Recently Missouri’s new governor, former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens, was inaugurated. When I was on the Highway Patrol, I transferred into the Governor’s Security Division (GSD) in 1974. After that, I worked every governor’s inaugural until I retired: 1977, 1981, 1985, 1989, 1993, 1997, 2001.
There is a huge security force, mostly Highway Patrol, Capitol Police, and Jefferson City PD, but also St.Louis PD, Kansas City PD, National Guard, and other agencies. We always put a SWAT countersniper team on the roof of the Capitol as a Tactical Observation Post (TOP). The stage is all VVIPs and is swept for explosives. The front of the seated crowd is VIPs (legislature, supreme court, etc.), so there is a lot of White Space (the area free of unknown members of the general public). In the evening, the inaugural ball takes place inside the Capitol. The entire GSD detail works, so the family has a 10-15 man detail. If you’ve read my first novel, MORTAL SHIELD, it begins with a governor’s inaugural and is just as I describe.
“The wily one just shook his head, silent, his mind churning with thoughts of bloody work.” – Homer, The Odyssey (Robert Fagles translation), referring to the most strategic and clever warrior of that time, Odysseus.
“Perhaps the most elementary principle of all deception is to attract the enemy’s attention to what you wish him to see and distract his attention from what you do not wish him to see. It is by these methods that the skillful conjurer obtains his results.” — General Sir A.P. Wavell, “Ruses and Stratagems of War” (1942).
In my early days as a protector of governors, I went to advance a hotel appearance my protectee would be making in a few hours. We regularly attended events at this location, so I already knew the facility inside and out. I located the meeting room and met our Point of Contact (POC). He alerted me that a group of about twenty protesters would be on hand to meet the governor and wanted to get a photograph while handing him a proclamation on their issue. I went outside with the POC and eyed the group at the east main entrance to the facility where most people entered. I asked the POC if he could station one of his people at the curb to meet the governor’s car. He agreed.
I then called my partner, who would be driving the governor, and told him to bring the boss to the rear entrance on the west side to avoid the group. About fifteen minutes later, he pulled up, parked in a space I had reserved, and we escorted the protectee through the door and immediately into the meeting room. The governor was announced and went to the head table to deliver his speech. The protesters realized the governor had somehow arrived in the room from another direction. They split their group into two and posted a group at both of the meeting room doors, where they would corner the governor as he departed.
I had parked my car at the south side of the building. I told my partner, “When the speech ends, take the governor out the door behind the head table. I’ll be there and will take him back to the Capitol in my car.” As soon as the speech ended, everyone stood and applauded, my partner grabbed the boss, and took him out the back door, where I led him to my car. As I drove the boss away, I glanced into the rearview mirror and saw him grinning from ear to ear. “That was slick,” he said, knowing that we had just saved him from an embarrassing situation. And we had done it with only two officers, no muscling protesters out of the way or spraying clouds of pepper spray. Just some simple misdirection and using all the options the facility offered us. A planted lure at the main entrance to suggest we would arrive there, then an escape path, if our actual route got cut off.
Several years ago, I advanced a university in Istanbul where our protectee would be doing a Q&A on his new book. The security team included another GdBA agent, a local security agent, and two drivers for the advance and primary vehicles. Due to the previous event we did, I only had about an hour to get everything ready. I met our POC and had him lead me on a walk-through: arriving by car at the front entrance (where everyone else was arriving), walking through hallways (that everyone else was using), holding in a green room until the event started, then upstairs to the event room, then back downstairs to either the green room or to the vehicle. I hated the plan and started nosing around. Opposite the door to the green room was a large stack of dusty tables that looked like they had been there for years, and there was a door behind them. “Where does that door go?” I asked. The POC looked confused why I would ask. “It goes out back,” he responded. “What’s out there?” I asked. “Just some stairs to a small back lot,” he replied. “I need someone to move these tables,” I stated. “But the door is locked,” he replied. “Find a key to that door,” I said. Soon, a maintenance man appeared with a key, at about the same time I got a text from my partner they were en route. The tables were moved, the door was unlocked, and outside I found a perfect arrival/departure area for our group that totally avoided all the public areas. I texted my partner to have the driver come to the back of the building. A fierce storm struck so I located a couple of large umbrellas and, as I stepped outside, the protectee and my partner arrived. We got the protectee inside without getting soaked and secured him in the green room. After the event, we exited out the back door, avoiding all the chaos out front.
As we state in our book “JUST 2 SECONDS“, “Every location contains inherent advantages and disadvantages; whatever hand you are dealt can be improved by advance work, set-up, and positioning.”