A Look at the High Risk Environment Protective Operations Course
By George Singarella

Providing "Protective Services" in a high threat environment requires not only a very specific training program, but just as important are the people selected to do the job.

Whenever we hold a course for High Risk Environment Protective Operations, the first thing students realize that this is not about glamour and fine dining. The misconception that "Stateside Protection" and High Risk Environment Protection are the same is also a dangerous attitude. Certain stateside "Protectees" honestly do need protection from specific threats, however, most of the time it's a dog and pony show or a requirement by a board of directors, insurance concerns or something to that affect. I know because I have conducted many of them here in the states and have also conducted High Risk Environment Protective details in permissive and semi-permissive areas.


High Risk Environment protection personnel must be trained in aspects of security that a stateside protection specialist would not, and possibly could not do legally. Let's take a look at a High Risk Environment (HRE) Protective Operations course.

The day begins with initial issue of training gear. You will not find suits and expensive shoes here. Boots, tactical vest, chest harnesses, drop holsters, level 4 body armor, concealment holsters and the list goes on. After gear issues, students are given "The Speech." We want everyone to know up front that they are going into harms way. All the one man army crap that Hollywood shows about protection needs to stay in Hollywood. The only thing that will keep you alive is team work, and team work starts in the training.

To give you an idea of who is being trained, we have students from corporations with government contracts, Government agencies and Special Mission Units from the military. The majority of the students from the private sector are prior military, many coming from the Special Operations Community. This is not a requirement; however, this is the type of mindset and skill level we are looking for. There are also quite a few SWAT police officers. SWAT officers generally have more training than the regular street cop in the areas of expertise required for HRE operations.


The training begins with an overview of the country students will be operating in. Cultural issues, customs and this sort of material will be covered. The students need to understand that they will be in a different world and that world is not theirs. Then the training shifts gears and gets into the Organization of a Protective detail. Students are taught the "rank structure" and job specific tasks given to various detail members. Once that's established students go through the process of learning a variety of different foot formations. The basics are pounded into their heads. It doesn't matter how many of men you have on the ground, 4, 6, 8 whatever, you must provide 360° coverage at all times. As the students learn "how to walk" together, the importance of seeing what you are looking at and providing security is the main priority and is constantly being drilled in their heads.

Remember, we don't want to look like a Protective Detail, we want to BE one. Once the students can do this reasonably well, getting in and out of vehicles is rehearsed. Just like any other tactical operation, there needs to be an order of how things are done. We don't want to play guessing games of where do I go and what do I do. Students are taught job specific tasks for a reason. If you are in a certain position then "X" is what you are responsible for. This makes for smooth and efficient transitions and once the student understands these specific jobs, the ability to "Fill and Flow" becomes second nature. This is our ultimate goal in the training program. Make the student understand his role in security operations so that he can fill a variety of roles, not miss a beat and still provide security.


Arrivals & Departures are rehearsed time and time again. They do it with 2 and 3 cars and with anywhere from 4 to 8 detail members. The students learn that there is a vulnerable times when the person being protected is leaving a "Safe" location and is exposed to the environment. This is why we do things in an organized way, smooth transition from one safe location to another. "Provide security" is what we constantly shout to students. Don't just walk to a position and move in a formation. "Provide Security," play the "what if" game, stay on your toes.

Once students start to get these simple concepts down, reality hits, and suddenly an instructor with a blank firing weapon appears from nowhere. The students look around as if to ask what happened, "Your Protectee is dead". Again, "Provide Security" don't just look the part. After the wake up call, students go over immediate action drills.

What does the team need to do in order to mitigate a threat and evacuate the Protectee? "Sound Off, Cover, Evacuate." This will be drilled into them constantly. If a threat appears, the detail member who sees it must alert the rest of the team, SOUND OFF, "Contact Right/Left" wherever the attack is coming from. The team must know that there is an attack, and where it is, so they can do their respective jobs. The Protectee must be covered, the threat must be covered, and the Protectee must be evacuated. Simple and to the point, protect the boss, stop the threat, and get the hell out of there. We are not looking for a firefight. We do not want to engage the enemy; we need to get off the "X" with as many, if not all of our team members and get to a safe location.

These types of drills are worked throughout the training. As the students begin to work as a team and are able to do all the positions in any given formation, the training shifts gears. Communication procedures are covered. The need for brevity lists and call signs are discussed. Understand that there is a good chance that the bad guys are listening to your comms. Short and concise transmissions using brevity is the order of the day.


