Home » Gender » Recent Articles:

An Open Letter to the Bodyguard Community on Domestic Violence Prevention

An Open Letter to the Bodyguard Community on Domestic Violence Prevention

An open letter to the Close Protection Community:

 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Here’s a sobering fact: there are 145 incidents PER HOUR in the United States. I have always had an opinion that every Protector should have a cause, and to me this is a natural one given the nature of our profession.

For seven years I sat on the Board of Directors of the nations oldest shelter for women who were victims of domestic abuse, so that I could get a better understanding of the challenges they faced and offer some unique perspectives coming from our specialized outlook.

Besides the things I did internally with the organization, it helped shaped the direction of the nonprofit I founded called the ISC-Safety Net Which provides free security services to victims of Domestic Violence and the shelters that serve them.

Dozens of protectors have joined me over the years in contributing to the project, and the Safety-Net along with other organizations such as Angel, founded by Mark James of Panther Protection, plan to be more impactful in the upcoming year.

So this month, I challenge you to apply some of the methodical thinking and problem solving that comes with working our craft to help reduce the above number even if it’s only by one digit.

After all, we do call ourselves, “Protectors,” right?

 

Elijah Shaw

 

What Its Like For a Woman Training To Be A Bodyguard

What Its Like For a Woman Training To Be A Bodyguard

by Lori Edwards

I distinctly remember coming to the sudden and uneasy conclusion that I really didn’t have any idea what I was getting myself into.  My seatmate on my flight had asked me why in the world a girl from Texas would come all the way to Minnesota by herself, especially in January, without any personal history there or family ties to the area.  I chuckled a little and explained that I’d be attending a class that would train me to become a bodyguard.  He wondered aloud if I was serious.  I simply smiled and nodded.

I’m not exactly what you’d picture a female bodyguard to be.  Although I’m very athletic and have two black belts in Taekwondo, most people don’t suspect it.  In fact, most folks would take one look at me and drop me into the category of “indoor girl” pretty quickly.  And of course, so did my seatmate.  In rapid fire succession, he began showering me with questions regarding all the things the class might require of me, and if I thought I was adequately prepared for it.  The only response I could manage was, “I really don’t know.”

I spent the rest of the week finding out.

The 5-day ICON Celebrity & VIP Protection Course is arranged very intelligently.  Beginning with some brief welcoming statements and announcements, we jump right in.  ICON CEO, Elijah Shaw, starts with some lectures about team formations and foot drills.  About an hour in, we hop up from our seats and start literally walking out the things that his 17 years in the business has taught him.  Then we move into tactical weapons drills led by Assistant Instructor and resident firearms expert, Mike Briggs.  Holster drills on verbal command with a realistically heavy, but imitation firearm consume the next hour or so.  I must admit, having never handled a weapon either real or fake, this was challenging to me.  Trust me when I tell you, that during the initial movement drills I probably have never found my left and my right so ridiculously confusing.  Thankfully, our final instructor and champion mixed martial art fighter, Justin Newcomb rescued me by announcing to the class that it was time to take two hard laps and meet him in the gym.  Aaaahhhh, relief.  This part is something I know I can do, –Interval training.  The instructors tell us we will have a 5-minute workout.  It’s true.  What they don’t tell us, is that it’s a butt-kicking five minutes.  I’m game, and have the sneaky suspicion this won’t be the last time we’re at the gym. Then back to the classroom to discuss some of the broader issues of Executive Protection.

Did I mention, all this was before lunch?

We spend that afternoon and the next few days repeating the cycle of classroom discussion, walking/formation drills, weapons drills later on, live fire at the gun range), physical training and industry-specific do’s and don’ts.  Each session, we expand and practice our skills, and information received at a pace that only NASA can truly comprehend.  The instructors begin throwing in unexpected surprises to keep us guessing, and learning.  At the end of every day, I am spent.  I had no idea the amount of information that these professionals must process, and how quickly they must process it in order to keep their clients safe and sound.

