So, you are thinking of becoming a Close Protection Officer (CPO)?

Becoming a Close Protection Officer (CPO) or Executive Protection Agent (EPA), is a popular choice for many leaving the military. That is why at Veterans Job Hub we decided to give you a guide of what you can expect as you navigate your way to a career as a Close Protection Officer.

History of Personal Security

We know this is not why you are reading this article. But its important to understand where CPO’s originated from and why. If you have a grasp of the history, it won’t do you any harm in conversations with potential employers. As the saying goes, ‘knowledge is power’.

The concept of personal protection dates back to ancient times. Historical powerful leaders such as Julius Caesar and emperors of China all had personnel security or ‘Bodyguards’. In Europe, royalty had security details such as the Yeoman of the Guard in England. The Swiss Guards still protect the Pope today having first done so in 1506. Modern Executive Protection developed significantly in the 20th century.

Particularly with the rise of high profile political leaders and celebrities. The US Secret Service which was founded in 1865 to combat counterfeit currency. But soon began its protective mission after the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901.

Examples of Brave CPO’s

One of the most famous examples is the attempt to assassinate President Ronald Regan in 1981. Secret Service Agent Timothy J. McCarthy stepped in front of Reagan and took a bullet to the chest. He intended to shield the President from harm. We are proud to say that at time of writing, he is still alive and healthy.

In the photo you will see McCarthy on the right of the picture, moments before the assassination attempt. He took a bullet in the chest, and back in those days he wasn’t even wearing a bullet proof vest.

Another famous example is of Clint Hill. He climbed into the back of President John F. Kennedy’s vehicle to shield the President and First Lady after the shots were fired.

Things have changed

If we fast forward to the last 20 years, the Security industry and CPO’s exploded after the War of Terror. Many service leavers having served in Afghanistan and Iraq in uniform, headed straight back with Private Security Companies. For a number of years it made this work highly attractive with the good pay and opportunities that presented. Of course the risks were high.

President Ronald Reagan moments before he was shot

[image]

Understanding what an Executive Protection Agent and a Close Protection Officer does

Many people may think that Close Protection (CP) is glamourous work. This is down to the Hollywood portrays of the job such as The Bodyguard, and James Bond. In reality, the daily tasks are significantly more mundane. It also carries considerable accountability, which is far from the consequence free actions seen in these films.

Before you sign up to courses, assess why you are drawn to this type of work. Think about whether it suits your personality, as it requires a strong desire to protect others. Sometimes at personal risk, and a great deal of patience is required. People skills is also an essential part of this profession as clients may not always agree with your security assessments.

Another common myth is the notion of high pay and glamourous lifestyles. Mingling with celebrities at lavish parties, in reality, means looking after your client in busy and stressful environments.

Having said all that it can be a very rewarding new career with opportunities that can lead to other security jobs. It was important we just laid down the reality

Qualities needed for a Close Protection Officer

The reason former military personnel are suited to become CPO’s is you will have the ability to work well as a team which is vital. You will be spending a great deal of time with members of your security details. Therefore spending long days, with sometimes little time off, comes second nature to anyone who has served.

Dealing with high stress environments is all part of the job. Whether you are deployed in the Middle East hot spots or, looking after a celebrity in LA. It will come with its own stress points, which could be the client, environment, throwing fastballs etc.

What’s the pay like for a Close Protection Officer?

The starting salary for an CPO in the United States can vary greatly. If a highly experienced, and long serving military person left and went straight into this industry, they may be compensated more than say a minimum time served junior rank who left and went into security.

According to salary.com the pay for an EPA can range from $89k to $110k. But I would take these figures with a pinch of salt and do not base your decision basis on these figures. It is vital to do your own research and depends on location, experience and knowledge. Lets be honest it is also a ‘who you know’ industry.

Starting jobs for Close Protection

Often these jobs will be short term contracts, and therefore you may need to be self employed. What that means is if you can take Close Protection Jobs contracts you could be paid a set amount. This could be a fixed daily rate, or paid per contract fulfilled. It can be frustrating trying to break into the industry so be prepared to do fast balls. Some contracts may be very short in length perhaps even just for a single day, other could be a few days to a week.

We recommend you seek an accountant who will work out your tax position and help you set up. Its important to set aside an amount to pay your taxes. Ideally, you will have been given advice before your first close protection job.

Residential Security

This is a potential starting role that involves securing the homes and personal properties of clients. You could find yourself monitoring security systems, making sure no breaches to the perimeters are made.

An example of this is looking after a celebrities house. As they often report on their whereabouts on social media, sophisticated gangs are always looking for opportunities. It is the same with professional sports people, very easy to know where they are when competing.

