Category Archives: Interviews

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.

Principal Protection, Lessons Learned Book Q&A

Principal Protection; Lessons Learned


A Q&A between Benjamin Alozie of the Summit Group  & R.E. “Rick” Colliver, Author of Principal Protection; Lessons Learned


First off, how did you come up with the title of the book, Principal Protection; Lessons Learned?

Good question, answerable in two parts…having been a student of the art since 1977 (my first detail was actually for President Gerald Ford in 1974, but I was a military “volunteer” for that one), I noticed how different schools and different protection personnel couldn’t agree on what it was we did for a living…Executive Protection, Dignitary Protection, Personal Protection etc. So I looked at what our job was and broke it down to the basics: we protect Principals. Henceforth, the course that we developed for the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy carried that name. Depending on where you find your career taking you, the skills you learn protecting a military officer in a combat theater can help you transition to protecting a corporate executive. The skills you learned protecting a Governor, could also prepare you to protect a football player or entertainer. You still protect Principals.

The second part of the answer is that we live in an era where people want to know “why” as often as they want to know “what”. In other words, why do we do something this way or that way”?   When you look at how protection has evolved over the past three thousand years, you’ll see that almost every significant development that got us where we are today, occurred as a result of someone getting assaulted or killed. As a matter of procedure, almost all of the big details require a debrief at the conclusion of every protection mission. This gives participants a chance to analyze what went right and what went wrong. Thus, we improve our performance and capabilities by analyzing “lessons learned”.

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t invent anything in the book…no patents on new technology, no major improvements in any process. All I did was bring together the teachings of a great many professionals who, every time they got bloodied on the job, got back up and figured out a new way to do things.


What inspired you to make the commitment to sit down and write the book?

Actually, it started out as handouts that we used in our protection classes to support lectures. Every year, the handouts got larger and larger, and one day the OPOTA course coordinator said, “Why don’t you write a book?” As I was driving home scratching my head, it suddenly hit me that I already had most of the research and material knocked out. I just put it all together…which probably explains why it won’t win any awards for impeccable continuity.


Please forgive me, however this is a serious question, in the digital age of YouTube and Facebook, do people even read anymore?

Good friend and Varro Press President Michael Nossaman and I have had several discussions about the trends in print vs. electronic media. I think we are seeing a gradual reduction in printed text and an increase in online sources and electronic readers like Kindle. The libraries of the past may soon fit into your pocket. With that in mind, I will be making Principal Protection; Lessons Learned available on Kindle after the first of the year. I am also working with an applications engineer and a former broadcast journalist to create an app for cell phones that will facilitate advance work and protective intelligence collation, while on the road.  More to follow on that!


What were some of the challenges that you encountered while writing the book?

Continuity and innovation. Because this was pieced together over a 15-20 year period, it was a challenge to make sure what made it into final print was current and accurate, and fit together with all the other pieces. Also, there have been a hundred or so books written about protection over the years and I wanted this one to be different. Unfortunately, as I said, there’s nothing “new” in there. I just took the old stuff and put it all together in a format that gives you what you need in a compact package. Hopefully though, we give readers a comprehensive reference that will help them do their jobs.


Why should Principal Protection; Lessons Learned, be on the read list of professionals in the industry?

This is not another “how-to” book on protection – it is more of a “why-to”. Security is one of the first line-items to get reduced in a corporate budget, because we aren’t seen as a profit center. Add to that the IRS Rule that makes some organizations report their EP costs in public filings, and we quickly see how the burden falls to provide adequate protection at minimal cost. This means that we can’t afford to send 4-agent details everywhere the Protectee goes. We have to manage protection according to anticipated risk, threat and exposure. Thus, if we can educate security managers with “why” we need to do things, then they can use their own creativity to implement successful protection plans even when they don’t have human assets on duty. Teaching people how to walk around in a Diamond formation, or how to ram a car, really doesn’t do this. Those are reactive skills, which, when you think about it are totally subordinate to our protective mission — which is to prevent intentional and unintentional harm from affecting the Protectee. We are hired to keep them out of harm’s way – not to stage dramatic rescues…spinning back-kicks…mid-air interception of speeding bullets and the like. Protection specialists need to have a personal toolbox full of both hard and soft skills. However, in the long run, the soft skills will keep you and your boss alive longer.


