Bodyguard Article

Who wants to be a bodyguard?

A great job for a selfless person.

By Club Soda Kenny, April 2020


It seems that it used to be that a bodyguard was just some oversized guy acting as a scarecrow for their boss. No real experience other than having muscles and be willing to use them. But now a days it has grown into a needed and respectable profession. If you like long, odd hours, probably on your feet, short notice assignments or travel that often must be cancelled or changed, a schedule that is your client / principle’s and never your own, then this is the profession for you. Sounds negative, and it is not for everyone, but it can be a very rewarding and lucrative career.


It takes a special kind of person and work ethic to be a “bodyguard”. Some people in the profession take offense to this term and prefer to be called an executive protection agent, personal protection specialist, or close protection officer, because these days, like I mentioned, bodyguards do more than just stand around and look menacing, there is a science and a lot of moving parts in keeping someone and if need be, their family and associates safe. Quoting the United States Secret Service, protection is a “zero fail mission”. In the security / protection business, we must get it right every time.


Most people in this business started out with either military or law enforcement experience, but some were ordinary civilians who went to a bodyguard school and entered the field this way. There are a few worthwhile schools out there and it is important to keep training and educating yourself to stay on top of your game because yours and other lives may depend on it.


Sometimes bodyguards work alone or in teams. It all depends why the bodyguard is needed. A threat and risk assessment must be completed for everyone’s safety. Is the client / principle a celebrity, executive or high net worth individual? Why is protection needed? Death threats always require at least two or more bodyguards (as well as someone investigating the threat). An executive might need protection because of company layoffs or hostile terminations. A so called celebrity might want a bodyguard (or an entourage) for the wrong reason, as a way to get noticed, but any genuine celebrity wants to be “lowpro” (low profile) and avoid any fanfare and professional bodyguards know this and perform accordingly.


Solo practitioner bodyguards work alone and must do everything themselves. A team of bodyguards may be big or small. In a team of bodyguards, there may be the team leader who manages the team, a driver or drivers who have proficient driving skills, the close protection bodyguard who escorts the principle, there could be a medic with lifesaving supplies but the keystone to any protection detail or assignment is the “advance”. The advance person researches and gathers information and does a reconnaissance of all visited locations to make contact and liaison with personnel at the destination to assess what security is needed and in turn, provide intelligence and make a plan with the rest of the team so they don’t go into a situation blind. A good advance and a good plan ensures everyone’s safety. Other specialized needs determined by the advance for the protection detail could be a K9 bomb dog and handler, operatives using metal detectors, electronic sweeps for listening or tracking devices and protective intelligence like social media monitoring. Women bodyguards are important in certain situations or by preference of the principle. A female principle may want a female bodyguard or there might be children or other female family members or associates that need protection.


There is a particular skill set and work ethic that is needed to be a bodyguard. Shootouts and fisticuffs need to be avoided at all costs, as well as romantic interludes with your principle, all of which are glamorously portrayed in movies and TV and are far from the mundane realities like “halls and walls” which is standing or sitting in a hotel or office building waiting for or protecting your principle while trying not to fall asleep or be distracted.


Believe it or not, sometimes a bodyguard is unarmed. This is all dependent on the assignment or situation. Not all bodyguards are licensed to carry a firearm and with global travel, some countries forbid weapons. This is why interpersonal skills are important. Good planning and avoidance are crucial to the protection operation. An experienced bodyguard must anticipate a situation and if it cannot be averted, know how to de-escalate and either talk or move your way out of it (cover and evacuate your principle). Continually being mindful of situational awareness and always be thinking “what if”.


A competent and successful bodyguard must have certain characteristics. A bodyguard should be physically fit and have a healthy lifestyle. Exercising, eating right and proper sleep will reduce any stress but are often not easy when you are working on the principle’s schedule or traveling. If you want to exercise, maybe you have to get up earlier to get that work out in and then shower and dress to be ready for your assignment. NEVER be late. If there is any commuting or travel involved, always plan accordingly because if you are not early, you are not on time. If you are on time, then you are late. Have a protein bar or two handy for some quick nourishment because most times it is going to be awhile before a meal break. Try to stay hydrated but this needs to be balanced because sometimes during an assignment, you might not be able to take a bathroom break, especially for a solo practitioner bodyguard.


Some other important skills needed for the protection mission are driving, first aid, weapons proficiency and protective intelligence. There are several schools that have evasive driving courses to improve your driving skills. Same for first aid, there are schools that teach CPR, using an AED, stop the bleed and combat first aid, all of which are needed for treatment of a life threatening injury. Some bodyguards carry an “IPAK” (Individual Protective Agent’s Kit) of pertinent medical supplies on their belt or their ankle and some carry a sling bag or backpack with their gear. You can also put a bulletproof trauma plate in your bag. If you have a concealed carry permit, practice makes perfect, you need real world training if there is ever a need to defend yourself and your principle. Same goes for self defense tactics. Competence in your abilities will give you confidence and this translates into how you carry yourself on the job and in life. Protective Intelligence is needed to identify, assess and alleviate any possible threats and is done by researching the internet for open sources and public information, and if needed, follow up with proprietary databases, all to validate if a threat is credible and identify the culprit.


