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The transition drill issues…. from SF to PSD to EP B2B, a firsthand account

It has been far too long since my last blog…FAR TOO LONG.  The good thing is that I have been busy with the company as well as the 2014 Annual Summit in Orlando, Florida.  The other good thing is that I have topics stacked up on deck to continue contributing worthwhile information to the UPLIFT of the Craft.  One of those topics I had in the vault is another blog that I want to feature an American Warrior, turned PSD Operator and current EP Business to business owner.

Late 2013 I was contacted by this gentleman via Facebook regarding general business questions.  Our conversations continued until I received a private message from him stating that he and his partner [Jerry Towns] would be traveling from North Caroline to the Washington, DC are and asked if we could all sit down and discuss the industry, running an EP business and the state of the Craft.  The day that he was available actually fell on my birthday, so as I treated myself to a celebratory venti coffee I had the opportunity to get a great gift of friendship and alliance with this man and his partner. Both arrived at the Northern Virginia Starbucks attired in suits and as they walked across the parking lot I knew they were different.  In fact, as they entered the Starbucks they commanded the attention of the patrons in the establishment.  There was clear metaphysical synergy in our hour plus meeting.

At the conclusion of the meeting I told this gentleman that I wanted to feature him on the blog and discuss the transition from Special Forces to PSD to EP Business owner.  I chose not to format this blog in the normal Q & A format but rather allow him to freelance and write it in his own words.  I have not massaged, tweaked nor changed any of the content so that his original thoughts are conveyed directly. He has a Facebook presence yet his “Quiet Professional” training keeps him as one of the QUIET ones on social media.  I, however will allow this blog to speak for him.  I introduce to you Muhammad Bilal (Shadow), President of Shadow Protective Services, LLC, Fayettville, NC

Bio picMuhammad Bilal Bio: With over twenty-five years of experience in military, diplomatic protection and executive security services, Mr. Bilal is founder of Shadow Protective Services, LLC, providing executive protection, private investigations, security guard & patrol services, tactical education, military training, weapons instruction and security consultant services.

Mr. Bilal professional experience as a senior non-commissioned officer with infantry & special operations units has provided him the unique opportunity to become a subject matter expert in the field of small unit tactics, unit cohesion and leadership. While on active duty he was inducted into the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) leadership hall of honor and he is the recipient the National Infantry Associations Order of Saint Maurice “Centurion Award” for outstanding long-lasting contributions to the infantry community during his time of service. He has served in the infantry (Fort Benning, Georgia), airborne infantry (Fort Richardson, Alaska), air-assault infantry (Camp Greaves, South Korea) and mechanized infantry (Sadr City-Baghdad, Iraq). During combat operations in support of Operation IRAQ FREEDOM 2 he was the Infantry Advisor to the then 1st Cavalry Division Commander in Baghdad, Iraq and was commended for bravery under fire in combat. His lessons learned and information gathered allowed him to become a direct contributor to the new army military field manual 3-21.8 for the infantry rifle platoon and squad which superseded field manual 7-8. He was the primary instructor for the infantry tactics certification course (TCC) which all instructors who teach at the United Sates Army Infantry Training Center & School were required to complete before beginning their individual certification process. He was inducted into both the prestigious Sergeant Audie Murphy Club and the Sergeant Morales Club which is reserved for the top 2% of all non-commissioned officers in the United States Army.

SF picMr. Bilal was the Primary Instructor responsible for the teaching, training and certification of all instructors for the Instructor Training Center (ITC) program at the US Army’s largest non-commissioned officers academy. He graduated the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) Special Forces Weapons Sergeant (18B) and completed the Defense Language Institutes (French) language training program. With service in the 1st Special Forces Group Airborne (Fort Lewis, Washington) & the 3rd Special Forces Group Airborne (Fort Bragg, North Carolina) and the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWC) he was uniquely qualified to balance both the conventional and special operations side of the military. Upon retirement he served as an instructor during the then (Small Unit Tactics –SUT) phase two of the SFQC teaching tactical leadership and weapons to the next generation of “green berets”.

