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Teaching Bojangles how to REALLY dance.

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A couple weeks ago I posted a blog on a recent detail we did where I wanted to give an insider look at how it transpired from day to day.

A day or so later I received a blog comment from an attempted anonymous emailer “noskoollikeoldskool” who basically stated that the blog was made up. I know who the disgruntled coward and his minions are.

What he didn’t realize in his attempt to disqualify the event was that he only gave the 2 newbie specialists an opportunity to share their personal experience. Today I will feature the first hand experience of Uriah Riley.

Recently, I had the opportunity to work my first high level detail with a high profile principal, seven man team, two-car motorcade, multiple site, multiple movements not to mention off the record movements thrown in as well. Long days and minimal sleep was to be expected and I was already warned that the bar was set high and there was going to be a learning curve but I had my mind made up that I would meet every expectation.

This was a detail that was chocked full of learning opportunities, but a part of being a professional is how you take and handle the correction. I was determined to take the correction, learn from it and move past it. The learning opportunities came in various ways, some subtle, some not so subtle. There are a few lessons that really resonated with me and deserve to be pointed out.

We have all heard the saying “stay in the now”, which is good; it speaks to staying in the space you are in. But here’s the lesson learned, as an EP specialist if you are in the now, you are playing catch up. This is a reactionary mindset. The inverse of this is the proactive mindset. This means you are aware of the now but thinking ahead; if something happens you have already thought about what you are going to do.

The advance was the most important part of this detail. It allowed us to go from a “known to a known” at all times. On a detail of this size and scale without the advance there would be chaos. There was a flow that happened in the movements where from one site to another looked easy but there was never a moment where we were not in complete control. This gave the principal confidence in our ability to lead him at all times, due in no small part to the advance. We knew the location of where he needed to be even if he didn’t. In my opinion, the advance is one of the major factors that separate the professionals from the rest.

The motorcade movements were the next in order of importance in my point of view. I had a fair understanding of arrivals and departures in motorcade operations but this would be a college course with a final exam all in one. Having a team with veteran agents gave me the advantage of the ability to ask questions on the fly in the beginning because I learned motorcade in a controlled environment where your seating determined your position on embus and debus. But I found things weren’t so cut and dry once you go operational.

So first day operational, 0700, the RON; by now I have been downstairs and surveyed each exit for vehicle staging for departure selection, had the “if then” scenario conversation with the TC (Tactical Commander) and given my recommendation for Echo 1 as the primary departure point and given a secondary if needed. Why? Because I was the site man in charge of all departures and arrivals at the RON. After all that I am upstairs on the principal’s floor with the DL (Detail Leader) waiting for the package. The principal exits his room and the call comes out. “All stations, all stations Oscar Mike.” I send the call confirming Echo 1 is still in play, the TC confirms and this was all before we reached the elevator to go down. We get down to Echo 1 and everyone is positioned for embus. The SL (Shift Leader) called “Recover”, and there was a quick but controlled converging on the follow vehicle and we are moving.

At the first site I’m in the third row seat on the SUV and I hear “hard arrivals only, when we get out cover the open position, we are not staying on the apron.” Everyone gets out with me being the last person and I only had a second to spot the open position and get to it, but in that quick glance I saw the power of a hard arrival. Once everyone was in position we changed the environment and people walked completely around the detail or just stopped and waited for us to clear the apron. My point to all this is everyone worked each position because seating didn’t matter. It was fill in the gaps and fall in once the principal was on the move. It was seamless.

Up to this point in my career, the majority of details have been solo operator details, so to be a part of a seven man EP team and two-car motorcades was huge opportunity. In a solo detail, the operator does it all. In a team environment each person has a job and knowing the duties for each position. You better have your head in the game because it was not uncommon to have the DL tap you to be on the principal, be the site guy for your assigned site, lead the detail, or bring up the rear. Knowing each position was the easy part, the hard part was doing only the position assigned to you. “Stay in your lane!” was the mantra the first day. This was hard because you couldn’t see, do and be a part of everything like you would as a solo operator. You had to trust that the other guys are covering what they are supposed to cover and you have to cover what you are supposed to cover. So for example when the SL calls “hold” in the middle of a movement the natural first reaction is to look back to determine why, right? Wrong. If you are the lead and hold is called you are eyes-front covering your area. This provides 360 degrees of total coverage. The DL or body man has everything around the principal and we cover everything around the DL. This gives the concentric rings around the principal.