To fight effectively you must know your enemy. Terrorist Tactics, Techniques and Procedures is the class where students learn what and how the bad guys do. They learn specific and general threats to their Protectee's and AO (Area of Operation). A general overview of terrorist operations is covered along with an analysis of past attacks. Students learn what went wrong and occasionally, what went right. They get to realize that even the bad guys have steps and procedures to what they do; if we know them we can exploit them, if we can exploit them, then we strengthen our chances of keeping our boss out of harms way.

We continue to work formations, arrivals & departures and IA drills and we add special circumstance formations. Things like crowds, meet & greet, fence lines, receiving lines, running the fenders etc. Hopefully by now the students are starting to look professional. The next level is Advances and Hasty advances. Students need to understand the importance of doing an advance on a venue to be visited. Students come to realize how in depth a good advance can be and more importantly, how long it can take. They learn the order of how things should be handled. They must become expert on places to be visited. They must also come up with routes and secondary routes and routes to the "Safe Haven," and the list goes on.


Students also learn that time is limited (in the real world this is almost always the case) only essential information is needed to create a safe environment. Once the class is over and questions are answered students are broken into teams and sent "OUT" to advance specific sites. When they get to these sites role players are standing by to make the students work at getting the information. They will have to deal with the possibility of having to use translators; they will have to try to learn everything about the site in the allotted time. Being organized and having a systematic approach pays off greatly. Students learn that something as simple as a trip to a restaurant is going to involve quite a bit of work. Not only will they have to get all the information on the restaurant, but they have to have routes checked, know safe havens along those routes, reac plans, secondary routes and the list goes on.

Once they complete their Advances students are given time to assemble their information into an organized briefing which they will present to the instructors. They present the brief just like they would in the real world with the instructors as their Team Leaders. When they're finished it will be meticulously dissected and discussed so students can see how missing something they perceived as inconsequential can bring their whole operation to a halt.


By now the students should have a good general understanding of how detailed a protection detail can be. They must understand that the job requires 100% discipline. They will also see that the job can be tedious and at times boring. It's the professional that remains focused and does not allow himself to become complacent. The students are made to understand that the job of protection, especially HRE protection, is successfully accomplished through diligent planning. We don't want students to think from their muzzles outward, in other words, don't think that the gun is the answer. Don't get involved in a gunfight. Avoid the dangers by good planning and security.

With that said, students must be familiar with weapons. Not just familiar, but be able to effectively use them when they have to. Students have to show their expertise with weapons like the M-4, semi-auto pistol, Ak-47 and shotguns. They will be taken through blocks of instruction so they can effectively use these weapons in a dynamic and unpredictable environment. We're not looking for Bull's-eye shooters; we're looking for someone who can effectively engage the enemy while the situation around him is chaos. There will be no shooting lanes on the job. They must be able to effectively suppress and stop an attack while the Protectee is being evacuated.


Students must show proficiency with the duty firearms that they'll carry. After some shooting drills they'll be required to shoot a qualification course for each weapon. When the qualification course is completed, students will practice dynamic shooting. Things like shooting on the move, pivots, moving to cover, and shooting as a team, etc. Vehicles are then brought into the mix and the students learn the best way to "debus" a vehicle, engage the enemy and evacuate the Protectee if a vehicle is down. Shooting their carry weapons is the primary focus as far as firearms are concerned. However, because of the likelihood that they'll be in contact with military type weapons, light machinegun and medium machinegun training is also conducted; whether the detail has them or not is not the determining factor.

There is usually a large military presence in most of the countries that the HRE Protective Operations are being conducted in. Students need to know how to operate and effectively engage the enemy with these weapons systems should the need arise. Often times the Protective Detail will have its own CAT teams (Counter Assault Team), and weapons systems like the M-249 and M-240G are utilized. The students learn the operation, assembly and disassembly and how to effectively use the weapons. If the weapons system will be part of the inventory for a particular group then they will also be required to qualify with the LMG/MMG.


The students will also be taught PRE (Protectee Recovery and Egress). It has its roots from Close Quarter Battle (CQB). As stated earlier, many of the students are usually Special Operation troops or similar. We don't want them to think they're going to be conducting hostage rescue or direct action missions; they're being trained to provide protection. The mindset must be changed. They are taught not to concern themselves with clearing an entire structure. If they know where the Protectee is then that is where they go. We must get the boss out of harms way. Again, avoiding the fight. Keep the Protectee safe. Room clearing is covered, along with hallways and basic CQB fundamentals. The students are also given medical training. Basics are taught, nothing fancy. Keep the person alive long enough to get him the proper care. The ABC's of first aid are taught, clear the airway, stop severe bleeding, plug the holes, stabilize and get out of the area. They are also taught how to use ordinary items to accomplish certain tasks when dealing with medical emergencies, and if applicable, how to give IV's etc.