Are there any emerging security trends that you think Protectors need to take notice of in order to more successfully operate in the years to come?

Technologically, we are seeing more things done by video analytics that used to be done by humans. I encourage everyone to attend an ASIS conference sometime just to find out what kinds of new products are hitting the market. You need to be able to successfully integrate electronic and human security programs that support the Protectee’s business objectives, so that they will feel that you are adding value.

Protection specialists need to increase their personal training portfolios to include topics like Crisis Management, Disaster Response and Environmental Health and Safety. I know we all enjoy the hands-on training like shooting and car-spinning, but are we familiar with the difference between a rickettsia and a virus, or the various ways that anthrax can be introduced into the human system. Wouldn’t it be a shame that as we did our bomb sweep of the venue, we walked right past a chemical weapon because we didn’t know what it was? If you have a tornado or earthquake affecting thousands or millions of people, do you have a plan to get around?


Is there any other specific advice you would like to share with your audience beyond the pages of the book?

Build your network. Attend events like EPIC and the ICON Summit because that’s where you will meet people that can make your job easier. Take professional training from qualified schools because that will get your professional network started. When you complete an EP program, the people in your graduating class will be your friends and peers for the rest of your career!



R. E. “Rick” Colliver has served as the global security director for two multi-national corporations with operations in 24 time zones, and has managed protection details on four continents. He is the course developer and lead instructor in the Principal Protection program at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy and is an adjunct instructor in protective operations through several police, military and academic organizations. He has held security clearances with the US DoD and DHS, and serves as an advisory board member with the American Board for Certification in Dignitary and Executive Protection, and a Council Member for the Protective Security Council.

Benjamin Alozie is a member of the Summit Group and the International Director of ICON Global, responsible for the development and implementation of policies and procedures of the firms international operations.  Benjamin has extensive experience working on multiple continents with a special emphasis on Africa and Europe.  With a background that includes the ability to speak 7 different languages and multiple dialects, Benjamin has conducted long term Protective Assignments for Foreign Heads of States traversing the world.


Purchase Principal Protection; Lessons Learned HERE.  Meet Rick Colliver and discuss his book and other Executive Protection Industry Topics at the 2nd Annual ICON Academy Social Summit.  Learn more about the Summit HERE.




A Woman’s Perspective: ICON Executive Protection Course Review


The ICON Celebrity and VIP Protection Training Course is truly an essential course for anyone wanting to enter the industry of Executive Protection. A truly engaging program, from Day One, Elijah Shaw immerses his trainees in understanding the world of celebrity protection.

Through a combination of lecture, followed by hands-on drills, his teaching style is well-absorbed by
anyone willing to learn. Mr. Shaw and his staff present the course with real-world experiences,so trainees know what to expect, what not to do and not to do and more importantly how to prevent threatening situations from occurring and what to do when they do. I decided to take the course because I had an interest in becoming a bodyguard.

After researching for what seemed to be days on end, trying to find a training course that I felt would be most beneficial to me as a beginner. What’s more, the ICON course was the one of the few courses I’d seen that openly advertised and encouraged women to take their course. Although I had already been leaning toward training with ICON, just that small amount of encouragement solidified my decision. I was truly happy in my decision because since my first inquiry for information, I received a prompt response and felt welcomed.

I felt the same welcoming environment throughout the course. The course is set up to give you the essentials needed to get started in the industry. As I stated before, the course is completely immersive and drills into you the main objective: protecting the principle. The course trains you to constantly think critically about your situation and environment and how to be proactive. It trains you on how protecting isn’t always matching or one-upping force, which particularly hit home and was a challenge for me, coming from previous law enforcement training and working in private security. Most importantly, it introduces you to the demanding nature of the job and how to remain on your game through mental, physical and emotional fatigue. Remembering,  “Mindset is Key.”

