Kenneth Bombace, the CEO of Global Threat Solutions talks about executive protection in an up-close-and-personal with Robbie Greenfield of Dubai Eye 103.8
Listen to the podcast here:
Kenneth Bombace, the CEO of Global Threat Solutions talks about executive protection in an up-close-and-personal with Robbie Greenfield of Dubai Eye 103.8
Listen to the podcast here:
Patrick Bet-David has a virtual sit-down with Chief Executive Officer of Global Threat Solutions Kenneth Bombace. In this interview, they cover personal security and the role they play. Connect with Kenneth on Twitter: https://bit.ly/3bKkmbD
About the Guest: Kenneth Bombace serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Global Threat Solutions. He possesses extensive experience from the law enforcement and military sectors. He led all Protection Operations for one of the largest police departments in the United States and as an Army Intelligence Officer, he led policing and Counter-Insurgency Operations in Samarra, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Mr. Bombace possesses a BA in Political Science from Stony Brook University and an MS in Criminal Justice from Long Island University.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Ken Bombace: That’s part of our job. What I don’t like is that he pulls his weapon immediately. He would probably be the person tackled if he did that.
Hi, my name is Ken Bombace, and I have over 20 years of law-enforcement experience. I’ve led a company as the CEO of Global Threat Solutions, which is a protection firm that provides comprehensive protection services to executives, people of high net worth, and celebrities. And today I’m gonna be reviewing movie and TV clips of bodyguard scenes and rating them for realism.
“Man on Fire” (2004)
Creasy: Pita, you have a pencil?
Bombace: You’re never going to be distracted. You don’t text. You don’t make calls. You’re definitely not gonna be writing something down while you’re driving a client. Protection agents will have what we call a go bag, a tactical bag, a go bag, and you’re gonna have everything you need in there. You’ll even put some food, drinks in there. You might have to sit in that vehicle for hours. To do your job, you’d have a flashlight. You have your laptop with you. You’re gonna have your phone, chargers, backup battery chargers. Something to write with, pens if you have to take notes when your principal’s giving you some instructions or maybe a staff member. These are just some of the things that you might have with you at any time.
And might a protection agent be tasked with watching the principal’s dog while they’re in a meeting or something? Sure, it does happen.
Bombace: You definitely don’t fire warning shots in a situation like this. I understand it’s part of the storyline, but that’s something we don’t do. Your mission, and this applies to every clip that I’ll talk about, in any protection operation is to get the principal off “the X,” we call it. The X being the location of danger, the immediate vicinity of danger. Our job is to get them out of there as fast as we can, and that’s it.
Firefights and shoot-outs, whether in the military or in police, are chaotic and confusing. When I was in the military, obviously I was involved in firefights when I was in Iraq as an army officer. I think they did a pretty good job at depicting a shoot-out like that. For the circumstances he had, with a one-man detail, he did the best he could in that situation.
Creasy: Pita! Run!
Bombace: Some training goes in on their side too, meaning the principal. So, code words, yes, that happens. It can be, maybe you see something that’s suspicious that they don’t know. So you would use a word rather than just say, “Hey, watch out. There’s a threat.” I would give it a seven.
Bodyguard: Ma’am, excuse me, if you don’t mind, I suggest we keep moving.
Bodyguard: Ma’am, let’s go. Let’s go.
Bombace: I’ve done a celebrity detail for a big award show, and when my principal exited the vehicle, he decided to run about a half a mile down a street crowded with fans and slapping all of their hands, and I had to run right alongside of him. There was no telling him not to.
♪ La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la. ♪
Bombace: They’re not gonna be in a room where the celebrity is actually getting changed, but rehearsing, prepping in a green room, absolutely, it’s very likely you would have a protection agent in there.
Bryan: Excuse me, miss. I know this isn’t the right time, but I have a daughter who wants to be a singer, and I was wondering if you had any tips for her.
Bombace: As the CEO of a protection firm, that is what I refer to as a fireable offense. You do not, as your celebrity client is about to head onstage, stop her in front of a group of all of her staff and ask her for a personal favor or a personal opinion. That is something we do not do. Totally unprofessional.
Bodyguard: Waiting on an airstrike. And we’re waiting, and we’re waiting.
[Bryan’s phone rings]
Bombace: They may not be assigned to go out into the crowd, but that does not mean you’re playing cards in the back room. You need to be right backstage monitoring everything, not playing cards.
That part right there, I would say, is pretty realistic. She exits the stage, there’s chaos obviously, this is a large venue, big concert. There’s venue security and venue staff that you have no control over there. So, sure, that can happen. What do they do? They move her quickly and professionally out of there.
Bryan: It’s OK. It’s OK. You’re safe now.
Bombace: You know, they’re human, and you’re human. As long as you’re doing your job, you could obviously support them to make them feel better during this tough time. I’ve had scenarios where principals are emotional and upset over something that happens, or afraid, quite frankly. And they do show their appreciation. You would just wanna guard against keeping boundaries up. You don’t want to get too close in this industry, so you maintain a certain level of professionalism. I would expect him after that interaction to let me know about it, that it happened. I’ll give it a six.
Cookie: Yeah, yeah!
Bombace: I think the fight scene was pretty unrealistic. They’re having a fistfight in the street, but then another subject who was the driver or someone else is assisting and kicking the person on the ground. Could there be untrained people that call themselves bodyguards that do that sort of thing? Sure.
Malcolm: You know, this is a bad neighborhood.
Cookie: Aw, you worried about me? I’m fine.
Bombace: It does happen, where people can be inebriated. They can be belligerent. You have to remember this person is, all intents and purposes, your boss, the principal. So you may rely on staff members that you work closely with, non-security people who work closely with them, or even family members to intervene. You also wanna protect them against things like embarrassment. There’s a famous scene where somebody popped out and hit Bill Gates in the face with a pie. That is a tragic fail for a protection team for that to have been able to happen. Was he assassinated? No. But was he embarrassed? Was he not happy with that scenario? Is that a liability to him as a businessman? Sure.
Cookie: Lucious, Lucious, Lucious.
Malcolm: Are you OK with the way he looks at you? Whatever that is, that’s too intense.
Bombace: Of course, it could happen. Yeah, you can’t leave them during a situation where they could get hurt or they’re vulnerable, of course. So, yes, might you physically have to? You would, if that’s the scenario. And people, you know, principals are people too.
Malcolm: I’ve done a thorough review of both your home and your corporate headquarters.
Bombace: Yes, a comprehensive assessment on an estate or residence and the corporate facility, of course we would do that. But what I would say is you would not do it most likely without the principals knowing about it and assisting, because you wouldn’t have access to everything that you’d need to really do a comprehensive security assessment. That part of it, where he sort of surprised him with it, saying, “I’ve already done it,” there’s only so far you can go.
“Iron Man 3” (2013)
Might you in a certain scenario use your body to tackle or at least shield your principal? Sure, that can happen if there’s a great enough threat to them. Would you do it in this scenario? Probably not.
It’s an unrealistic scenario to begin with, but you would probably not do it. It might be the last time you worked for them. It’s a thinking person’s game. This is not a brute-force game. You need people with an intellect. You need people who can think on their feet, maintain calm when things get hectic. And that could be not necessarily an immediate threat to your principal. You have developed an entire itinerary for the day. You’ve done advanced site visits. And in a moment’s notice they say, “We changed our mind. Now we’re going here, to another state.” Those are the things, you have to be able to adapt and continue seamlessly with your mission.
