What I do as an Executive Protection Specialist (Pt. 1)

Tell us about your current position, and how long you’ve been at it.

Currently, I work as an Executive Protection Specialist (EPS), for a high net worth businessman in Southern California. EP Specialist would be the technical name for what most people would call a “body guard [sic].” Although, most us know that this particular phrase does not do us justice, in terms of what our job entails. As most professional books about protective security will tell you, your mind is your most important resource, not your muscle.

I must state that there are different types of EP. The field ranges from high-threat protection over seas with well-armed teams, to corporate EP where a medium size team works to protect the principal, to celebrity security where only one EP specialist is enlisted to protect a principal. The flavor of EP I’m describing here, could be characterized as corporate EP.

I’ve been in my current position for 2 years. When I was hired, my security experience was somewhat limited (military, emergency medical training, political science degree, etc.). Therefore, for my first position, I worked in the “Command Center.” As with most EP jobs, the least experienced people start by working in an operations center that supports the protective team 24-hours a day. Only after someone becomes competent in this area, do they move on to working in “the field.”

In my two years in my current position, I’ve conducted security for our principals at concerts, sporting events, speaking engagements, domestic travel, and minimal foreign travel. I've also conducted risk assessments relating to travel intelligence and threat case management. Online investigations are a significant part of this job too.

What drove you to choose your career path?

There were two primary factors that influenced my decision to take this path. First, there was a “push” factor. As a 21 year old political science major, Marine Corps Reservist, and OCS Candidate, I had a crisis. In political science, we call the presentation of information that conflicts with your preexisting beliefs, cognitive dissonance. And that was the at the center of my crisis.

 After I had completed my first session of Platoon Leader’s Class (USMC Officer Candidate School), I had started to ask myself tough questions about US foreign policy. In fact, there was one statement at PLC Juniors that stuck in my head, until this day. A 20-something year old 1st Lieutenant stood in front of my PLC Company and gave a lecture in which he asked, “What purpose do wars serve?” he went on to explain “Wars are fought over political objectives.” And in this obvious and simple statement, I began losing my interest in a military career. Needless to say, when I returned to OCS for PLC Seniors a year later, I was kicked out in week 5 (of 6). The Commanding Officer of OCS, Colonel Whatever, told me that he had no doubt that I would successfully complete my training at OCS, but I did not have the right “character” that they were looking for.

Once I had burned that bridge so to speak, I narrowed my prospects to (A) working for a research institution/think tank or (B) corporate security/Executive Protection. Then comes the pull factor. I will be completely honest. Executive protection just sounded cool, and I knew the money would be decent. So, I reached out to an old Marine co-worker that did EP, and he got me started in the right direction with readings and training courses.

How did you go about getting your job as an Executive Protection Specialist? What kind of education and experience did you need?

When my interest in EP was first sparked, I emailed a Marine that I had served with, that worked in EP. I asked him what I could do to become a good candidate for an EP position. He gave me a list of books to read (See additional readings here), along with a series of courses to consider taking. After reading about 5 of the books he recommended, and dropping 2,000$ on an EMT Certification course, I had my first interview for an EP related position. I interviewed for an opportunity to work in the EP team’s operations center (Command Center), and I got the job.

My education at the time looked like this: military police in the USMCR (6 years), B.A. political science, EMT certified, junior martial arts instructor, and minimal private security experience (and of course I had a guard card, exposed firearm permit, and a CPR card).
One more thing, after working in the Command Center for about 9 months, and mastering that aspect of our work, I shelled out about $4,000 to pay my own way though a reputable 7-day EP course. After taking this course, I was given the opportunity to work in "the field," and eventually act as detail leader for some events.

Did you need any licenses or certifications?

It will vary from state to state. In California, anyone employed in a security guard role, is required to have a “Guard Card.” This is a license issued by California, giving you their permission to work as a security guard (or similar role). For this license, you pay a couple hundred dollars and sit through a 3 hours course. At the end of the course, you take a short exam, then you get the license in the mail four weeks later. It is a joke, like many other licenses. That is the only legal requirement, the rest is up to your hiring manager’s discretion. However, you will need more than that to impress your a manager.

It’s not required, but I earned my Emergency Medical Technician certification and I recommend others do the same. This is the required certification to work in the US as an EMT. Having this training demonstrates significant knowledge in assessing patients and providing emergency medical care. This is one of those certifications that can make you stand out from the pack. At a minimum, most EP positions will require a CPR/AED certification from AHA.

Another license that can be important (not always) is a CCW permit. Having one may impress some employers, others it will not. Some employers won’t care if you have one, because they can always help you get one in the future, if you need it. Which is why I do not emphasize this. The hiring manager cares more about hiring someone with good judgement, than someone who thinks he’s or she is a cowboy.

What misconceptions do people often have about your job?

The popular misconceptions about EP Specialists, is that they are big, knuckle-dragging neanderthals. That’s not the case.

Celebrity EP might be the exception, but celebrities have their own tastes and preferences. There is a place/role in EP for protectors that are physically large and intimidating (Google 50 Cent and his bodyguards for example). However, this is not the same in corporate EP, which is my focus. Celebrities preference for a particular looking body guard could be compared to their preference for one style of handbag to show off. It’s part of the show.

There is much more to EP, than just a goon with a pulse, looking over your shoulder. I am not down playing the importance of the celebrity EP role. However, I would like to point out that no one sees the behind the scenes physical and emotional labor that it costs to support a protective team. This includes travel intelligence, threat assessment, managing threat cases, coordinating logistics for the principal, and more. In the future, the best EP specialists will have backgrounds in computer science, open source intelligence, and psychology.

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About the EP Nexus Blog

The EP Nexus executive protection blog, is a comprehensive resource for security professionals involved in executive protection, protective intelligence, threat assessment, and related fields.

Launched in March of 2016 as a resource for executive protection professionals, command center gurus, and close protection know-it-alls, EP Nexus is quickly becoming a resource for those seeking to quench their thirst for executive protection reading.

The most popular section of the blog is Executive Protection HacksEP Hacks is a series in which we address complex topics (one topic per issue) in a convenient collection of tools & writings. I am actively collaborating with industry leaders to produce future issues. If you're interested in taking an active approach in moving your industry into the future, contact me below.

Outside of EP Hacks, I explore the following topics in writings, tutorials, and webinars: online tools for executive protection professionals, open source intelligence investigations (OSINT), threat assessment, protective intelligence, travel security, and more.

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