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Definition of Security
A Bodyguard (or close protection officer) is a type of security operative or government agent who protects a person—usually a famous, wealthy, or
politically important figure—from assault, kidnapping, assassination, stalking, loss of confidential information, terrorist attack or other threats.
Most important public figures such as heads of state or governors are protected by several bodyguards or by a team of bodyguards from an agency,
security forces, or police forces (e.g., in the US, the United States Secret Service or the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service). In
countries where the head of state is a military leader or dictator, the leader's bodyguards may also be part of an elite military unit.
Less-important public figures, or those with lower risk profiles, may be accompanied by a single bodyguard who doubles as a driver. A number of
high-profile celebrities and CEOs also use bodyguards.
The role of bodyguards is often misunderstood by the public, because the typical layperson's only exposure to body guarding is usually in highly
dramatized action film depictions of the profession. In contrast to the exciting lifestyle depicted on the film screen, the role of a real-life
bodyguard is much more mundane: it consists mainly of planning routes, pre-searching rooms and buildings where the client will be visiting,
researching the background of people that will have contact with the client, searching vehicles, and attentively escorting the client on their
Breakdown of responsibilities
The role of a bodyguard depends on several factors. First, it depends on the role of a given bodyguard in a close protection team. A bodyguard can be
a driver-bodyguard, a close-protection officer (who escorts the client), or part of an ancillary unit that provides support such as IED detection,
electronic "bug" detection, counter-sniper monitoring, pre-searches facilities, and background-checks people who will have contact with the client.
Second, the role of a bodyguard depends on the level of risk that the client faces. A bodyguard protecting a client at high risk of assassination
will be focusing on very different roles (e.g., checking cars for IED devices, bombs, watching for potential shooters, etc.) than a bodyguard
escorting a celebrity who is being stalked by aggressive tabloid photographers (e.g., the role will be to ask the photographers to maintain their
distance and block the path of aggressive cameramen). Some bodyguards specialize in the close quarter protection of children of VIPs, to protect
them from kidnapping or assassination, a role which is nicknamed "mannyguarding" (a pun on the word "nanny").
In some cases, bodyguards also drive their clients. Normally, it is not sufficient for a client to be protected by a single driver-bodyguard,
because this would mean that the bodyguard would have to leave the car unattended when they escort the client on foot. If the car is left unattended,
this can lead to several risks: an IED bomb may be attached to the car; an electronic "bug" may be attached to the car; the car may be sabotaged; or
city parking officials may tow away the vehicle or place a wheel lock on the tire. If parking services tow away or disable the car, then the bodyguard
cannot use the car to escape with the client in case there is a security threat while the client is at his or her meeting.
The driver should be trained in evasive driving techniques, such as executing short-radius turns to change the direction of the vehicle,
high-speed cornering, and so on. The car used by the client will typically be a large sedan with a low center of gravity and a powerful engine,
such as a BMW or Mercedes Benz. At a minimum, the vehicle should have ballistic glass, some type of armor reinforcement to protect the client from
gunfire, and a foam-filled gas tank. "Run-flat" tires and armor protection for the driver are also desirable.
The car may also be equipped with an additional battery; dual foot pedal controls, such as those used by driving instruction companies (in case the
driver is wounded or incapacitated), a PA system with a microphone and a megaphone mounted on the outside of the car, so that the driver can give
commands to other convoy vehicles or bodyguards who are on foot; fire extinguishers inside the vehicle in case the vehicle is struck by a Molotov
cocktail bomb or other weapon; a reinforced front and rear bumper, to enable the driver to ram attacking vehicles; and additional mirrors, to give
the driver a better field of view.
Weapons and weapon tactics
Depending on the laws in a bodyguard's jurisdiction and on which type of agency or security service they are in, bodyguards may be unarmed, armed
with a less-lethal weapon such as a baton, pepper spray, or Taser, or with a lethal weapon such as a handgun, or, in the case of a government
bodyguard for a Secret Service-type agency, a machine pistol. Some bodyguards such as those protecting high ranking government officials or
those operating in high risk environments such as war zones may carry sub-machine guns or assault rifles .
In addition to these weapons, a bodyguard team may also have more specialist weapons to aid them in maintaining the safety of their principal, such
as sniper rifles and anti-material rifles (for anti-sniper protection) or shotguns (either loaded with buckshot as an anti-personnel weapon or with
solid slugs as an anti-vehicle weapon).
