• Roman Walde

The Bodyguard Myth (Part I) - The Real Qualities of Executive Protection Agents

By Roman Walde - Close Protection Agent, Former Swiss Police Officer, member with the International Association of Personal Protection Agents (IAPPA), Book Author, and Security Consultant

When the word bodyguard is heard, most people will unconsciously think of a typical cliché. In this article, you will learn what is true about it and what is not.

Executive, Close, or Personal Protection - What is this?

Black suit, white shirt, black tie, headphone in the ear and, the most important accessory: sunglasses. Regardless of whether it’s raining or dark, that one is a must. Muscle-packed, adventurous and immovable Rambos standing on the red carpet. When they see such pictures, ordinary people are misled to think that is all the job entails, be it on the private or the official side of things. A widespread stereotype believed to be true, unfortunately.

Furthermore, a growing problem in the industry is that there is an enormous number of security service providers that do not even bother studying the full scope of personal protection. Yet they feature the service on their websites for ridiculous prices.

Why is that so? In my opinion, there are two underlying reasons for such a behaviour: first, many security service providers believe they need to offer EVERYTHING in order to survive in the market and, second, it just sounds cool to say “I’m a bodyguard. I’m a bodyguard!”

But let’s deal with the basics first. How do you become a bodyguard? What are the legal requirements to being entitled to call yourself a bodyguard?

How countries regulate the profession

Usually, a security service provider is requested by law to only employ reliable individuals with no criminal records, debts or being in trouble with the police. Many countries require, officially or not, a formal instruction by an official body. In the UK it is the SIA, in the United Emirates it is the SIRA, and in Germany the IHK, just to mention some. These certifications, however, are no specific close protection training and education. The purpose of those measures is to ensure that professionals have been informed about and are familiar with the legal and professional requirements for security jobs in general.

A further aspect on this topic are the specific requirements for the use of weapons. In most states of the US, the majority of missions are conducted carrying a weapon. The procedure for earning a licence are similar to those of an ordinary citizen. In countries with more severe gun control regulations, the picture is very different. In the United Kingdom, for instance, no gun training is required at all. In Germany, where most missions do not even qualify for the right of bearing a weapon during the job, it is common but not mandatory to include weapons training and knowledge in the executive protection certification.

In my experience, individuals who only have completed this kind of training lack even the basic skills and knowledge of handling a weapon, let alone tactical procedures to use one.

Differences in Quality across the Personal Protection Industry

In the following, I would like to use an extremely simple but relevant example to demonstrate to what extent the work of professional bodyguards differs from the work of unqualified personnel in a small sample of what the job really is.

Let's focus solely on the topic of first aid or medical emergency care since they are of extreme importance in personal protection. Why? Most emergencies faced by bodyguards are of medical nature and that fact is a dangerously overseen aspect of the job.

The following points must be observed by professional personal protection agents, among many others:

  • What is their current level of training in terms of first aid, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) or how to use an AED (automated external defibrillator)?

  • Is personal equipment (tourniquet, gloves, CPR mask, rescue knife, glass breaker, etc.) available? Is it complete and ready to use at all times?

  • Is a tactical first aid bag (AED, Guedel tube, bandages, hemostasis material, medication, heart rate monitor, blood pressure and blood glucose meter, etc.) always near the protectee (vehicle / office / events)? Is the inventory complete and not expired? What about the batteries in the AED?

  • Is the protectee's blood type known? Are there any allergies to medication?

  • Are other allergies known? If so, is there an antidote available? What about EpiPen?

  • Has a hospital nearby been selected for the treatment of serious injuries? Has the route to it been studied/planned?

  • In case of travel: How is medical care regulated abroad? What about acquiring medication? What is the procedure in case of an emergency? Who needs to be notified? Who organizes the transportation? And so on..

True Qualities of Close Protection Agents

Being a bodyguard is much more than just living down to the cliché mentioned at the beginning. Thoroughness, reliability, a high degree of sensitivity, discretion, integrity and trust are required for the work as close protection agents. Moreover, they have to be good drivers, possess broad knowledge of the applicable laws, mental and physical fitness, mastery of weapons, and close-range fighting. Or, sometimes, just good communication skills, psychology and empathy. And this list is far from complete!

Now it is up to you to ask yourself the following question: "How well are my bodyguards trained and prepared for emergencies?"