Add to all that craziness the unique challenges that come with being female, and you begin to get a reasonable idea of my personal experience.  I wanted to make sure that I made a good impression right away, so I showed up on the first day looking nice.  Not formal ball-gown nice, but reasonably professional.  I had spent ample time online researching ICON and was well aware that Elijah Shaw is nearly always in a suit.  First rule of business: Never show up sloppy when the boss expects a suit.  I also knew that this course was very hands-on, and as such, there would be some physical activity.  No details were given as to our daily schedule or the demands thereof, so I decided to land somewhere in the middle.  I wore nice pants, a jacket I could remove easily, and my favorite stiletto boots.  I did fine until break time when Mike Briggs wandered up asking me if I had brought gym shoes.  I had, but they were in the hotel, because surely our kindhearted instructors would warn us of what we’ll need when we’ll need it.  Heads up future classmates:  a deliberate lack of pertinent information is a constant, so come prepared for anything – just like in the real world of VIP Protection. Needless to say, I spent most of the day running laps and all the other physical training in barefoot. (And carefully.  I mean you don’t really want to ruin a $65 pedicure slamming into the gym equipment so I considered it practice in situational awareness).

I also tried my hand at figuring out when it was safe to put my boots back on.  Just as soon as I had convinced myself that the workouts were finished for the day, I slipped them back on.  About that time, Justin Newcomb tiptoed up behind me and whispered, “You’re gong to want to take those boots off again….”.  Bless him.  I actually thought about running the laps while wearing the stilettos, but decided against it.  So I just gave up.  I wore running shoes the remainder of the week, however there’s more to the story where those boots are concerned.

Everything went smoothly until Friday night.  I ended up pulling an all-nighter as part of a real-world exercise through which ICON puts its course attendees.  I took the first client shift, which lasted from roughly 10pm to 6am.  I was wearing a radio device with which I have no previous experience.  In the chaos of last-minute information and preparation, I threw the earpiece on and the radio in my front jacket pocket.  There were several loose wires flapping about, but I didn’t really care as, the clock was ticking and I had to get on post.  No worries right?  Well that is until the instructors came to visit me on site.  There’s something very unsettling about three grown, strong men standing together in a huddle while smirking and rubbing their foreheads.  Mike Briggs convinced me to slip off my suit jacket and got me reorganized into the very picture of a female Close Protection Agent:  black jacket, white shirt, black skirt, black tights and those 4 & ½ inch black stiletto boots.  I’m a mom, so I know what its like to stay up all night looking after someone.  I’ve just never done it in those boots before.  You learn in training, so you don’t make the mistakes in the real world.

Twenty-four hours later, I find myself about to enter Force-on-Force Drills.  In that moment, I have no idea what is about to happen, I only know I’m not really crazy about the sound of it.  I’ve never shot the realistic airsoft training weapons before.  More importantly, I’ve never been shot BY the airsoft training weapons before!  I had nightmarish visions of being in a room with all my classmates and instructors just shooting ferociously until someone has the compassion to yell “TIME’S UP!”.  I worried needlessly.  That’s not what force-on-force drills are about.  These exercises are designed to place the trainee in situations that as closely as possible mimics real world experiences.  Trust me when I tell you they are valuable and bring a whole new element to the course.  To this day I find myself mentally rehearsing some of the multiple scenarios I went through that evening.  In my mind I’m moving the client, negotiating check points, climbing walls, jumping over people or things, asking questions, taking charge, providing cover, evacuating, locating exits, thinking critically, and looking for the less than obvious.

I think that’s the point of good, solid training:  It stays with you.

