There are many people out there dreaming of becoming an executive protection specialist one day. So, it’s no surprise that many companies have discovered the lucrative market of CPO trainings for them. The quality of many of those offers is -kindly spoken, mixed. As to many competitors are luring with absurdly short time spans while offering loads and loads of mostly action-oriented content. Or even promise their customers to get jobs after completing a class – which is a massive no-go for any commercial training.
But there are also some companies that have a reliable reputation in training CPOs in Europe and ESA Austria is one of them. From September 21 to October 02 2020 the European Security Academy Austria offered a CPO class to teach people the basic skills for the close protection business.
However, I don’t want to further go-on and review the quality of the class, as I was one of the Instructors and I think a rating for a class by one of those who teached it would be pretty nonsensical. So I would like to give an exclusive focus on how the class was thought out and what would await a typical attendee.
As the ESA Austria CPO class is a class for the real-world business of close protection and not a weird high-risk PMC shooting experience, all attendees had to prove some qualities, which included physical fitness and a robust handgun management skill as well as basic combatives experiences.
The basic pistol skills had to be proven by sending in a certificate of either a well reputated tactical training company or a military certificate in advance.
The physical fitness had to be proven in a PFT at the first day of the class, which consisted of running and calisthenics. All attendees that didn’t complete the test to the baseline had to leave the class. The exercises and goals of the physical fitness tests were shown to the participants at least a month before the training started.
Same was true for combatives, as the first lesson in combatives was purely intended to scout out if the students were able to perform basic kicks and strikes. Who wasn’t able to perform the very basics had to go. This was true for one student this year.
Our concept was to get the students ready for the real executive protection business in Europe, which is usually boring and is far away from heroic visions of driving an armored SUV with an AR15 at the ready through some desert wasteland. The real purpose of close protection is prevention by filtering potential through a cloud like system of protective layers which are only limited by the size of the team. Tactical shooting, TCCC and combatives may be really important, but being reactive measures, they mostly apply when its already to late. Another underestimated danger of the job is getting fired after a few days by the client because your behavior and your soft skills aren’t up to his or her personal taste.
So much of the day was spent in the classroom listening to various presentations regarding protective formations, reconnaissance, case studies and SOPs. It was also important for us to show the students the different laws in the European union, especially in the ways of how private security is regulated and how self-defense is applied.
Most clients don’t care about their protection, which is mostly fine, as long as they let their CP detail work freely. However, they will more and more restrict their CP team as soon as it gets into conflict with their daily life. Handling this problem and focusing more and more on advance and reconnaissance work was also a big part of the class as it is the core of modern-day close protection.
The Instructor Cadre consisted of a core team made up of the following persons.
- CEO of ESA Austria
- Former Ministry of Judgement “Einsatzgruppe” (Task Force) operator
- Long time CPO
Stefan S. :
- Austrian Military Police CPO Team Leader
- MP CPO Instructor
- Survival Trainer
And of course, myself, RB1:
- Former German Army Air Mobile Infantry Operator
- Certified Security Service Expert
- Certified Work-educationalist
- Krav Maga LE/ Civilian Instructor (GKMF)
- Field Experience in Escort- and Close Protection and private investigations for corporate and governmental customers
- Long time security consultant for a big German security company
The first week started with PT and/ or combatives every morning, the only expectation was the one and only range day which took about nine hours. As our students were already solid handgun shooters, we started with gun safety and a short recap of drawing techniques and we then immediately got more and more into close protection specific drills like drawing from a concealment holster, mixing CQD techniques with shooting and getting into contact drills with a simulated VIP.
The goal of the combatives training was to give the students a small, but effective portfolio of striking, grappling, clinch, kicking and arrest techniques. As I don’t think that there is any technique that is easy to learn we only took a dozen techniques to the students which had to be consolidated over the next days with raising stress levels. We also included a small portion of disarmament drills.
Driving and vehicle maintenance training was conducted on specially leased cars to get the students a better feeling for common upper-class, business vehicles. All reactive security driving was performed on a dedicated area while the formation driving was done on highways and later inside the city, where the students learned of the real challenges of close protection like finding a parking lot while being able to get the motor pool back on track quickly.
Every day lasted till the very late night and sometimes there was extra PT or extra tasks that had to be done by the students.
On week two of the CPO course things got serious and the training scenario started. The attendees were informed about the details of the scenario by the instructors and being left alone, while the VIP and his entourage arrived. All instructors now served as observers and referees. Watching every step of all members of the squad. Every evening there was a debriefing and roles (TL, Driver, CPO) were changed while the scenario evolved.
The attendees were challenged with keeping the security to the required standards while dealing with the rough temperament of the CP and the tight schedule of him and his family.
During this time the threat level was slowly tilted upwards and all decisions made by the team were rated by the instructors as this was the only way to see how the attendees were able to transform their knowledge into skill.
After the end of the exercise the last part was a theoretical test, which aimed on how well the participants were able to remember all theoretical skills, namings and laws they had learned during the class.
At the end of the day we were proud on all attendees, especially those five who passed! It may be important to note that, compared to many other commercial offers, it is possible to fail the CPO course, which is a good thing as it shows that ESA Austria is still aiming for higher standards instead of quick money.