Overall, my experience was truly amazing. I would recommend ICON’s Celebrity and VIP Protection course to all men and women looking to get into the industry, as well as currently active protection agents. If you’re looking for real-life, in your face, no fluff training, ICON Services Corporation is where you want to begin. Coming from a law enforcement and private security background, this course instilled in me the true meaning of protection and gave me the foundation on how to build my skills to master the art of protection.

Bryttani Tyner
April 2013 CPC Alumni

Vehicle Embussing/Debussing Drills. Practiced over and over to achieve proficiency.


To learn more about the ICON Academy Executive Protection Course, click HERE.

ICON Executive Protection Training – An International Student’s Perspective

“After being interested in the line of work for a long time, I started doing some research on some good training courses in the US, thinking that US would be the best place to at least get the basics in – even though I want to work in Europe. Starting with looking through YouTube, and found some informative clips… Doing some more research, I found very good reviews about ICON and its instructors on different forums on the internet. In addition to the company, searches for “Elijah Shaw” – gave some pretty impressing facts about the chief instructor that wasn’t just your standard corporate boilerplate.

After exchanging a series of  emails, back and forward with Elijah,  I was convinced that I wanted to attend this training course, and selected the ICON Celebrity & VIP Protection Course.  So the process with ordering airplane tickets started, and arranging some time free from work. Then I could just start the countdown, eagerly just waiting for the day that I would get on the airplane, that would bring me the long way to Atlanta, USA.

I got on board the first leg of the long trip with a strange feeling in my stomach  – Investing that amount of money, time and energy, you want to make sure that you get a high quality product back! Going on board the 2th leg of my journey, I felt the “strange” feeling converting into something complete different – Thinking back on the emails, reviews and the YouTube videos that I had spent several hours of reading, and rereading, watching and re watching – I felt proud that I was taking this step, and even more motivated than ever to start the course.

The first day, started of easily – getting to meet some of the instructors and of course the class its self. Going around and presenting our self to each other, I was amazed to meet a guy originating from the same country as I come from, and I guess he was quite impressed that someone could pronounce his name right the rest of the training!

The training was a really nice mix of theory, hands on, physical and mental. Staying on the edge of my seat, writing notes as the instructors told about their experiences and what other people do in the industry now, and not for 20 years ago – I felt the motivation gradually increasing even more. All of the course attendees kept together as good team, helping each other step by step. The instructors keep the students involved all the time, in that way nobody was afraid to ask those “stupid” questions, which were always answered in a way that encouraged growth.

The 5 days went by so quick, ending in what I learned was a first of it’s kind “Summit” on the Sunday –  At the 1st Annual ICON Social Summit, I had the chance to meet even more current Operators, with real experiences and who had a great attitude and accepted “newbies” into the fold with open arms. After spending hours together with the summit participants and  getting some great contacts, the evening finally came to a close, and I found myself  in the car on the way back to the hotel for my last night in Atlanta.

Waking up on the day after the summit, I started to look back on what was both a grueling and intensive 5 days, and the only thing I could summarize it with was…  Great training, great instructors, great class and exactly what I was looking for when I got on the airplane to Atlanta – A great introduction of the aspects of working close protection within the celebrity & VIP Protection world.

Back home and charting my future plans, I’ve  already started to see when I would be able to attend the Advanced Course!

To the staff of ICON and the real world instructors (Benjamin Alozie, Erik Konohia, Mark James, Raffaele Di Giorgio), who gave days out of their working schedules to educate, thanks for the training! Elijah, you’re a great instructor with the right temperament and experiences for this training – And together with the rest of the instructors create a useful toolbox to design a very good road map into this business.”