It takes a certain type of person to be able to do this work. You cannot panic easily. You need to be able to maintain calm at all times. Do we have some people in this industry who are 275 pounds and 6-foot-4? Sure. Is that the norm? Absolutely not. You do want someone who’s physically fit, who has a good appearance that they can do this job. Aesthetics are important, especially for many principals, but we do not need somebody who’s a bodybuilder, who’s a mixed-martial-arts fighter, necessarily, to do this job. That’s a one. I don’t like zeros.
You would want to know as much about them as possible. She even reviewed her social media for anything she might need to know about her lifestyle or any concerns, but also it goes so much deeper than that. We have an onboarding process, really, where you’re gonna wanna know their blood type, you’re gonna wanna know if they have any medical conditions or allergies. In the modern era, you can find out a lot about people just from open-source intelligence, just by using the internet and doing open-source searches.
Zoe: Who do you think you are? My mom?
Bombace: Would you stand around looking like a security agent in the corner of the bar watching them or in close proximity? No. A lot of times what you would do is go sit at the bar or go sit at your own table, act like you’re eating, have a drink, maybe a nonalcoholic drink, and keep an eye on them, while looking, it’s something we would call covert protection. So you don’t wanna be overt. Pretty realistic in every aspect. I’m gonna give it an eight.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” (2017)
Executive protection agents don’t have hidden exotic-weapon vaults that they use to choose their weapons for the day. They definitely don’t choose dual silenced pistols. And they also don’t grab them by the trigger when they pull them out of that vault, which is something we learn day one in the military or in the police service, is that, they call it “TF out of TG.” Keep your trigger finger out of your trigger guard. And he violates every one of those rules. Sometimes we travel in motorcades, more than one vehicle, of course, lead and follow vehicles if the threat’s high enough, depending on the size of your detail. They depart and arrive together, however. They don’t join the principal’s vehicle at high speeds and in very close proximity.
Michael: Get the engines started. I want an immediate takeoff. Airspace has already been cleared.
Pilot: Roger that.
Bombace: We definitely do not have the authority to clear airspace in the private-protection industry. I’ve never heard of that happening. Sometimes clients will wait a considerable time on the tarmac before departure. We do a lot of work in Los Angeles and in New York. They will use what we call FBOs. Those are the private air terminals. They will use those at major airports, but oftentimes their FBOs that that we use are in smaller regional airports close to major airports. You probably would not roll out the blue carpet and have a ceremony on the tarmac as you’re getting them into the aircraft. It would probably be a covert departure.
Bodyguard: Nothing for miles, chief. Almost boring.
Michael: And what’s our motto?
Bodyguards: Boring is always best.
Bombace: You would definitely not line up all of your detailed vehicles in this manner, having everybody stand there. This is something I’ve never seen. I can guarantee you they wouldn’t have their private-security helicopter hovering over the runway too. That would not be allowed.
Bodyguard: Bravo one down. We need a cleanup team in here now!
Bombace: They mentioned, “Get the cleanup team in here.” We don’t have cleanup teams for when principals are assassinated. The only cleanup team you’re gonna need is for your career, because it’s probably gonna be over if something like this happens. We have people visit every location. They’re gonna go days in advance, meet with points of contact, plan what route they’re gonna take in and out of that building. We have to plan safe houses. We have to know the closest Level I trauma center in case there is an incident like this where someone gets shot or hurt. We have to have safe houses, which might be a police station close by or someplace we know we can bring the principal if there’s a problem. There’s contingencies for everything. But I can tell you, assassinations like this in principals, extremely rare. I would say, I would give it a one just because I don’t wanna give anybody a zero.
“The West Wing” (2002)
Donovan: In a populated place, a department store, I always walk ahead of you. I don’t like more than five people between us, so if you ditch me because my back is to you, that would be too far.
Bombace: We don’t walk in front of the principal. You don’t do that because you can’t see them. If you’re a one-man detail, like he is in this scenario, protocol would say usually to the rear right, just offset, not directly behind them, but offset to the rear right. Now, they approach a door. Are you gonna just step out in front and maybe get that door for them? Sure. You can do that. You have visual all the time, and you’re staying in close proximity. Might you have a principal that tells you, “Don’t get the door for me. I don’t like people getting doors for me”? Yeah, I’ve had that too. So it all depends on the preference of them, but you’re definitely not gonna walk in front of them, because you know what happens? You turn around and they’re gone.
Donovan: At the risk of being ungentlemanly, I can’t carry bags. My hands always have to be free.
Bombace: People do get bags here and there. Are we used to exclusively do that, and we’re loading their packages and not watching them and jeopardizing security? No, we’re not. Do you help your principal when you’re getting them into a car, put a bag in the trunk and take that for them? This is a customer-service-based business.
Hogan: What is it that you look for exactly?
Bombace: Before he decides he’s gonna walk out and chat with her and tell her a little bit about what he does, you see he glances over to the dressing room area. As far as I could see in the scene, she’s the only one there. He feels comfortable.
Donovan: The guy in the coat.
Hogan: What about him?
Donovan: Beats me. Why is he wearing a coat?
Hogan: I don’t know.
Donovan: I don’t know either.
Bombace: There’s two kinds of things I’d be looking for. One of them would be someone who has an unnatural interest in my principal. They’re watching them. They seem to be in every store they’re in. That would raise alarms for me. Also, there could be a threat by somebody just in regular life, anyplace. That threat might not even know who your principal is or that you’re even there. But sometimes things happen in public where somebody could, maybe there’s fights that could break out or maybe there’s somebody who’s an emotionally disturbed person visibly, you can see. Those are things you would want to keep an eye on. We have a rigorous training program for our agents to conduct protection operations. I would also add that there’s only so much you can do in training for observation skills. Some people have innate, really well, inherent observation skills, but it is also a learned skill. It’s something you have to put time into and discipline, and you can learn it. I would probably give that first scene maybe a four.
But the second scene, I like. I think it’s pretty realistic, actually. So I’m gonna give that one an eight.
Budd: Go, go!
Stay down! The bullets can pierce the windows, but they can’t get through the armored metal. Control. Sierra Zulu seven nine, status zero, Thornton Circus.
Bombace: He’s maintaining calm. He’s maintaining radio communications to make sure he gets help there as quickly as possible. That’s the first thing to do. And he’s trying to keep her calm and guide her in what to do. They have a high-powered rifle that went through the ballistic glass but won’t go through the armor. So he has to stay down, she has to stay down to try and maintain safety.
Would I exit that armored vehicle not knowing exactly where the threat is out there to accommodate that and maybe get a picture with my phone to try and find them? No. That part I think is unrealistic.
[car engine starts]
That other agent, they make it very clear, it’s what we call a DOA, or dead on arrival. That person is not someone who needs medical attention. You might want to climb right on top of them to get that vehicle out of there. This is a dire situation.
Performance driving is being able to do one of those J-turns, which is a fancy way for turning around very quickly and just being able to drive at a high rate of speed in reverse. It’s not that easy. So these are things that you would train in. That’s an armored vehicle. They have special training, which I’ve been to. And my agents, many of them have been to. To drive armored vehicles, they’re much heavier than a regular vehicle. They handle much differently. They stop slower. They accelerate slower.
Budd: Take care of the P.
