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In this section: The skills and attributes you need before you commit yourself to training as a Bodyguard
It never ceases to amaze me how some people turn up on Close Protection courses and expect to be turned into Bodyguards just by paying a fee. Very often this is impossible. Even the very best trainers need people made of the ‘right stuff’ to start with. While many people are able to learn the basics, not everyone can apply themselves to the demanding role of the Close Protection Officer. While many skills can be learnt, practised and honed to perfection, the Bodyguard candidate should turn up with some essential skills. Many of these skills you will have spent your whole life learning, such as communication skills. If you haven’t got them right in 25 years why do you think that a training course of 25 days can make any difference?
A good brain with lots of common sense
For most of the time, a Close Protection Officer has to ‘think on his feet’ and make decisions based upon information that he continually and constantly analyses. At the same time, he must at all times provide the very best protection to his client. He does this by applying skills that he has been taught, but, and it’s a big but, he also has to apply copious amounts of common sense to the problems of the day and unfortunately no one can teach common sense. Either you have it or you haven’t. Anyone who is a bit slow and not razor sharp in their thinking is never going to be a good Close Protection Officer no matter how much training they have had. The best Bodyguards also develop a sort of sixth sense; it seems as though they are able to foresee problems long before they occur.
A professional attitude
A good Close Protection Officer displays a good attitude towards others. He is never too important to speak to lowlier members of the team, even the toilet cleaner, while he’s in the hotel. I have seen whole operations come undone because the CP team has breezed into a hotel and ‘larged it’, giving it the big ‘I am’ and giving no one any courtesy or respect.
I have lost count of the number of close protection ‘prima donnas’, who think the security operation revolves around them
The more important the VIP the more important and puffed up the security can become, alienating the very people that can help them do their job. House cleaners will go out of their way to clean or indeed not clean rooms outside of their normal schedules. This might allow you to enter areas such as laundry rooms or similar, providing you with better surveillance and security for your Principal. They may do this because of the relationship that a good attitude builds; talking down to them or displaying a superior attitude will not help your case. Security officers and managers in a hotel might be earning a lot less than you, but they will bend over backwards, giving you not only additional, valuable manpower or camera monitoring, but the building and area knowledge that they have taken months to learn. A bad attitude displayed towards these guys and girls will deny you this valuable resource. The hotel security will resent you and make your job as difficult as they can. If the doorman or concierge respect and like you, then they can be a great help. If they think that you are an ‘arsehole’, then favours like parking permits will not be available, no matter how important your Principal is. The head waiter can do you and your Principal lots of favours, serving you quickly and looking after the rest of the team. So you can see that even in a hotel the attitude displayed by the team is of immeasurable importance. An old saying goes something like
“Try to treat others as you would have them treat you.” I would like to offer the following saying: “A good Close Protection Officer treats everyone that he meets with genuine courtesy and respect and as a possible resource.”
I have lost count of the number of Close Protection ‘prima donnas’, who think that the security operation revolves around them rather than the Principal. They treat anyone below them like dirt on a shoe, and are full of their own importance. These people do not last long, and any respect they do receive is false and disappears as soon as their backs are turned.
A good appearance
Looking the part is not as important as many might think, but only because they have a wrong idea about the part. The Close Protection Officer frequently needs to be synonymous with the Principal. Of course, Principals come in all shapes and sizes and if keeping a low profile is important to the Principal then a Close Protection Officer who doesn’t look like one is an advantage. Size can be a deterrent to fans of pop stars and the bigger and uglier this type of officer appears can help him do his job.
Close Protection Officers come in all shapes and sizes, but they have to exude confidence in their own ability. A Bodyguard might be a little apprehensive when he meets a Principal for the first time, but should he appear nervous? The words nervous and Bodyguard should not really be mentioned in the same sentence. You will always appear to be confident, even when you aren’t.
Your appearance, as you will learn later, has to fit in with the Principal’s lifestyle somewhat. You may be looking after someone who is covered in tattoos, but if you are also covered in tattoos you are limiting your job prospects by restricting yourself to work in an environment where such tattoos are accepted.
Being a team player
Teamwork is fundamental to Close Protection. People who work together as a team are effective and can accomplish more. In order to work successfully within a Close Protection team it is important to become a team player. A team player works well with other people on the job, even if they do not like them. In order to be a good team player, one must be willing to compromise, think of ways to solve problems, and not demand that their ideas are used. Loyalty and commitment to the team are essential qualities of a team player. Good team players are continually thinking of ways to meet the goals and objectives of their team. They will not let personal issues, or likes and dislikes get in the way or upset the balance and spirit of the team. They are adaptable, flexible, and willing to work in different conditions and environments for the good and benefit of the team.
