On Friday, June 19, 20 special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Special Response Teams (SRT) completed the agency’s first Protective Security Operations Training Program (PSOTP).
The special agents from HSI Houston and New Orleans successfully graduated from the training that was coordinated by the Office of Firearms and Tactical Programs (OFTP) following requests from SRTs around the country. The five-day session, the first field-delivered protective security operations training course for HSI SRT, was designed to provide HSI with the basic principles and concepts related to protective operation missions. Those concepts where outlined in the HSI Protective Operations Handbook that was completed in February. The training also made an effort to ensure consistency with the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) and Attachés offices that currently provide protective support and manpower to the Executive Logistics and Security Detail whenever ICE principals are in their areas of responsibility.
“We developed a well-rounded program that taught agents to conduct threat and vulnerability assessments, determine the level of potential risks and conduct a smooth arrival and departure of the dignitaries,” said Special Agent Tom Wynn, who developed and instructed the training. “No operation is alike and there are so many factors you must prepare for.”
Wynn has more than 30 years in anti-terrorism and tactical operations experience dating back to his time in the United States Marine Corps where he was assigned to protect admirals and other dignitaries during the Gulf War. Following a stint in the private sector where he provided protective security for Fortune 500 CEOs and celebrities, Wynn joined federal law-enforcement in 1994 and currently serves as a PSOTP Coordinator, in the Tactical Operation Branch, at OFTP’s office in Fort Benning, Georgia. It was in his office in Fort Benning that Wynn recognized a need for protective operations training in the field. Fate would have it that once HSI completed the handbook, OFTP was ready to step in and provide the training Wynn had created.
The PSOTP provided special agents with the knowledge and understanding of the national policies, procedures and responsibilities to be followed when providing personal security, transportation and logistical support. The attendees went through a wide range of classroom presentations and real-life simulations, from arrivals and departures of motorcades, to security detail walking formations, to conducting route planning and site advance visits.
According to Gauthier, while some special agents had prior protective service experience and this training simply served as a refresher, the information was brand new for others. However, all attendees agreed that this was a specialized skill-set that they must possess and be proficient with. The overwhelming majority of students stated on the course evaluations that the PSOTP training is applicable to their roles and duties as a special agent.
One of the roles of those offering protective services is to facilitate security ease of movement. Whether the protectees are high or low profile, or decide mid-trip that they want to include an unscheduled detour, special agents came away from the training with an understanding that the success of a protective operation hinges on effective planning and preparation.
“This process requires cohesion, teamwork, attention to detail, and a sense of maturity,” Wynn said. “Everyone has an important position within the detail--the principals’ safety and security, depends on the agents adaptability and resourcefulness to overcome any situation.”