Bombace: So, he gets off the X. I like that. When he stops, he has his follow vehicle with him. I like that. That’s where the realism stops. The problem with law-enforcement officers, if there is one, using this type of work, is that it’s very different law-enforcement work. Someone has a gun, there’s a bad guy, somebody who’s shooting people, you go towards them. But in protection work, that’s not your problem. I’d give it an eight.
“The Bodyguard” (1992)
That’s part of our job, to take a shot for a client, a principal. What I don’t like is that he pulls his weapon immediately. He spots this person that he identifies as a threat. Nobody else has. He would probably be the person tackled if he did that. I could tell you, in these awards, and I’ve done security at many of them, there’s no weapons allowed. Even off-duty police officers who are now hired to do protection services, at these venues, they’re not even allowed to bring weapons in. Nobody gets weapons in. That’s the idea. It’s a weapons-free environment. What we do is heighten sense of observation, obviously, because it’s a big crowd. The good news is at those large award shows like that, not just anybody could get in there. They’re vetted. People are on a guest’s list with credentials. I’ve worked those lines checking those credentials for people to get in. With that being said, just like in this scenario, can somebody get press credentials? Perhaps. I mean, it doesn’t take much to get them nowadays. And I’ve seen that, where someone with press credentials has gotten into a green room at an event they shouldn’t have been at. They weren’t a legitimate journalist. Everybody probably has their own security. They don’t get to bring them in and sit at their table with them. Those people at most would be backstage, waiting and observing. It’s a rotation. As the celebrities come out, their security person waits and then escorts them back out to their green room or wherever they’re going to exit. Also sometimes I’ve been at events when they hired one company to do all the security for these people. So you would have, though, someone assigned to specifically escorting them back and forth, all of these people, to wherever they’re going, till they get to their own exit or security team. My firm was hired at one point to do large-scale political event with multiple presidential candidates. And I had to provide probably 40 agents, because we would have someone assigned to each one of those candidates the entire time they were there. I’ll give it a six.
Moira: I want to introduce you to someone, John Diggle. He’ll be accompanying you from now on.
Oliver: I don’t need a babysitter.
Bombace: Having clients that oppose having protection services or they have it against their will is something that definitely happens.
John: I don’t want there to be any confusion, Mr. Queen. My ability to keep you from harm will outweigh your comfort. Do we have an agreement?
Bombace: You don’t talk to a principal that way that he does, where you call all the shots. I like to point this out, where ultimately the client really does make the final decisions, even with the president of the United States.
Oliver: Got your eyes open?
John: That’s what I’m here for, sir. That and answering patronizing questions.
Bombace: They don’t want you following them around with an earpiece on and making it very high profile that they have security. You might sit in the corner of the room and just observe things.
John: I have to get you out of here.
Oliver: No, them. Them.
Bombace: You’re always gonna watch the people in close proximity to your principal. You’re gonna see if anyone has an unnatural focus or level of attention on your principal. You’re gonna watch for things, anything that might be suspicious or seem like somebody could be unstable or dangerous. And anytime they interact with someone, you’re gonna just keep an eye on that. You’re not gonna hover over there around their back and ready to attack anyone at any time. It’s unrealistic. This is not a high realism rating, no, for multiple reasons. I would give it a two.
Following is a transcription of the video.
Joseph Gelling: Move, move, move, move, move, move, move, move, move!
Kerry: In the car, in the car. Stay down, sir. Go, go, go, go.
Gelling: If you’re getting into this job, you should be ready. Your life may be coming behind your client’s.
Kenneth Bombace: You need to be someone who is at least potentially prepared to put yourself at great risk. [gunfire] A lot of times when you say bodyguard, people think of somebody who is enormous, but this is a thinking person’s game. Being able to maintain calm in all sorts of situations, think on your feet, and adapt to change constantly. A highly qualified executive protection agent, they’ll make anywhere from $100,000, they can make over $200,000 easily.
My name is Ken Bombace, and I’m the chief executive officer of Global Threat Solutions. My firm has been contracted to provide services by celebrities, entertainers, corporate executives of all types. Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, President Obama, we’ve worked for all of them.
Obviously the primary goal is to keep our principal, we call them, or our client, safe, but there’s so much more than that. So, what we’re offering is a three-day executive protection career course, and include everything from classroom to practical exercises that actually include real role players that will be executives. They’re gonna have to do an entire mission, from the beginning to the end.
A large percentage of executive protection agents come from either military backgrounds or law-enforcement backgrounds.
Jose Castillo: My name is Jose. Currently, I’m an active law-enforcement officer in northern New Jersey, specifically homicide detective.
Gelling: My name’s Joseph Gelling. I’m a former reconnaissance Marine.
Bombace: I really like the military community for executive protection agents. This job is very demanding. It could be long days. You have to maintain flexibility, constantly adapt to change, and the military background really lends itself to that.
We obviously want somebody who’s physically fit. That’s a requirement, but you do not have to be 260 pounds and 6-foot-4. Absolutely not. If you were to look at many details that are out there working for different clients around the country, you’ll see few people like that.
There is a lot of classroom. People need to know the fundamentals, the basics of executive protection.
Sam Tareky: We’re gonna describe what actions each person’s gonna take, how he’s gonna move around a venue.
Bombace: We’ll go over the roles and positions of an executive protection team. There’s many positions within a team, and there’s different types of formations. You would see what we call a diamond formation. It provides complete, 360 coverage of a principal.
Tareky: It’s utilized more in high-threat environments and or/open areas.
Bombace: But here in the States, we will often tone down those formations. They don’t want the visibility of it. The client wants people not to even know they have security. So they’ll distance themselves a little more from the client.
Gelling: Sometimes you might think, oh, like, I’ll just be attached to his hip at all times and nobody will ever touch him, but you have to be OK with him maybe having to go into the bathroom on his own. Especially if it’s a female, you’re not going into that bathroom with them.
Bombace: Many of the details that we provide for executives, for instance, will be one or two people, a driver and one agent.
Tareky: VIPs do not want to be bothered with any family issues. Don’t talk; don’t be heard.
Castillo: Normally, you’re a fly on the wall.
Ray Tierney: Let’s just say we’re walking into an exit, point B, and we mess up a formation. He doesn’t know what that formation is; you just gotta be seamless.
Tareky: We’re gonna be practicing arrivals and departures, strong-side drops and pickups. You go to the door to crack it. The minute he’s cracking the door, that’s when you step over here.
Bombace: When they’re exiting that vehicle, or exiting a venue and getting into a vehicle, that is definitely one of the most vulnerable parts of the work we do.
Tareky: You gonna be like, “Sir, can you follow me?” Now you lead. You flow behind them. You’re the primary now. Now you have, like, a three-man detail covering the principal.
Chris Schiavo: In our training scenarios, I will be playing the adversary, or bad guy, and I will be using this weapon. They’re very realistic. [gunshot] It actually sounds real, and it actually looks real. The only difference is this little orange tip, this thing that signifies that it’s a toy.
Tareky: The next scenario, we have the team bringing up our VIP. He’s got a little lecture he’s gonna be giving in front of a crowd of people.
[shouts] [gunshots] [door bangs]
Jacob: This way. Get in, get in.
Tareky: One member handled the threat. The rest of the team got the client off the X.
Bombace: When we have to get the principal off the X, it means get them out of a certain area, scenario, as quickly and seamlessly as we can.