~ M.O. , Scandinavia

ICON Social Summit Review and Recap

The ICON Executive Protection Academy kicked 2013 off with a bang.  In January we ran our well established Celebrity & VIP Protection Course immediately followed by our Advanced Executive Protection Course for those who were looking for continuing training in the close protection industry.  Sandwiched in between the two courses was our first Annual ICON Social Summit.  The Summit itself made waves, having originally been conceived to bring ICON Alumni of the previous years together to discuss best practices and network.  We tried to keep word of the Summit relatively under wraps (Prior to the event, I didn’t even do a Blog posting on it) however as word spread, we started getting inundated with request from industry peers who were also interested in attending.

One of the big draws to what came to be a by invitation only, sold out event, was our impressive lineup of guest speakers which had the distinction of having subject matter experts as speakers who were actually ACTIVE in the Protection field on a full-time basis.  (As my friend Tony Scotti would say, “What a concept”?)  The speaker roster included:

Mark JamesInternationally published author and CEO of Panther Protective Services

Eric Konohia:  CEO of BPI Security

Benjamin Alozie:  ICON Director of International Operations  

Raffaele Di Giorgio:  CEO of Global Options and Solutions 

Raffaele also had the distinction of traveling the furthest to be at the Summit, scheduling his time back in the US from an assignment in the Middle East around it.  Further enhancing the flavor and overall spirit of unity was the welcome presence of graduates of several other industry schools which included Executive Security International (ESI) the Executive Protection Institute (EPI) and the International Academy of Executive Protection Agents (IAEPA) as well as many members of the North American Bodyguard Association (NABA).


With a sold out attendee list and a full day of seminars (which included a few surprises) the Summit switched gears slightly to move to the “social” phase which was a chance for new Protectors to meet, old associates to get reacquainted, and those that knew each other solely from social media to finally put a real face to the virtual one.   The laughs were many, the exchange of contact information was frequent, and the amount of people that used the access of liquor at the nearby bar to damage their credibility was nil.


Immediately following the Summit, I launched into Day 1 of the ICON Advanced Executive Protection Course, so the feedback on what everyone thought was sporadic for me; however upon its conclusion I was able to truly get a sense that those in attendance appreciated the presentations and flow of the day and were looking forward to more in the future.  In fact, in addition to Summit presenter Eric Konohia’s Blog article on his experiences,  one able bodied Protector in attendance even took the time to do a video review.  Find it HERE.

With all of this said, the Summit Group is well into planning the 2nd Annual ICON Social Summit, and hope to continue to find new and creative ways to unite and strengthen the Executive Protection industry.  (Not counting the virtual fistfight almost broke out on the North American Bodyguard Association Facebook Page about where to hold the next Summit, but I digress…)

It truly warmed my heart to interact with a room full of like minded individuals who took the time out of their schedules to attend, and it is my hope that the best practices discussed and networking opportunities presented help make life easier for the men and women that risk their well being to engage in the business of Executive Protection.

Elijah Shaw~ ICON

To see a photo gallery of the 1st Annual ICON Social Summit Click HERE.

To get more information about the 2nd Annual ICON Social Summit Click HERE.


VIP Travel Pro Nikia Morales Talks International Travel Considerations


Nikia Morales is the Owner of The Travel Agency a VIP travel agency that specializes in working with Celebrities, Entertainment Executives and other High Net Worth individuals.   She recently took the time to share with readers some of her observations on the premium travels service industry and it’s relationship with security.

So descriptive name notwithstanding, what exactly is The Travel Agency? 

The Travel Agency is a full service boutique agency specializing in the unique needs of clients in the entertainment industry.  We offer a full suite of services tailored to each client’s logistic requirements.  We create unique experiences wherever our client’s needs dictate, be it touring, one/offs, production or executive day to day.

Can you describe the profile of the type of client you service? 

Our clients are VIPs of the Entertainment Industry…Artists, Tour Managers, Label Executives and Management/Talent Agency Executives.  Because of their unique lifestyle, these individuals have unique needs and require a Travel Management Company willing to service their accounts accordingly.

Wouldn’t a celebrity or executive just have an assistant book the travel directly with the airline?