Before the ICON Celebrity & VIP Protection Course, I was just a yoga-mom from Texas.  During this course I challenged myself to become something that I’ve always envisioned:  brave, decisive, resourceful and capable.  In the middle of the week I questioned my decision to be there, and I questioned my ability to do this job to the extent that I thought about packing up and going home.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

By the end of the course, I had experiences I will never forget, and was handed opportunities I’d have never believed.  I was challenged far more than I expected, resulting in a depth of confidence I’ve never known.  I loved it so much that I’m actively seeking my next opportunity to train.  I’ll get some gun range time with Mike Briggs later in the spring, and hopefully, I’ll get to take the 10-day Advanced Executive Protection Course soon.  In the meantime, I’m hoping to establish a foundation in the industry through Advance work—The security preparations and logistics that occur before the actual client even enters the area.  We had one assignment specifically on advance work during the course, and I did particularly well at it.   I now find myself making mental sketches of practically any building I walk into, even here in my hometown.  I draw mental route cards, too, when I’m traveling.  So, I’ll be looking for opportunities to continue to implement skills, while my girls are attending summer camps and other things.  Eventually, and with continued training, I’d like to move toward protecting female celebrities at events, and finally as their personal protection.  We girls gotta look out for each other, you know.  I have to believe that for the newcomer or as a refresher, whatever your goals or interests are in the field of Executive & VIP Protection, this course will meet them.

Take it from the “indoor girl” – you’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note:  We plan for this to be the first of several articles by Lori that while chronicle her experiences as a newcomer in the Executive Protection Industry. (of course without violating any client confidentiality.)  We hope that it will serve as an inspiration for others and the realities of the profession.


 

Women Can Be Their Own Bodyguard

Women Can Be Their Own Bodyguard

Proving that you don’t have to be in the bodyguard business to benefit from some of the safety and fitness training that goes into high-end security work.  ICON CEO Elijah Shaw takes TCL Reporter Emily Engberg through our new Safety & Fitness Course designed for civilian women.

Pulled from elements of our highly acclaimed ICON Celebrity & VIP Protection Training Program that has helped bodyguards from around the globe to operate successfully in the world of Executive Protection, this unique course is a great way for women to challenge themselves mentally & physically, while at the same time learning new skills that could one day literally save their life.

To learn more about the course or register, click HERE.

What Happened to Lara Logans Security?

What Happened to Lara Logans Security?

Security Professionals always look at incidents of violence perpetrated against public figures with a slightly different perspective than the general public.  Such was the case when I heard about the tragic story of CBS News Corespondent Laura Logan.  The journalist was a victim first of detention by the Egyptian authorities and following her release and return to the region a brutal assault by a mob.

The offical account goes as such:  The evening of the attack, Ms. Logan, 39, the network’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, was covering the celebrations in Tahrir Square in central Cairo with a camera crew and an unknown number of security staff members. The CBS team was enveloped by “a dangerous element” within the crowd, CBS said, that numbered more than 200 people. That mob separated Ms. Logan from her team and then attacked her.

I, as well as scores of my peers, have had first hand experience dealing with massive crows that are whipped into such a frenzy that you can feel the threat looming, so much so that it’s almost a tangible thing.  At that point, independent of even the clients wishes, a decision must be made to leave the area for the safety of the Protectee.  You might get chewed out or even fired later, but your client will live to tell the tale.  After initially hearing this story, the obvious question to me was, exactly how did her secuirty team become seperated from her?

While researching I stumbled upon outtakes of an interview Ms. Logan conducted with Esquire Magazine, conducted after the detention, but before the assault, that appeared to shed a little more light on the incident:

Esquire:  On whom she was traveling with:

Laura: “I’m not the only one going back, my producer is coming with me. And with my husband. We made this decision together. And with my boss.”

Esquire: On the precautions they’d be taking:

Laura: “We’ve made sure that the Egyptian embassy in the U.S. knows we’re going. They’re fully aware of it. They know what our purpose is, that we’re journalists. We’ve made every effort to try and get media accreditation before we left, but the embassy said because of the backup they couldn’t [get it to us], so they’re trying to help us on the ground. There are no surprises here this time. It is a better plan. Again, it’s not foolproof, you know?”

Esquire: On worrying about a repeat scenario:

Laura: “Sure, of course you can never discount [that], it would be foolish to discount that possibility.”

