Close protection journey management involves operational planning, reconnaissance, security advance parties, route selection, and search procedures. We have discussed these topics elsewhere. So, here we will focus on foreign travel.
The close protection operative (CPO) must select the most appropriate mode of transport, whether travelling to a foreign destination or moving around “in-country”. The choice of road, sea, air or rail may vary depending on the threat, risk, size of the group, terrain, environmental, destination and duration of the journey.
Road transport runs the risk of delays and changes to plan caused by traffic, diversions, or other disruptions. Although good route selection can minimise the risk of incident or attack, a route without vulnerable points is rare. Carjacking is common in some countries, and road traffic collisions are a threat everywhere. Larger groups travelling in convoy always risk separation from the Principal vehicle or main convoy. It is relatively simple for adversaries to perform surveillance on road-mobile convoys. There are also many mechanical failures to consider and mitigate.
Whether travelling privately or using a commercial service, there is the threat of piracy. Also, depending on the size of the vessel, there may be limitations on team size and safe rooms or citadels may not be available. There is a risk of grounding, capsizing, or sinking, emergency response will take a long time to reach a boat out at sea.
Even private air transport is subject to strike actions, departure and arrival delays, and adverse weather conditions. These threats are enhanced if the budget only stretches to commercial air travel. Airport routines may be an unavoidable risk.
Railways around the World are famous for delays. Private rail transport is rare, the close protection team and Principal will be sharing facilities with unknown passengers on commercial services. Any number of people could be using the rail system and travel to and from the train will always involve an element of movement on foot in crowded often confined public spaces.
It is an unfortunate reality that many UK based close protection operatives (CPOs) will never experience working internationally as a CPO. More disturbing is the fact that many UK close protection companies falsify the truth about their actual overseas experience or footprint within another country. Having worked on one short assignment in a foreign country, often as a sub-contractor to a larger security company and having a PO box as a registered address within a foreign country does not make them a leading close protection company or operative within that country!
Any reputable close protection company carries out due diligence on potential new employees. The same onus should apply to the job seekers to check out their prospective new employers.
The term ‘smoke and mirrors’ is often associated with the close protection industry. The phrase is especially fitting to some companies and employees that claim to offer transport management services. It is possible to organise and arrange many services over the telephone or by email. Still, the most reliable source of journey management is to have someone on the ground and in-country.
Close protection operatives and companies need to gather information continually. Information is vital for the protection of Principals and staff on a global scale. Accepting an assignment in the South of France for the summer season does not mean that a CPO can switch off and stop gathering information. If anything, more information is required, as, most likely, the operatives will have never visited or operated in the country and will be out of their comfort zone.
Gather all the information that enables the protection of a Principal in the UK. This information is a starting point. Keep up to date with the UK Government Foreign Travel Advice. Information gathering must continue when travelling overseas, relative to the country to be visited.
Each country has its own set of laws that must be quickly learnt and understood. For example, what is the local employment law? Is the CPO even legally allowed to work in that country as a bodyguard?
Understanding the political status and religious customs of a country is vital in keeping both the Principal and the security operatives safe and secure. Understanding the local areas to be visited is essential. Operatives must know which areas to avoid due to crime and traffic, etc.
CPOs continually aim to make every move with a Principal as seamless and stress-free as possible. Still, once working in a foreign country, the risk of failure can increase.
Sending an SAP in advance to the country to be visited can reduce travelling assignment failures. The SAP will ensure that all plans are in place and correct. It is never wise to take someone’s word over the telephone or email that something requested is in place and what was asked for. That is a sure route to an embarrassing situation, such as the incorrect vehicle sitting on the tarmac on arrival at the private airport (fixed base of operations or FBO for short).
Journey management ideally also considers the local services that could be utilised. But, bear in mind the Principal’s profile, threat and risk assessment, also budget constraints.
Journey management relies on the information passed regarding the Principal’s itinerary and requirements. For example, will the Principal be flying privately or flying commercially?
Many airports have more than one FBO, so the CPO should make sure the vehicles are waiting at the correct one. A wise CPO will take advantage of VIP services if available. VIP service will assist a swift and seamless transfer from the aircraft to the awaiting vehicles with minimum interruptions or delays.
Also, consider employing a translator or local security operative/company to assist with arrival and for the duration of the assignment. Some countries are incredibly challenging to work in if you do not speak the local language. Using a translator or local security operative will also pay dividends in ensuring that information is gathered and translated correctly.
Journey management can involve arranging other services, such as:
The CPO must arrange for the correct vehicles:
The threat and risk assessment, Principal profile and any budget constraints will dictate the answers to these questions.
A Principal’s status may dictate the need for the assistance of local government forces such as the police or military. Each country’s Police force operates very differently. So research and liaison are required. It is not uncommon for an overzealous foreign police officer to insist on instructing a CPO on how to manage their Principal. Such interactions can test diplomacy skills!
A Principal’s status may automatically receive embassy assistance from the home country’s local embassy. This help can ensure a swift transfer through airport security and the assignment of local government forces. It may also hinder the CP team if they are provided with an untrained, Adhoc driver that is not used to working with a security team or high-profile individual.
Part of the requirements may be to arrange for additional local medics or Doctors to be on hand. It can be important to find a good contact at local medical facilities used to attending to Principal VIPs.
Technical surveillance counter-measures equipment is often transported around by larger security teams. However, it is not always possible to move such devices. So, having a local, trusted TSCM provider is a valuable asset.
Many close protection companies offer a tracking service to companies and their staff. Although mobile apps can be used, they generally rely on a strong Wi-Fi or GSM mobile phone network. GPS or satellite tracking systems are much more accurate and reliable.
Consider that a company offering to track a CPO or Principal must have a 24hr operations room. It is no good being tracked by one person in a different time zone who claims to have a 24hr operations room, who does not. Again, beware of the “smoke and mirrors”. Failure to notice a missed check-in could prove disastrous.
Consider the risk of kidnap and ransom (K & R) in the visited country. CPOs often overlook this risk. If there is a threat, then journey management should include a response service. Many reputable security companies offer a kidnap and ransom service along with training for staff or Principals that may find themselves in a kidnap and ransom situation. Also, CPOs should have the correct type of personal insurance!
Westminster Security provides professional close protection security services in London, the UK and worldwide.