When a celebrity or executive calls me it’s traditionally because their travel needs have exceeded a simple on-line booking platform (ie orbitz, travolocity, etc).  Most Assistants don’t have the time to manage the travel of a busy celebrity or executive, not to mention the plethora of changes and details that go along with moving VIPs from point A to B to C and sometimes more.  In addition to the confidentiality, a service like mine provides a one-stop shop option in Travel Management.  This includes, providing reports for accounting, negotiated hotel rates, and detailed flight options that range from the least expensive to the most comfortable.  In addition, direct routing and detailed movement spreadsheets are prepared for the convenience of Management and Security.

Do you see a value in using airport VIP Services? 

There is a huge value in using VIP Airport Services.  These Greeters will have access to restricted areas and have key knowledge on how to navigate the airport with minimal fan interference or long delays in customs and security.  Airport Greeters help to streamline the process and connect all the dots from ground transportation to gate arrival and everything in between.  I’ve found them very helpful with outside of the norm request like last minute prescription delivery and getting un-ticketed bodyguards security passes to the gate so that they can receive their clients.  The key is to have a relationship with a VIP Service provider that has reliable contacts worldwide.

Besides the Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s of the world, are there any locations you see an influx of executive or VIP  travel that you would consider dangerous?

Brazil, South Africa and Russia are places that I’m seeing an increase of Entertainment focused travel that have heightened security concerns.  All of the above countries are relatively poor and there is a very high occurrence of personal crime as well as tenuous relationships between the ruling government and the common people.  While you guys are the experts, my advice is to try and always have the client stay in the hotel chosen for you with help of the local resource and your travel agent.

You interact with Client Security (Bodyguards) as part of their planning the Security Advance.   Do you feel that is necessary, or do you ever get the feeling security is “stepping on your toes” in planning trips?

We are part of one team. I find that when it all goes down The Team (Tour Managers, Managers, Assistants, Security, Travel) are so focused in our respective roles that the only “ego” that matters is that of our mutual client.

Can security personnel reach out directly to a service like yours, particularly internationally? 

Yes.  However, it’s vital that travel is all run through the same source. Streamline communication is very important as the less people you have to deal with in logistic coordination the better.

With international travel, what’s a solid tip that your client’s (and their security) should live by? 

Always be respectful of another Country’s customs and be aware of the political environment before you arrive.







For additional VIP and Executive travel Information including bookings, Nikia Morales can be reached at:

Style Guru Keith Dorsett talks about dressing the modern bodyguard

Keith Dorsett is a corporate wardrobe stylist and owner of Elsworth Menswear. From the boardroom to the golf course, Mr. Dorsett works with a number of executives and high net worth individuals making sure they are dressed correctly for the occasion. In his 20+ years in the industry, he also has had the distinction of dressing many in the Executive Protection industry. In light of his unique perspective, we asked Keith to take a moment to share with us some of his Rules of Style.

In your opinion how important does proper dress fit into the role of Executive Protection?

I think that proper dress is extremely important in the world of Executive Protection. I say this because in order to protect one must be very detailed and precise.  This enables one to blend in. At the corporate executive level people tend to dress well or travel to places and events were the proper look is required. This would also include high net worth individuals and of course celebrities.  At a prestigious event, your goal is not to look like “the help”, protectors do so much more. Bodyguards are responsible for protecting the well being of others, to do that you need to be in close proximity.  No high powered executive wants his security staff sitting in on a tense acquisitions meeting in a ratty black suit with brown socks on.

How does a bodyguard choose a suit, particularly if you are not on your clients near unlimited budget?

Custom tailoring does not have to be expensive, even though the majority of the population thinks it is.  The first thing to know is what exactly “custom” means. Custom tailoring or Bespoke, generally involves taking several measurements which could equal up to about 4 visits. Most of what is now called custom is really “made to measure” and that should not be very expensive, but what it produces is an excellent fit.  When I see the Secret Service, their suits look much the same as the President, but I’m certain they don’t cost the same. At my shop we have quality Made to Measure suits that are available in the range of $350-$500 dollars, and the guys I’ve dressed have stood on the same podium as Heads of State.

