October 31st, 2008 01:46 PM
DCJS Personal Protective Specialist Course Rundown - an edit
I've been away for a while, training and recouping from this damned broken back. Good to be home! I had the opportunity to take a course in Virginia that I wanted to share some points about. Mods, if you desire, please reposition in a more appropriate area.
Commonwealth Criminal Justice Academy – Fredericksburg, VA
Instructors: Tom Perroni, DCJS Instructor
DCJS Personal Protection Specialist Course
This class was six days of classroom and real world study to teach individuals to provide CONUS as well as OCONUS protection for their principals. Students were expected to bring the usual classroom materials and cell phones, laptop computers and GPS devices were suggested. We were asked to bring open minds and be ready to work. Our instructors were experienced professionals with backgrounds in military, private security, Law Enforcement and PSD/WPPS. All instructors at the Commonwealth Criminal Justice Academy are active security professionals, and each is exceptional at conveying the practical aspects of classroom time so that in-field training is more efficient and effective.
Class began promptly at 0800. Each person introduced himself and gave a brief blurb about why they were in the classes and what they hoped to learn. When it was my turn, I briefly mentioned my role with Advanced Technology, International, stating that one of our company’s goals was to better understand the nature of the demands placed on our products by taking training with the people who use our products. I was joined in class by at least two active operators and a handful of others with moderate to extensive training. Our instructors gave their backgrounds, and the class syllabus and texts were issued. We were given a brief overview of the expansive material we would cover, warned we would be ‘drinking from the fire hose of knowledge’, and the course was underway.
Day One introduced us to basic concepts in Personal Protection. First on the agenda was the understanding that protective security is simply mitigation of risk. That sounds basic, but it was inferred that this was what the entire course was all about. Characteristics of a Personal Protection Specialist were discussed, and of course things like the ability to multitask and alertness came into play, but also mentioned were words like integrity and morality. We were reminded of the obligation one accepts to unconditionally prevent harm or embarrassment to the principal, with the understanding that this means the possibility of sacrificing one’s own life.
The first hours of the course were filled with information that lent greater understanding to what it means to specialize in Personal Protection. Professionals in this industry are clearly not the knuckle-dragging meatheads known as bodyguards, who, while good for absorbing rounds from an attacker’s gun, are not the professionals that conduct the sort of executive protective service that prevents those attacks from happening to begin with. It was illustrated to us that a Personal Protection Specialist works as a part of a team that engages in extensive planning, site preparation and surveying to mitigate potential risk before it poses a threat. A PPS ensures that all efforts are made ahead of time to facilitate a smooth, safe transport and provide for the needs of the principal in a professional manner. Often, a PPS must be covert, and in such a situation must perform his duties while drawing the least amount of attention to his presence or activities, which can only be accomplished with proper planning.
As a preface to learning about walking formations and areas of responsibility, the theory of the OODA loop was introduced. OODA is an acronym for agent behaviors at any given moment, and there are four conditions:
1.) Observe – here, the agent is actively surveying surroundings for patterns, or diversions thereof
2.) Orient – the agent is using all sources of information to process possible course of action
3.) Decision – in this third stage, a course of action has been determined
4.) Action – Finally, the decision to act has been determined and that decision is carried out.
This is a process that the protective specialist is constantly engaged in; it eventually becomes modified to behavior that is instinctive. Readers will notice that this relates to the Awareness Color Codes proliferated by Colonel Jeff Cooper, and which were also discussed in class. Tom Perroni, our lead instructor for the class, made certain that all class members were familiar with the Color Codes and the OODA Loop.
Next, we covered the things that actually comprise the distinction of certified Personal Protective Service (certification is given at training schools within supervision of instructors that are responsible to the Department of Criminal Justice, a registered professional with the DCJS that declares background checks and training have been completed). The professional is issued an ID that indicates said. Title 18 of the Criminal Code was introduced, and specific articles were noted, details about the legal bindings and obligations of a Personal Protective Service professional.
After that, our study turned to learning about advance work that goes into a protective action. This was impressed upon us as the most crucial factor in any protective action.
