Training is the place to make mistakes, you can learn from them and make improvements. Then, train harder, because making mistakes in a real attack can be deadly. So with that in mind I’d like to point out the importance of quality training.

I haven’t spoken about this much outside of the small circle of people I know and a few training classes, however the more I think about it maybe I need to. Why? 3 Reasons:

1. Because lately I’ve seen a surge in people offering training, especially executive protection/bodyguard and firearms training. When I look at some of what’s being offered I often look past the flashy “cool guy” pictures and see what qualifies that person to teach their course. Not always, but many times I find that at least in my opinion, the person is really not someone I would take training from nor are they qualified. You’ve probably seen what I’m talking about, the high-speed instructor decked out in the latest 5-11 gear giving students the impression he was a contractor, when he was only a gate guard. How about the EP Team decked out in 5-11 gear all holding M-4’s or shotguns protecting clients at the local coffee shop. While some clients/students might believe that is realistic, it isn’t, and it makes the rest of us look bad. It also gives prospective clients/students the wrong idea about this business. Just the other day I saw a firearms training video, it showed a student doing a barrel roll while holding a pistol and then firing at targets while laying down. Yet, unsuspecting clients and students are buying into this.

2. I’ve spent many years working in corporate positions, I’ve enjoyed every one of those jobs. However, there have been more than enough occasions where we all had to endure training because someone thought we didn’t look busy enough. Then came the directive from higher that every day we were required to do X-amount of hours of training. We were given a list of training subjects we had to complete each week, it was nothing more than time filler classes to keep us out of sight and was non-productive.

3. The main reason for sharing this is because this is a true story, and it has made me a firm believer that training can save your life, I fully believe it saved mine, as well as my team mates lives. Some things have been changed or omitted for different reasons.

When I arrived in Baghdad I thought I was prepared for what I had just signed up for, maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t, however in my mind I was ready to get to work and would do what I had to so that we all went home alive. Having had the privilege of attending a number of excellent courses long before coming to Iraq it made me see that the government mandated training I attended was lacking in a number of areas. I’m also a firm believer that if you treat people like adults in training they will be more inclined to act like adults. I understand the need to induce stress during some training, the way that stress is induced will play a role in the learning process, which can be good or bad.

My first team assignment in Baghdad was to a PSD team (personal security detail) comprised mostly of people in my training class, there were four people assigned to the team that already had experience there. For the next 2 weeks we trained as a team, learning the ins and outs of how to operate in what was at that time one of the most hostile places on earth. We had known each other for only a month. Our training for the most part went fine and our new team leader was watching us, looking to see who fit what position. At the end of our in country training we were given our assignments and told that we would rotate positions every 10 missions so that everyone could do every job. What I didn’t know then is that I was on a team that would establish itself as one that could get the job done and become well respected among our peers. We even heard that someone from Washington, DC had called the embassy to request our team protect a principal on a return trip to Iraq. I greatly enjoyed my time on this team, we trained hard and also hung out together after work, it was truly a great team to work with.

While on this team it was made clear, everyone would have input on our training, and we would train when we were not running missions. If we only had one mission for the day we would go spend a couple hours training. If the daily missions were cancelled due to the number of attacks that day we would go spend at least 4 hours training. There was a lot of good input by team members, we trained hard but we also trained smart.

After I was in country roughly 6 months I took a well deserved vacation. Upon my return I was notified that I was going to be assigned to the QRF team (Quick Reaction Force also known as the Counter Assault Team), this was the team who helped escort the PSD teams or would come to the rescue should anyone come under attack. QRF was comprised of highly experienced people, I was a bit surprised because the only way to get on that team was that they had an opening and the team asked for you. I spent a number of months on this team, and eventually with high mission tasking the decision was made to split the team and form a second QRF team.