Considering so much of the job involves travel in a suit (airplanes, cars, etc.) any tips for reducing wrinkles? Are there certain Fabrics your recommend for the profession?

The fabric that I would most recommend for the profession would be a wool/rayon blend. The rayon would help with fewer wrinkles in the suit when traveling and the wool will help the suit breathe. Wool will also clean better and does not require the frequent cleaning other fabrics might following weeks and weeks of working an assignment.

While much more prevalent in the entertainment sector, what are your thoughts on the “white t shirt and sneakers” outfits some bodyguards (“buddy guards”) have adopted as a de facto uniform?

Just because your client is wearing crisp white sneakers does not mean that you should.  Maybe on the basketball court or a boat, but he or she is your client, not your friend. As a Protector you want to portray a professional image at all times. It sends a mental signal to others, so what exactly are you trying to convey?

Any rules of style tips you can share?

The most important tip in dressing is to always have your clothes fit you no matter what size you are.  The proper wardrobe means you will not only look great, but you will feel great.  That translates into being able to perform at the highest level at all times.  Just how marksmanship is a skill that bodyguards hone, so is dressing. Look the part and be the part.


Keith Dorsett, Corporate Stylist at Elsworth Menswear can be reached at 612-339-0763 or at


Student Experiences Following ICON Executive Protection Training


“The  material taught is drawn from actual, relevant Protection experience , presented in a way that is easy to understand and easy to absorb. Without giving too much away, the rotation of classroom sessions, physical demonstrations, and scenario training forces the students to be active participants in their own learning.  In addition to Mr. Elijah Shaw, the  co-instructors were also top notch.  While their approaches to teaching the material were different, their personal investment in making sure that the lessons taught were retained by the students was evident throughout our time there. The Real World vs. Text Book approach is lacking in most of today’s training courses. It is the Real World experiences that help us grow as individuals and security personnel, and ICON’s focus on this aspect was both refreshing and enlightening.”

Miguel DeCoste 

Owner, Coast Executive Services


“Icon provides a memorable experience that will follow you through the course of your career. Each phase of training will prepare an individual for a variety of situations, from providing protection services for a celebrity to escorting a corporate client into a high risk part of the world.  Having spent every moment of my adult life in the United States Marine Corps, in a unit that would train and engage in warfare in hostile environments and conduct operations in foreign countries, I was still challenged, and at times, tested to my limits.  One particular aspect of the Icon course that stuck in my head was the concept of “Real World vs. Text Book”; which ICON uses as fantastic teaching method illustrating the differences between what one reads and adhere to as “gospel”, and how the actual application may differ when presented with the same situation in three dimensions. As the days pressed on, and hours extend, the instructors delved deep into the world of personal protection and brought up a colossal amount of valid points, tough scenarios, and real world personal experiences that aid the understanding of fundamentals.  By the end, not only have you learned a substantial amount, but you have access to the extraordinary and diverse Alumni association with members all over the globe.”

 Michael K. Moreland


“Just when you think you have it figured, you’re wrong.  Coming from a Law Enforcement background and already actively working in the field, I thought I knew the ends and outs of protecting. I won’t go as far as to say I didn’t, but Elijah has taught me to “Unlearn to Succeed.”  The Advance Executive Protection training course is a must attend. The real world scenarios from someone continuously active in the business is invaluable. I would recommend this to any and all.  With that said, be ready to test yourself mentally as well as physically.  This is a true masters class.”

 Kevin Ghee

Owner, PresidiumEPS Inc.


“I want to thank the ICON Instructor Cadre and staff for their support and involvement during my time in the program.  I feel the insight given about the executive protection industry alone heavily outweighed the cost of the course.  Even with a background in military Special Operations, I found there was so much to learn, yet your team helped us develop a strong foothold and understanding in a short time.  I greatly admired how Icon got straight to the point and cut out all the bull.  If only other other organizations operated as efficiently as ICON does.”



For more information on the ICON Academy Executive Protection Programs, including our financial aid and scholarship packages, click HERE.