Students also receive driver training. They are taken through the steps of learning how to properly drive a vehicle. Vehicle Dynamics, Technical driving and driving at high speeds at night are taught the first day. Then students learn Evasive Driving techniques; the PIT (Precision Immobilization Technique) and Rams are taught. The proper way to execute these maneuvers are discussed and then practiced. They also learn attack recognition while in transit and how to deal with barricades. Students also learn how to drive from the right front seat forwards and backwards. Day three covers Motorcade Operations. Finally, students learn how to put everything they've learned into a workable effort as a team. How to give proper cover to the "Limo," how to deal with vehicle and pedestrian traffic and most importantly, Immediate Action drills with vehicles. Driver training culminates with Attacks on Motorcade drills.


Students are given the opportunity to test their new skills in unpredictable scenarios where they must follow a route and try to get to their safe area. They must remember that their job is security. They must focus on this and be eyes out, looking for trouble. When the attack occurs it is their reaction and ability to work through the situation that we will be judging. After each scenario the students will be debriefed on what went right and wrong. If they were not paying attention they will miss important tell-tale signs that occur prior to an attack.

Students are also given 2 days of Combatives training. The training focuses more on third party defense. Students are made to realize that they will go hands-on because their Protectee is in danger. They are not necessarily the target, their boss is. It puts a different perspective on how to approach techniques. If the assailant has a pistol, the detail member must divert the muzzle away from their Protectee.


Basic strikes and sequences, use of the collapsible baton and OC spry are also covered. But the bread and butter of combative training are weapon disarms. Students realize that they have to act as a team, don't forget to sound off, remember that we must protect the boss. If the enemy presents a gun you must sound off so hopefully the boss will be out of the way by the time you react to the threat and avert the muzzle. All these things are only going to be successful if the students work as a team. This is realized on the last day of training. The entire last day is dedicated to putting it all together.

Attacks on Protectee scenarios will be conducted. The students are given scenarios and venues to take their Protectee. These venues are the same ones that the students did their advances on days prior. They will be given the opportunity to reconfirm everything that they gathered when they did their initial advance. Simunition gear and guns are used for this evaluation. They go through all the steps just as if it was real. They collect their Protectee, transport him to the venue, get him inside safely and keep him safe until he gets back to the "Office."


They will be attacked in a variety of situations, allowing them to utilize everything they've learned during the training. Each evolution is debriefed and video taped so the students can clearly understand, what was right and wrong. This culmination exercise is a great way to point out weaknesses or lapses in security. The scenarios are designed to have certain responses and outcomes. If the students do their jobs and stay focused on what they are responsible for and work as a team they will be successful. If not, the role player acting as the Protectee feels the sting of a fake club/knife or a simunition round.

The students understand that you can't guarantee anyone's safety, and you can't guess where the attack will be coming from. You will only succeed if you are doing your job and relying on your teammates. Stay focused, worry about your area of responsibility, and remember that it is the Protectee that you are protecting. The goal is to avoid confrontation through meticulous planning and becoming a hard target. Don't get caught in a gunfight unless you have to, but if you have to, get the boss out and don't leave any bad guys standing.



About the Man

George Singarella is senior director of training at Crucible Security. He is a graduate of John Jay College VIP/ Executive Protection Program, and the Executive Security International's Advanced Executive Protection program and numerous other protective skills courses. He was assistant instructor for Parasec Security, Training Division's Protective Agent and Team Operations program and completed Lockmaster Security's High Threat Security Survey course. He worked as a supervisor for International Protective Service Agency in New York City, which provides protective services for venues which host celebrity and VIP clientele.

Mr. Singarella's duties included but were not limited to; principle escort, high-volume cash escort, security positioning and client liaison. During 1998 & 1999, Mr. Singarella was a DynCorp employee and worked as a Diplomatic Security /Protective Detail Leader. His responsibilities included protective security operations for high ranking Military and Government officials and the training of personnel to State Department standards as set by the Anti-Terrorist Assistance Program (A.T.A.P.) while deployed to the Kosovo region of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia.

He worked as a member of a New York based Executive/Dignitary Protection Team providing protective services for high level executives, visiting members of Royal Families and as residence security agent for a member of the Kennedy family. He worked as a Team Leader in Sarajevo, Bosnia where he has had successful tours under Ambassador R. Johnson and Ambassador D. Hays. Mr. Singarella was a integral part of sustainment training for his detail and implemented a surveillance detection program. He is also responsible for the drafting of the team's Advance Survey Report. Mr. Singarella is currently the Senior Director of Training at The Crucible. He is also the lead instructor for the Dept. of State, Diplomatic Security Service, High Threat Environment Protection Course for contractors providing protective services to Government officials in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Israel.