It should go without saying that Bodyguards should be honest but I know of a Close Protection company that employs a Bodyguard called ‘Bobby the Thief.’ Your Principal will expect everyone in the team to be honest; if he or she catches you out in the tiniest, whitest, single solitary lie then this will bring your whole integrity into question. Close Protection Officers must never be less than honest. Dishonest Bodyguards can end up in jail. I heard about two guys in London who thought they might be able to blackmail their Principal by taking a story to a newspaper about an alleged animal fetish. They underestimated the Principal, who went straight to the police. It really is a pre-requisite; you need to be honest and able to prove it with criminal record checks and references. In the UK and in many states of the USA you will not get a licence if you have a criminal record.
Being late more than once will almost always cost you your job and sometimes even before you get the job. I have told otherwise ideal candidates in an interview that they won’t be getting the job because they turned up late for an interview! In a job as important as Close Protection, being where you’re supposed to be and being there on time is essential.
The benefits of learning a second language are enormous for the Close Protection Officer; he can often double his employment prospects if he can speak a second language.
Most English and Americans expect others to speak English. ‘No one speaks English in this place’ and ‘Why don’t they speak English?’ are statements made many times by frustrated Close Protection Officers trying to work in a foreign country. Normally, they don’t speak English for the same reason that we don’t speak Bengali or French. Unless we are taught very young, languages can be hard to master and you need to be well motivated to learn another language as an adult.
Surprisingly, however, people do speak a second or even third language. Many continental Europeans are fluent in two or three languages. Millions of Africans speak not only their own language, but often the language of the country or empire that used to colonise them, such as French, English or Portuguese. But these same people will also speak a couple of different tribal dialects. Many Japanese people speak a minimum of two languages
Middle Eastern Royal families and many successful business people (often the very people we are looking after) can shift effortlessly between their native tongues to French. Many could embarrass some BBC news presenters with their excellent grasp and pronunciation of Oxford English. So while millions of others speak second languages, the vast majority of the English speaking world is as monolingual as an English pirate’s parrot.
Therefore, you should learn a second or third language. Which language you choose to learn is up to you, but you should choose wisely. Also think about where the work is and where you would like to work. Russian, Mandarin, Arabic and Japanese would be good choices. More people speak Spanish than English and there are almost four times as many people that speak Mandarin than Arabic.
Learning Welsh might increase your chances of working in Aberystwyth and Patagonia. However if you want to broaden your horizons to take in Venezuela, Uruguay, Peru, Panama, Argentina, Mexico, Cuba, Chile, or any of at least a dozen other countries where Spanish is the primary language, learning Spanish would be very beneficial or even essential.
You do not need to be fluent in a language to get the benefit. Having a basic colloquial grasp of a language and having the confidence to have a go at using it will reap rewards. Any assistance or cooperation that you need in the course of your work (or recreation) will be much more forthcoming if you at least try to make yourself understood in the local lingo. This is infinitely better than the normal English speakers’ practice of just speaking English s-l-o-w-e-r and LOUDER until they are understood! Learning a new language is a must, but why stop there? Once you have learnt one, learn other! It not only gets easier, you make yourself even more employable.
One of the most important skills, the one that lets many would-be Bodyguards down badly, is so completely fundamental to our role that its importance cannot be over-emphasised here. That skill is communication.
The Close Protection Officer has to have complete mastery of communication skills; they have to communicate in many different ways and at all levels. I have seen many men who thought that they were born to be Bodyguards; guys who were masters of this or that martial art. They had spent their whole life in either the dojo or the gym. They thought that they only had to turn up for a couple of weeks and then pick up a certificate, making them a Close Protection expert. These same men, some of whom looked as though they were incapable of being scared of anything, froze when asked to stand up at the front of the class and introduce themselves to the rest of the candidates. Maybe they thought that throughout their Close Protection career they would be the ‘strong and silent type’, having no idea of the importance of communication skills in this industry. When these people are told quietly during the first tea break that they are wasting their time and are being sent home, more than one of them has been stuck for words and tried to resort to violence. This, of course, reinforces our point! Essentially, there are three basic channels of communication and the Close Protection Officer needs to be a master of each.
