Teams in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa have had to gun-up and upgrade tactics to counter the threat of terrorism. More than ever, security teams need highly trained and experienced drivers who can effectively maneuver at high speed in evasive situations, both on clear roads and in the congested traffic of large cities. The faster a motorcade is moving, the harder it is to ambush it or to hit with a command detonated IED or RPG. Speed also makes a security convoy aware of other plotting dangers that trace at a similar pace. On the other hand, increasing speed makes braking and steering more difficult. Skilled drivers must be ready at any time to take evasive action in a controlled manner, but it helps to know where the most dangerous areas are along the route. Experience and intelligence can help when entering areas of a heightened threat.
Comm and Diplomacy
Good communications is always important, but today good comm with backup systems is crucial. If reaction forces are available, a security team must be able to call in should they be attacked. Certainly, contact with the command post must be maintained at all times and vehicles should be further equipped with a GPS for command post tracking when available. Radios should be backed up by satellite phone and/or a cell phone if the latter will work reliably in the area. If U.S. military personnel are available to act as a QRF (quick reaction force), good relations should be cultivated. Time and/or resources spent reinforcing the fact you are operating on the same team are well spent.
Bug Out Plans
Security teams in high-risk areas are often targeted. As a result, evacuation-under-fire drills must be practiced and carried out. Switching the principal to another vehicle is one such drill that can’t be practiced enough. If an escort vehicle is knocked out, it may be necessary to drive ahead and ensures that the principal reaches his destination. Tactics for dealing with this situation sometimes include having a couple of extra vehicles in a motorcade that run with just a driver and a couple of gunners, also serving as a pickup vehicle. It isn’t uncommon that security teams carry heavy weapons and additional ammunition than teams in lower-threat environments. Depending on the environment, enhanced body armor with hard plates capable of stopping the 7.62×39 mm cartridge is highly advised.
Tactical medicine is increasingly stressed in the training of security teams. In case of an ambush with injuries, medivac plans must be in place and ideally versed. Experienced security contractors often have their own helicopters that may be used to evacuate personnel to a trauma center or to bring in a reaction team. Medics of the special operations community or EMTs are highly sought after when selecting a security team.
Running Guns Up
To help avoid ambushes or deal with rolling ambushes from other vehicles, it is necessary to run “guns up” much of the time in danger zones. Some aspects of hardening are advisable for all vehicles, including additional armor plating for a vehicle, run-flat tires, and flame-retardant gas tanks. Shooting from vehicles takes extensive practice. Dedicated training time is mandatory.
Motorcades may be dangerous but so is moving a principal on foot. The threat of suicide bombers means that the security corridor around a principal must be kept much larger. Areas where offices and residences are located should be secure. In many parts of the world, local police and military may not be reliable. Therefore, “secure area” is a relative term and members of the security team will have to provide an inner cordon. Office buildings and residences should be built or fortified against the threat of vehicular bombing or need to be retrofitted. Thick concrete barriers help to keep a car bomber at distance from the building.
Suicide Bombers On Foot
Suicide bombers and assassinations are such a great threat that whenever possible, principals are kept away from crowds. Receiving lines and fence lines are always fraught with danger. Magnetometers and X-ray machines can help check visitors before admittance, but they are not foolproof. It must be remembered, too, that many suicide bombers are women and children.
The use of military and police personnel along walkways where a principal must pass may help with security, assuming local security forces have a high degree of reliability. In addition to providing the most reliable people closest to the principal, if the security team coordinates the “honor guard,” they will act as “bullet catchers” whose bodies are interposed between a potential threat and the principal.
Because keeping the local population at a distance is so important in protecting the principal against suicide bombers and other types of attack, members of the security team who speak the local language are extremely valuable. It is worthwhile to send teams to language submersion courses or hire an instructor so that each member of the team develops a working knowledge of the local language.
When moving a principal on foot in high-threat areas, AOP (Attack-On-Principal) drills must be a priority. For example, if the close protection team normally consists of five bodyguards, it would be advisable to equip one or two with assault rifles. If only one extra bodyguard is used, he can operate as a tail gunner, walking backwards behind the team, ready to engage any threat that emerges. Should a threat to the front or side emerge, he can still turn and pour additional firepower on the attackers.
SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for close protection teams going into an AOP drill is for the first bodyguard who spots the threat to identify it and engage it. He will shout something akin to, “Gun, right, engaging!” Communicating details such as where the threat is, what it is, and that someone is dealing with it are mandatory.
Members of a close protection team must be trained not to become bogged down with an attack that might be intended just to stop the escort formation so that another attack may be launched. As a result, when evacuating the principal, team members must remain alert to the possibility of another attack.
In higher-threat environments, the security team will be armed with assault rifles or carbines as well as handguns. Ample spare magazines should always be carried. If working in a dangerous environment and wearing suits or formal attire and/or carrying only subguns or handguns, then numerous spare magazines must be carried. Rifles or carbines are often available inside the vehicle. Keeping the protective effort low-profile is not desirable. Potential attackers should see lots of heavier weapons displayed and ready for use. Even with enhanced weapons and counter-ambush training, security personnel must use good intelligence and communication to choose a route that avoids danger.
In dignitary protection, a fight avoided is far better than a fight won. Only when they cannot avoid the fight should they engage with overwhelming firepower. Even then, gaining fire superiority is designed to allow them to break off the engagement and get the principal out of the threat zone.
Dream “Security Team” Carbine
I’ve given a lot of thought over the last few years to the best carbine for arming security teams. Most are armed with MP5s. I wanted a carbine that would be reliable, easy to maintain and relatively compact.
As the basis for my carbine, I chose the DSA SA58 (FAL) with 16-1/4-inch barrel and paratrooper folding stock. With stock folded, this carbine is about the same overall length as an M4 carbine yet the original FAL in .308 has a barrel almost 2 inches longer.
Essential Weapon Options: Since I was not ordering this carbine as a military weapon I did not order the carry handle. A security team carbine will either be in the hands or on a tactical sling allowing quick access; hence, I ordered tactical swivels. I did want the carbine to allow ease of handling with one hand should my other hand be occupied. As a result, I ordered the FN SAW grip. I felt that this would allow a comfortable hold on the rifle when firing and a surer grip when holding it in the primary hand while moving, etc. I went with the Yankee Hill Phantom flash hider because it has standoff ridges. I strongly advocate not sticking one’s carbine where someone can grab it, but the ridges on this flash hider do give it some CQC protection if necessary to shove someone off. I did not order a railed handguard system since I do not intend to install lights, lasers, etc. Ease of manipulation within a vehicle remained a higher priority than building clearing.
Essential Weapon Optic: The optical sight had to be one that allowed quick use at close range, longer range precision capability, durability, and no batteries required. Trijicon’s ACOG fits these requirements perfectly. I chose the TA33 for my FAL. A 3×30 mm scope, its red chevron allows very fast engagement from close ranges out to 100 meters. Stadia lines beneath the chevron on a post are marked to 600 meters. The TA33 is a little over 6 inches in length and adds about 7 ounces, all good selling points. Unloaded with TA33 installed, my FAL still only weighs 9.5 lbs.