Tag Archives: mark james

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.


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.































































Executive Protection Tools of The Trade


Just like building a house or repairing a car the right tools often make the job significantly easier.  While agents and operators possess varying skills levels your tools are designed to help enhance your operational capabilities and maximize your efficiency.  Below is a selection of commonly used tools in the free Forex workshops of the trade, which can help you, become more efficient in conducting your business.  They are listed in alphabetical order and not tactical importance.  Just as the situation should dictates your tactics, your individual skills, threat level, detail and environment should also help dictate your tools.  It is not expected that an agent would carry all of the tools listed below on every detail, but ideally the ones which best compliment the assignment.


Body Armor – sometimes the shield is more important than the sword.  It is a must have for protection specialists.  It is more important to not get you or your client shot, than it is to shoot, shooting is extra credit.  Personal armor is designed to absorb the impact from handguns, some shotgun projectiles and shrapnel from explosions.  All body armor is not created equal so please do your research.  Metal or ceramic plates can be used with a soft vest, to provide additional protection from rifle rounds.  Soft vests are commonly worn by protection specialists and law enforcement whereas hard-plate reinforced vests are mainly worn by combat soldiers, police tactical units, and other high risk protection teams.  Typically the slimmer the profile and lighter the weight the more expensive the vest will be.  Understand your vests rating capabilities – Level 1 through Level 3.  Most vests will provide minimal assistance against a knife slash, but almost no assistance against a stab or puncture.  There are some very good high tech vests which are stab resistant however they are priced accordingly.  Buy the best vest your budget can afford and upgrade as soon as practically possible.

Communications – in some cases a two way radio is a great communication tool in other cases a cell phone with a good Bluetooth ear piece is a better low profile communication option.  As the public is use to seeing professionals chatting on their cell phones.  Make sure if your cell phone or your PDA is your primary communication tool, make sure your cellular provider is as good as the rest of your equipment.   It doesn’t do you any good to have high tech phone or PDA and a low tech provider.  Make sure whether using a two way radio or cell phone your ear piece has good noise reduction capabilities.   During your advance work make sure your communications will work in the region you are traveling or in the event facility.  If working with a team, make sure you have hand signals in the event you lose verbal communications capabilities.


Credentials – one day someone is going to ask you to present them.  Don’t get yourself in legal trouble by working without the proper credentials.  Make sure you understand the carry and use of force laws in the states or countries you work in or will be traveling too.  Remember our job is to reduce risks and deal with threats.  Don’t create undue risks to yourself or your client.  Working without the proper credentials can land you in jail and get both you and your client sued.


Edged Weapons – can be used to cut or puncture things, they are also extremely useful in a close quarter deadly force situation.  They rarely malfunction and they never run out of ammunition.  Look for stainless steel knives with high carbon contents in the blade as it enhances sharpening and edge retention capabilities.  Also look for knives with non slip grips, hand guards and strong locking construction to minimize/eliminate lock failure.  I prefer knives which give you options in how you can wear the tool.  Many of the modern tactical folders also feature open assist devices that aid in faster deployment.  You want the ability to change the position of the clip to allow you to hang or wear the knife in your preferred pre-deployment position based on the situation.  Knife carry considerations and legality vary from state to state.  Don’t carry a felony.  Effective range 3 – 4 feet or within arm’s reach.


Expandable Baton – Provide psychological deterrence and can be devastatingly effective as a contact tool with proper training and user motivation.  They may also be used as a come along device or for glass break situations.  They can be deployed collapsed like a kubotan or extended as a defensive barrier tool.  They are used to intercept an adversary and can extend your defensive range by an additional 16 – 31 inches.  They primarily provide adherence through pain compliance.    Some of the more modern expandable batons also double as pepper spray dispensers.  Effective range is 3 – 6 feet.  Expandable batons are now losing some favor to other non lethal options; as some professionals voice concerns about potential excessive force liability.


Firearms – are like nuclear weapons once you release them, it is extremely difficult to recall them.  They are historically considered as a last option for many, but in the protective services business the threat level, environmental conditions and the actions of the perpetrator or adversary will often dictate your response.  You should become very familiar with the use of force laws and carry laws within your city, state or country.  Deadly force encounters are typically sudden and incredibly violent.  Most gunfights are over in 3 shots or less and with an elapsed time of roughly 3 seconds.  The cadence is often much faster than the participants anticipated.  I recommend a person carry the largest caliber they can shoot accurately.  Accuracy should always trump caliber size.  While there are many fine firearm manufacturers and calibers I prefer to stay with the more traditional calibers of 9 mm, .38, .40 and .45 caliber and larger modern gun manufacturers like Beretta, Colt, Glock, H&K, Kimber,  Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Springfield.  You will find a greater assortment of ammunition and proper fitting accessories (holsters, lights, lasers etc) with the larger brands and more popular calibers.