While on the QRF team we trained even harder, we were expected to perform at a higher level, we had to stay on top of the intelligence as well as coordinate with all the other teams on where their missions were taking them, we also coordinated with the little birds (small MD-530 helicopters) who would fly over our routes ahead of our convoys. I’d like to say here I have the utmost respect for those guys, they never said no to anyone who needed them and I saw those pilots do some amazing things. If you haven’t heard of them check out this book by Dan Laguna, it was an honor to be watched over by him and his guys as well as be flown to the hospital by them. Anyway, back to why I am writing this. We spent a good deal of time going over possible attack scenarios as well as how we would rescue a principal should one fall into the hands of the bad guys during an attack. There was plenty of talent on all the teams, but I really learned quite a bit while on QRF. Especially the tactics I had either long forgotten from my military days, or new tactics that were being taught. No doubt about it, this will probably be one of the most memorable times of my life.

So, without any further delay here is an abbreviated outline of our mission that day.

We were tasked with escorting another team to a Ministry building in downtown Baghdad. Our plan was to parallel the team we were escorting instead of actually being part of their motorcade, we would be no more than a minute or two away should they need us, and we would arrive roughly the same time at the Ministry.

Normally I stopped in the intel shop for the morning brief and then again towards the end of the day. I just looked at my notes from this day in my old intel book, there were two pages of notes. There had been a rash of IED attacks, Indirect Fire (rockets or mortars), car bombs (VBIED), small arms attacks, a complex attack and a half dozen threats to attack something or someone. While I won’t disclose exactly what I wrote, there had been a large number of attacks, the one that really stood out was, “expect the number of EFP’s to increase.” For those of you who don’t know what an EPF is, it is a shaped charge that upon detonation of the explosive fires a molten metal slug at it’s target, either command detonated or set off by a remote device. An EPF will penetrate most armored vehicles and were quite deadly to anyone on the receiving end of them.


We were hit coming into this intersection (choke point) just before the right turn. Telephone pole was used as an aiming point and the trigger man was on the roof of  the rectangular building (left side).

What we had NOT been told by the intel shop was that the previous day a local had been killed by a PSD team from another company in the area we would be going. I’d like to point out that I am not laying blame with anyone for this, our intel shop was very good but they can only tell us what they are told.

We would depart the IZ, or Green Zone as everyone knows it about the same time as the other team, they would leave from one checkpoint and we would leave from another so anyone watching wouldn’t know we were there for the other team. They would cross the Tigris over one bridge and we took another just one main road over. The other team took a more direct route, just as dangerous because they had to possibly take a tunnel where there had been numerous IED attacks but it was quicker. Our route had plenty of roads we could take as a cut through to the PSD teams route if we needed to support them during an attack.


2 EFP hits on our rear door, 2 gunners were wounded from penetration just above door handle.

Everything was going fine, talk on the radio was minimal, everyone in our vehicle was sounding off on potential threats, just another day in the craziest city I have ever seen. The one thing we noticed as we approached our T-intersection was that there was very little traffic, something was not right, across the street there were two buildings under construction, we noticed 2 local males on some upper floors, nothing out of the ordinary with that, yet. All of a sudden the Hummer felt like it had been hit by a semi-truck and there was one hell of an explosion. I flinched and felt a big smack on my left shoulder, a rush of what I thought was hot air on my neck and I watched as my left leg was split open. Damn that hurt! I turned around to check on my team mates fearing the worst, there were three other guys wounded as well, I smacked the driver on the shoulder and told him to go, then got on the radio and let the team know we had wounded in the follow vehicle.

We rounded the corner and the team had already started setting up a security perimeter, at this point I really didn’t know how bad I had been hit so I got out and took up my security position while directing the medic back to our vehicle to help the other guys. Two of the guys had only minor shrapnel wounds, the other poor guy took shrapnel in his, well, his butt, it was bloody but not life threatening. Later my team mates who saw me said they could see my shoulder bones moving around where the meat had been torn and burned away. We had been hit with a multiple EFP, an array of six we later learned. As we were getting all the wounded into our Evac vehicle I heard shots being fired, there had been a vehicle that came in behind our motorcade that wouldn’t stop. Later we all learned that this car had four women in burkas, not a normal thing for Baghdad, so when they refused to stop the two people in the front seat had a bad day, the two in the back seat took off running, like men. This had now turned into a complex attack that luckily failed due to the quick thinking of my team mates. We also learned that there had been a car bomb (VBIED) next to the lead vehicle that either was not intended for us or failed to detonate, the back seat had been removed and filled with artillery shells and gasoline cans. That could have been a very bad day for everyone involved, our entire team out of the armored vehicles within range of a pile of artillery shells.