Esquire: On traveling with private security:

Laura:No. We are not. It’s been so chaotic. I think we do have a security person on with us now, on our team, but I haven’t had a chance to even address that.” (emphasis mine ~ES)

While in no way placing the blame of the assault on Laura Logan herself, I do think at least at the time of the interview, security was an afterthought.   There may or may not have been a trained agent from the states with her, and if there was, his available resources may have been minimal.  It is also likely that a local(s) could have been used, at which point the vetting process could have been anywhere on the scale of “bad” to “very bad’.  It is also possible that none of this was the case and the network provided Mrs. Logan with an equipped team of seasoned security professionals qualified to go into a potential hot spot with their primary responsibility of protecting their client — not of making sure she got an award winning news story.  It’s possible, but based off of my personal experiences, unlikely.

This is a story i’ll be following with great interest, and it is my hope that corporations placing their employees in hostile situations overseas begin to recognize the value of being proactive with security.  Sadly, Laura Logan has paid a high price for that lesson.

~Elijah Shaw

Industry Spotlight: Close Protection Agent Denida Zinxhiria

Industry Spotlight: Close Protection Agent Denida Zinxhiria

Behind the Bodyguard Business holds a spotlight where we feature someone in the Executive Protection, Security or Investigation industry.  Our hope is to provide some insight into our profession and also show newcomers & the media that people from all walks of life and all parts of the globe do this type of work with honor and pride.   No it’s not like the movies, but it can be rewarding, thrilling, and yes, sometimes fun.

Agent Name: Denida Zinxhiria

Company Name: Athena Academy & Athena Worldwide LLC

Website: www.athenaacademy.com

Home city: Athens, Greece

How long have you been in the Close Protection Industry?

I am working in the Close Protection Industry the last 10 years.

What made you decide you wanted to get into the Industry?

I wanted to offer safety to others by consulting them on security issues and also ”live in the industry”.

What kind of duties are you currently involved in?

I am Athena Academy Founder and Worldwide Director, we run a Female-only Close Protection Operatives Academy in Atlanta, GA

What are some of the differences between working as an Operator and a trainer?  Do you prefer one over the other?

One of the differences is that being an Operator, means you have the responsibility of a person’s safety, that by its own can be very stressful for some people. In some Security Details you may be the Team Leader, so you will have to give the right directions to a group of Agents so they all work as one body with one purpose, in some you will be the Security Advance, which includes a lot of logistics and research, and in some just a member of his close protection team, keeping your eyes on the Principal.  You have to adjust yourself in different roles according to your clients needs and the job position you get, keeping in mind that your client’s schedule will be your daily schedule.

From the other hand as a trainer you are responsible to give the right tools and knowledge your students needs, and prepare them as best you can to be able to start their own steps in the Close Protection industry.  After their training you need to be there for them to both assist and consult. Don’t forget the old hold the experience the new require, and the bond an instructor creates with a student can be amazing.

I can say that I do enjoy the both positions, each one of them offers me different array of experiences and personal satisfaction.

Can you share a bit of one of your best experiences in the industry so far?

During my first years in security industry, I, along with a trusted colleague was hired as a support team to protect the 12 year old child of a female CEO. Because we were called after the threats had started, we were amazed by the observation of the 12 year old who had observed more valuable information that some of other agents working for the family. After a couple of weeks, with hard team work and the police investigator’s help, the people who were planning the kidnapping were arrested. I will never forget that child.

What are the challenges of being a Female Protection Agent?  How do you “even the playing field” compared to your male counterparts?

Depending on the country, Female Protection Agents may often have to deal with close-minded people who think that a woman’s positions is in the kitchen.  I seriously have heard that, along with male colleagues that disrespect or doubt a person’s skills just because of their gender.  Other times they will accept a woman working in their team but will be overprotective towards her, or make her feel that her  position is undervalued in comparison to other Detail Members.

I would say if we can educate the industry about what truly makes an exceptional CPO, there will be no need to “even the playing field”.  Executive Protection work requires a much greater percentage for using your head than your body.

