Check out the first of AS Solution Global Training and Consulting Division’s blogs on executive protection training methods. They work well for us – and should for you, too. Our first blog in this series takes a hard look at using radios during training. The takeaway? Keep radios and telephones off until participants know what to do without them.
Any EP pro who’s worked with direct communication systems, such as hand-held radios for immediate group communication, knows that these are extremely useful during protective operations. Indeed, when radio or any other type of communication fails, the assignment can quickly fall apart. But what about using radios during executive protection training?
Even though we depend on electronic communication on the job, there are good reasons to turn off our devices during training sessions. I’ve been designing and delivering training programs to both private and official entities for over 20 years. As a rule of thumb, participants in my classes do not have the privilege of using direct, immediate communications (such as hand-held radios), at least until they get past the training basics. In fact, I generally ban all communication devices, including text messaging, right from the beginning of the class.
There are three good reasons to silence radios and telephones during training:
By communicating, the training participant implicitly shares responsibility for whatever is going on with other participants. When someone communicates a situational status he transfers some, of the responsibility to act, if not all of it, to those on the receiving end of the message. This can prevent other participants from operating as individual agents.
In the initial stages of training, handing off responsibility is the last thing you want people to learn. Keep radio devices off during initial training stages to keep the sense of individual responsibility high.
When a team uses communications, its members quickly come to rely on them as the catalyst to act. Consciously or subconsciously, training participants can easily come to rely on radio coms instead of doing what they should be doing: focusing on the here and now of their situation, and being ready to act accordingly.
Radios are a great way to connect the team when everyone knows his job and how to do it. But until then, train participants to rely on their senses and their good sense rather than waiting for the radio to tell them what to do.
It happens whenever I allow participants to use text messaging during training. At least one student, and usually several, miss critical cues from the field because they were checking, reading or writing text messages. Our principals rely on us to focus our attention. Their wellbeing – and our profession – depend on that.
Learning how to focus on the right things is a foundational skill for budding security professionals – and text messaging plays no part in any but the most advanced training situations. For this reason, I abhor the use of text messaging during training and operations unless by experienced and professional protective agents.
ADVANTAGES FOR TRAINERS AND TRAINEES
There are plenty of advantages to teaching a class sans communication – both for instructors and participants.
The instructor gains the privileged perspective of being able to assess participants on the basis of their individual performance and as independent agents. The participants learn to operate with no communications, and to work around the challenges that this presents. This exercise in situational problem solving provides the instructor with a clear indication of participants’ abilities, initiative and professionalism.
Participants with no coms learn how to read their environment. Once they’re in a genuine field assignment and communications fail, which will undoubtedly happen more than once in their careers, they will have learned not to panic. They will have learned to rely on more than their communication devices; and they will relate to these devices as “nice to have” rather than “must have” in order to complete the assignment. After all, in real-world environments protective agents are often in small teams or working alone. More often than not, they do not use radios to receive regular updates or instructions on what to do.
KNOW WHEN TO TURN THEM OFF – AND TURN THEM ON
Now, we all know that using communications is vastly better than not using them. The key question that I want to address in this blog is when to use them during training.
The right time to introduce communications, both theoretically and practically, is at the later stages of classes. First, all participants must know how to operate without radios and phones and be confident in their abilities to do so. Then, all participants must graduate knowing how and when to communicate using various devices.
It is my firm belief that all training, whether it is security-related or not, should teach participants the thought process that relate to “why” – not just “how” to act like parrots repeating lines from a book. This empowers graduates to adapt to the many situations they may face in the real world – even when these situations are different from what they experienced in controlled classroom environments.