After hitting me in the shoulder the EFP slug hit here on the rollbar then came back and landed on my neck, splatter seen is pieces of my shoulder.

We made our way to a local FOB (forward operating base) run by the Army and went right to the aid station, our wounded were quickly and efficiently attended to by the great people there. Being that we were technically civilians it would take some time to get a military medevac flight, so our guys called in the little birds which caused a bit of an issue for the Army Major, who was bluntly told to get out of the way because we were bringing in the little birds with or without his permission, we had wounded and they would be taken care of now, not later. We were flown to the Green Zone hospital rather quickly, who from what I heard tried to tell them they couldn’t land civilian aircraft at a military hospital, they did it anyway. Everyone who was wounded that day survived and is doing fine now. The guy with the wounded rear end was eventually flown back to the US, they left the shrapnel in rather than cause more damage. I asked to stay in Baghdad, the bosses agreed to that and I left there about 2 months later however it took me a while to get full use of my arm back. I was home another month and attended a training update and went back to Iraq, staying another 6 years.


My souvenir from Iraq, the EFP slug recovered from our vehicle measuring roughly 3 inches across.

What is the lesson of all this? Training. You need to constantly train, either for yourself if you work alone, or as a team. You need to do it as often as you can, but it needs to be quality training, not just training to check the box so to speak. I’ve seen my fair share of that, it’s a colossal waste of time and usually mandated by someone who doesn’t understand your job or they just want you to look busy. I’ll leave it at that.

You’ll also see there were a couple other indicators that something was wrong that day. The reduction in traffic where there was normally a heavy volume and a missing police officer in the intersection. We knew something was out of place but were already committed, but our training was good and it took over. ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings, know when something is not right and be prepared to act accordingly. Situational Awareness.

You should also take notice of that intersection, the bad guys knew that any motorcade coming down the street would have to slow down to either turn left or right. It’s a choke point. They set up the IED just before it giving them a better chance of hitting us as we slowed down. They also probably used the telephone poles as aiming points. There were two spotters in the building under construction, and the trigger man who could not see our approach was on the roof of a small building hidden behind a sign. The EFP was command detonated, encased in cement to make it look like the rest of the trash and debris along the roads of Iraq.

We constantly trained on motorcade movements, attack procedures (from all directions) both simple attacks as well as complex attacks. We trained on evacuation and vehicle down procedures. Then we trained again on them, working out what worked best for our team and then rotating positions, everyone having input on how to improve our procedures as well as our training. It really paid off and worked that day.

I’m convinced that if we had not trained as hard, or as much as we did there quite possibly would have been some loss of life that day for our team. I can remember just reacting instinctively, I can remember seeing my team mates move with purpose and precision in what they did that day. Everyone from the driver of my vehicle who struggled to get around a corner with four flat tires and no power steering, our medic taking care of the wounded people stuffed into the back of a suburban on top of all our gear, everyone providing security for us and especially the two guys who reacted to a threat. They all performed without being told what to do.

Afterwards we all sat down and wrote statements on what happened, these were put together and an After Action Report was done along with a Power Point presentation so that every other team could learn from the attack. Remember, your adversaries are doing the same thing when they attack you.

My advice is to train, train hard, then train harder, just make sure you are doing quality training. Those of you in the protection business are charged with protecting those who either can’t (for any number of reasons), or don’t know how to protect themselves, it’s a huge responsibility, don’t take it lightly as the world situation is not getting any better. You just might find yourself in my position one day. We came out alive and I am able to share this with you.