The need to provide protection for a civilian principal visiting a war zone is certainly not a new situation for those who work in close protection. Kings, Presidents, Ambassadors, and others have been visiting areas in conflict for centuries. Today’s conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other parts of the world have heightened the need for Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in war zones, procedures that must be constantly updated to meet current threats.
When doing a threat assessment for a junket to a war zone, the protective team should have a good liaison with military intelligence personnel who are expert in current threats and tactics used by terrorists, insurgents, or enemy troops. Having some members on the team who are ex-military and familiar with military jargon will be a real aid in dealing with military personnel. Former combat troops also have a better feel for “switching on” in a war zone and an awareness of what type of support the team is likely to get from the military.
Once a threat assessment has been made and the actual visit is planned, it’s very important to keep the visit secret from as many people as possible. If potential enemies do not know about the visit, they cannot pre-plan attacks or preposition IEDs (improvised explosive devices). The first time anyone other than local military commanders should know the principal is coming is when his plane is wheels-down at a military controlled airport.
Visits to war zones should generally not be treated as state visits (i.e. no brass bands, no local girls with flowers, no speeches). I normally advise that the principal not wear a suit or other typical business attire. Although he should not look as if he is attempting to portray himself as a combat soldier, he should wear at least a jacket and hat that will let him blend with the officers and troops that surround him. His close protection team should also dress closely to those they will be around as well, thus allowing the principal and his protective team to wear the heavier body armor worn by combat troops without appearing out of place. An alternative that is very common among protective teams protecting a principal in the war zone is to wear clothing more of the type worn by military contractors. If this is the case, I would recommend that the principal dress similarly so he does not stand out. Having said all this, I will note that it is difficult with many VIPs to get them to look what they would deem “unprofessional” and they might insist on wearing a suit, etc. In that case try to get them to wear a topcoat to cover heavy body armor.