The 3 positions that never changed were the DL, the SL and the TC. Until now I had an idea of what their function was in the scope of a detail, but after this detail I have a whole new respect for each of those positions and for the people who held them in this job. The DL was a straight shooter who after many years in the industry still has the same passion and fire that I’m sure he had in the beginning. I recall him saying one morning while waiting for a departure from the RON, “Man I just want to be operational… I love this!” His role in addition to being the body man was the high level oversight of the detail, his word is law. Next is the SL, a former Marine, if there is such a thing, that had a firm grasp of the principal’s schedule and the detail positions. His duties include but are not limited to: team direction, pushing the site guys ahead of the detail and adjusting the team to any changes or OTR movements as well as dealing with any administrative issues that may arise. And finally the TC this guy had one of the hardest jobs on the team. They say the weakest link in a protective detail is the non-security driver. Well, we had two drivers and the TC was in charge of staging for arrivals/departures and positioning the vehicles where they needed to be no matter where we were. If we entered a site on the north side of the building and were leaving on the south side on the fly the TC made sure the vehicles were there and ready to go before the detail arrived, oh by the way, he did this while being part of the formation at the same time. It was multi-tasking at its finest and this former State Trooper never missed a beat. I can honestly say that these three positions are not for everyone nor should they be attempted unless you have had some serious detail management training, especially if you are going to work on this level.

One of the surprising things about this detail was how despite schedule changes and OTR movements how smoothly and efficient our actions were. This is a testament to the level of professionalism and the caliber of guys on the job. Another thing that surprised me was the hot wash at the end of the night. I understand the purpose from the operational standpoint, but what was really surprising was the effect on the team. It allowed for decompression and some jovial conversation once business was concluded; it also helped to galvanize the team. Next was the amount of low profile executive protection that we performed. This was huge, and I feel requires more finesse. Most people portray an EP agent as a rigid, stiff no nonsense, visible figure, but there were times when that was exactly what the principal didn’t want. When the call is given to go invisible, the team just faded into the background. Strategically positioned, no matter where the principal went in the area there was always one or more people close by and completely inconspicuous. It was smooth, and nonchalant, not a security guy trying not to look like a security guy. And if you were someone just walking in you would never suspect that there was a man with a trained seven man detail in the room. The last thing that I didn’t expect was the nightly cash out. I am going to be honest I had never heard of such a thing. So we had advance guys being pushed out ahead of the detail via taxi and breaks varied and you might have to grab a sandwich at a little shop, devour it and head back. Needless to say there were expenses, so the first night DL says, “I’ll cash you guys out at the end of each night but ONLY with a receipt and with it filled out properly.” That meant if you got a cab from the RON to Sierra 1 you had better get a receipt and the receipt had to have where you started from and where you went with your name and the date and total amount circled. The benefit of this as it’s pretty self-explanatory so I won’t go into it.

This was an experience that many will never witness, let alone be a part of and I can honestly say without a doubt this was an eye opening experience. The saying that, “The mind once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.” (Oliver W. Holmes) is very true. There are a couple things that will always stick with me from this detail. First, is to listen and understand the question before you answer. And second, never go into detail when a straight answer will do, a term called “bojangling”.

There are many different niche markets to the EP industry, celebrity, corporate, dignitary, etc., but I want to thank BPI and Eric Konohia for one of the best gifts I could receive as an EP Specialist… an opportunity to see another side of the industry and the experience of a lifetime.

4 comments

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  1. jame saga Wright

    Congrats and kudos Uriah! Awesome blog Eric and I patiently wait my time to get off the bench!

  2. james Wright

    Name correction…Congrats and kuddos Uriah and awesome blog Eric!

  3. Russell Anderson

    I am always astounded by the actions hateful and jealous individuals will resort to in an attempt to soul the reputation of an honorable man. Taking someone’s negativity and using it for a positive and inspiring effect is an admirable trait and one I shall emulate. #dontknowwhotheyaremessingwith.

  4. Elijah Shaw

    Bravo, Uriah! (and of course to Mr. Konohia for allowing him the opportunity.) That was a great “glimpse behind the curtain” from a “boots on the ground” perspective. The fact that you were invited, played a part and then was asked to share your experiences all serve as a testament to your commitment to the Craft. Onward and Upwards!

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