PSD-3Mr. Bilal has completed numerous executive protection courses and has served as a Personal Security Specialist for a private military company in Iraq for seven years. He served in multiple locations in the Middle East in a high-threat protection (HTP) environment during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM & Operation NEW DAWN. He has driven every vehicle in the protective motorcade to include the principle’s limousine and has served in every position on an executive protection assignment. From HTP personal security details to Quick Reaction Force Team Leader during active causality recovery missions Mr. Bilal has worked in the protective security arena. He culminated his HTP service as a member of the United States Ambassadors personal security detail responsible for protection the deputy chief of missions for United States personnel, congressional delegations, general officers & foreign dignitaries.

logoMr. Bilal founded the Shadow Protective Services, LLC with the intent on merging the tactical proficiency of the high threat protection assignments he has used the precision of the military operations he has conducted in the past. He was personally selected for executive protection teams throughout the southeast from Raleigh to Atlanta. Originally from New York City he is a world traveler and has visited 35 other foreign countries in some capacity or another. He is a retired combat veteran, licensed Private Investigator, Armed Security Officer, Courier, NRA Instructor Certified Refuse to be a Victim, and small business owner. Throughout his 20 year military career Mr. Bilal received extensive training in the academic arena in the areas of Criminal Justice and World History and he is a member of ASIS.  He currently resides in the Fort Bragg/Fayetteville, NC area.

Below is the response I presented to Mr. Bilal, “What issues have you faced while transitioning from the military to the private sector and as a business owner in this industry:

PSD-2

Issues transitioning from High-Threat Personal Security Detail (PSD) Operator to Private Sector Business Ownership and gaining clients

The Tactical Operations Center (TOC) is not going to monitor your movement; there is NO advance team of interpreters, reporters, K-9 Explosive Ordinance Detection (EOD) dog handlers, Machine-gunners (MG’s), Designated Defensive Marksmen/Snipers (DDM’s) or advance pre-poster personnel. There is no Quick Reaction Force (QRF) standing-by in their Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Trucks (MRAP’s) & Up-armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HUMVEE’s) turrets wearing Nomex flight suits monitoring your radio traffic just waiting to come rescue you “if” you get into trouble. There are no black or blue helicopters, no little birds in the air, no Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) coverage overhead, nothing above you but the roof of this cheap rental car you are driving that was provided by your penny pinching client.

You are alone.

You are the advance, the executive protection agent, the agent-in-charge, the bodyguard, the driver, the medic, the pre-poster, the entire protection detail, the QRF and the fall guy for everything that will go wrong on this detail.

Why?

Because your resume said you can adapt and overcome difficult situations.

Why?

2011 10 01Because your reputation as a levitating water walking PSD operator has people believing you are the best at everything, and that you can do the impossible with nothing. So what you just arrived in this strange city last night and you have 4-hours of jet lag? So what the client has multiple credible threats from known convicted felons who live in that city? So what the principle that you are charged to protect doesn’t want to vary their route of travel, their morning latte stops nor their time of arrival at their office. You’ve been shot at & blown“ed” up and you’re a high speed, low drag, repel from the space shuttle throwing IR smoke canisters, PSD operator. And you can finally admit to yourself that there are several different types of “protection” operators and you don’t know them all.

Remember back in the military when you were in the Infantry? It was virtually impossible to become a master in all the different fields of Airborne Infantry, Air Assault Infantry, Ranger Infantry, Mechanized Infantry, Light Infantry, Motorized Infantry or regular walk everyday to the sound of the guns Infantry. Why? Because doctrinally they all were different from each other in some way, whether it was their method of delivery onto the battlefield or the tools they used to accomplish their mission.

A Close Protection Officer is different from Diplomatic Protection Agent; Witness Protection Guards are different from Celebrity Protection Personnel, and an Executive Protection Specialist is just as different from a Personal Security Detail member.

