Bodyguard facts for kids

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Two bodyguards, protecting the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during Hannover Fair 2007
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Bodyguards of Viktor Yushchenko (far left) after leaving Gdansk city hall.

A Bodyguard is a security guard who physically protects a person against injury. Very often, important people, like heads of state, actors, and powerful or rich people have bodyguards.

Roles

Popular misconceptions

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Queen Elizabeth II protected by a Close Protection Officer from Ireland's Special Detective Unit

The role of bodyguards is often misunderstood by the public, because the typical layperson's only exposure to body-guarding is usually in highly dramatized action film depictions of the profession, in which bodyguards are depicted in firefights with attackers. In contrast to the exciting lifestyle depicted on the film screen, the role of a real-life bodyguard is much more mundane: it consists mainly of planning routes, pre-searching rooms and buildings where the client will be visiting, researching the background of people that will have contact with the client, searching vehicles, and attentively escorting the client on their day-to-day activities.

Breakdown of responsibilities

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French President François Hollande, accompanied by bodyguards

The role of a bodyguard depends on several factors. First, it depends on the role of a given bodyguard in a close protection team. A bodyguard can be a driver-bodyguard, a close-protection officer (who escorts the client), or part of an ancillary unit that provides support such as IED detection, electronic "bug" detection, counter-sniper monitoring, pre-searches facilities, and background-checks people who will have contact with the client. Second, the role of a bodyguard depends on the level of risk that the client faces. A bodyguard protecting a client at high risk of assassination will be focusing on very different roles (e.g., checking cars for IED devices, bombs, watching for potential shooters, etc.) than a bodyguard escorting a celebrity who is being stalked by aggressive tabloid photographers (e.g., the role will be to ask the photographers to maintain their distance and block the path of aggressive cameramen). Some bodyguards specialize in the close quarter protection of children of VIPs, to protect them from kidnapping or assassination.

Driving

In some cases, bodyguards also drive their clients. Normally, it is not sufficient for a client to be protected by a single driver-bodyguard, because this would mean that the bodyguard would have to leave the car unattended when they escort the client on foot. If the car is left unattended, this can lead to several risks: an explosive device may be attached to the car; an electronic "bug" may be attached to the car; the car may be sabotaged; or city parking officials may simply tow away the vehicle or place a wheel clamp on the tire. If parking services tow away or disable the car, then the bodyguard cannot use the car to escape with the client in case there is a security threat while the client is at their meeting.

The driver should be trained in evasive driving techniques, such as executing short-radius turns to change the direction of the vehicle, high-speed cornering, and so on. The car used by the client will typically be a large sedan with a low center of gravity and a powerful engine, such as a Jaguar, BMW or Mercedes Benz. In some countries, large trucks such as Suburbans are used for VIPs. At a minimum, the vehicle should have ballistic glass in the windows, some type of armor reinforcement to protect the client from gunfire, and a foam-filled gas tank. "Run-flat tires" (which have either extremely stiff sidewalls or a resilient filler to allow driving a limited distance while flat, usually at reduced speed, without permanent damage or hazard) and armor protection for the driver are also desirable.

The car may also be equipped with an additional battery; dual foot-pedal controls, such as those used by driving instruction companies (in case the driver is wounded or incapacitated), a PA system with a microphone and a megaphone mounted on the outside of the car, so that the driver can give commands to other convoy vehicles or bodyguards who are on foot; fire extinguishers inside the vehicle in case the vehicle is struck by a Molotov cocktail bomb or other weapon; a reinforced front and rear bumper, to enable the driver to ram attacking vehicles; and additional mirrors, to give the driver a better field of view. In Latin American countries many armored cars will come with a siren and lights to use in situations were they need to get out of places quickly. Decoy convoys and vehicles are used to prevent tailing. In the event the convoy holding the client is compromised and ambushed, decoy convoys can also act as a reinforcement force that can ambush a force that is attacking the primary convoy. Some clients rotate between residences in different cities when attending public events or meetings to prevent being tailed home or to a private location.