Gelling: It’s definitely a little different, because as a Marine, you see it in all the commercials, you run towards the sound of danger.
Bombace: Sometimes we have to retrain people for this, because people who have worked in law enforcement and military, their natural inclination might be to go towards a threat. In executive protection, we wanna just get away as fast as possible.
Tareky: They’re not here for the battle.
Bombace: This is a thinking person’s game. This is not a brute-force game. We need people who can think on their feet, make quick decisions, adapt to changes, and get the mission done.
Castillo: You always have to have your eyes everywhere, just, you know, make sure there’s no threats or anything like that.
Bombace: In this field, we have thought of all that before an incident takes place.
Castillo: That’s why you have that guy that goes a day before, looks for everything, looks out for exits, look out for entrances, talks to people that are from the building.
Bombace: The advance site visit, or planning before a mission, is what will set you up for success.
Castillo: So, you got one exit over there, and you have another, you have one more other exit when you walk outside.
Bombace: We know far more than the principal knows about every place they’re going. How we’re gonna enter, who will be there, the points of contact, even if things do arise. Changes, last minute. You’ll be able to adapt much easier than if you have not done that proper planning.
Bombace: Final culminating practical exercise is critical, because we get to see all the skills they learn during the course in play, and I have all my instructors monitoring them from a distance.
Kerry: The weather is a little rainy, but if you like rain, we’re gonna be getting in this first vehicle. But we’re gonna basically walk them right out front, put them right into the vehicle, seat them, let them know where we’re going next, ask if he needs anything, and that’s it. Should be smooth sailing.
Bombace: Their schedules are often very demanding. Not only their minutes and hours, their seconds are worth a lot of money. So it’s our job to make sure they get where they’re going safely and in a timely manner.
Gelling: They’re pulling away, we lost them at the light, but it’s like, they’re still gonna make sure they get to where they need to be. Nothing ever is gonna happen how you plan it, and you need to be able to adapt and have contingencies for each and every plan and course of action.
Tierney: Jose, you read me?
Gelling: We lost service. You know, it’s not the end of the world. If we can’t tell the advance that we’re gonna be there in two minutes, and, like, he knows we’re coming, I told him 10 minutes out, so he can prepare for that time.
Castillo: If one guy, not that he messes up, but goes a different route, you got that guy that’s gonna come in and say, “All right, I got you, go do what you have to do. I’ll come and take care of it.”
Gelling: Trying to stay close to where we could react if something were to happen or if they needed us, but far enough away and trying to look as inconspicuous as possible.
Tareky: Stretch like you’re doing, ’cause you might be in front of that door for three hours.
Bombace: I think the initial draw might be an inaccurate one for some people when they hear the term bodyguard. “Wow, this is exciting. This is the career I wanna get into.” And it can at times. However, there’s a lot of standing in hallways. There’s a lot of watching people for countless hours, it could be. Boredom can be your greatest enemy.
Gelling: You spend so many hours of just what seems like nothing, until that something happens. We need to always stay vigilant.
Sachin Narode: I did not notice they did this first time. In fact, I thought they were professional and thorough throughout the entire drill. Every single step. They were five steps ahead of us, making sure we are well taken care of in terms of security, protection, and convenience.
Bombace: I thought today went great. The practical exercise from beginning to end, it was great to see that the agents, first of all were prepared, but also, we were able to see them react to some challenges, where they would have to react on their feet and it wasn’t part of the plan.
Gelling: The hardest part of the practical is making sure everybody’s on the same page. Castillo: Guys were on point. They knew what to do with the communications, which is key. It went down pretty well.
Bombace: In this exact course, there’s no one here that I wouldn’t hire for our company to do protection services. This is a great group of people.
Gelling: In this world, all these people with money, they have high expectations, and you need to live up to them. You can’t make excuses.
Castillo: If you make that one, single error, you’re done. You gotta be on your A game at all times. You know, these are high clienteles who expect the best and want the best.
Following an article by Business Insider that reported on the elite Training and Protection services offered by the international protection services firm Global Threat Solutions, CEO Kenneth Bombace announces the expansion of services throughout North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. (Business Insider Video – https://www.businessinsider.com/what-it-takes-to-be-a-celebrity-bodyguard-2020-9)
The video story produced by Business Insider details an insider’s view of the elite protection training offered by Global Threat Solutions and the mission of Executive Protection Agents that protect Celebrities, C-Suite Executives, People of High Net Worth, Family Offices and Government Officials. Global Threat Solutions Protection Agents can operate in diverse environments around the world and bring decades of valuable experience from the military, law enforcement and private sector. They can operate armed or unarmed and can provide services in short notice around the world. They receive training in the same protection tactics used by elite agencies like the US Secret Service, US Military Special Operations and other elite organizations such as the British SAS.
CEO Kenneth Bombace also announced expanded training program offerings that can be contracted to accommodate organizations around the globe through their innovative Mobile Training Teams or MTT’s. “We can offer these services to private individuals and private sector organizations as well as government agencies and military units. Our Instructors bring extensive experience from the Military Special Operations Community as well as Law Enforcement agencies.” These incredibly challenging training programs begin at just $1400 per person. Mr. Bombace also announced an innovative Online Executive Protection Course that can be offered to students trying to enter the Executive Protection field in a unique virtual platform. “For just $299 we are offering students an introduction into the field of Executive Protection. Upon successful completion of the training students receive a Certificate and Transcript from this elite protection firm.”
CEO Kenneth Bombace continues to say that Global Threat Solutions has protected such high profile individuals as Fortune 100 CEO’s, Celebrities and Entertainers, Government Officials, US Democratic Presidential Candidates involved and foreign leaders.
Listen to the Podcast here: https://troublegroup.com/ken-bombace-troublemaker-at-global-threat-solutions/
I’ve always gotten the greatest learning from examples at the edges – the extreme cases. Ken Bombace and his team at Global Threat Solutions are busy re-inventing just such an industry.
Successful entrepreneurs are careful to differentiate their businesses from competitors. Ken will be quick to tell you the protection, investigation, and due diligence services company is 100% veteran owned. That is one of his favorite innovations.
The company uses the phrase “Executive Protection” rather than the standard “Bodyguard.” Not meaning any offense to bodyguards Ken says, “We don’t use the term bodyguard in this industry. Quite frankly, to people in the executive protection industry, it’s offensive. It rings of somebody who thinks we’re like, a bouncer.”
You might think Ken’s use of a more elevated term like Executive Protection means he and his team only handle the big stuff, he’s quick to point out that his team is trained to handle every detail of an engagement. That includes carrying bags from the airport to the vehicle. It also includes high awareness of any issue that might inconvenience a client. In any big city, the airports and highways get crowded. Picking up a client from Teterboro Airport and getting them to Wall Street with just minutes to spare can be high stress. Ken’s team is trained to handle it.
“Some of the larger firms have a “more distant” relationship with the clients. Executive Protection is a very personal business.”
“Perseverance. Never quitting is the number one attribute for any successful entrepreneur.”
“The senior leadership of the business has to be within immediate reach of the principals we’re protecting.”
“No matter how busy we have become, I monitor all communications threads for every protection detail we have going, all the time.”
Replace the above phrases like Executive Protection with your industry phrases. Do you feel this strongly about your profession? You might want to look into that.