They are all in the same career management field and fundamentally they all have the same goals and objectives, but they are about a different as an NFL Punter and a Middle Linebacker or Quarterback.

It would be extremely difficult for a MLB player to transition from being a highly successful Catcher to becoming an All Star Shortstop. It’s the same as being an experienced High-Threat PSD Operator transferring to become an Executive Protection Specialist or a Close Protection Officer. The doctrine is the same but the techniques, tactics & procedures (TTP’s) are totally different.

So you may have served as a Celebrity Bodyguard or an Entertainment Protection Specialist. You’re an expert in all the idiosyncrasies of the movie, film & television world and can predict your clients’ intentions to a certain degree. But when your celebrity client wants to entertain the troops on a USO tour and you’re headed into harm’s way, what are some of the high-threat security recommendations you’ll suggest to your client to keep him/her alive and mitigate the risk factors? I have seen the fear in the eyes of the “Protection Specialists” as they tour the bases of Bosnia and Basra & Baghdad myself, and I just knew I could be better than that.

So after years of the high-threat protection arena working for various Private Military Contract (PMC) Companies I decided to drink from the faucet of executive protection, I mean how bad could it be?

Little did I know that the drinking faucet was too be turn on full blast and some levels of embarrassment in the celebrity protection world could be tantamount to “death” in the real world. Protecting your client from intention harm, unintentional harm and embarrassment are the governing factors for every protection specialist. But just because there “may” not be any IED’s on I-5 or I-95 doesn’t mean the danger is any less real.

First of all you look like a gorilla in a suit. I mean you can’t blend into the entourages of the corporate executives so you look like the typical bodyguard. You wore a military uniform daily and then you wore 5.11 brand types of clothing every day, so you never really wore a suit. I know you spent money, really good money on that grey pinstripe polyester suit with the black collared shirt and the black tie, but you look like an imitation gangster from a B-movie not like an executive protection specialist. So the client tells you to specifically not wear suits & ties nor jeans and sweat-suits to work anymore. That’s OK you say, because you have plenty of Woolrich, Underarmor and Oakley brand clothing that you brought back with you from the middle-east. Well the client tell you that they don’t like it when you wear the “fisherman” type vest and to wear something else. You think to yourself, “If only there was some type of executive protection school that taught me what to wear on these types of assignments”?

I’ll break down and tell the client, not the principal, but the client that I need assistance and everything will be fine. Well, get ready to meet the businessman who is fully invested in keeping this lucrative contract going, that you have been selected to work on. They could care less about your TTP’s or personal feelings, they want the high-speed low drag guy they paid for and threaten to ruin your reputation in the industry if you deliver anything less than what they expected.

Now try performing as an Executive Protection Specialist as you transition from your career as a High-Threat PSD member, while owning the company, having to make payroll for your other executive protection specialist, without a business mentor. Because that’s exactly what it feels like transitioning into the private sector and starting your own private security business.

First you have to get a business license from the City, Town and/or County you live in and you may need an additional business license from the location where your company will operate out of. Did you register your business name? And when I say did you register the name, I mean did you register your business name with every governmental agency to include an international search for possible copyright infringement. Patent? Trademark? Ownership of your business name? Do you have authorization from your county, your state & the 3 biggest agencies in the federal government; the I, the R and the S?

You are no longer an Independent Contractor (IC) working for whomever; you are now the business owner and have to hire IC’s or employees yourself.

Did I mention certification? Each and every State has their own process and/or governing board for bodyguard/executive protection. Some States will only allow you to operate in conjunction with a security officer certification; some States specifically prohibit anyone except private investigators from performing traditional “bodyguard” work. Some States require you to apprentice under someone who is already licensed to perform that type of work in that state. Did I mention armed? Oh, I know you though that the credentials were all you needed, but nobody told you that you need to have an “armed” endorsement in some states. Some states have reciprocal agreements with other states and other more liberal state do not care where your license is from you have to have theirs or they will throw you in jail.