Weapons and weapon tactics

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U.S. Secret Service agents guarding the former First Lady Laura Bush

Depending on the laws in a bodyguard's jurisdiction and on which type of agency or security service they are in, bodyguards may be unarmed, armed with a less-lethal weapon such as a pepper spray, an expandable baton, or a Taser (or a similar type stun gun), or with a lethal weapon such as a handgun, or, in the case of a government bodyguard for a Secret Service-type agency, a machine pistol. Some bodyguards such as those protecting high ranking government officials or those operating in high risk environments such as war zones may carry assault rifles.

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Walter B. Slocombe, the U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy with his bodyguard in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1996. The bodyguard is armed with an M-16, a 5.56 mm, magazine-fed, select-fire rifle.

In addition to these weapons, a bodyguard team may also have more specialist weapons to aid them in maintaining the safety of their principal, such as sniper rifles and anti-material rifles (for anti-sniper protection) or shotguns.

Bin Laden's personal security detail consisted of "bodyguards...personally selected by him." Their "arsenal included SAM-7 and Stinger missiles, AK-47s, RPGs, and PK machine guns."

Bodyguards that protect high-risk principals may wear body armor such as kevlar or ceramic vests. The bodyguards may also have other ballistic shields, such as kevlar-reinforced briefcases or clipboards which, while appearing innocuous, can be used to protect the principal. The principal may also wear body armor in high-risk situations.

Counter-sniper weapons and tactics

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Team of bodyguards protecting former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff during her inaugural ceremony.

For a close protection officer, the primary tactic against sniper attacks is defensive: avoid exposing the principal to the risk of being fired upon. This means that the principal should ideally be within an armored vehicle or a secure structure. As well, when the principal moves between a vehicle and a building, the principal must be moved quickly to minimize the time window in which a sniper could take a shot and use a flanking escort of close protection officers to block the view of the sniper and any potential shot that the sniper may take. The use of offensive tactics against snipers will occur very rarely in a bodyguard context, because it is very difficult for bodyguards to attempt to locate and fire back at a distant, concealed, or camouflaged sniper, even if the security detail has a carbine rifle or scoped sniper rifle in the trunk of the car.

Daily tasks

A bodyguard team protecting a high-profile politician who is at risk of attack would be based around escorting the client from a secure residence (e.g., an embassy) to the different meetings and other activities they have to attend during the day (whether professional or social), and then to escort the client back to their residence.

Planning and assigning responsibilities

The day would begin with a meeting of the bodyguard team led by the team leader. The team would review the different activities that the client plans to do during the day, and discuss how the team would undertake the different transportation, escorting, and monitoring tasks. During the day, the client (or "principal") may have to travel by car, train, and plane and attend a variety of functions, including meetings and invitations for meals at restaurants, and do personal activities such as recreation and errands.

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Angela Merkel flanked by her bodyguards as she mingles with a crowd

Over the day, the client will be exposed to a range of risk levels, ranging from higher risk (meeting and greeting members of the public at an outdoor rally) to low risk (dining at an exclusive, gated country club with high security).

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The Fruit of Islam are a special group of bodyguards for Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad.

Some planning for the day would have begun on previous days. Once the itinerary is known, one or more bodyguards would travel the route to the venues, to check the roads for unexpected changes (road work, detours, closed lanes) and to check the venue. The venue needs to be checked for bugs and the security of the facility (exits, entrances) needs to be inspected. As well, the bodyguards will want to know the names of the staff who will have contact with the client, so that a simple electronic background check can be run on these individuals. Bodyguards often have training in firearms tactics, unarmed combat, tactical driving, and first aid. In multi-agent units (like those protecting a head of state) one or more bodyguards may have training in specific tasks, such as providing a protective escort, crowd screening and control, or searching for explosives or electronic surveillance devices ("bugs"). Bodyguards also learn how to work with other security personnel to conduct threat or risk assessment and analyze potential security weaknesses.