- Non-Verbal Communication
The correct choice of words used in the right context is obviously essential. The tone used is more important than the words and the non-verbal channels of communication (tone, gestures, facial expressions, stance and clothes, etc) are a vital ingredient of any communication. Some studies suggest that these non-verbal channels make up over 65 percent of our communication. Imagine someone calling you on the telephone and saying, ‘You are in big trouble’. You have heard the words but the tone is important. It is the tone in which the words are said that will tell you whether you are in big trouble. Now imagine that it is a video phone and you can see the person who is threatening the trouble smile and wink at you. The words now mean nothing. The non-verbal communication has told you that you are not really in trouble.
Without good communication skills, everything else is a waste of time. You might be an excellent driver, a crack shot and martial artist, well trained in First Aid and look the part. But everyone in the industry knows that the ability to communicate is one of the most important skills that you can possess and if you haven’t got it then you will never get a chance to show off your shooting or driving skills because you will never get past the job interview.
What are good communication skills?
The ability to communicate is not merely radio communication (although that is important), but the day-to-day communication with other team members, the Principal, visitors, contractors, etc. Far too often mistakes occur, accidents happen and human relationships fail because of a lack of communication skills. When you meet your Principal or team leader for the first time, you must be able to communicate well. Remember, your non-verbal communication will always be ‘talking’, even when your mouth is not! The clothes you wear, the way you stand, your hairstyle, your clean or dirty shoes, your deportment. Each of these things has to communicate the right message. If any of these things are neglected, then you will not last long and will probably not get a job in the first place.
Communication, whether spoken or written, is simply a way of passing ideas, thoughts, instructions and reasons from one person to another. In the written form, we refer to them as reports and these are covered later in these pages. For now, concentrate on the spoken word. The inflection in the voice frequently signals aggression and that is a root cause of misunderstanding. The way a sentence is phrased can often make a lot of difference – the difference between an order and a request, for example.
- You will come this way.
- Will you come this way?
Misunderstandings happen because of accent. Thus, a man from Tyneside and a man from Cornwall both speak English but with sufficient regional accent to cause an enormous amount of confusion. Another source of communication breakdown is due to differences of interpretation or meaning of words. What may be acceptable to one group can be totally offensive to another. To be referred to as a ‘fag’ at Eton is acceptable, but the same expression used in the USA would not. Many other instances can be found and it is a truism that England and America are two countries divided by a common language. Incomplete understanding of a language is another cause of communication breakdown. Many types of nationality of a Principal are encountered whose command of the English language is incomplete and care must be exercised to ensure misunderstandings do not arise through this cause.
Communications Skills are some of the most important weapons in our armoury.
Communications and professional relations
Regardless of the scope of the Close Protection operation, the officer will have cause to interact with various elements of society. On a daily basis, a Close Protection Officer will communicate not only with his Principal but also colleagues up and down the command chain. Situations both routine and extraordinary might mean communicating with the police, emergency services, contractors, security consultants and gardeners. The Close Protection Officer must be able to communicate with these people in a manner that reflects the professionalism of the security team and the position of the Principal. A hallmark of the Close Protection Officer’s professionalism is the way that he can communicate with an attitude of calm confidence.
Avoiding communication breakdowns
Listen to what is being said, not what you think was said or expect to be said.
I know you believe that you understand
what you think I said, but I am not sure
you realise that what you heard
is not what I meant
If you’re not sure what was meant by any communication, ask for clarification. It might be a bit embarrassing to ask for clarification, but far less embarrassing than getting a simple instruction wrong or messing up in front of your Principal.
Do not adopt an aggressive tone. Remember, the tone of how you say something can be more important than the words. It doesn’t make you sound tough and will invariably get an aggressive or unwanted response
Do not use slang or jargon. This could be misinterpreted; it is not appreciated by most people
Be firm but without being demanding. This is not a contradiction.
‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ are easy words that will smooth the way in most situations.
Above all, whenever you want to communicate, put the brain into gear before taking the brake off the tongue!
Always be polite, but do not confuse this with servility. You are not a servant, you’re a Close Protection Officer!
First Aid skills are important in any walk of life, but being skilled in First Aid is absolutely fundamental to being a protection professional. Some schoolchildren are now taught very basic First Aid. This is a good thing. First Aid should be on everybody’s curriculum. Over the years, I have seen and been amazed at the number of Bodyguards’ CV/resumes that make no mention of First Aid. When questioned in interview, these candidates mention that yes, they have done First Aid in the Army: ‘about ten years ago’ or ‘I did a lifesaving course, “a while ago”’.