Ken leads off the podcast with his EXTENSIVE background. He also leads his sales pitch the same way. In this industry, someone who’s been in the world’s worst security situations is precisely who you want protecting your diplomats, top executives, and loved ones. Sit through the entire opening and I bet you’ll be ready to hire Global Threat Solutions.
One of my favorite stories from Ken is how he turned a standard magazine interview on its head and into a huge PR opportunity. (Read the full story on the GTS blog). Without giving to much away, Ken was approached to be interviewed for a magazine. Rather than just be interviewed over the phone, he offered to pick up the reporter and treat her like a V.I.P. for a day. She was met at the West 30th Street Heliport, whisked downtown to the 9/11 memorial, and then off to lunch uptown and an imaginary meeting. She got the full treatment and learned much more about the Executive Protection business than she would have.
Ken isn’t sitting on his many laurels. His next move with GTS is to shake up the standard EP training. He’s just launched an online training course, and he launched it fast. As Ken well knows, many times speed to market is the deciding factor. This course opens up huge new geographic opportunities for the company.
When asked “why are you the one to shake up the industry?” Ken makes it clear that he’s a student of business success and a voracious reader on the subject.
Entrepreneurs (especially the troublemaking kind) are almost always on the lookout for marketing, networking and sales opportunities. That’s likely why Ken jumped at the opportunity to do this podcast, and I’m certainly glad he did.
By the way, if you click that Email link above, it goes to Ken’s personal work email address. He’s that serious!
As countries around the world prepare to return to business following the worse pandemic since 1918, the Protection Services industry is working hard to adjust to the new normal. Following the COVID crisis, Executive Protection providers will need to adjust to the reality of new government regulations, the requirements of clients concerning social distancing and PPE, changes in travel procedures, new required equipment and an expanded role as it pertains to sanitizing procedures.
To be sure, this is not the first time the Protective Services sector has had to adjust procedures due to the impact of world events. Following 9/11 our industry had to adjust to a new normal that included restrictive travel procedures that included the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Additionally, protective intelligence operations needed to adjust the very real possibility of terrorist attacks that posed a potential threat to Principals. Corporate EP leadership also had to be included in the rapidly expanding importance of Business Continuity planning. As with our response to the attacks of 9/11, I am confident that our industry will once again adjust fire and move forward with the mission without pause.
It is impossible to accurately predict the overall impact that the COVID crisis will have on the Protection industry, but there are some issues that are sure to become a key requirements for clients as we move beyond the initial phases of the pandemic. I have listed some of the anticipated and already implemented operational changes that have become important to clients:
· Social Distancing monitoring and enforcement
· Regular sanitizing of vehicles
· Sanitizing of hotels and residences as part of advance site visits
· Protective Intelligence with a COVID threat assessment for locations and venues
· Testing of protective detail members/staff within proximity to the Principal
· Training on sanitizing procedures
· Obtaining in-house sanitizing equipment and maintain ample supply of PPE
· Shift to virtual meetings to reduce threat of in-person meetings
· Online team training to reduce exposure to Protective Detail members
As with all industries, there will be different requirements for different clients. Some Principals will resist changes to their usual operating procedures, lifestyle and travel habits. It is, of course, our mission to brief them on the threats that exist and the impact it can have on their personal health and their respective firms. Ultimately, we will do what we have always done in the Protective Services industry, adjust to the specific needs and preferences of our clients. The challenge for those in our field will be to do so in a professional and seamless manner.
Finally, we must not become hyper focused on the crisis at hand and leave our clients and our own companies vulnerable to the next threat. As health professionals develop treatments and vaccines and bring the COVID crisis under control, we must be sure to always dedicate resources to forecasting the next threat and mitigate the impact it will have on our clients. After all, that is what our industry is all about.
Global Threat Solutions, LLC
“Peace of Mind in Uncertain Times”
One of the greatest honors is being able to positively influence others. Titles do not define leaders and far too often work experience is seen as the prerequisite for many leadership positions. While this is not always a negative aspect, true leadership skills are often minimalized or overlooked. Experience in a profession does not correlate to being an effective leader. Leadership abilities must be looked at exclusively and developed through training and self-awareness. Frequently, companies will overlook formal leadership training and then begin to question issues such as poor morale, decreasing performance and low retention rates amongst staff. Though this topic may be applicable to a wide range of professions, I see a direct need to continually develop leaders within the private security sector.
I am by no means an expert in leadership. The direct purpose of this article is to identify that no one is perfect; we all have the ability to become stronger leaders with motivation, perseverance, and the desire for learning. The key is being able to acknowledge one’s weaknesses and take proactive measures to improve. During my career, one specific leadership fault always sticks out in my mind. When I was a Marine with 2nd Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (F.A.S.T.) Company, I was quickly thrown into a leadership position. I was young, cocky and a relatively inexperienced Marine leader. I was supervising a work detail of a squad of Marines shoveling some dirt. I remember pushing them very hard that day, being loud and aggressive. Not the Italian, New Yorker loud that I am some times capable of, but leading in a very autocratic manner. I was yelling at them trying to accomplish the task faster, so we can move into the training plan for the day. I do not remember how much time passed, but at one point one of my Marines looked up at me and said, “You can grab a shovel and help too…”. Mind you, we were the same rank (Lance Corporals) and I was in the leadership role (Squad Leader). Instead of controlling my ego and emotions by just grabbing a shovel and helping, I chose to become more aggressive and angry. My ego was hurt and I responded in the most negative way possible.
As the years progressed, I worked on improving my leadership style. I still look back and identify this as one of the biggest leadership mistakes that I have ever made. Situation dictates our actions and in some cases, it would not be practical to actually pick up the shovel. In this particular example, I wish that I did pick up a shovel and start working alongside the Marines under my charge. Other than simply getting the work done faster, I lost a valuable opportunity to build camaraderie, earn respect and lead by example.
Over the years I learned from many mistakes and I look forward to always improving my skills as a security professional and leader. Learning is the core of being an effective leader and should be an essential part of every person’s training regimen. Leadership training and team building, within an organization, should be just as important as the many other operational training programs. I compiled a list of 10 recommendations that we can all do today to work towards becoming better leaders, in our respective fields. These following recommendations are in no particular order:
1. – Recognize someone for something they do well
Right now. Stop what you are doing and truly recognize your team member’s value. This done over time will build individual confidence and increase team morale. Way too often value is overlooked and people think that because they are “just doing their job” or simply “not doing anything wrong”, the team members do not deserve positive praise. I disagree and feel that positive praise is a vital step to increasing morale and performance in your team, even if they are “just doing their job”.
2. – Identify your ego and leave it home
No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. Those that learn from their mistakes are smart. Those that help others learn from their mistakes are leaders. Identify your individual shortcomings and slowly work on improving yourself. If you are always looking down on others or focusing on the negative, it is time to change. Sometimes being a good leader requires you to admit you’re wrong and / or there are better ways then your own.
3. – Understand that being in a leadership role is a privilege
If you even somewhat agree with this statement, you need to think about what YOU need to do for the individual(s) you are leading. Many people have the basic notion that becoming a leader means you tell people what to do and you are rewarded with certain privileges. The military teaches us that being a leader is much more about taking care of your people, then ordering them to perform tasks. In fact, the military stresses that your people come before you. For example, as a military leader it is a general understanding that a leader never eats before every person of his / her team has eaten. Too often does the leadership role turn in to an “I say, you do” position. While telling others what to do may be an essential part of your job, it is extremely important to remember that how you tell someone is more important then what you are actually saying. Focusing on your tone and body language is extremely important in communicating a clear positive message. Always remembering that leading is a privilege will help you better articulate mission goals and delegate essential tasks.