Good-luck.

Did I forget to tell you about the insurance requirements for small business that operate in the Security or Protection field? Because I want you to understand that unless you have really, really deep pockets getting insurance is going to be very difficult, especially if you plan on operating in any sort of “armed” capacity.

Now comes the good part, getting clients.

Clients only come from referrals, period. No one is going to walk up to you at the grocery store and ask you to be their Close Protection Officer. If you do get unscheduled solicitation they are looking for a “bodyguard” and to most people the term Executive Protection Specialist is the furthest thing from their mind. So that $500 a month in advertising you took out is about as good as flushing it down the drain, because although in the protection arena we may look-down on the term bodyguard, most civilians have no idea what a CPO, SPP, SPS or EP specialist is. They are looking for a bodyguard (for the wrong reason) and no one is going to hire a stranger.

BPI Note:

I want to thank Mr Bilal for his service and contributions to our country as well as his continued hard work and endeavors.  If you are in need of a solid EP provider in the state of North Carolina make sure you put Shadow Protective Services at the top of your list.  It’s on the top of BPI’s.

17 comments

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  1. Wade Thompson

    Nice article. It has been way to long, please keep them coming…

    1. Muhammad Bilal

      Glad you enjoyed the article Wade Thompson.

  2. Leon S. Adams

    Excellent article as usual. Thanks to both of you for sharing.

    1. Muhammad Bilal

      I thank Eric for allowing me to share, and we’re glad you enjoyed the article Leon Adams.

  3. Rick Colliver

    Honest and well written! And, as they say, “Welcome to the party!!”

    1. Muhammad Bilal

      Thanks for the invite to the party, glad you could comprehend this “infantryman’s” writing Rick Colliver.

  4. Jeff Maguire

    Good Article!

    1. Muhammad Bilal

      Thanks, Jeff Maguire.

  5. Steve Brignoli

    Someone who was a 1LT must have taken advice from this man..

    The Ox is Slow, but the Earth is Patient…

    1. Muhammad Bilal

      The exchange of information was always mutual, thanks for everything.
      Holligan-7 OUT.

    2. Patti Bashore Martin

      Are you the Steve Brignoli who was with the NY State Police and did a training program at the PA State Police Academy in 1984 in Hershey, PA? Just askin’ …

  6. Jabir Hazziez

    Impressive read. Br Bilal was very descriptive of the challenges, and it was good to relate to someone with somewhat similar background. Thanks Eric for sharing. I look forward to meeting you both.

    1. Muhammad Bilal

      Glad you enjoyed the article Jabir Hazziez, look forward to meeting you as well.
      I’ll see you on LinkedIn.

  7. Muhammad Bilal

    Thanks Eric for allowing me to share with the members of our “Protection” community.

    I’d like to thank the active, former & retired members of the Military, Law Enforcement, First Responders and specifically the Executive Protection (EP) community. The security field is broad and the knowledge is tremendous in bulk, but what little I have will be shared on the level down where the goats can get it. I’m learning every day I am above ground and encourage members in our arena to network, share and grow. As you always say, your net worth is only as good as your network and your reputation arrives at a location long before you do.

    Oh, and that 1LT who took that advice from that PSG must have used it. Because last I heard that lieutenant got promoted became a combat leader in the Special Operations Community and now is the CEO of a business development and special operations forces recruitment firm within the DC Metro area called Beyond SOF.

  8. Everett Long

    I am HONORED to call Mr. Bialil a FRIEND…FAM….and MENTOR….we served together on several mission. I am proud to see the things that he has accomplished, and I can assure you this is ONLY the tip if the iceburg for this gentleman.

  9. Mandolin

    Excellent read!!!

  10. hacking Facebook

    Hurrah! Finally I got a website from where I can in fact obtain valuable facts concerning my study and knowledge.

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