“Training and Jobs in Executive Protection” – Another Perspective

By Matthew Parker

I have read many an article on executive protection (EP) training and job placement over the years. Some I agree with and others, like Mr. Gallagher’s recent work, that I find some truth in but also question some of the points being made.

First let me say I appreciate Mr. Gallagher’s opinion and thank him for taking the time to write his article. Obviously with his experience, his opinions have some weight and deserve to be taken seriously.

I would agree with Mr. Gallagher that the personal security industry is, in his words, “a complicated beast,” but I would also add that the industry is changing rapidly and not for the better.

Recent trends show an alarming use of untrained security guards for the traditional executive protection mission. Often a mix of low cost guards and a single EP agent is used to save a few dollars. These hybrid details don’t provide the level of protection or service we have come to expect from a properly trained and staffed executive protection detail. Proper training is critical to address these shortfalls, so even a three day program is better than nothing.

Frank points out that a graduate of a 2, 3, 7, or 30 day program is not, in his words, “qualified to save lives.”  On the whole, I do see his point, but a CPR class of 8 hours does qualify you to save a life and eight weeks of basic training is all that is needed to take a civilian off the street and make him/her a soldier. It’s not the length of training that is important but the quality and objective that matters.

I understand his point on doctors and other professionals needing years of training and follow on experience, such as a residency or internship, but we are talking apples and oranges when comparing an EP agent to a doctor. Even when you compare a Secret Service Agent to a typical civilian EP agent, you need to remember that not all the training they receive is focused on close protection. Remove counterfeiting, federal law, and the other 10 or 20 topics of training that have nothing to do with close protection and you have about 30 to 45 days remaining.

It’s the duties and responsibilities of the job that dictate the length of fundamental or basic training. However it’s the combination of training and operational experience that prepares an agent.

I echo Frank’s point that graduating from a program does not certify you. In fact, there is no national certification for EP agents. There are industry associations that have their own certification, but in truth, even they are not recognized by a state or federal authority like a driver’s license and they are only worth what someone thinks their worth.

Like Frank, I believe instructors for any program should be qualified to teach the material and have experience on the job, which is why all instructors with Independent Security Advisors (ISA) are accredited by the Maryland Police Training Commission or equivalent agency and have served on numerous details with organizations such as the US Secret Service, the US Military, private security or corporate details. It would be irresponsible to hire instructors that are not subject matter experts in the topic or material they teach. I would add that an individual with a high threat background, such as working details in Iraq, is not automatically qualified to teach a class to corporate agents in the US.  I would also point out that many instructors teach for different companies like performers jumping from circus to circus.

I understand Frank’s frustrations with the unsubstantiated claims made by training providers that their programs are the best. There is no “best” in this industry. But in comparing programs, you do need to look at the curriculum and how well it meets the student’s goals. Does the program address the four pillars of EP work: threat assessments, advance work, mission planning, and operations?

I disagree with Frank’s opinion that no one hires a new graduate from these programs. ISA has had graduates hired for entry level positions and selected for internships from both our seven day and thirty day programs. At ISA, we never promise anything except good training and we don’t offer job placement or help writing resumes in a standard course. We do assist with networking, continuing education and have a seminar especially for resume writing and job searching. But if a training provider maintains a data base of job listings and helps with introductions, I don’t see that as a negative unless they promise a job placement.

The EP training industry is “for profit,” so let’s not try to pretend otherwise. But $4,000-$7,000 is ridiculous and can be a long term burden on the students. I was told by one trainer that he would “never reduce his tuition because it would cheapen his brand.” I agree a student must be willing to invest in his/her education, but enough is enough. And for those who think draining a veteran’s GI Bill is acceptable, think again.

I agree with Frank that military service or a law enforcement background has always been a multiplier in a job search, but I would also point out that the Secret Service, FBI, and other agencies also recruit right out of college, so don’t think you have to be a former soldier or police officer to have a future in the EP field. You will just need to bring something else to the table, such as a college degree, specialized drivers training, emergency medical technician certification, surveillance detection training, etc.

I completely disagree with Frank on one point. I believe that military and law enforcement experience does not mean “you have suffered” or are better prepared to work in this profession. Ask the Air Force clerk with one deployment to Kuwait how much he/she suffered, or the Army Major who never deployed, rather hid in an administrative position how much he/she suffered. I have civilian students with three kids, two jobs, and a pile of bills, who have suffered.

During my military service, I learned to “embrace the suck.” If sitting in a rain storm on guard duty in Georgia, eating dirt during a dust storm in Iraq, or getting shot at and hit with IEDs appeals to you, then go for it. But you are no more qualified to be an EP agent than a civilian out of college who has the right education, training, and a positive, team-oriented attitude. I look for those who work hard and don’t quit, not those who were too stupid to get out of the rain.

Matthew Parker is the CEO of Independent Security Advisors a for profit security consulting and dignitary protection company based in Maryland. A Dept. of Defense trained anti-terrorism officer, close protection agent, and WMD response specialist, Mr. Parker has served on the protective detail for military general officers, state department officials, elected leaders, foreign dignitaries, celebrities, and corporate officers. A special advisor to close protection organizations in the Middle and Far East, Mr. Parker designed and conducts executive protection training that has been accredited for law enforcement and approved for college credit. He can be reached at mparker@inddps.com and 315-486-7854.

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