You may control access to the properties and the primary purpose will be to ensure the safety of the residents from intruders. If the security systems are in place and used correctly, hopefully you won’t ever be needed to act.

Event Security

As a new Close Protection Officer, you might consider working at events protecting performers. At events you will be managing the safety of your clients during public appearances, gatherings, or functions. This involves crowd control, coordination with venue security, and sometimes escorting the client through various event phases.

Driver or Security Chauffeur

Often, being a new CPOs you may start your career by driving clients. This role combines the skills of a chauffeur with the awareness and response capabilities of a security agent, requiring proficiency in defensive driving techniques and route planning to avoid potential threats. Being calm is essential for this, clients will dislike traffic, and in hostile countries there is lots of potential threats.

Junior Detail Member

Being a newcomer, you might be part of a larger security detail, working under more experienced agents to learn the ropes. In these roles, they will assist with the overall daily security operations, learning about advance work, threat assessment, and close personal protection tactics.

It is always good to work with seasoned professionals to see how they deal with logistics behind the scene and their communications skills with the clients. At the end of the day if you are new into the industry, you may need to take any close protection jobs offered to build up your resume and CV.

Surveillance and Monitoring

As an entry-level CPO, you may start with responsibilities focused on surveillance. Using cameras and other monitoring equipment to oversee areas around their clients or observe for any unusual activities that could indicate a threat.

Choosing The Right Close Protection Course

When deciding on a career in close protection, one of the primary considerations is whether to pursue high-risk or low-risk security work.

Regardless of the path chosen, obtaining an SIA (Security Industry Authority) license is essential. You should select a training course that is accredited and aligns with the specific demands and location of your intended work area.

It’s important to note, particularly for those looking to work within the UK, that carrying firearms is not permitted. This makes firearms training unnecessary unless you plan to get international close protection jobs, where such skills might be required.

[image]

CP in a High Risk Environment

In the last 20 years Afghanistan and Iraq had thousands of security deployed to these countries due to the war and then the rebuilding programme. Close Protection Officers were in high demand due to the high threat levels. From Politicians to Private company contractors, everyone needed personal security over a number of years.

Like anything, supply and demand meant in the early years the pay was excellent for this profession. Then as more entered the market pay decreased, companies were bidding lower for contracts. This meant the average CPO salaries and day rates inevitably went down.

At time of writing, high risk areas include Ukraine, the Middle East, parts of Arica and South America. To work in these environments the companies may want to see a minimum service time served.

Often companies will want a minimum of 6 to 8 years. They may also demand that you have completed one or two tours of duty. We are speaking very generically here so do your own research, and speak to your network.

CP in a Low Risk Environment

This will be more likely for Executive cliental. It will involve different skill sets such as the ability to blend in with people around you. Being covert and having a natural ability not to stand out can put you in good stead.

Good manners and communication skills are also essential for these roles. If you are successful in this role, people will assume you are part of the clients delegation.

What Close Protection course should I do?

When researching the courses, navigating through the training providers can be challenging. Each provider will claim to be the pinnacle of their specific field.

They will most probably have impressive websites, enticing brochures, and may even hint of post course employment. The first step for your research if you are UK based, is to search the Security Industry Authority (SIA) website. If the company is not on there you should not transfer funds to them.

Opting to do a course from the accredited list will mean they have been approved so you will likely be able to get your SIA on competition. Sometimes being accredited will not automatically guarantee the provider will teach uniform training standards.

Ultimately the quality of the course will boil down to the instructors. Seek feedback from recent graduates or people who have done the course previously. If you know anyone in your network who completed the course, find out how they got on post course.

Speaking to people who may have left the military as the same rank as you, and seeing if they got employed is a great indicator for your potential future.

As we’ve mentioned above, you need to check the practical component of the training. The big one is obviously if it has firearms training, and geared towards high or low risk environments. Just because a course is nearby, or cheaper may not necessarily be the best option.

The ultimate aim is to secure yourself a close protection job, therefore that has to be the decisive factor, so ask yourself “Will this course get me a job?”

What about becoming a Close Protection Medic?

Do not overlook the potential extras such as a Medical qualification. If you have these it may be a welcome extra for employers. Many veterans who have gone into Close Protection security have naturally become medics.

There are different standards of medics starting with a basic team medic who has completed a basic first aid course. You can then go all the way to become a Paramedic. The higher your qualification the more you will stand out to employers.

In the UK to become a Paramedic now takes a lot of training and dedication. Please note: that to be a Paramedic you must complete a qualified course ie University degree. You are then able to apply to the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC). This is a separate topic for another time but going down this route can lead to number of opportunities for close protection jobs. Its one to explore and consider for your future.