“An advance is a personal approach made to secure in front of, ahead of and in preparation for a steady and orderly procedure to a goal, wherein security planning and contingency planning is orchestrated to reduce risk.”
The responsibilities are many, and include lodging and transport coordination, special events planning, public relations, emergency service coordination and above all, the agent needs to be considered a site expert. Route surveys are obviously quite important, as they involve in-depth study of the path the principal will take to the location, with attention to quick, safe transport that eliminates potential risk areas. A site survey and advance are not easy, and because they are crucial to a professional, safe protective action, more time goes into the planning stage than anywhere else. We covered pre-advances, scenario procedure, personnel authorization, press management, local security integration, evacuation plans and many more details that go into a proper advance, macro to micro. Good communication with one’s team is always of the utmost importance, and so is operational security. It was stressed that the advance be made as easily understood as possible, even for the weakest link on the team.
As class wound down for the first day, we received our homework assignments. Breaking up into three teams (Red, Green and Blue), we were asked to conduct an advance on a given location, detailing all contingencies between a departure and destination point and a return. I was fortunate to have two team members that were extremely talented and hard-working. We spent the next two hours mapping and driving three separate possible routes to and from our venue, paying attention to the specifics we’d learned that day. Later, my teammates and I planned a briefing for the next morning, detailing our entire advance. It had been seventeen hours since we walked into the classroom for the first time when we finally hung it up for the evening.
We met over breakfast and reviewed our briefing. Given the scale of the assignment, we were very glad to be properly prepared. As class began, Tom asked our team (Green) to take the lead. Steve (call sign Thor) gave our best assessment of our survey and details of the advance. What followed was a critique from our classmates and instructors. We found we had missed some key opportunities to convey information. We also learned what we had done well and should continue to employ in our future advances. The other groups followed, with similar critique sessions. After such hard work, it was a bit discouraging to learn how many ways we had fallen short, and it was clear that excellence was something that would be required of each team member if we wanted to complete the Person Protective Service certification training.
That day, we would focus on Protective Detail Operations. Our goal was to learn how protect our principal from injury or embarrassing incident and methods such as conflict avoidance, proactive vs. reactive mindsets and the importance of proper evacuation planning were discussed. This was the first time I’d heard the phrase “Concentric Circles of Protection”. It means exactly what it sounds like; this model looked like a target, with escalating levels of physical protection in rings around the principal, who was represented by the ‘bullseye’.
Another principle was introduced - certain adversaries can be deterred by the impression that a particular target will be difficult to attack; if the target seems hard to hit, it probably is. This is essential to the frame of thinking exhibited by a protective specialist. We covered suggested equipment, including body armor, and then we began discussing formations. Formation characteristics have several key features; they conform to the environment, are threat driven and are tactically sound. Variables can include manpower, potential threats and the principal’s wishes and must, by nature, remain flexible.
Our class time was broken up with regular exercises to implement the formations and techniques we were learning. To detail every step of the process would be difficult, and probably not necessary for the purposes of this review, but I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that, by week’s end, we had conducted advances every evening, bringing our homework with us to the wee hours of every evening. The above to this point represents the first two days of the course. Every day was equally challenging, physically and mentally.
It was especially rewarding when we had the opportunity to participating in a real detail. What I can say is that our principal threw us several curveballs, and our advance planning and attention to detail so stringently encouraged by our instructors are why things went smoothly. Because of the nature of our instruction, the class was able to operate as a single unit, and with the exception of a few minor gaffes in procedure, I left with the impression that the principal had no indication that we were in training.
As the week progressed, each day presented new challenges. We covered every aspect of planning and carrying out a successful, efficient detail. Also included in the course curriculum is a module on etiquette, a few lessons on business ethics and lots of information on the legal aspects of this profession. We gradually began to understand that our instructors were equipping each one of us with the tools we would need to become fully operational members of the Personal Protective Service industry.
One of the perks of the training has to be the regular visitors to the Commonwealth Criminal Justice Academy. We had some impressive guest speakers. First was Joe (first name only, of course). Joe had a storied career at the top level of US Law Enforcement and now is a director for an international security company. He had many interesting stories pertaining to protective actions. He related some things to avoid, areas to gain training advantages.
