Using the locals

When I blogged about Oprah Winfrey’s situation in India I touched a little on issues you can have by using local official help.  I am referring to the local police, military etc..  Let me start by saying this, there are times when you will not have a choice but to include or use local national assistance.  In those situations you need to be very careful and selective with what you ask for and how you use them.

We had a situation in West Africa where we placed in a dilemma that a decision had to be made on the spot and quickly.  Prior to being placed in this situation Mark had done a great advance trip that revealed and garnered excellent assets.  One of them was a retired USMC Lt. Colonel that had been embedded in the West African country for close to 20 years.  During his time there he had seen US Ambassadors come and go and maintained great relationships with all of the RSO’s (Regional Security Officers) assigned to the US Embassy.  During Mark’s advance trip the retired Lt. Colonel, call sign “Sea-Snake” got Mark dialed in with the who’s who in the country as well as the who’s NOT.

It was clear that we could not put our guard down in order to work with anyone, however there was a select group of nationals that maintained allegiance to the United States and their own country.  The problem was that many of the persons we were told to stay away from, were actually still embedded in official capacities.  The UN had a program implemented called SSR (Security Sector Reform) that was headed by the U.S. RSO in the country and for the most part any group that fell under the SSR was “good to go”.  That was our targeted group of possible assets and resources if we needed them.  This group, which was the equivalent to the United States Secret Service was being trained and consulted by a group of private contractors under the oversight of the Department of State.  Ultimately we use them as well as a select group of the national police for motorcade escort purposes.

The key here is once again the amount of critical emphasis you place in your advance work and talking to the right people.  I have mentioned this before, but the country RSO is a must to visit.  He/she is not only responsible for your safety and security while in country, but more importantly, they are a wealth of information.  RSO’s have to maintain relationships with his/her counterparts within the country and will make great recommendations for your needs.  More importantly, the RSO will advise you where and who you need to stay away from.  They know the crime trends and statistics, the bad areas, curfews as well as any pertinent laws that could effect your visit.

If and when you decide to use any local assistance, you HAVE to have clear and distinct rules of engagement and expectations.  In the country where I am referring to above, the local population feared the local national police.  That was a double edged sword for us.  It allowed us to navigate through the war torn country, however the fear was associated with the treatment that was received by the national police during their regular tour of duty.  The oddest thing I witnessed was that military personnel from other countries that were assigned to this country under UN sanctions were even afraid of the local police.  It was odd, however they worked well with us and were extremely helpful with our requests.

The specifics of the Oprah incident still haven’t been revealed however I am working at acquiring the specifics of the trip.  Take this bit of information I have revealed and let it assist and guide you on your next trip overseas.

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