October 25th 2008 Principal Officer Lynn Tracy, The "Acting Consul General" for the US Consulate General Peshawar was ambushed departing her residence on her way into work at the Consulate. She survived the attack thanks to the quick thinking and skills of her driver, in which he reversed out and managed to break contact getting Ms. Tracy out of danger and back to her secured residence.
Her driver was not what you might expect as to what the level of protection for an American Diplomat should "rate" working in a "then deemed" Critical Threat Environment, however he reacted and got the job done just the same. He was not a highly trained Special Operations Operator, A Civilian Contractor on a WPPS/WPS Program, nor part of the Diplomatic Security Service. In fact he wasn't even American. Truth be told, he was a local Pakistani National that had been a driver for the Consulate for a number of years prior to the attack.
The difference between him and anyone else was that he was sent to the US to attend an Anti-Terrorism and Evasion driver course at BSR in West Virginia sponsored by the Diplomatic Security Service. The one driver course he attended was enough for him to know how to react and execute. The vehicle was up-armored, however armor only holds up for only so long. I have no doubt that Ms. Tracy is alive today, because of this LN's actions. By reversing out, he was able to break contact and head back to the residence which was secured. He was given an award for his service that day in which he rightfully deserves.
Given this example is why I can justify saying, "Your Drivers on a detail are one of the most critical positions you have". They not only have to react when the time comes, but also have to put the most work in when you are not on the Principal. More specifically the "LIMO" driver has the most work of everyone.
Not just anyone can be a driver, it is a skill-set that not everyone can master. You have to know the capabilities AND the limitations of your vehicle. It sounds easy enough until you start driving 12,000 to 14,000 pound Up-Armored Suburbans. Acceleration has to be anticipated, looking ahead, being aware of your surroundings, relying on the other detail members to call out perceived threats, all while attempting to maintain a smooth/non-threatening ride for your Principal. We wont even get into braking, especially in a hot 120 degree desert environment.
Bottom line, your Drivers can make or break a detail. I don't care how spot on you are, if your drivers are not worth a $hit, then the lasting impression of your client will not be as favorable as you would have hoped for. I've seen many of drivers rotated into other positions because a client has complained.
I have been lucky enough to attend a few driving courses and I know there are quite a few out there with some being more popular than others. If I were to recommend someone to a Driving School, these are some of the things, I would tell them to look for.
1. Do they have a race track/cordoned off area you can do high speed driving and braking?
2. Do they have a variety of vehicles- Sedan vs. SUV?
3. Do they have junk cars in which you can perform pit maneuvers and ramming techniques?
4. Do they have any Armored Vehicles in which you can familiarize yourself with?
5. Do they offer any training at night?
6. Do they offer off-road courses?
7. BONUS-Do they offer live-action training such as downed vehicle drills, Cross loading, tire changes, and Cover & Evacuation drills with a mock principal?
You may not find one course that offers you all of these opportunities, but any driver training is better than NO driver training. And of course, you can also attend another block of instruction later on with another training facility. Driving is a perishable skill and unless you are assigned as a driver honing that skill daily, then as with anything else it will go away.
You should always attempt to attend an Industry specific course on your downtime. Driving isn't the only perishable skill, so before you decide to set off for a week in Vegas to spend all that money you made...... factor in some training on your down time (BTW, It's a tax write off).
I promise it will pay off in the end and "Keeps that Resume Alive!"