4. – Always ensure the individuals you are leading have the tools to effectively accomplish their jobs
This may seem obvious but is often overlooked in the area of information and communication. As a leader it is very important that you clearly share all relevant information and to effectively communicate any changes that impact your teams responsibilities. While situation dictates and there are times that confidential information cannot always be shared, it is still vital to assess how not sharing certain information impacts the mission. Communicate with your team about what they will require to more effectively accomplish their jobs. From more information sharing to a new piece of technology, you may be surprised about the positive engagement that you will receive from your team.
5. – Do not ever jump to conclusions
Being in a leadership role is often stressful and time consuming. It is important to always investigate and process information before assuming a conclusion. This can quickly undermine your effectiveness as a leader and can result in poor decisions being made. Try not to communicate important topics through text messages and emails. If you receive a message, do not jump to conclusions until you actually have a professional discussion. If you already have a negative perspective going into a conversation with a team member, the situation will most likely be improperly handled. It is also important as a leader to remain positive and not ever take things personally. Leaders need thick skin and have to always provide a clear and effective communications platform.
6. – Always work on improving and teaching team members
If you are in a leadership role, continually improve your team members. Again, a leader is directly responsible for adding value to the team by continually improving each individual team member. If you are “too busy” to be communicating and developing your team, you are not being an effective leader. Fortunately, you can easily change this piece. Develop a training plan or ask a team member what their future goals are. As a leader, your team member’s goals should be your own goals. Once you have a goal, work with the team member to reach it. Granted, mission always comes first, but developing your team is a vital aspect to being a leader.
7. – Always seek to improve yourself and learn new skills
This ties in to teaching others. Your professional enrichment is key to career progression and becoming a better leader. Pursue higher education and obtain new certifications. Bring that knowledge back to your team and grow together. Also, always take care of your physical and mental health. This is extremely important because it will become impossible to effectively lead others if you are not in an acceptable physical and mental state yourself. Overwhelming anxiety and stress can quickly debilitate a cohesive unit. Anxiety and stress are normal and will not negatively impact your performance if it is effectively managed and controlled. The leader needs to always be cool, calm and collective. The leader needs to always be able to effectively manage stress and – Transfer The Calm.
8. – Always counsel others in a private and professional manner
There should never be a reason to negatively counsel someone in a public area or around other team members. Praise in public…. punish in private. Calling someone out for negative performance without having an effective plan to correct the action is not a best practice; this will damage morale and transfer a negative image toward the leadership. Always document positive and negative counseling sessions and keep accurate records. Also, counseling team members should be a regular process (i.e. monthly or quarterly at a minimum). There should be a clear paper trail on every team member and the individual should be very aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses. The leader’s goal should be helping to make those weaknesses in to strengths.
9. – Take the time to know the individuals you are leading
This is one of the most important features of a leader and should not be confused with being a “best friend” to everyone you lead. We are all human and have good days and bad days. There are very stressful life events that significantly impact us all. Additionally, by simply knowing about a person’s individual situation, i.e. family members, where they went to school, etc., can build a personal connection and enhanced trust between the leader and team member. As a leader, knowing about your team can aid in identifying when there are significant life events that may negatively impact their work performance. Also, knowing your teams skill levels and capabilities are vital. A strong leader knows how to showcase the team’s strengths and continually improves the cohesiveness. There is nothing worse then undermining someone’s skill level by ineffectively managing him or her. Look into your team and continually promote their individual strengths.
10. – Take responsibility for team shortcomings and give credit for team successes
If your team fails, it is the leader’s fault. If an individual in the team fails, it is the leader’s fault. If your team succeeds, it is always because of the team. This applies to all personnel, even temporary. If a leader has a problem with someone’s performance and has not taken proactive steps to improve him or her, it becomes the leader’s responsibility. The worst leaders are the ones that have hidden agendas and strong opinions of others, but they never take the time to effectively communicate those opinions with the individual. It should be done in a positive way, focusing on improvement.
Many of these recommendations can be easily implemented today. It is never too late to make positive changes and improve your leadership style. Having the ability to recognize some internal strengths and weaknesses is a step in the right direction. Being in a leadership role does not make you a leader; make sure you are truly up for the challenge before accepting the responsibility. Do not be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. Be firm, fair and always aim for a true understanding with your team. Take the time to “Pick up the Shovel”.
Written by, Anthony Tamburello IV, MS, CPP and Co-Writer, Kenneth Bombace, MS
Anthony Tamburello IV, MS, CPP
Anthony Tamburello is the Chief Training Officer and Executive Protection Manager for Global Threat Solutions (GTS). Anthony honorably served in the U.S. Army Reserve and, as a Sergeant, in the United States Marine Corps. Anthony has over 15 years of experience in the security industry: specializing in high-threat protection operations, executive / celebrity protection, corporate security operations, security consulting, training and anti-terrorism operations.
Kenneth Bombace, MS
Kenneth Bombace is the Chief Executive Officer for GTS. Ken honorably served in the U.S. Army as a Captain. Ken has over 25 years of law enforcement and security experience: specializing in intelligence, executive / dignitary protection, security consulting, investigations, training and anti-terrorism operations.
Global Threat Solutions, LLC
“Peace of Mind in Uncertain Times”
My Bodyguard, My Self
These days, it seems like everyone has a security detail. We spent a day with three men in suits to find out how it feels to be safe.
Words by Jamie Lauren Keiles Photographs by Ben Lowy
It’s 11 in the morning and I’m running late. I’m supposed to meet my security detail in Manhattan, at the West 30th Street Heliport. The night before, I was up in bed, tossing and turning and thinking about money. My net worth is currently $38. Rent is due in 13 days, and I’m hoping my paycheck will show up in time.
I dismount the train at the new 34th Street–Hudson Yards station and sink my empty iced-coffee cup into a trash can. A protest sign at the top of the stairs implores: “ASK STEVE ROSS WHY RELATED IS SILENT ON ISSUES OF RACISM, SEXISM, AND UNION BUSTING AT HUDSON YARDS.” I never get the chance. I jog through the canyon of new, empty condos and hang a left turn on the West Side bike path. I’m probably one of a handful of people who have ever arrived at the heliport on foot.
The heliport is an arbitrary, but representative, meeting point, suggested by my lead protection agent, Kenneth Bombace. Ken, 48, is the president and CEO of Global Threat Solutions, a Long Island–based security firm that provides armed and unarmed protection services for CEOs, celebrities, visiting dignitaries, and anyone else with a spare $1,200 per day. The company’s motto is “Peace of Mind in Uncertain Times,” and (needless to say) business is booming. As smartphones, social media, and the 24-hour news cycle continue to impose the specter of violence on our daily lives, the idea of safety has become a hot commodity. The majority of the big publicly traded companies now require security protection for their top brass—regardless of whether executives want it. In 2017, Facebook spent $7.3 million to protect Mark Zuckerberg—a negligible sum relative to company profits, but still out of reach for even the average prestige credit cardholder. How can these expenditures possibly be worth it? What does executive protection really buy? In the interest of helping me to answer these questions, Bombace and his team have graciously agreed to offer their protective services for the day.
