Category Archives: Diplomatic Security

Protecting Nelson Mandela, The Takeaways

 

The New Zealand Herald posted an article on one of Nelson Mandela’s bodyguards that was such a good read, in my opinion, that I decided to reprint it in full.  It also struck me with a few personal  takeaways that you’ll find at the articles conclusion.  

 

“I owe so much to Madiba.” So says Rory Steyn, the former chief bodyguard of Nelson Mandela during his presidential years – from 1994 to 1999.

Steyn is coming to New Zealand in August, a much-anticipated highlight of the 2014 TEDxAuckland line-up.

He says the global icon, affectionately known as Madiba, had a huge influence on him: “The lessons gained while protecting a true legend is something that translates into my life every day.”

In 1994 Rory Steyn was a young white police officer with an ugly past. He had been actively involved in the harassment of senior anti-apartheid activists, and he was a typical conservative South African policeman who saw Nelson Mandela as a terrorist.

When Steyn was assigned to Mandela’s protection it was no more than a formal administration handover from one presidential term to the next.

Steyn, like all the other white bodyguards assigned to Mandela, was expecting his marching papers within the week. Instead what he got was a five-year, unobstructed view of a man that could heal a nation – and himself – up close.

Steyn’s transformation began with the simplest and most basic of things: good manners.

Steyn saw that Mandela never walked past women or children without greeting them. Everyone was treated the same, irrespective of their colour, age, gender or social position.

As he observed Mandela during those first few weeks, he expected to see the cracks, but eventually came to the conclusion that the president was genuine.

“When I started working for Madiba, for the first time I was recognised as somebody, not a second-class citizen,” Steyn says. “The previous president barely tolerated us, but Madiba would always thank us, and make us feel like we were doing something vitally important. And there I was, this white racist who had once wished him dead, and yet he was able to put the past behind him and treat me as an equal.”

The president’s bodyguards found themselves living a surreal existence. Sometimes they would occupy the grandest of hotels, palaces or presidential guest houses as Mandela toured the world. And suddenly they would be preparing for the president to tour a poverty-stricken village, or make visits to patients at hospital wards, without the press ever knowing.

“Madiba was one of those rare exceptions,” Steyn says. “He was incredibly humble, and seemed to thrive whenever he was called upon to mingle, especially if it meant spending time with those suffering from hardships.”

Steyn was with Mandela when, in 1995, as a special guest of former US president Bill Clinton, Mandela was in New York to attend the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

Mandela took his usual 5am walk in Central Park. Then he saw a homeless person in the darkness ahead of him. To the horror of the Secret Service, the president deviated from his course and made to go over and greet the man. He was blocked by the anxious Americans, but the South African bodyguards knew resistance was futile and, eventually, Madiba talked them all into paying one homeless soul the visit of a lifetime.

Mandela was often instructed by his doctors to forego his official duties and get some rest in Qunu, his hometown. But invariably there would be a knock at the door – usually one of the elders asking for assistance in resolving a local dispute. There he wasn’t the president, but rather a senior member of the local clan who had a duty to assist in the issues of the village.

“It’s almost as if they were unaware of the power of this international statesman,” adds Steyn. “[It was] hardly the stuff of presidents, but a measure of the man.”

One sleepless night after speaking with some homeless street kids in Cape Town, Mandela decided to give one third of his presidential salary toward a fund that could deal specifically with children, and this became the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. Every year for his birthday, Mandela would host a huge children’s party for those especially poor or sick.

He was 95 years old when, last year on December 5, the world said its goodbyes. Steyn says: “The late Mr Nelson Mandela followed three rules throughout his own personal journey; free yourself, free others, and serve everyday – it was not just his mantra, it was his way of life.”

 

And now for the takeaways — 

“The previous president barely tolerated us, but Madiba would always thank us, and make us feel like we were doing something vitally important.”  —This is something that speaks to the different personality types you will encounter while performing the business of protecting clients.  Some may never utter a kind word after years of service, however the job remains the came.  

 

“The president’s bodyguards found themselves living a surreal existence. Sometimes they would occupy the grandest of hotels, palaces or presidential guest houses as Mandela toured the world. And suddenly they would be preparing for the president to tour a poverty-stricken village, or make visits to patients at hospital wards, without the press ever knowing.”   –This echoes my time in the industry working with varied client types.  On Monday it’s the yachts and vacation homes of the ultra-wealthy and by the weekend I am going over routes to get in and out of the poverty stricken areas of Haiti or Angola for a visit to an area charity.  The key is to maintain perspective, be in the moment, but never “caught up in the moment” and always, keep your guard up.    

 

“Mandela took his usual 5am walk in Central Park. Then he saw a homeless person in the darkness ahead of him. To the horror of the Secret Service, the president deviated from his course and made to go over and greet the man. He was blocked by the anxious Americans, but the South African bodyguards knew resistance was futile and, eventually, Madiba talked them all into paying one homeless soul the visit of a lifetime.”  –There is a balance that has to be maintained when conducting Close Protection of individuals that have a degree of risk.  You can wrap the client safely in a bubble but you have to be flexible enough to adapt to a change of plans.