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Heavily-armed bodyguards from NSWDG provide close protection for Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Bodyguards learn how to examine a premises or venue before their clients arrive, to determine where the exits and entrances are, find potential security weaknesses, and meet the staff (so that a would-be attacker cannot pose as a staff member). As well, some bodyguards learn how to do research to be aware of potential threats to their client, by doing a thorough assessment of the threats facing the principal, such as a protest by a radical group or the release from custody of person who is a known threat. Close protection officers also learn how to escort a client in potentially threatening situations such as crowds that become unruly.

The militaries in many countries offer close protection training for the members of their own armed forces who have been selected to work as bodyguards to officers or heads of state (e.g., the 22 Special Air Service Regiment). As well, there are a number of private bodyguard training programs, which offer training in all aspects of close protection and including the legal aspects of bodyguarding (e.g., use of force, use of deadly force); how to escort clients; driving; searching facilities and vehicles, and so on.

Searching vehicles

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A bodyguard wearing an earphone for a walkie-talkie, so he can receive instructions.

An hour prior to leaving with the client to their first appointment, the driver-bodyguard and another bodyguard remove the cars that will be used to transport the client from the locked garage and inspect them. There may be only one car for a lower risk client. A higher risk client will have additional cars to form a protective convoy of vehicles that can flank the client's vehicle. The vehicles are inspected before leaving.

Transferring client to vehicle

Once the cars have been inspected and they are deemed to be ready for use, they are brought into position near the exit door where the client will leave the secure building. At least one driver-bodyguard stays with the cars while waiting, because the now-searched cars cannot be left unattended. If the convoy is left unattended, an attacker could attach an IED or sabotage one or more of the cars. Then the bodyguard team flanks the client as they move from the secure residence to the car.

Travelling

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A bodyguard team conducting a vehicle ambush drill.

The convoy then moves out towards the destination. The team will have chosen a route or two and in some cases it may involve three routes that are designated for travel along, which avoids the most dangerous "choke points", such as one-lane bridges or tunnels, because these routes have no way of escape and they are more vulnerable to ambush. A SWAT magazine article states that when the author was serving as security detail, "where we had Beretta 92s [fully automatic machine pistols], we would try to grab at least one 93R 20-round mag to carry as a spare for breaking ambushes." In some cases, if the client has to travel by train, the bodyguards will inspect the rail car they are traveling in and the other cars they will use. Traveling on foot to a destination is very dangerous because of the lack of cover and control over the environment.

Arrival at destination

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Bodyguard protects the Czech Republic President Miloš Zeman during arrival.

When the convoy arrives at the location, one or more bodyguards will exit first to confirm that the location is secure and that the staff who were booked to work that day are the ones who are present. If the location is secure, these bodyguards signal that it is safe to bring in the client. The client is escorted into the building using a flanking procedure. If the client is attending a private meeting inside the building, and the building itself is secure (controlled entrances) the client will not need to have a bodyguard escort in the building. The bodyguards can then pull back to monitor the principal's safety from a further distance. Bodyguards could monitor entrances and exits and the driver-bodyguard watches the cars.

If the client is moving about in a fairly controlled environment such as a private golf course, which has limited entrances and exits, the security detail may drop down to one or two bodyguards, with the other bodyguards monitoring the entrances to the facility, the cars, and remaining in contact with the bodyguards escorting the client. Throughout the day, as the client goes about their activities, the number of bodyguards escorting the client will increase or decrease according to the level of risk.

Return to secure location

After the day's activities, the client will be brought back to the secure residence location. Exiting from the vehicle and walking to the door exposes the client to risk, so the distance is kept as short as possible to cut down the time it takes to reach the door. Once the client is inside, the bodyguards assigned to the overnight detail will take up their positions outside or inside the residence. The vehicles are then parked in a locked garage (to prevent tampering, sabotage, or IED placement). Some team members may spend additional time doing maintenance on the equipment used by the team. The TL (team leader) will ensure that all equipment is checked and packed away for the next day and ensure the radios are being charged for the next day's operation.


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