Infantry Patrols: Lessons for Close Protection Details
While on vacation, I was fortunate enough to have found some nice ‘hard-pack’ roads to run on, off the beaten path. The cool morning and sun shining through the trees made me reminisce about being a young Army officer, learning how to and conducting patrols in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Any Infantryman will tell you, after battle drill 1A, one of the keys to understanding how patrolling works is the movement of the team throughout the activity. Everyone has their position, each knows their primary roles and (if needed or called upon) can step up to a tertiary duty, as well. Through training and honing their collective skills, a patrol can move pretty well with limited verbal communications (hand and arm signals anyone). One test of this is the danger area. This, as it sounds, is an area which presents a particular risk interest to the patrol. It could be an open area, or somewhere where enemy activity is more present. Essentially, it can be many risk vectors that, for some reason, give the patrol a reason to pause, assess, decide and react – preferably without upsetting the rhythm of movement for the patrol, so that it can get back on point as quickly as possible.
Now, there are multiple ways in which a group can manage a danger area, once it has been identified. Like Close Protection Operations, there is as much art that goes into conducting infantry operations as there is science and planning. Without the later, however, the former can less synchronized and nuanced.
Once the danger area is detected the patrol stops, taking a short pause to assess the danger and decide how they will best traverse. Mind you, for those who are trained and work together, a professional organization doesn’t need to waste a lot of time at this stage. As they are practiced and professional, the team has worked thru the variable ways and, thus, when it comes time for the patrol leader to decide how they will move through the danger area they do so…silent and smooth. It is a ballet of bad-assery to observe. Silently, a stealthy team (or larger) wisps its way, with limited interruption, each person understanding what is at stake, their role in the activity, moving without hesitation and with confidence.
What can we learn from this, as Close Protection professionals?
Like a patrol, the CP team (or agent) has been given the task to move forward, towards an objective. In the patrol’s case, it could be many things (recon position, link up points, a patrol base, etc.). A CP mission may be to go to a meeting, an event, or perhaps just getting the principal through a day of activities. In both cases, there are probably multiple moves going on within the larger objective.
Plan the movement
Planning is inherent in both. While we don’t always know what the actual detail may bring us, it’s important to plan the operation for as much as we know. If all easel fails, understanding “how” you will conduct the detail (much like a patrol) is key as you move forward and have to modify actions on-the-move.
Understand the triggers for a danger area
Hopefully you have conducted some type of intelligence prep of your detail. Whether it is an individual or group who conducts your assessment, getting the lay-the-land you will be working in helps identify danger areas and activities you need to formulate responses and mitigative activities or resources towards.
Have a Contingency
In conjunction with the above, having a (at the very least) outline of possible ways to deal with each of the identified issues (think science) will allow
Practice the important parts
I know…. You don’t have time. But, you should make time to (at the least) chalk talk the issues so that, if it happens, you have at least walked through it. If, however, you can take time during your advance to dry run a few of the activities with your team or support crew, it makes the world of difference. Some teams (say a PSD) this is not an option, others may need to collectively get over the ego hump and do it, if only occasionally. Remember, just because you know it, doesn’t mean someone else get’s it (or will admit they don’t).
Communicate the movement plan to all agents/support operatives
You’ve got your plan and have talked about the issues. Take time to brief and discuss with the team and/or your support team. Ensure they know each of the issues and their play in t. Ask for input (especially from the locals) but remember, know one understands or knows the operational plan like you. Spend some time on the contingency and “signals” plan. How will we communicate? Who will you take orders from (maybe the front right is not the best place for the leader to be) and what happens if the leader is out of the loop.
Discussing the possible mitigation activities helps bring confidence to the overall team and creates a culture of professionalism within the group that will transcend beyond the detail, and into the larger organization (or group) you work in.
One more thing…
Finally, leaders need to lead. The show is your responsibility, embrace it. Whether a solo operator dealing with contingency staff at an event or a detail lead of 15 people, it’s your ball. Set a tone and work with what you are handed to create as much of a professional grouping as you can, with the time you have. Like our infantry comrades, the more we be prepared, the better we can cross our danger areas and move forward.
Keep your heads down.