While I had the opportunity to meet President Mandela while  I was working with a different client, I can imagine saying that  working his Protective Detail would have been both challenging and rewarding is a vast understatement.

Rest In Peace Nelson Mandela

 

While on an assignment, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Mandela in person several years ago. At the time I was in full work mode, so there was nothing but the briefest of greetings, however, he still extended me the courtesy of a firm handshake. Madiba was of those individuals who will be remembered in helping define this century.

Honor.  Determination.  Fortitude.  Perseverance.  Those are certainly qualities that the Executive Protection community can emulate.

 

May he rest in peace as he has certainly earned it.

Secret Service Presidential Motorcade in Sweden

While it might look like a potential traffic jam waiting to happen, every vehicle in the motorcade serves a distinct purpose.  The amount of resources dedicated to moving the President of the United States from place to place by the Secret Service is staggering.  With that said, the security motorcade is not unique to just diplomatic arenas.  You will find scaled down versions in almost every other area of Executive Protection.  The unfortunate reality is that the majority of attacks occur in and around the vehicle so the rings of protection have to extend beyond just arms length.

The DNC, The RNC & ICON Executive Protection

 

For the past several months i’d been fairly immersed in negotiating, researching, planning, and finally, executing an assignment that was challenging, rewarding, and in many ways, “historic”. Historic because of my participation in both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions at a pivotal time in our nation, but also because I had the opportunity to involve several of the former ICON Academy students in the assignment. For the past 17 days, our agents had the opportunity to interact with all levels of local, state and federal law enforcement, from the United States Secret Service on down. The mix of Politicians, Celebrities, Corporate Higher Up’s and Delegates coexisted with massive crowds, inclimate weather and protesters. The senior Protectors took those with less experience under their wings, and illustrated by words and actions, that every post was an important one, and everyone (including me) got (re)familiar with that EP staple, “Halls & Walls”. In the end, while sore feet, and bags under the eyes were prevalent, the words of thanks and admiration for the work done personally made by the client made it all worth it.

Of course I do not want to make it seem that this was all brand new, in 2008, ICON Services Corporation also played a significant protection role for clients for both the DNC and RNC, and if the positive feedback was any  indication, once again be lacing up the shoes and adding the lapel pin four years from now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ICON Academy Executive Protection Training Dates

 

 

Celebrity & VIP Protection Course :  (5 Days) October 10-14, 2012

A five-day course of practical theory and hands-on training in the world of Celebrity & VIP Protection.  Taught by industry veteran Elijah Shaw, who in addition to his corporate clients, has traveled the world as the personal bodyguard of international public figures such as musical giant Usher, supermodel Naomi Campbell, and rap megastar 50 Cent, the class covers not only tactics but marketing & career search.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced Executive Protection Course:  (10 Days) October 15-24, 2012

This intensive 10-day class is an excellent tool for Operators sharpening their skills with a focus on conducting close protection assignments with a potential high threat level. Work with experienced professionals who are not teaching “theory” put practical applications developed from many years of doing the job.  Taught by Instructors  in private security working globally in a number of high-risk environments including Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe, Southeast Asia, South and Central America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To apply, learn more or submit for the course scholarship, click HERE.

If you are interested in learning more about any of the above Close Protection related courses from Icon Services Corporation, click on the links or send and email to Training@Industry-Icon.com.  We stand behind the quality of our teaching methods and can also put you in contact with previous Alumni to talk about their past experiences.  Group & back-to-back course discounts apply.

Keeping The Plates Spinning

 

It’s been a hectic but productive month on this end.  15 days crisscrossing Australia on assignment followed directly by 15 days with my instructor hat on for the back-to-back ICON Celebrity & VIP Protection Course, and the ICON Advanced Executive Protection Course.

*whew*

Even in the mist of doing all of this, I had planned to jump a flight and get to Baltimore to speak at the 2012 Protective Security Conference that is now ongoing.  I spoke there last year and it was a blast interacting with the other attendees and speakers.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on your perspective) A major client scheduled an important event that involved quite a few moving parts and it because apparent that due to some of the complexities, I was personally needed on the assignment.  Knowing full well how the last minute nature of the industry works, the host of the PSC were gracious enough to understand,  and I will continue to give them my full support and plan on again being involved and in attendance next year.

One very cool post script to all of this was that I was able to use several of the past and present ICON Advanced Course Graduates on the multi-day Protection Detail.  (They were after all the advanced course).  From real world training, to real world experience.

In a perfect world that’s how the industry is supposed to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 International Travel Tips for Bodyguards

 

 

Travel plays a big part in the duties of the Executive Protection Agent, and those that make a career out of the profession quickly earn the title of “Road Warrior” –-Bags packed, will travel.   Taking that travel international adds a whole new dimension to protecting the client, so here are a few helpful things to keep in mind.