This is simply not good enough. I can guarantee with some certainty that First Aid skills will be needed in a career of Close Protection. You may never need that bootleg turn that you practise over and over in the car or the quick draw and chair roll that you have perfected for hotel corridors; but you will need your knowledge of First Aid.
First Aid is a skill like any other; it needs constant practice to remain effective. Techniques and ideas change so it is imperative that you carry out continual training and remain up to date. Most books on ‘Close Protection’ include a chapter on First Aid but this is a token gesture and often used only to pad out the book. Authors tend to stick to sexy First Aid like suckling chest wounds, tracheotomies and gunshot wounds. They ignore the simple facts, such as their Principal is hundreds of times more likely to die choking on a pretzel than be shot in the chest. First Aid needs its own book, and cannot be covered in a single chapter. You will need to undertake a course in First Aid.
In the UK when the Security Industry Authority (SIA) commissioned the key skills or core competencies, the draft documents included just sexy First Aid. Some sensible folk lobbied to get this taken out and be replaced by a formal qualification in First Aid. Eventually, the SIA chose the Health and Safety Executive’s ‘First Aid at Work’ course, which is run over four days and which is accompanied by written and practical exams. In the UK, therefore, you will need this First Aid qualification to get a licence to operate as a Close Protection Officer. The course covers much more than tracheotomies and for those that really want to know, yes, they do teach you about suckling chest wounds. The course will cover the following:
- Introduction to first aid
- Personal hygiene
- Dressings and bandages
- Wounds and bleeding
- Circulatory disorders
- Duties of a First Aider
- The skeleton
- Burns and scalding
- Handling and transport
This course certificate is valid for three years; thereafter, before your certificate runs out, you must undertake a two day refresher course. Go over three years and you will have to do the whole course again to get re-certificated.
Further first aid courses
While the basic First Aid course above is enough to get you a licence to operate in the UK you should consider at least two other First Aid qualifications, which are essential if you are to become a protection professional.
Automated External Defibrillator Course
This short course teaches you how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). This device can be used to administer measured electric shocks to people in the throes of cardiac arrest and is the best way of increasing their chance of survival. Many Close Protection teams routinely carry AEDs and you must be trained in their use. The course content would include:
- Personal safety, assessing the incident
- Priorities: DRAB checking and sending for help
- Unconscious casualty
- Breathing and circulation
- Resuscitation: adults
- Assessment of basic life support skills
- Basic information about the heart, and how De-fibrillation works
- Chain of survival
- De fibrillation (recognition of heart rhythms)
- Introduction to the machine, including care and maintenance
- Practical use of machine and application of pads
- Voice prompts and appropriate responses
- CPR and use of AED on casualty
- General guidelines for using a defibrillator
- Protocols and candidate practice
- Special circumstances
- Handing over to emergency services
- Practical exercises
Normally, ‘de-fib’ courses last around one day and the course certificate must be renewed every six months.
First Aid for children
All of the skills that you will learn on the above courses are aimed at giving first aid to adults. First aid techniques for children differ in some crucial areas. Participants learn about techniques for resuscitating children and infants, conducting risk assessments and how to deal with choking, burns, scalds and seizures. In a career in Close Protection, you will find that you work for Principals that have families that include young children. You will often be charged with their care. You need to know what to do in the event of an accident or illness. If you are working in an environment that includes children, you cannot be a Bodyguard without these skills.
These courses can be hard to find, but some organisations in the UK and USA run courses aimed at the childcare sector, nursery schools, etc. The child First Aid courses are normally run over one or two days and are valid for three years.
If you are not trained in First Aid then you are not a Bodyguard. You must obtain the minimum requirement then add the other courses such as de-fib and child first aid as soon as you can. Make sure that you remain current, read your course notes regularly and do not forget to book your refresher courses in advance so you are not forced to do the training in full all over again. That said, I know an operator that never does refreshers; he always does the courses in full every three years or so. He says that his client pays and he learns a lot and retains his skills much better.
There are many skills that we can learn on our journey to become a Close Protection Officer other than attributes such as honesty, integrity and loyalty. These were best learned at our mother’s knee! The skills that can be learned from a course in Close Protection or from reading this book, such as communication skills, First Aid, surveillance detection and driving must complement other basic skills and attributes. Close Protection Officers must also be punctual, honest, fiercely loyal, well groomed, and trustworthy, with lots of integrity. They must be a good team player and have lots of self-discipline. A good listener and confidant, they must also ooze confidence in all that they do.