lobby and waited for the couple. At the car I held the door for my passenger and the driver did for his. We drove to the most affluent areas of Paris to shop (£10,000 for a pair of shoes areas) and the couple went about their day. Personally unless the principal requests it I don't open car doors for them as it attracts unwanted attention by people trying to see who is being escorted out of a car. Whilst walking down the street I remained at a distance able to give them space and enjoy their day but close enough to react if there was an incident, of course this is constantly changing dependant on the ground. Whilst they were in shops I was more than happy to wait outside in a protective surveillance role but it was important to remain in line of sight to give them the peace of mind and reassurance that I was there if they needed.
Part of my BG brief was that they should go about their day as if I wasn't with them and I would work around them to provide them security. However, if they felt I was too far away and would like me closer just to give me a nod and I would reduce the distance between us. This is always quite hard to gauge when you are working with someone new and one of the great things about working with a principal for an extended period of time is you both start to understand where you will be located in different circumstances. For some principals that I have worked with a lot I know what sort of tie they will wear dependant on the situation which is great stage to get to with someone, more importantly the better you understand each other the greater protection you can afford them.
Whilst in the restaurant for lunch I was invited to dine with them but politely declined with it being the last lunch of their anniversary and situated myself at a table nearby, out of the line of sight as to not distract them but again close enough to provide them reassurance there was nothing to worry about. The afternoon was similar to the morning, more shopping, sightseeing and taking in the fantastic culture and atmosphere of Paris.
Finally on route back to the airport and by this time they were clearly happy at having a great final day to their European city break as we chatted casually now that we knew each other a little better. We pulled onto the tarmac up to a really plush private jet as we were flying back to the UK before they went on to their final destination. I sat in the rear area of the plane again to give them some privacy at the front and declined the champagne from the hostess although I was very pleased with the service I had provided them. Unfortunately as we took off, and I wasn't familiar with the plane, I hit the wrong button on the seat which swung me into the aisle and because of the G force left me there for takeoff flapping about trying to put things right. By the time they looked round and the hostess came with more champagne (again declined of course) I was back in position and the picture of professionalism I had been throughout the day!
The week after I received a huge amount of gifts from the couple and an offer of full time employment which I politely refused. It just goes to show that your professionalism whilst on task can open many doors, maybe not with the person you are looking after but you never know who they network with and when you might get the next phone call for a task.