Next courses:  January 16-20, 2013 & January 21-30, 2011


The Choice: Celebrity vs. Executive Protection

Quite recently when I read about how World Protection Group executive protection has been taking over the private security of many popular names in various industry, it took me straight back to the first matrix movie.

Everyone’s seen The Matrix right?  Morpheus is standing in front of you, extends his hand and gives you a choice: Blue or Red.  The Blue Pill leads to a stable career in Corporate Executive Protection— more often than not, standard hours, reasonable expectations and a healthy benefits package.   Alternatively, the Red pill takes you down the rabbit hole to the wild and unpredictable world of Celebrity Security.  Long hours, temperamental clients, and a job description that includes pretty much everything but the kitchen sink.  For those of us who have entered this industry with the strong desire to apply our skills to protecting others in the most professional manner possible, it’s almost a no brainer, correct?

I mean, give me the corporate stuff, right?  Send me on my way and let me cash my paycheck at the end of the week.  Seriously, who in their right mind would want to deal with actors and their egos, or even worse, musicians with their quirks, or even worse than worse RAPPERS and their entourages, particularly if the revenue generated is the same???

But maybe that’s not the case.   Maybe there are some that find the world of protecting entertainers stimulating in a way that they just would not get in the more subdued assignments that would accompany working day in and out with the Chief Executive Officer of a corporation.   I’m not talking about the “knuckle draggers” or the “buddy-guards” either, I’m thinking of men and women who have the look, training and demeanor to slide right into a “Blue Pill” position and succeed.  They make a conscious choice to work Celebrity Protection and are happy with it.

I’m sometimes referred to as a bit of an anomaly in the fact that I actively pursue and enjoy working with both client types.   I’m able to make the transition between the personalities and protocols, and enjoy the change of pace and variety.  A short time ago I was laughing with my staff that at the beginning of the week I was working with the senior executives of one of the United States largest corporations and by the weekend I was fending off overenthusiastic fans that tried to stop my entertainment client in the middle of a busy street for an autograph.

So having established that there are some Operators who do both, I also find it interesting that in the industry as a whole there is usually an invisible line drawn in the sand and depending on which side of the fence you are on, rarely do the two cross.  A big part of that is perception.  I hope the efforts by others and myself who are involved not only with working with celebrities, but also getting information out about the successes associated with this niche market have helped with that.   The media gives us a steady diet of horror stories; Celebrity X’s bodyguard punches out a Paparazzi.  Entertainer Y’s security has decided to write a “tell all” book, so of course that paints a picture that all clients in this area are extremely difficult or that any agent working with them is little more than an untrained, ex-football player.

Over the years, I have spoken  at major industry conferences (The Protective Security Conference the International Executive Protection Conference, & EPIC) on topics related to Celebrity & VIP Protection, and after each presentation I was greeted by trained individuals who wanted to do more in that segment of the market.   They simply hadn’t thought past the horror stories and stereotypes, and realized that there were great opportunities for Operators with the right skills to make their mark.

Make no mistake about it, I also had a fair share of Protectors who patted me on the back and said, “great lecture, but better you than me.  I just don’t have the tolerance level”.  I understand that completely, and I think that’s much better than the person who says the can live in both worlds but strikes out horribly when given the chance.  I just think the industry is big enough to encompass all facets including Celebrity Protection, Executive Protection, Dignitary & Religious Figures and so on.  Thinking about it, I suppose if Neo had of taken the Blue Pill in the movie he would have had a lot less headaches, but it also would have been quite a bit shorter.

You can read more of my personal views on the Executive Protection Industry in every issue of The Circuit Magazine where I write a regular column entitled, Keeping Your Edge.   Find it HERE.


Industry Spotlight: Executive Protection Agent Bill Peeler


Icon – 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:         Bill Peeler

Company Name:  The Peeler Group, Inc. DBA Peeler Group International


Home city:            Albany, New York


What is your background Protection industry?

