Let me start by giving you a bit of insight into my long journey to where I am now. I started my security career in 1996 bouncing in the nightclubs of NYC & Northern NJ, during those times it was a normal thing for the club security to be tasked with taking care of the security need for the performers who came into their venues. Most “Freestyle” artists did not have a close protection team or any artist for that matter at the time. Once I got the taste for it, there was nothing going to stop me from pursuing it as a career. My path into “EP” was a convoluted one with stops in the Bail Enforcement, PI, skip tracing, etc. along the way, but that all changed when I had an amazing conversation with a now friend and amazing mentor Thomas LeBrun at a conference for a career endeavor and he set me on the path I find myself in 25 yrs. later.
In 1997 I was watching the news and saw that famed Italian designer Gianni Versace was murdered in Miami, FL and without hesitation I decided to relocate to Miami, FL to pursue the career of Executive Protection, because in my mind “There had to be a market for it in Miami”!! So, relocating on a whim with my then 9 yr. old son proved to be stressful, difficult, and at times annoying as hell. Doing my best to navigate through the licensing process of a new state as well as trying to find the right “IN” to meet the right people in Miami is truly no easy task. I met a gentleman who put me on my first “Halls and Walls” gig in 1999 and the rest is history. Start off in the celebrity high profile protection arena is a very unorganized, time consuming endeavor. Most of the time you are hard pressed for time, at the mercy of the clients’ whims, having to deal with “hang arounds” who think they are someone and they mostly are not. But through it all you learn to gain a sense of self and self-worth, starting out in low pay, gorilla in a suit, types of jobs at events, parties, etc. becomes your bread and butter.
It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that I kept being asked by guys doing EP “hey where did you train”? To which I had no answer, so after doing a lot of research I contacted the Executive Protection Institute (EPI) and spoke to Dr. Richard Kobetz directly on the phone. After a conversation that seemed like hours (about 15 mins) I decided to submit my application and what at the time seemed like a hefty sum to spend on a 7-day course (now after attending more than 6 EP courses, Paramedic school, driving courses, and other specialized training throughout my career) turned out to be a well spent drop in the bucket. I was now a part of an elite trained alumni of the Nine Lives Associates (NLA), trained in proper advanced planning, formations, attacks on principals, and etiquette. While all the above-mentioned training is invaluable, I found that most at the time in the celebrity realm “I looked like a dog cocking his head to the side” trying to understand why what we had been doing wasn’t “OK”. So, I just put my head down and did my job, never really volunteering to let the “Good Idea Fairy” raise her ugly head! However, I made a conscience effort to take everything I learned and keep it all in the forefront of everything I did personally, and as the years progressed those subtle nuances got me noticed and brought onto a detail with a traveling “Royal Family”. Now this is where it initially got a bit tricky but exciting at the same time. This detail which I eventually worked on for 7 yrs. Full time, challenged me to adapt, utilize and learn to really hone my skills taught to me by the EPI cadre. During this time, I really learned the value of being able to adapt to any situation on the fly, although my itinerary was usually set, it could all change at a moment notice and I could be tasked with being at an airport to guard a truck full of luggage while my DL and ADL would be prepping vehicles or advancing a shopping and lunch location. Flipping the switch from HP Celebrity protection, entourage wrangling, and venue checks had subtly been replaced with a slight variation of Nanny management, luggage counting, contract driver overseeing, and various other non “glamorous” tasks. Gone were the red-carpet events, the talk show circuit, and now came a lot of advance planning and prepping. Though all the differences and changes the one thing I truly learned is your ability to adapt to the situation no matter what it is will keep you in the good graces of the clients you pursue. No matter what realm of Executive Protection you pursue remember to be open to criticism, change, adaptability, and leave the ego at the door. That last part is most likely the hardest thing in a world of “Alpha Personalities” to get past, having now 25 yrs. in this business and having to take orders from someone who has 2 yrs. experience can be a bit ego smashing and humbling. But if you stop and take a moment to realize that we all must start somewhere and hopefully along the way you learned to be better and do better than you did the previous day, you will always be able to adapt to whatever this profession has to throw at you.
The best advice I can give anyone attempting to get into this profession from another profession or preparing to transition from one area of EP work to another field of EP is to seek out a qualified “been there, done that or is still doing it” mentor, someone who can help you navigate the pitfalls and landmines that you may not think about or have even thought about, someone who can give you the honest skinny on what it is to sacrifice. Sacrifice is not just about what you sacrifice but your family, loved ones, and friends sacrifice as well to help you get to where you want to be on your journey into “The Fifth Profession”. And realistically some may not be able to accept the changes and adapt to what is asked and guess what “That’s OK!” but it’s better to find that out early then to try and stick it out and be miserable and make everyone around you the same. So, before you start down the path of career change or changing from one protective arena to another, ask yourself “Can I really adapt to the changes that are coming”? And whatever the answer, be honest with yourself because in the end you are not the only person who may have to live with your answer. That is just my .02 and I hope it helps someone reads this jumbled mess and remember all who read this, keep moving forward because it is always noticed.
Paul A. White, PPS
Class 51, Providing Executive Protection Program