One of the most important skills is having a good attitude. Bodyguards have the same emotional and stressful lives as everyone else. You just can’t take your problems to work. Your principle doesn’t want to hear that you had a fight with your significant other or maybe you might overreact unnecessarily because you are in a bad mood. You must put your feelings aside and always remain professional. You need a clear head so mistakes aren’t made and you don’t risk any liability or harm to your principle. And speaking of attitude, some bodyguards have long time clients / principles; no matter what your relationship is with your principle, you are always their employee first before you are their friend (buddyguard). They are the boss and you serve at their pleasure. Right or wrong, some bodyguards have been fired for being too chatty and interjecting their opinions. Best to speak when you are spoken to and always think before you speak. If it isn’t a matter of protection, keep your thoughts to yourself. Additionally, always have some breath mints with you. Again, right or wrong, some bodyguards have been let go for poor hygiene or sloppy attire. In essence, you are a representative of your principle, and like in any real life situation, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Dressing for success portrays professionalism. Further, regarding attire, daily tasks might change throughout the day which means you might need a wardrobe change. Some bodyguards keep a suit or a change of clothes in their vehicles. If there is a change of plans, having additional clothing (or supplies, like a “go bag’) is a good idea which also shows your proficiency to your principle. Plus, you can always dress down if need be by taking off a suit jacket or tie for a more casual appearance. Other ways to add value for your principle are little things like having a band aid, aspirin, antacid, that breath mint or a phone charger available for their use. Some bodyguards won’t do personal tasks for their principle. They think that it is beneath them to carry packages or attend to luggage. Having your hands free or not being distracted if you need to react is paramount but the situation will dictate that there is a time and place for everything. Sometimes looking after luggage or packages is part of the security function to ensure that items do not get mishandled, lost or stolen.


Not only does a bodyguard protect from personal attacks, the bodyguard also assists to protect the principle’s reputation and privacy. Accessible information needs to be checked and everyone needs to be mindful of the type of information that could or is being created, possibly leaked, emailed, texted, tweeted, uploaded or posted on the internet or to the “cloud”. This is also important for “opsec” (operations security). Information or photos posted or revealed in real time is a security concern because sometimes the public shouldn’t know where the principle is staying or what the principle is doing. Like in 2016, in Paris when Kim Kardashian was the victim of a robbery shortly after she posted a photo on social media wearing her multi-million dollar diamond engagement ring. An insurance company paid the loss and in turn, sued the bodyguard for negligence and this lawsuit is still pending. Social media monitoring, checking open source intelligence and liaising with the principle’s team; any assistant, publicist, lawyer, manager, agent or associate plays a vital part in opsec.  Protecting the principle’s image or brand requires awareness of what the principle is doing and how they might appear, especially around paparazzi and people with smartphones taking photos or recording every move. Like in 2012 when naked pictures of Prince Harry, taken in a Las Vegas hotel suite were leaked. Since then, it is not uncommon for cell phones to be confiscated or secured for certain events or situations. Also, everyone working with the principle should sign a Non-Disclosure / Confidentiality Agreement.


A smartphone and technology are a must for a bodyguard. Back in the day, a bodyguard had to use a landline or find a payphone to make a telephone call. They had to use the yellow pages to research and find things and a paper map to plan routes and calculate drive time and distance. Today, everything is on the internet. A few Google searches and Google Maps and you are all set. Several Apps are also essential. Travel Apps for hotels, airlines, rental cars and to track flights, for driving directions and to show the quickest route, and Apps for communication and document sharing to name a few.


Sometimes the most challenging part of a bodyguard’s job is dealing with the principle’s other staff or entourage. Teamwork and good communication are imperative for a successful mission. Schedules and information need to be shared in a timely manner so proper advancing, planning and coordination can be completed. Conversely, sometimes things change, and you have to go with the flow and do the best that you can, but, in any event, an assistant that is not forthcoming with communications or information does a disservice to the principle. Maybe they do this because they feel that they need to maintain some power or control to feel important or prove their worth or feels insecure or threatened by the bodyguard’s aptitude. Despite this, teamwork and good communication can make everyone’s job simpler. Regarding an entourage, everyone wants to be close to or be seen by the principle not realizing and potentially hindering the protection function. Like an associate that wants to ride “shotgun” instead of the bodyguard just to be in the principle’s vehicle.


Moreover, just because your principle might have a certain lifestyle. This isn’t a bodyguard’s lifestyle. There are private jets or first class travel, mansions or penthouse apartments or five star hotels and fine dining, but this is because of the principle’s status or worth. Although this is a perk, bodyguards are not necessarily meant to enjoy these amenities. Bodyguards need to stay focused on the protection task at hand and when the assignment is completed, they go back to their own accommodations and have their own lifestyle. Although the job pays substantially, bodyguards who get wrapped up in that fast paced lifestyle usually don’t last very long. It’s not about them. Especially buddyguards who want to be seen with their (celebrity) principle and take and post photos with the principle. This is frowned upon by industry peers and also is a career ender because these buddyguards are not taken seriously. A bodyguard’s reputation is another key to their success. Good bodyguard jobs are few and far between and sometimes right place, right time, a little luck and who you know is the only way to get these premium jobs. This is why all the previously mentioned skills and characteristics tie in to prove your value and reputation; you have to network yourself because word of mouth are often the best recommendations.


To complete the protection mission, a security assessment should be done of the principle’s residence and business / office. Depending on the situation, electronic bug sweeps, static or mobile security officers, cameras, alarms, intercoms, biometric entry systems, a panic button or a panic room may be necessary to ensure your principle’s safety and needs to be incorporated into the overall protection mission. Hopefully this article was enjoyable and provided some insight into the bodyguard world.