The weapons used by the US Secret Service Counter Assault Team (CAT) include SIG Sauer P229 pistols; Uzi submachine guns (sometimes in an attaché
case); H&K MP5K submachine guns (sometimes in an attaché case); Colt AR-15 assault rifles; Remington Model 700 bolt-action sniper rifles (with scope);
7.62mm Vaime SSR Mk 2 suppressed bolt-action sniper rifles; McMillan Model 87R bolt-action sniper rifles; Remington Model 870P pump-action shotguns;
and the FN P90 personal defense weapon.
Bodyguards that protect high-risk principals may wear body armor such as kevlar or ceramic vests. The bodyguards may also have other ballistic
shields, such as kevlar-reinforced briefcases or clipboards which, while appearing innocuous, can be used to protect the principal. The principal may
also wear body armor in high-risk situations.
Counter-sniper weapons and tactics
For a close protection officer, the primary tactic against sniper attacks is defensive: avoid exposing the principal to the risk of being fired upon.
This means that the principal should ideally be within an armored vehicle or a secure structure. As well, when the principal moves between a vehicle
and a building, the principal must be moved quickly to minimize the time window in which a sniper could take a shot and use a flanking escort of close
protection officers to block the view of the sniper and any potential shot that the sniper may take. The use of offensive tactics against snipers will
occur very rarely in a bodyguard context. Nevertheless, some bodyguard units do have anti-sniper weapons, such as the US Secret Service Counter
Assault Team, which is equipped with several sniper rifles.
A bodyguard team protecting a high-profile politician who is at risk of attack would be based around escorting the client from a secure residence
(e.g., an embassy) to the different meetings and other activities he has to attend during the day (whether professional or social), and then to escort
the client back to his residence.
Planning and assigning responsibilities
The day would begin with a meeting of the bodyguard team led by the team leader. The team would review the different activities that the client plans
to do during the day, and discuss how the team would undertake the different transportation, escorting, and monitoring tasks. During the day, the
client (or "principal") may have to travel by car, train, and plane and attend a variety of functions, including meetings and invitations for meals
at restaurants, and do personal activities such as recreation and errands. Over the day, the client will be exposed to a range of risk levels,
ranging from higher risk (meeting and greeting members of the public at an outdoor rally) to low risk (dining at an exclusive, gated country club
with high security).
Some planning for the day would have begun on previous days. Once the itinerary is known, one or more bodyguards would travel the route to the
venues, to check the roads for unexpected changes (road work, detours, closed lanes) and to check the venue. The venue needs to be checked for bugs
and the security of the facility (exits, entrances) needs to be inspected. As well, the bodyguards will want to know the names of the staff who will
have contact with the client, so that a simple electronic background check can be run on these individuals.
An hour prior to leaving with the client to his first appointment, the driver-bodyguard and another bodyguard remove the cars that will be used to
transport the client from the locked garage and inspect them. There may be only one car for a lower risk client. A higher risk client will have
additional cars to form a protective convoy of vehicles that can flank the client's vehicle. The vehicles are inspected before leaving.
Transferring client to vehicle
Once the cars have been inspected and they are deemed to be ready for use, they are brought into position near the exit door where the client will
leave the secure building. At least one driver-bodyguard stays with the cars while waiting, because the now-searched cars cannot be left unattended.
If the convoy is left unattended, an attacker could attach an IED or sabotage one or more of the cars. Then the bodyguard team flanks the client as
he moves from the secure residence to his car.
The convoy then moves out towards the destination. The team will have chosen a route or two and in some cases it may involve 3 routes that are
designated for travel along, which avoids the most dangerous "choke points", such as one-lane bridges or tunnels, because these routes have no way
of escape and they are more vulnerable to ambush. In some cases, if the client has to travel by train, the bodyguards will inspect the rail car they
are traveling in and the other cars he/she will use. Traveling by transport other than vehicle is very dangerous because of the lack of control over
Arrival at destination
When the convoy arrives at the location, one or more bodyguards will exit first to confirm that the location is secure and that the staff who were
booked to work that day are the ones who are present. If the location is secure, these bodyguards signal that it is safe to bring in the client.
The client is escorted into the building using a flanking procedure. If the client is attending a private meeting inside the building, and the
building itself is secure (controlled entrances) the client will not need to have a bodyguard escort in the building. The bodyguards can then pull
back to monitor his or her safety from a further distance. Bodyguards could monitor entrances and exits and the driver-bodyguard watches the cars.
