The number one thing in Close-Protection is ensuring the safety and security of the Principal you are charged with protecting. Sounds simple enough to the typical self proclaiming Type-A personality, but is it?
The short answer is No! It's not simple by any means.
During some training I went through years ago, I was taught a game... The "What if Game!" Basically, you are constantly testing yourself, evaluating every situation you are in and imagining if things were to go bad. Where is your egress? Who do you immediately perceive as a threat and why? How would you mitigate that threat with what you have at your immediate disposal? Are you willing to give your life at that very moment in the defense of another?
Most self proclaiming "Type-A" Personalities will say "absolutely.. in a heart beat". But think about the last question. Would you give your life for someone? I can answer unequivocally YES in regards to my children. But it gets more complicated when you start talking about someone you don't know or even like.
Until you have been faced with that decision, you will never know for sure. You should be training constantly, feeding your skill set, testing yourself always. This is where muscle memory kicks in. If you react to certain scenarios in training over and over again, then when it actually happens your body will naturally want to react. Well it will react, if in fact you are actually cut out for the job you are in.
Even in combat, there are Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines that will fold under pressure. In Baghdad, while I was contracting on a State Department contract, there was a Diplomatic Security Special Agent riding along with a Tactical Support Team while the vehicle was hit with an EFP (Explosively Formed Projectile). Driver, lost his arm, but for the most part everyone in the back of the vehicle was good to go, just a little shaken up. When the crossover and EVAC started happening, it took a female IA (Intel Analyst) that also happen to be riding with them that day grabbing the DS Agent in attempts to drag him out from the fetal position he adopted shortly after the explosion to another vehicle. The driver with the blown off arm had already started applying his own tourniquet before the rest of the team got to him.
I sincerely hope that the DS Agent in question discovered that maybe he wasn't cut out for this line of work. I would have so much more respect for him or anyone else that was put in that situation and made the conscience decision to change careers. But sadly, that is probably not the case. I am sure he was given an award and most likely promoted.
Just recently, I watched the Benghazi hearing with Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. One of the questions asked was "Why didn't any of the Diplomatic Security Agents on site engage the enemy. The answer given was, the DS Agents felt there was a greater chance of even more loss of life if they engaged.
I do have a serious problem with this answer, seeing as I spent the better part of the last 10 years in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the tribal regions of Pakistan with a combined total of almost 20 years in the Industry including my domestic time. Any attacks we came under while I was contracting we overwhelmed the aggressors with superior firepower and the will to kick ass, dominate and live another day! It's referred to as "Violence of Action" for a reason and it does work!" We did this for the person we were charged with protecting and our team mates to ensure we all went home.
I remember being on a recovery operation January 23rd 2007, where I was part of a Tactical Support Team in which we, along with other teams went out to recover the bodies of four of our team mates when their helicopter was shot down in Baghdad. This neighborhood was also known as having a huge Sunni Extremist stronghold. Their helicopter was shot down because they went in selflessly as a Quick Reaction Force and Extraction element for a Protective Detail that was under attack on venue. Later that night, as we were decompressing I found out that one of our team mates refused to get out of the vehicle as part of the fire team to maneuver through the neighborhood to get to the actual crash site. He was then labeled a coward and shunned from running anymore missions with us. What he should have done is accept responsibility for his actions and by remaining in theater was a liability to everyone. He was later transferred to another position in which he was less likely to be involved in anything in which he could be a liability. I learned later on, he screwed up that position as well.
As far as the Benghazi Attack, The Industry is very small. I have been told some even more disturbing facts about that night from colleagues that were there early on, and then some that were there that night.
So for those out there wanting to make the jump into the Close-Protection Industry, remember... The Industry is small and what you do goes along way. Your reputation is everything. If you ever find yourself having doubts as to how you would handle a situation, than this is NOT the Industry for you. Not everything is High Threat, but even low threat International protection presents certain obstacles you will need to deal with. You are not likely going to encounter a VBIED on a Domestic Assignment, but in the US, you still have the radical PETA type threats depending on your Principal as well as a Criminal element you have to mitigate.
In closing the Close-Protection Professional must have proper training in which they can assess and formulate a plan prior to any movements involved, with hopes of not having to deal with any engagements such as the examples I have given. A proper advance is a critical. If not available at the time, then vigilance is a must. Try to have an IA on your detail to assess the crime in the area, liaison with local LE and build relationships with them.
In closing, Being in this Industry is not about picking a fight, but when it's time to Fight, you must never hesitate. Hesitation will get you killed, or most certainly fired and shunned. And the "What if Game" is essential when you are putting together your OP-Order or Mission/Detail brief. It will ensure all basics are covered.
And I've never heard of any fight being won without actually fighting.