If you have the ability to eliminate one thing from our industry, what would it be?

For men to respect and accept the fact that females can be trained exactly as they are, and can offer the same level services to Clients. I believe that opinions come from life experience, so the only way for a doubting male to overcome this prejudice is for them to give a trained female colleague the opportunity to prove themselves.

To those just entering the profession, what advice would you give?

I would recommend to them to research the industry thoroughly. Close Protection is much more than a well paid job and working with celebrities. Being a CPO can mean risking one’s life protecting someone who is not yourself, or your family.    You will be working a lot of hours, so forget the 9-5 job, in short –your client’s schedule will be your schedule.

After they have decided that this is the career they desire to follow, they need to make a good research on the training courses and the licensing requirements (if any). They need to have a lot of willingness to have their eyes open, to promote themselves and not put it down after a 2-3 attempts of sending a CV and getting no responses.

Close Protection Specialist Denida Zinxhiria can be reached at 1.888.LADYGUARD ext 70 or Email: dz@athenaacademy.com

Bodyguard Etiquette for Operating in Muslim Countries

Bodyguard Etiquette for Operating in Muslim Countries

I’m traveling to a Muslim Country to work an assignment, any protocol tips? -Nathan Cummings, CA

When travelling or working in a Muslim country the first rule of thumb is to dress conservatively.  Males, stay away from shorts.  For females, knee length or below for skirts or dresses and at least elbow length sleeves with shirts; your outfit should not be form fitting.  Always carry a headscarf as it may be necessary when entering some buildings (Mosques) or addressing certain officials or royalty.

When meeting and greeting clients or associates do remember that a firm handshake is wise but do not offer one to the opposite sex. Learning a few words in Arabic or the local language can also be very beneficial. A customary greeting is salaam alaykum (Peace be upon you). Shaking hands and saying “kaif halak” (how are you?) to a male or “kaif halik” if greeting a female.

There are several styles of greetings used in the Islamic world; it is best to wait for your counterpart to initiate the greeting. A more traditional greeting between men involves grasping each other’s right hand, placing the left hand on the other’s right shoulder and exchanging kisses on each cheek.

The left hand is considered unclean and reserved for hygiene. Do not point at another person and do not eat with the left hand.  (See HERE)

Try not to cross your legs when sitting and never show the bottom of your feet to others.

When in the presence of a VIP, avoid admiring an item too much, you host may feel obligated to give it to you. When offered a gift, it is generally impolite to refuse.

Arabic names can often be confusing to foreigners. It’s best to get the names of those you will meet, speak to, or correspond with before hand and practice saying them to yourself. Find out both their full names and how they are to be addressed in person.

In political settings, it is proper etiquette to refer to a royal as “Your Highness”, and any members of the government ministries as “Your Excellency”.

In many countries, males will stand closer to each other than many westerners are used to, and members of the same sex will often touch arms when postulating or emphasizing a point. You should not draw away from this, as it would be considered rude and rejecting.

A useful online guide for some simple greetings and basics can be found at http://www.linguanaut.com/english_arabic.htm

Susanne Dancer is a former butler and administrator who has trained with the Guild of Professional English Butlers.  Her work in Etiquette has taken her from Brisbane to London with an emphasis on International Protocol.  She is regularly consulted as an expert in her field on subjects such as how to dress appropriately while working with High Net Worth individuals, and the delicate subject of table manners.

Have an etiquette question for Susan?  Ask it HERE.

Today Show Interview with Elijah Shaw

Today Show Interview with Elijah Shaw

So in the interest of national security (joke),  I got my hands on the the full Today Show interview conducted by host Amy Robach.  The interview is a excerpt from their recent segment with Bodyguard Careers on females in the Executive Protection Industry.

I know after the original piece aired there was a little bit of debate on if female newcomers in the industry should get that amount of exposure.  My thought process is that the Today Show viewership for that week was 4,900,000, so that was 4,900,000 that got to hear something positive about our industry as opposed to “bodyguard writes a tell-all” or “Security Contractor Takes a Bribe in Iraq“.   That type of positive exposure has got to be good for our community, and acts as a counterbalance to all the negative stereotypes.

