By Jared Van Driessche & Christian West
Webster defines common sense as: “Sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.” Hey – that sounds a lot like executive protection, too, doesn’t it? Well, not always…
Over the years, we’ve seen bodyguards (aka EP agents, but that’s another blog) do some amazingly stupid stuff. Some of these shenanigans made trouble for detail performance, the principal’s wellbeing, and otherwise promising careers. All of them remind us of that despairingly true cliché: “Common sense is not so common.”
After a lot of bodyguarding, we’re convinced that some of our fellow bodyguards have no sense of common sense. And they aren’t providing very good protection, either.
It doesn’t matter what the detail is, whether it’s in the private sector or at the government’s highest level, the United States Secret Service. Paid professionals do dumb things that most people with any common sense wouldn’t.
But don’t just take our word for it – check out some true bodyguard stories below. You might have seen some of these in the news. Others are from our own experience but anonymized to protect the innocent (or whatever you choose to call people with no common sense).
We start with a few tales from the highest echelons of governmental protection. Here’s how a few esteemed agents in the United States Secret Service royally screwed the pooch and got their fifteen minutes of fame in international media:
- In 2012, a secret service agent left a loaded firearm unattended in the restroom on Mitt Romney’s airplaneonly to be discovered by a reporter who used the place next. Now, we’ve logged a few hours on the road and know that sometimes you need to have a serious sit-down on the principal’s aircraft. But c’mon man, clean up after yourself, would ya? Maybe do a quick scan of the area before you leave it to make sure you haven’t left anything by the sink or on the floor – not to mention in the toilet bowl? Do we also need to provide training in post-ops paperwork and handwashing?
- In 2013, three secret service agents were sent homefrom a trip to the Netherlands after getting drunk the night before the President was set to arrive. One of them was found by hotel staff passed out in a hallway. This incident occurred less than a year after other secret service agents made the news for drinking and soliciting prostitutes in Columbia. Hey – what’s the problem with a little relaxation at the end of a long day? Maybe the secret service guys just have some very sophisticated halls and walls and intelligence gathering techniques the rest of us don’t know about yet?
- In 2017, two secret service agents were accused of and disciplined for taking personal photographs of POTUS’s son while being driven around New York.Now why on God’s green earth would they do that? Maybe to impress friends or show how cool they are when they go out on their Tinder/Grinder dates? Our bet is they were trying to get laid and needed some cool street cred.
But before anybody working EP outside of government starts to crow, rest assured that private sector bodyguards can be just as stupid as our taxpayer-funded friends.
Here are a few stories from our personal archives:
- A bodyguard we once knew decided it was a smart idea to put the highest premium paid version of the dating site Tinder on his corporate credit card. A penny saved is a penny earned, right? Not when they’re someone else’s pennies. What makes this story even worse is that the provider’s accounting department was asleep at the wheel and the line item went straight to the client rep as a reimbursable expense. Obviously, this was a huge embarrassment for the company and even more so for the project manager that had to deal with a very upset client.
- Here’s another one that happens more often than anyone with common sense might imagine. A bodyguard reached out to client staff to get a letter of recommendation directly from the principal. On their personal letterhead, please. Hey pal, in case you didn’t notice who was paying your salary, we’ve got news for you: You don’t work for the principals, you work for the EP company that recruited you, trained you, and assigned you to the detail. How on earth did your common sense lead you to decide that it’s OK to ask a principal for a letter of recommendation? You didn’t because you’re a dimwit, and your dim wits make you, your team, and the whole company look bad.
- As every farmer knows, never rub another man’s rhubarb. But hell, who can resist when it’s such a thrill to sleep with a principal or their staff? Plus, the risk of getting caught is kinda fun, right, like joining the mile-high club? Might as well take the shot if you got it! Well, not for us – and not for you if you take your career seriously.
- We once had the sweetest client that used to visit the command post to give desserts to the team. She baked them all herself, and they were great. One member of the team, a naïve fool with the situational awareness of some roadkill, declined his piece of the pie, saying “Sorry Ma’am I don’t eat sugar cuz I don’t want to get fat.” Which the client, of course, immediately translated into “Well, I guess that makes me fat because I eat desserts all the time!?” At least she didn’t put her foot in her mouth like our mentally challenged agent. (Yes, we said it. But please don’t cancel us yet – we’ve got more!)
- When you gotta go you gotta go, right? We used to work with an agent who was tasked with protecting the boss’s place at night. Like many red-blooded boys that like their red meat, this guy had the irresistible urge to pinch a big loaf while doing a post-dinner patrol. But instead of using his common sense and one of the seven common bathrooms in the building, this bodyguard opted for the principal’s private bathroom, which we all knew was off limits. What could go wrong? He’d do his thing, turn on the vent, and bounce – and everything would be fine. After finishing his paperwork (yes, this is another poo joke) he put his body armor back on and accidently knocked over one of the principal’s flower vases, which promptly shattered into a thousand pieces. The bad news was that we had to get through a really awkward conversation with the principal the next day. The good news is that the agent is now free to use any bathroom he wants – in his own house!
- Fishing is a favorite pastime for millions of people around the world. We like to fish ourselves, and we once worked with a guy who loved it, too. Only problem with that was that this guy didn’t have the common sense to distinguish between what belongs to him and what belongs to others – including the principal. After weeks of catching crawfish in a pond right outside the principal’s bedroom window and cooking them up in the command post microwave, this guy got caught himself. Hell, he figured, the client has thousands of fish. Why would he care about losing a couple of crawdads to help fill one of his bodyguard’s bellies?
So, do the two of us make mistakes, too? Of course we do. None quite as dumb as the ones described above, thankfully, but we’ve definitely made our share of stupid moves. From our perspective, one of the hard things about running a program or being a boss in the bodyguard world isn’t so much owning our own personal screwups. It’s having to take responsibility for someone else’s asinine actions. Because accountability for our employees and team is part of the job. When one of our guys thought it was a good idea to practice his dry-fire technique (turned out to not be dry after all) while cleaning his firearm during a night shift (which resulted in a nice bullet hole in the client’s marble floor) it’s still on us. There’s no explaining this away, and you’ve just got to take it on the chin. Yes, the guy who blew a hole in the floor acted like a dingbat, but he was our dingbat.
What do you think? Any other dumb-shit, no-common-sense stories have you heard about it in executive protection and bodyguarding? We know you’ve got more. Please ping us on social media and let us know – maybe we can add them to the list!