Handcuffs – provide increased control of violent aggressors.  Hinged handcuffs also provide increased lateral rigidity, while chain handcuffs provide enhanced flexibility in application particularly during confrontation.  They can also be used as an impact weapon if necessary.   Effective range 3 – 4 feet or within arm’s reach.


Impact Flashlights – Impact flashlights are multi-use tools.  They can be used as an illumination device to help keep your client from tripping in the dark or they can be used to temporary blind or disorient an adversary’s night-adapted vision.  Impact flashlights typically have hardened edges for use as a self-defense striking tool.  They neutralize the threat via pain compliance.  They are often allowable in environments where traditional weapons are not permissible.   Effective range 3 -4 feet as an impact weapon or within arm’s reach and 5 – 15 feet to blind or disorient.


Pepper Spray – is an inflammatory.  It works by irritating mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs, and causes crying, sneezing, coughing, hard breathing, pain in the eyes, temporary blindness.  The duration of its effects depends on the strength of the spray.  Without treatment the full effect lasts approximately thirty to forty-five minutes, with diminished effects lasting for hours.  Extreme caution should be used when deploying in small confined spaces or large crowds due to collateral damage to non combatants.


Pepper spray typically comes in canisters, which are often small enough to be carried and easily concealed.  Highly concealable pepper spray dispensers are usually effective only at very close range typically 3 -4 feet within arm’s reach.   The tool’s name is derived from the active ingredient oleoresin capsicum (OC).  OC derived from many of the hottest chili peppers in the world.  Unlike typical aerosol dispensers, the Kimber Guardian Angel pepper spray blaster emits two individual shots of a powerful OC mixture and allows you to keep an attacker at a distance, as it can be discharged from 13 feet away.  Powered by a pyrotechnic drive, the two independent charges travel at 90 mph and cover 13 feet in 1/10 of a second.


Stun Gun or Stun Knuckles – provides unparalleled psychological deterrence, as most people don’t like being on the other side of the juice.  They help extend your defensive capabilities and usually will keep you from having to break something or someone.  A stun gun is an electrical self-defense device that uses high voltage to stop an attacker through pain compliance.  Touching a person with the prongs on the stun gun or stun knuckles immobilizes quickly or helps create a reactionary/distance gap.   The stun gun is designed to adversely impact the nervous system. It dumps its energy into the muscles at a high pulse frequency that makes the muscles work very rapidly, but not efficiently.


A stun gun is not the same as a taser. A stun gun is a direct-contact weapon. In contrast, a taser delivers electrical shock remotely by means of barbed contacts connected by wires. The stun gun’s effective range as a contact weapon is 3 -4 feet or within arm’s reach.


Tasers – a taser is a conducted energy weapon that utilizes compressed nitrogen to shoot two small probes up to 15 feet. Industry-specific tests for safety and compliance are provided by compressed air testing lab. These probes are connected to the weapon by high-voltage insulated wire. When the probes make contact with the target, the weapon transmits powerful electrical pulses along the wires and into the body of the target.   The taser relies on neuro muscular incapacitation not pain compliance.   Tasers jam sensory and motor functions, which inhibits muscular control.  It can totally incapacitate upon impact regardless of the body part it touches.  Traditional firearms often require contact with a vital area to quickly neutralize a threat. In contrast to a hand gun, a taser’s advantage is that it typically requires far less practice to get a similar result.


Tasers are generally not designed to be used as direct contact weapons.  One of their major advantages is providing protection from a distance. However, many of the newer models are also designed with direct capabilities.  Another advantage of a taser is that they have been shown to be extremely reliable in taking down even the most aggressive adversaries.   A taser can even penetrate approximately two inches of clothing.  Because of their extreme effectiveness, tasers are considered to be one of the best choices among non lethal defense weapons available.  Effective range up to 15 feet.












Mark “Six” James is the Executive Director of Panther Protection Services and a published author on tactical weaponry.   For more information visit his site at www.PanterProtectionServices.com