“The reason I chose this location, the West 30th Street Heliport, is because a lot of dignitaries and VIPs will land here,” Bombace explains. He introduces the other two members of the force: Cliff Lent, my second agent, and Dan Offerman, my security driver. Lent, 48, is an off-duty detective, serving out the final years of his pension requirement with a police force on Long Island; Offerman, also 48, is retired highway patrol, and Bombace himself is a former police detective. All three men exude the kind of enthusiastic conventionality of guys who jump over fences in suits. Over the course of our day together, I will come to like them more than my own politics can account for.
The history of the security detail is arguably as old as the history of power. For as long as there have been people at the top, there have been knights, samurai, somatophylakes, housecarls, Varangians, and Praetorian Guards cast in the role of personal protectors. Like today, the guards of bygone times shared a close relationship to the military and police. The image of the modern bodyguard, with his no-frills suit and unflappable demeanor, dates back to 1901, when the United States Secret Service—initially an anti-counterfeiting agency—served after the assassination of William McKinley to protect the new president-elect, Teddy Roosevelt. Since then, the industry has expanded in step with mass media. As the world of media and the paparazzi grew, famous faces with something to fear increasingly turned to bodyguards for their protection.
“Actually,” says Bombace, “We don’t use the term bodyguard in this industry. Quite frankly, to people in the executive protection industry, it’s offensive. It rings of somebody who thinks we’re like, a bouncer.”
The term “executive protection” was first coined in 1970, when US Public Law 91-217 established a new force to protect visiting foreign dignitaries. It was during this era that Laurence Tureaud, the Army veteran better known as Mr. T, worked his way up from a humble nightclub bouncer to become the most fool-pitying EP agent in the world, guarding big names like Michael Jackson and Muhammad Ali. By the early 2000s, the EP agent was a fixture in the tabloids, if only in the background of paparazzi photos. For people with public images to maintain, getting executive protection declares that they’re someone, and someone not to mess with. Today, as the news gets worse and the rich get richer, EP agents are increasingly called on to offer their protection to those who are simply wealthy. No longer an accessory for just the rich and famous, safety has become a kind of status symbol for aspirational classes as well.
“With crowds getting run over by vans in London and Germany, people are nervous,” says Bombace. “People who previously never would have considered security are hiring agents to go on vacation.”
Our plan today is to leave the heliport, drive downtown to the 9/11 memorial, and then head uptown to lunch and an imaginary meeting, if time allows. According to Bombace, these are things that rich people want or need to do when they come to New York. Most of the work of executive protection happens before the protectee even arrives. If this were a real operation, Bombace explains, he would have sent an advance agent to scope the safety risks of each venue. In this line of work, risk tends to looks more like an out-of-order elevator than a pipe bomb.
“Say we went down to the stock market,” he says. “You would have to know, if something bad happens, where are our exits to get out of here? Where are we parking what we call an ‘egress vehicle’? That vehicle is going to be staged outside the back, so we can get them out quickly, and get them off what we call ‘the X.’”
“What’s the X?” I ask.
“The X is where something bad is,” he explains. Possible Xs include bombs, knives, active shooters, terrorist attacks, unflattering political protests, drunk people, overly zealous fans, stalkers, medical emergencies, and pie-throwing pranksters. (In a banner event for the security industry, Bill Gates encountered the latter outside a meeting in Belgium in 1998.) “It’s not all assassinations and kidnappings,” Bombace says, establishing a fact he’ll repeat throughout the day. The primary goal of executive protection is avoiding bodily harm; the secondary goal is avoiding embarrassment in the press or on social media. Most executive-protection agents are former cops or ex-military, but the actual work of the job is much gentler than law enforcement. When police hear gunshots, they tend to run toward them. An executive-protection agent wants to get away.
“That’s muscle memory,” Bombace says, shifting his weight to the opposite foot. “You have to kind of retrain people. We’re not worried about arresting somebody for having a gun. We’re worried about getting our principal—that’s what we call who we’re protecting—out of this zone as quickly as we can. That’s what we do. That’s what we’re here for. We’re not fighting fights—”
Just then we hear a clang coming from the helipad behind us. We all jump. Offerman turns around to investigate the culprit: a jiggly manhole cover. Lent cracks a joke.
Everyone laughs. I add “manhole” to my mental list of Xs.
We all pile into a black Chevy Suburban to head downtown along the West Side Highway. The Suburban, with rear captain’s chairs, is the industry standard for people who don’t drive but do get driven around. The car is so spacious, and the ride so smooth, that I try to imagine New Jersey out the window as just a picture scrolling by on a scrim. When Offerman worked highway patrol, he was primed for zigzagging car-chase maneuvers. Now, as a security driver, he mostly just tries to go slowly over speed bumps. In the security industry, the focus is always on the person in the back seat.
“Police in general are not naturally designed for this type of work,” Bombace says. “They’re [used to being] in an authority position, and they don’t necessarily have that customer service mind-set. I’ve had new hires in the past say, ‘I don’t get bags.’ Well, guess what? We get bags in this industry.”
I smile at the thought of a police officer wheeling a little pink suitcase, then shudder at the thought of anyone servicing my other professed enemy, the rich. Bombce calls his clients “people of means.” The main thing he has to say about them is that he cannot say anything about them at all, per a signed nondisclosure agreement. Beyond that, he says they tend to visit the same places: airports, office buildings in the Financial District, the New York Stock Exchange, the Four Seasons Hotel. In theory, these places exist within the ordinary city of New York. In practice, they form their own separate map, connected via the hermetic comfort of Suburbans.
The executive class is, of course, further insulated from the public by flanks of hired help. Bombace says a client with executive security almost always has assistants, managers, PR people, hairdressers, nannies, and housekeepers as well. This division and outsourcing of labor become second nature. Clients get used to counting on others to manage entire aspects of their lives.
“A lot of times in restaurants, they’ll just get up and walk out,” he says. “Someone has to pay the bill.” Often an agent will pick up the check, then get reimbursed.
“It’s not all assassinations and kidnappings.”
I ask Bombace if he ever thinks his clients are assholes, and everyone in the vehicle bursts into laughter. Bombace is adamant that he has never thought poorly of anyone he protects. The minor slights are vastly outweighed by the number of generous gestures, he explains. Since starting his company in 2015, he’s dined at many of New York’s best restaurants, and once saw a horse win the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes. Some of his agents have been to the Olympics, but because of the private nature of their work, any kind of bragging is highly frowned upon. Even a single location-tagged Instagram post can put a client’s safety in danger. Bombace’s one lapse into gloating is a brief but enthused mention of “sitting with the governor, watching Billy Joel!” Otherwise, he remains one of the least starstruck people I’ve ever met, a quality probably achieved by way of overexposure. He ensures me he’s seen some very private things.
Outside of the fancy perks, Bombace says the main appeal of his job is the puzzle of working out small details. “I have a little bit of OCD,” he jokes. “That helps me in this field, because small things [can become] big mistakes.” Compared to a psychic, who needs to predict only one future, an executive-protection agent must predict and plan for every potentiality. Every blocked exit or unscheduled trip for ice cream opens an alternate timeline, each with a slew of unforeseen risks. Bombace’s main skill is being able to foresee them. He measures a good day at work by what doesn’t happen. “You never know your successes,” he says. “You don’t know what you might have deterred by just being there.”