I got my start while working as a Deputy Sheriff, I was asked to spend some time working with our Superior Court to provide Personal Protection for our Justices  while on and off the bench. In addition to this, then V.P. Bush, lived in our jurisdiction so my duties both in the public and private sector allowed me assignments to perimeter post in support of the Secret Service mission, which of course I found very intriguing.  Not uncommon then and now, I found as a police officer that I  needed to subsidize my income through moonlighting in security, this brought me to my very first client which was a wealthy family from the New England area. I provided travel security for the family and managed security to twenty plus events/cities each summer for the family business.  After leaving law enforcement I worked for a fortune company in investigations, assessments, training and protection for VIP’s and special events. Since my start I find that the core of my clients are from corporate or government backgrounds, although I have worked with Principles from fashion, sports and entertainment industries. Aside from protection and investigation operations, over the years I have provided presentations regarding Risk Assessment, Emergency Preparedness, Mitigation and Recovery to federal government agencies and the private sector.

You also run a training course, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Sure, since the early to mid 90s I have been providing state required certification to security guards through the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, and since its creation, the Enhanced Security Program offered by the New York State Office of Homeland Security. In addition to this we offer both law enforcement and security firearms training, as well as NRA firearm programs to the general public. As an introduction to Executive Protection, for those individuals with interest in entering the field, we offer a one day introductory class to EP. This allows us to not only offer a glimpse of the field to those interested, but it also allows us to view perspective employees for our more lengthy in-house program. A number of times throughout the year I work with a vocational school in providing instruction and certification to high school students who wish to enter the security or law enforcement fields. We will soon be expanding on our courses offered and the states we will be serving.

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

Wow, where to begin? During the rebuilding of Iraq I worked as a team leader for the protection of an organization traveling within the country. I had the very distinguished honor of being asked to speak to about a hundred Iraqi Chiefs of Police as a result of my training to the Iraqi police officers and Ministry of Defense Protection teams. These memories, for me, are the ones that you know are historic, working with the “Internal Affairs” Chief in Iraq on day one of its existence, the division was so new the sign was hand-written on the door at headquarters. But truthfully, the best experience is watching the individuals who have worked for me make a mark on their own. I find it very rewarding to have a young person come to work for me and watch them move on to more responsibilities with our organization or others. The one person that has given me my most proud experience is my son. He came to work for our uniformed security division when he was 18, he then entered the US Air Force where he was assigned to protect ranking officers while in Iraq and later POTUS missions. I had an opportunity to have him come back to work a Detail with me in the Midwest, where I assigned him to drive a 60 Minutes TV crew, one of the crew members complimented him in his professionalism, to which he simply replied, my dad would not have me be any other way”.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

If the answer to this could one word, it would be “Entitlement”. We observe Entitlement throughout the industry from the agent who is working with a client and who allows it to become more about him or herself, to the instructors who have forgotten how to humble themselves and spend far too much time building their own ego while tearing others down. You can have the “A” type personality without the rest. Agents need to do the “job” and forget the rest, and instructors need to build people for our future and not themselves by short stopping others.

To someone coming up after you in the industry, what advice would you give?

Take the time to learn the trade. Truly study the fundamentals of our business before setting out to tackle the world, and then train! To fall back on what I have been taught, hard work and diligence will be recognized and rewarded after time… You need to have the “can do attitude”. Align yourself with individuals who are positive thinkers and who are going to support you in reaching your goals. In this business common sense can be your best friend, the problem is it is not that common. Learn about the world around you, as an EP agent you are expected to know anything and everything at times. The manner in which you conduct your personal life will be shown in the way you are able to perform in your job. If I am picking you up at the airport and you do not know if you are at departures or arrivals, or terminal A or B, how will you get to the next job, more importantly how will you know where you need to get your client, as I said, know the world around you. Finally, stay away from the many pitfalls you will encounter, i.e. Substance use, women, men, and of course the offer to undercut employers. Above all else enjoy, what you do and be the best you can be at what you do.

Personal Protection Specialist Bill Peeler can be reached at (518) 853-8837 Or Email: