The messy AO

In lite if the General Patreus scandal I wanted to address an issue that, if you’ve been in this business long enough, you know goes on.  There is no doubt that there is s level of attraction when a protection team is working.  Seeing a group of professionals operating on a protective detail garners interest.  Hotel, restaurant staff will seemingly come up to the team and engage in frivolous banter in an attempt to find out who the principal is, and in many cases, get to know who you are.  In those cases where the detail will be staying in a certain location or area for an extended period of time, an innocent initial conversation can and HAS turned into a physical relationship.  It does not matter if the specialist is single and available, the relationship while on an active detail is Questionable.  Why is that?

Once you cross that threshold you have to start managing your work responsibility with that of your new acquisition.  The texts and phone calls come in, “What time will you be finished?”  “Can you come to my house after you’re done?”  “When am I clear to get up to your room?”  This becomes a second job and specialists find themselves playing 2 chess boards- work and pleasure.  You also find yourself trying to manage their inquisitiveness against their lack of understanding of OpSec.  Before you know it, he/she has told her friends that they have met you and who you are protecting.  Once you cross the line you own everything that goes along with it.

I have seen this first hand.  I periodically travel to check on long term details, to check on my specialists and visit the client to stay engaged in the business relationship.  On one occasion I wanted to take the team out to dinner.  When we sat down I noticed that one of the specialists was not his normal self.  Shortly thereafter I noticed a waitress come from the other side of the restaurant and approach our table, look at the specialist and say, “I’m gonna talk to the manager so that I can serve your table.”  I was not suspicious until the manager came out and approached the specialist and ask, “Why do you want her to serve you when she is working the other side of the dining room?”  While we were eating, the bartender came over and smiled, “Hi gentlemen” and then looked at the specialist, “I thought you were going to call me last night.”  The other team member starting laughing.

I knew where I had them lodged was nowhere near where the principal lived but on any given night they could be seen on local television and the cat would have been out the bag: Why he was in town and who he was working for.  I relocated them miles away from that area and we reiterated OpSec.  There is no doubt that long term details can be hard [no pun intended] on many levels.  Stress from working long hours have to me mitigated with another outlet in order to avoid burnout.  The strong in character find things like working out etc while others cross the line.  Often times this line starts with an innocent regularity of conversing with a familiar face.  One thing leads to another and then the Detail is in jeopardy.

Senior members on the detail MUST manage this behavior and service providers should consider an addition in their code of ethics if you feel this could harm your details and company reputation.  Some of you are cringing at your laptops knowing that you have seen this, OR engaged in this and gotten away with it.  Don’t risk it.


  1. Josh

    I have found the hotel gym vs. the hotel bar will usually yield much better results both mentally and physically in these situations.

  2. Russell C. Anderson

    I have worked a long term detail in the past with constant and prolonged exposure to potentially compromising situations. I looked at each one like I was a cold war era spy behind the iron curtain and one slip up would end up with me being banished to a Siberian Gulag. Relationships like this have no place on a protective detail.

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