In summary though you should research, speak to your network, when deciding on a training provider.

How much should a Close Protection course cost?

The cost of Close Protection (CP) courses in the UK can vary widely depending on several factors. These include the duration of the course, the reputation and accreditation of the training provider, and the inclusion of additional certifications (such as first aid). Generally, you can expect the cost to range from Β£1,000 to Β£4,000 or more.

Shorter courses typically last around 10 to 14 days. It may cost less but might not provide as comprehensive training as longer courses. On the other hand, longer courses may span several weeks or even months. These tend to be more expensive but offer more in-depth instruction and practical experience.

Additionally, some training providers may offer package deals that include accommodation, meals, and additional certifications, which can affect the overall cost.

It’s essential to thoroughly research different training providers, compare course curriculums and reviews, and inquire about all costs involved before committing to a Close Protection course. We cannot emphasize that enough.

Preparation for your course

Not many veterans like the word “admin”. But in this case you will need to be all over your administration. Gone are the Iraq days where you left the military and jumped on a flight to Baghdad to get close protection jobs. You now need to be all over this.

A reputable training provider typically offers pre-course reading materials, but you can also find books on the subject. It’s encouraged you go further by by conducting online research, and speaking to your network.

The theoretical framework is grounded in logical systems and common sense. With the right resources, it’s possible to grasp the exam material before the course begins. I believe this is invaluable advice as it allows you to focus on the practical elements of the course and truly relish the experience without the burden of excessive theoretical study.

Additionally, investing time in learning theory beforehand can enhance your long-term memory retention. It’s also advisable to dedicate some time to improving your fitness before the course.Β 

[image source]

Before starting a course we recommend you read the latest UK Government guidelines for applying for your license in case there is anything you need to do. The last thing you would want to do is complete the course and not be able to apply due to missing information.

Going on your Close Protection Course

It’s completely normal to feel a bit nervous before starting. You may have just left the military, or you transitioning out but not yet officially left. Its a big step we get it, but maintaining a positive mindset will serve you well.Β 

You’ll likely receive a list of items to bring to the course, such as business attire, workout gear, etc. Plan ahead and pack accordingly to avoid unnecessary laundry distractions. Since parts of the course will involve physical activity, be sure to bring any necessary medications, and inform the course organizers of any medical conditions you may have.

Arrive early and take the opportunity to get to know your fellow team members, as you’ll be working closely with them for the next 2-4 weeks. Once the course begins, expect long days and limited sleep.

This can test patience, so try to maintain a level head. Punctuality is key so if you’re told to assemble at 06:30, aim to be there and ready by 06:15. Follow instructions from the team leader or trainer promptly as there’s little benefit in debating tasks that still need to be done.

Above all, enjoy yourself, but maintain a professional demeanour towards the tasks at hand to make the most of the course. If something isn’t clear, don’t hesitate to ask the trainer as that’s what they’re there for. Their experience and expertise are invaluable resources you’ve invested in. Don’t go in with preconceived notions about your strengths as you may be surprised by what you excel at.Β  A good trainer will provide feedback on your strengths and weaknesses during the course, so listen to it and use it to improve.

You have completed your course now what?

Well from the high of achieving new skills and meeting new people, you will soon realise more work is needed to be done.

SIA licence Application for UK participants

The processing time for an SIA (Security Industry Authority) license application can vary depending on several factors. These include the completeness of your application, the volume of applications being processed at the time, and any additional checks that may be required. These can be background checks or verification of qualifications.

As a general guideline, the SIA aims to process standard applications within around six weeks from the date they receive a correctly completed application. However, in practice, it can often take longer than this, especially during peak application periods or if there are any issues with the information provided. Please note the word ‘correctly’ which means you need to get it right when submitting.

For some individuals, particularly if additional checks are required or if there are complications with the application, the process can take several months. It’s essential to be patient during this time and ensure that you have submitted all necessary documentation accurately to avoid any delays.

If you have specific concerns about the status of your application or if it has been significantly delayed beyond the expected processing time. Then you can contact the SIA directly for an update on the progress of your application.

How do I get my first Close Protection Jobs?

This will be the biggest challenge facing newly licensed CPO’s. Hopefully you have already been networking and now attention turns to writing your resume / CV. This is the first impression an employer has about you so you need to make it count. We have addressed this issue substantially already so please see that blog.

Now you have done all that it is time to network like you never have before, all that means is talking to people in the industry and getting known. It could well be through LinkedIn, social media groups or once on your first job, the team members there. If you open yourself up to any possibility then you will be surprised how connections are made.