If the client is moving about in a fairly controlled environment such as a private golf course, which has limited entrances and exits, the security
detail may drop down to one or two bodyguards, with the other bodyguards monitoring the entrances to the facility, the cars, and remaining in contact
with the bodyguards escorting the client. Throughout the day, as the client goes about his activities, the number of bodyguards escorting the client
will increase or decrease according to the level of risk.
Return to secure location
After the day's activities, the client will be brought back to the secure residence location. Exiting from the vehicle and walking to the door
exposes the client to risk, that is why you keep the distance as short as possible to cut down the time it takes to reach the door. Once the client
is inside, the bodyguards assigned to the overnight detail will take up their positions outside or inside the residence. The vehicles are then parked
in a locked garage (to prevent tampering, sabotage, or IED placement). Some team members may spend additional time doing maintenance on the equipment
used by the team. The TL (team leader) will ensure that all equipment is checked and packed away for the next day and ensure the radios are being
charged for the next day's operation.
Bodyguards often work long shifts in order to provide 24-hour protection, and shifts often include evenings, weekends, and holidays. Since bodyguards
follow their clients throughout their daily activities, the work locations may range from indoor office meetings or social events to outdoor rallies
or concerts. Bodyguards often have to travel by car, motorcycle, train, and airplane to escort their client. In some cases, international travel is
required, which means that a bodyguard must have appropriate travel documentation.
Bodyguards often have backgrounds in the armed forces, police or security services, although this is not required. The exception to this is in the
case of bodyguards protecting heads of state; in some countries, these bodyguards must be trained in military bodyguard training programs. Military
experience in foot patrol and convoys escort through urban areas in conflict or war as in Afghanistan, Iraq, West Bank, Northern Ireland, Beirut,
Basque country, Soweto and other areas under non conventional enemy stress around civilians is highly considered and difficult to match with any
training time though, usually those experienced do not always seek these careers or further exposure in less stressful circumstances but familiar
Bodyguards must be physically fit, with good eyesight and hearing, and they need to have a presentable appearance, especially for close protection
work for dignitaries and heads of state. A drivers license is usually required, so that the bodyguard can double as a driver. In the United Kingdom
and some other countries, bodyguards have to have a license or certification with the SIA, which involves identity and criminal record checks. To be
a bodyguard in an agency protecting a head of state, a bodyguard will have to undergo extensive background and loyalty checks.
Bodyguards need to be observant, and retain their focus on their job, despite distractions such as fatigue. As well, they need to be able to work as
member of a team, with assigned tasks, or be able to act independently, and adapt and improvise an appropriate response if the need arises. Bodyguards
need to be able to recognize potentially dangerous situations and remain calm under pressure. A bodyguard has to have a strong dedication to their
protective role. Since bodyguards often have to collaborate or coordinate their protection with other security forces, such as local police other
private security guards, bodyguards need good interpersonal and communications skills. Since bodyguards accompany their client throughout their day,
the bodyguard will be privy to the private life of the client, which means that a bodyguard has to show discretion and maintain confidentiality.
Bodyguards often have training in firearms tactics, unarmed combat, tactical driving, and first aid. In multi-agent units (like those protecting a
head of state) one or more bodyguards may have training in specific tasks, such as providing a protective escort, crowd screening and control, or
searching for explosives or electronic surveillance devices ("bugs"). Bodyguards also learn how to work with other security personnel to conduct
threat or risk assessment and analyze potential security weaknesses.
Bodyguards learn how to examine a premises or venue before their clients arrive, to determine where the exits and entrances are, find potential
security weaknesses, and meet the staff (so that a would-be attacker cannot pose as a staff member). As well, some bodyguards learn how to do
research to be aware of potential threats to their client, by doing a thorough assessment of the threats facing the principal, such as a protest by
a radical group or the release from custody of person who is a known threat. Close protection officers also learn how to escort a client in
potentially threatening situations.
The militaries in many countries offer close protection training for the members of their own armed forces who have been selected to work as
bodyguards to officers or heads of state (e.g., the British SAS). As well, there are a number of private bodyguard training programs, which offer
training in all aspects of Close Protection and including the legal aspects of body guarding (e.g., use of force, use of deadly force); how to
escort clients; driving; searching facilities and vehicles, and so on.