See related:  FEMALE BODYGUARD FEATURED ON TODAY SHOW

Female Bodyguards Featured on Today Show

Female Bodyguards Featured on Today Show

Amy Robach of the the Today show does a segment on the rise of females in the Executive Protection industry.  The show spotlights Executive Protection Agent Joanna Torrens and an all female class undergoing training in the profession.   While obviously greatly condensed and edited for their morning demographic, I thought the piece was a good representation of the training, challenges and mindset women would need to undergo to succeed in the male dominated bodyguard industry.

Click HERE to view the segment.

To learn more about some of the training Joanna went through follow THIS link.

ICON Featured on the Today Show

ICON Featured on the Today Show

Just got off a (LONG) 22 hr flight from South Africa.  Touched down and  received word that the Today Show piece we did in conjunction with Harlan Austin at Bodyguard Careers aired.  I’ll get a proper post up later, but in the meantime, catch the segment.

And if your interested in learning more about the training (for males or females) click HERE.

Video of the program behind the jump.

Girl Guns For Female Bodyguards Spark Debate

Girl Guns For Female Bodyguards Spark Debate

The Daily Mail is reporting that female police bodyguards assigned to protecting the UK Royal Family and the Prime Minister are being armed with what they term ‘baby’ guns in a effort to recruit more women officers to the role.

The gun is actually the Glock 26, nicknamed the “Baby Glock” due to its smaller sized barrel and grip.

The debate centers on if this model is sufficient enough for close protection work as it would come as a replacement for the standard issued full sized Glock 17.

For the full story, click HERE.

Check the Sponsors - Click Below

AdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisement

ICON on Facebook

Categories

Archives

ICON Videos

Training & Education

The International Executive Protection Conference is Underway

December 7, 2014

The International Executive Protection Conference is Underway

Wrapped up a great day at the 2014 International Executive Protection & Secure Transportation Conference. While I got there a bit late due to an ongoing assignment, I had a chance to hear the majority of today’s presenters, catch up with professional colleagues that I had not seen in awhile, host an Alumni Only meeting […]

The Transition from Night Club Security to Executive Protection

May 16, 2014

The Transition from Night Club Security to Executive Protection

  By Miguel DeCoste This morning I was going through some paperwork — the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Vietnam, The West Indies, these are just some of the places the Executive Protection Industry has taken me. Oh yeah, and this is a good time to mention, that I started off working as a nightclub “bouncer”. […]

Working Independently or Joining an Agency?

May 7, 2014

Working Independently or Joining an Agency?

  by Mark “Six” James CPO, EPS, CAS For those old enough to remember “The Bodyguard” – Starring Witney Houston, Frank Farmer was the name of bodyguard played by Kevin Costner. While art often imitates life, life rarely imitates art.  However, Hollywood’s job is to entertain us first and focus on occupational accuracy second. Thus, […]

ICON Academy Executive Protection Social Summit Speakers List

December 16, 2013

ICON Academy Executive Protection Social Summit Speakers List

  Executive & Celebrity Protection – The Overlooked Components Elijah Shaw, Director The ICON AcademyElijah Shaw hosts an interactive round-table discussion with an engaging mix of seasoned veterans and talented journeymen, challenging both the audience and the panel to strategize solutions to elevate the craft, and figure out how to combat the negative stereotypes that […]

Dr. Paul Viollis to Deliver Keynote Address at ICON Social Summit

December 16, 2013

Dr. Paul Viollis to Deliver Keynote Address at ICON Social Summit

  The ICON Academy is proud to announce Dr. Paul Viollis, PH D will be delivering the keynote address at the 2nd Annual ICON Academy Social Summit, January 25 & 26, 2014 in Orlando, FL.  The Summit was created for members of the Executive Protection Community to network and discuss best practices in a contemporary […]