You can not be a fan and Protect at the same time

I had a conversation with a valued specialists the other day that reminded me of an often unspoken topic when it comes to protection.  There are many times when your protectee is a notable or has celebrity status.  Their mere presence attracts crowds and volumes of interested onlookers, in awe of their presence.  We have all been there and many of you who have not experienced that will.  I have been in arms reach of 3 former sitting US Presidents at the same event while covering the notable that was dedicating a national monument in Washington, DC, as well as within the inner bubble of the current President, while covering a protectee that was treated as a foreign head of state.  In as much as it was a high lite of my life I never allowed the moment to switch me from protector to perpetrator.  Navigating within a massive human Fort Knox as a private sector provider was tough enough and there was no sense of losing my focus because I was amidst the leader(s) of the free world.  I would imagine that each of you have experienced some level of this at one time or another, but you have been around specialists [new and old] that you’ve witness get caught up in the moment.

I have seen specialists mesmerized by principals, smile at principals and spend any free moment talking about the principal’s exploits in their respective careers.  Even the most seasoned specialists can get caught up in the moment.  During a trip to Dubai, we connected with security company that was providing vehicles and drivers for our time in country.  The company and its owner had been a reliable provider for years for many US based companies.  When me and Minister arrived days before my Principal’s arrival I met with all of the assigned driver’s and went through my normal pre-arrival procedures and protocols.  Later that day I received a call from the company owner who advised that he had also arrived in country and wanted to meet me at our hotel [Burj al Arab].  After we completed our tasks we returned to the hotel so that I could have finals words with the drivers and let them know when the start time was the next day to run tertiary routes.  I met with the driver company owner in the lobby while Minister gave final words to the drivers.  The company stated that he wanted to finally meet me and make sure everything was to me expectations.  He also stated that he could assist in expediting my principal through customs at the FBO.  I declined the offer and we parted ways.

2 Days later we arrived at the small, quaint FBO, which was situated in a remote corner west of the main airport.  The entire FBO was empty except for its regular employees and Customs agents.  We parked the vehicles to not attract attention that there might be a principal arrival.  When I got the wheels down call from the pilot we staged the lead, primary and follow and placed the luggage vehicle in close proximity for loading.  As fate would have it, the driver company owner showed up, under the guise of making sure everything went well.  As soon as my principal and his/her guests arrived I had them immediately placed in a pre-arranged hold while their passports were stamped.  As planned luggage was loaded and we were ready to go.  When I received the passports I radioed to Minister that I was ready to depart.  I entered the “hold” and advised my principal we were ready to depart.  He/she has been with me for years and knows that there is no time for jocularity amongst his friends and GO means GO.  I held onto the passports of all of the passengers and we moved to the vehicles.  As we exited the FBO the doors of the primary vehicle doors were opened.  I walked my principal to the right rear and shielded him/her as they entered the vehicle.  In my periphery I noticed the driver company owner approach and I immediately closed the door and covered down on the door.  He stated, “Wow can I meet him?”  I raised my open hand in the universal sign of “STOP” and my response was, “NO!”.  In a matter of seconds, this owner, who had been a security provider for Vance International, GardaWorld and others went from asset to ASSet.

It doesn’t take much for this to happen and there really isn’t any measuring tool to know if you are amongst specialists who are sharp in appearance and knowledge yet become a fanatic at the drop of a hat.  I have seen it all when it comes to this silliness.  I have seen non-protective drivers that were hired by the client, invite their wives and girlfriends to events and try to get in just to see and event where notables are going to be present.  I have seen specialists from other companies ask if they can get an autograph or picture with my principal.  It is at that time, that they see the bad side of Eric Konohia and I could care less if it leaves a bad impression on these so-called protection specialists.  On that point, I never ask a client for a team picture at the conclusion of a detail, so don’t ask if we are doing one.  There are some protectees that want to do this and reluctantly I will acquiesce to their request.  If you catch any of your team doing this, you have to correct them immediately.  This is not one of those matters that can wait until the daily hotwash.  You can not be a fan and provide protection at the same time.  Get it out of your system or be honest and let your company know ahead of time, “I’m a huge fan of the protectee and I won’t be able to handle myself.”  We will appreciate your honesty and gladly make arrangements for your undisciplined personality.

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