We pull up outside the 9/11 memorial, and I wait, as instructed, for Lent to open my door. Vehicle entry and egress form the baseline routine of executive protection. The principal always exits curbside. (Not incidentally, this is where press and paparazzi can be found.) The curb is the place where actual protection crosses the line into security theater. Bombace says his clients are acutely aware of what a security detail can symbolize. Even certain microgestures might be read as statements of power. Bombace’s clients exploit this fact to multiple ends. A female CEO, for instance, might open her own doors to distance herself from presuppositions of ladylike weakness. A celebrity, on the other hand, might want doors opened as a show of diva status. For politicians, a security detail might suggest elitism, or a prodigal attitude toward spending. (For an extreme case, see the recent scuffle over ex-EPA head Scott Pruitt’s $4.6 million security bill.) According to Bombace, most politicians see a security detail as a “liability” to their public image. Bombace sometimes wears shorts to seem more discreet. In general, he is happy to indulge any kind of theatricality, so long as it does not get in the way of actual safety.
Once out of the car, I walk toward the memorial with Bombace ten feet ahead and Lent ten feet behind. Walking with security is like shopping in Marshalls while wearing a backpack. I quickly grow accustomed to taking up more space than my actual body does. Whichever way I turn, Bombace and Lent adjust their axis. This is an abnormal walking formation, even in a place designed for all manner of sidewalk-blocking tourist groups. I feel like a single penny inside a walk-in safe—totally unworthy of so much protection. A few people stare at our pointless show of force, and I wonder if I should do something more active, like run into the street or fake a heart attack. I settle on a performative, pensive mosey toward one of the reflecting pools, where I strike a good lean on the black marble slab. Bombace catches up and strikes a lean too.
“This is beautiful, right?” he says. I agree, in earnest. We make some idle chitchat about the memorial, avoiding the subject of the actual attacks. In any discussion of safety, the ghost of 9/11 hangs heavy; in a conversation about executive protection, it is doubly fraught. On the one hand, the 2001 terrorist attacks are proof that fear of terrorism is not entirely irrational. On the other, they showed how rare and ultimately unstoppable these kinds of incidents actually are. With Bombace and Lent, I feel protected from pipe bombs and broken doors and random loonies, but I wonder what they could actually do if a passenger plane were to take out a nearby skyscraper. Standing next to One World Trade Center, the three of us seem very small.
“So,” I begin, staring down into the water. “I guess let’s talk about this while we’re here. People are, um, really scared of terrorism.” I take a long, long breath and squeeze my voice into its least confrontational tenor. “But there’s, um—only so much that you can do?”
By now, Lent has caught up with our conversation. Bombace is repeating everything he said before, about getting off the X, and an egress plan, and knowing where the closest police department is. “If there’s a gas explosion, we don’t have to think about what direction we’re going,” Lent adds. “A normal bystander might freeze for 45 seconds!” This is all true, and I nod in agreement, but I can’t help but think that, as with any other product, protection can’t promise the fantasy it sells.
We get back into the car to go to lunch, with Lent and I repeating our earlier entry-egress routine, but in reverse. Bombace confers with Offerman up front and reports back. “He says the restaurant is not open until 16:30.” We reroute to Del Frisco’s, the kind of normative steak house with cold, salty butter and very good rolls. Offerman drops us off and waits with the car. Inside, our table has no fewer than four waiters. I order halibut. Bombace gets a burger. Lent gets fava bean soup and a steak. I think about asking what they could do to protect a young left-wing journalist from the reputational liability of having dined extravagantly with two off-duty cops. Instead I change tack and try to play hardball.
All day I’ve been wondering how Bombace and Lent function when most of their day is spent leaning into fear. They don’t have executive protection themselves, nor do their families or children. I wonder how it feels to believe that there is so much danger around but go on living unprotected lives. I ask if they think they’re more nervous than the average person.
“Probably,” says Lent. “I think that comes with working in law enforcement. You’re more concerned and aware about things.”
Lent raised his kids to embody a survivor’s mind-set: You’re going to fight to your last breath. You’re going to survive. He’s instilled basic situational awareness in them—know your exits, keep off your phones—but tries not to freak them out too much.
Bombace agrees. “If there’s one thing that gives me vulnerability in my life, that’s my kids,” he says. In recent years, he’s taken on what he calls “a heightened posture.” When he takes his kid to the movies, he thinks to himself, “What’s my plan? Where am I going if something goes down?” When he takes them on an airplane, he gets the aisle seat, just for the sense of control. “If anyone is going for the cockpit, I’m going to be on them in three seconds,” he says.
I can’t help but laugh.
“Statistically, you should be more afraid of getting into a car accident,” I say.
He doesn’t disagree. “Even if it’s not statistically accurate, you have a sense of control. When I’m driving the car, I feel like I have some control over what’s going to happen to me. If someone comes in the movie theater and starts shooting up the place, it’s a helpless feeling.”
Lent starts rattling off some statistics, and I’m not sure if they’re supposed to make me feel better or worse. “There were 138 active-shooter incidents in the United States in 2017,” he says. “A very small number. But then, if you take statistics and everything else, there’s a mass shooting every day, where four or more people are shot. And then there’s the random gun violence! And fire! Those explosions in Massachusetts, the gas leaks—”
He continues in this way until Bombace cuts in.
“I wonder what’s more likely,” I ask. “Someone trying to assassinate you, or getting eaten by a shark?”
“Our company slogan that we have on our website, it says, ‘Peace of Mind in Uncertain Times.’ Statistics don’t affect your emotions and the way you feel about your family and your security. When you watch the news every day and you see how horrific things are, it impacts people psychologically, and security makes them feel better.”
I feel like we’re finally reaching common ground. If the world feels more dangerous—whether it’s actually more dangerous or not—it makes sense that people would want to feel safer. Still, something about this equation doesn’t sit right with me. If your product is safety, then you need danger to sell it. I ask Bombace how he comes to terms with the idea that fear and horror are good for his business.
“I’ll just say this,” he begins, speaking with the calm assurance of someone who really believes in what he does. “I don’t wish bad things to happen for business. I want the world to be a safe place. I’ll leave it at that. We provide a service that’s been here, even before the recent trends of violence in the world. We’ll be here after. I don’t want to see bad things happen so I can make more money. We provide a needed service.”
He excuses himself to send a text message.
Our food arrives and the conversation moves away from security. We talk about normal things: George Washington crossing the Delaware River, the differences between LA and New York, and how, at one point during the war in Iraq, “the Samara was probably 80 percent bodies.” Dessert comes around and we all order coffee. The conversation turns toward sharks. The Saturday prior, a Massachusetts man had been killed by a great white shark off Cape Cod. It was the state’s first fatal shark attack since 1936.
“When sharks are coming that close in the surf, how do you put your kid in the water?” Bombace asks. “How can that be legal? People at Cape Cod will be like, ‘Well, there’s no great whites at this beach—they’re only at this beach and that beach.’ I’m like, ‘You’re splitting hairs! Let’s just go ahead and say there are great whites everywhere.’ You know what it is? I grew up watching Jaws in the ’70s. I still haven’t got over it. That’s what it is again, statistically. It’s so minuscule, but it’s so horrific at the same time.”
“I wonder what’s more likely,” I ask. “Someone trying to assassinate you, or getting eaten by a shark?”
Bombace takes a sip of his coffee.
“It’s probably damn close.”
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