Make yourself familiar with the travel advisories. –   The US State Department is an excellent resource as is the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC).  Also read international newspapers, you may find that news developments vital to the area that you will be in are reported differently outside the United States.

Remember what’s lawful in the US could get you into some serious hot water in another country.  – Make sure you particularly remember this one as it relates to the possession and use of firearms and other weapons.  This should also extend to your client, as even some over the counter medicines are prohibited in some countries.

Keep in mind you are in someone else’s playground.  – Use local resources when possible to aid your journey.  Think about it, who knows an area better than a person that lives there?   At a minimum, try not to come in with a holier-than-thou attitude and piss off the other security/law enforcement teams you may encounter.  Allies are better than adversaries, and that is never truer than when operating in a foreign land.

Plan for delays. –  While there is a universal constant of 24 yours in a day, time can sometimes move different depending on what part of the world you are in.  Just ask anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time in Mexico, Nigeria or India, things just take longer, so work that into your logistics.

Keep cultural nuances in mind to avoid embarrassment. –  Making yourself familiar with the customs and traditions of a foreign country outside of just the security concerns could pay benefits in the long run.  Don’t let a slip of the tongue or a wrong hand gesture draw attention to you or your client.  Bodyguard Blog did a whole article on just this topic, find it HERE.

 

 

Saadi Gaddafi Bodyguard Outlines Escape

Mr. Gary Peters name has been attached to many story surrounding the fall of the Gaddafi family in Lybia, almost to the point where it reads like a Hollywood film.   I’ll say one thing for him, he’s standing by his client to the end.

via:  Lateline

EMMA ALBERICI: What exactly did Saadi Gaddafi ask of you?

GARY PETERS: Nothing was asked of me from Saadi Gaddafi. Ah, my concern and always is with all my clients is their safety, their well-being, their rite of passage, how they’re going to get there. The secondary is their families. The third is their associates. Beginning of 2011, I instigated or tried to begin a process of getting him or extracting him from Libya to a different destination. That was in 2011. Um, why? Because of how I knew how he felt about Libya, how I knew how he felt about the circumstances there, how I knew how he felt about his family. And then my thoughts and my feelings on his safety. Not willing to lose a friend. Not willing to lose a client. And also having feelings of the same way he does about the people of Libya.

EMMA ALBERICI: I’ll just pick you up on that point about knowing what Saadi Gaddafi was feeling. Can you articulate that for us?

GARY PETERS: He wasn’t happy with the situation in Libya. He wasn’t happy with the situation in Benghazi in February when there was a massacre in Benghazi. He had nothing to do with that. The media was reporting that he ordered this and ordered that. That’s rubbish. That’s garbage. He had nothing to do with that massacre. But – he went there because he was ordered to by his father to go and talk to the people. That’s why he went there in February. But the situation in Libya, for the people, for – everything that was happening, he was very distraught about that.

EMMA ALBERICI: You talk about extracting him from Libya; what was the plan?

GARY PETERS: The plan was to get him out of Libya and his family to another destination legally, somebody that would host him, some country that would host him and do everything legally. There was like paperwork, documentation, transportation, air transportation, property acquisition and ongoing security, so to speak. That was the plan. Now he never asked for this. This was done on our own bat to be presented to him to say, “OK, boss, you know, OK, Saadi, this is what I think should happen.”

For the full (and interesting) interview including video, click HERE.

See related HERE.

Student Experiences After ICON Executive Protection Training

 

“When I consider what the primary difference was which made my ICON experience a greater value and overall experience to my previous training, I believe it is due to the fact the ICON course was  student-centric.  In other words, the course was designed to create and support an environment in which the students actively contributed to their own learning.  To create a course such as this, ICON put in significant time and effort to design and implement experiences which were designed to rapidly transition from the classroom to the real world”.

Donna Angevine

ICON CPC, AEP Course Graduate, January 2012

“I think that reality based training with stress is the best way to learn.  Sitting in a classroom can only teach somebody so much.  Putting people under stress and forcing them to think then act, then reviewing their actions is a much more effective way to learn and you and your staff taught me a lot.  Each member of your staff is a true professional and an effective teacher.”

Jimmy Menzoian

ICON CPC, AEP Course Graduate, January 2012

 

“In my 15 day journey, a total mental and physical transformation took place. During training, I was introduced to hand-to-hand combat, defensive tactics, and firearm training that was in addition to other tactical and dynamic instruction.  One advantage that ICON has over other Executive Protection courses is the top notch instructors who present up-to-date real life experience in the EP industry.   ICON has given me a great head start into the Executive Protection industry”.

Michael Brown

ICON CPC, AEP Course Graduate, January 2012

 

___

Next Dates

Celebrity & VIP Protection:  Aug 1-5, 2012 (Financing & Scholarships Available)

Advanced Executive Protection (High Risk): Aug 6-15, 2012 (Financing & Scholarships Available)

To learn more about the ICON Academy Executive Protection Training Course click on the link.