Again, I’ll refer to the second visitor as George only. Here was an opportunity to pick the brain of someone who is actively engaged in executive protective duties. Students had the chance questions about the physical demands of the job, the day-to-day activities when not on detail, networking techniques and methods of handling ethical dilemmas while acting in a protective capacity. George was very open and very frank about the nature of being employed in the Personal Protective Service industry. He made it clear that one’s outward demeanor has a great impact on one’s efficacy in the field.
Finally, we were afforded the opportunity talk to the man who is in charge of security for the leader of the Democratic National Committee, Bill Dean. His is name is left out to preserve operational security. He was a gregarious speaker who shared with us some nuances of the job that let us know we were talking to a true professional. He suggested that we all take some defensive driving classes, and encouraged us to get as much training from as many different sources as possible. He had many suggestions for a diverse pattern of training that would help up in future efforts to garner business for ourselves.
The combination of these guests made for a very comprehensive cross-section of professionals from the industry. I was much impressed by not only the quality of the materials we were exposed to during this course, but also the level of expertise represented by these visitors.
Another module in this class served to introduce the students to the importance of having at least one (if not every) team member who is skilled in emergency first aid. In learning how quickly an injured party can die without proper medical care, it was impressed upon us that there are a few essential ways to improve an injured principal’s chances for survival. The basics included field triage and CPR techniques, but it was clear to each of us that advanced training in first aid is essential to being a successful Personal Protective Specialist. While it only seems logical that a protective duty cover this aspect of a detail, it is something that may not have been considered important before taking this class. Now, it seems ridiculous to embark without first being certain that EVERY team member have the ability to treat serious wounds, if only long enough to get the injured party to a hospital for secondary treatment.
It is impossible to detail every lesson and exercise here. The breadth and variety of things to learn is staggering, and it would not do the training justice to attempt to extol every facet of all six days. We spent some time in a matted room during physical restraint and protective exercises, and got a chance to employ the walking formations and coverage techniques we had learned in the classroom under an attack environment. Each day of class, we learned things that had to be applied to our homework assignments in a comprehensive sense; every assignment drew on an amalgam of the materials up to that point. t was impressive to witness the evolution of each class member as they became more familiar with the entirety of the materials.
Our last day of class prior to the certification exam involved yet another protective action, this time to carry our principal from a local airport to the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, then a golf outing and finally lunch with his family. This was a more involved detail, and for it we drew on every team member’s skills. Back at the Academy, we took exams. Those that qualified were fingerprinted and photographed. Once received, we will receive official papers that say DCJS training has been completed for Personal Protective Service. It was an intense six days, and all teammates came away with a strong understanding of the principles involved. So much learning takes place that it will be months before it is all digested. Our instructors delivered every penny’s worth of the tuition, and more.
Before we departed on the final day, Tom Perroni had some words for the whole class. First, he wanted to know what we felt we’d learned. He wanted feedback on how he could improve his teaching technique. He asked a few reflective questions, and then suggested that each one of us continue to train with as many different instructors and schools as possible. He was very humble in saying things his instruction has to offer are tools to add to our defensive toolbox, and that nothing we’d learned should be considered the end-all-beat-all to every situation. He said that we should remember that there is rarely only one way to do something, and it is a good thing to learn as many different ways of approaching any problem. He mentioned other schools that we should check out, driving schools, first aid schools, other facilities and institutions where we might gain a better understanding of how to be most effective in a situation where things go wrong.
I learned much about situational awareness in this class. I learned how to assess a given situation and look for patterns in behavior that may constitute a threat. I learned that proper planning ensures for a safer path to any goal, and more importantly, how to conduct planning in the proper manner. To conclude, I must suggest that anyone interested in learning about Personal Protective Services should consider taking this training. It is a high-caliber education in a dynamic, up-to-date facility featuring skilled, knowledgeable instructors. It is an open learning environment from which every student came away from this training with confidence in the skills acquired and feeling that it was time and money well spent.
Last edited by Scot Van; October 31st, 2008 at 01:52 PM.
Reason: added text, edited text
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