After Action Review – ATR EP 2018

Agoge Tactical Regimen – Executive Protection Course 2018

Words By: Wally F.     Photos By: Wally F.


……….It’s a brisk September morning in the Bridge City or the Paris of the Prairies as others call it. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, the most populated city in the province and also for the most part the area of operation for the Agoge Tactical Regimen‘s (ATR) – Executive Protection Course.

……….Day 1, a sixty plus minute drive to the Saskatchewan Highway Patrol leased shooting range and home to ATR’s live fire portions of this eight day course. For folks that have taken ATR courses in the past know that the lead instructor and owner Jody Levesque is a professional and easy going man. He can deliver teaching points and instruction in a way that students from all sorts of backgrounds, whether it be a sport or competitive shooter, hunter, law enforcement, or military can universally understand. It was made clear even before day one started via email correspondence that this course was going to be ran much like a military one, with the addressing of Instructors by title or “Staff”.

……….The group of 16 candidates on this course hail from different backgrounds. Myself and another candidate are in the military, everyone else were civilians who have taken Jody’s courses in the past with the exception of two brand new to the ATR experience. Daily “Course Seniors” were assigned, a candidate that is the point person between staff and their peers to pass on duties, instructions, and information to the course and to funnel questions and issues through one representative. In essence a formal chain of command. The inner infantrymen in me was delighted and curious to see how the other candidates would fair under this system.

……….For Day 1 I was designated as the Course Senior and first order of business was splitting and organizing the course into two teams: Gold and Blue and prepping for the qualifier PT test. A combination of aerobic, anaerobic, and stress exercises culminating in a pistol shoot at the end to time. 20 minutes to pass and under 16 minutes to receive a challenge coin. Staff made it clear that no one would be told their scores until the end of the course, as to not negatively affect morale or alter mindset for training for the rest of the course. This current group of candidates were all switched on and with the program. In fact the course record was broken for the PT test.

……….After the PT test we went straight into the pistol qualifier. It was explained to us that this pistol qualifier was going to be held multiple times during the course and that staff would randomly select which qualifier a candidate would pass with, this would push all candidates to work their guns on every single qualifier not knowing which one would count.

……….Every time a candidate called Jody or his other staff by first name or the ever present “Hey Dude!” the whole course got the crap PT’ed out of us, usually sprints to the range’s flag pole and back and/or push ups with staff calling the count and candidates repeating “I will address staff as Staff or Instructor.” This would happen more than once continue on for the next couple of days. I didn’t mind the positive reinforcement, sometimes it takes other folks longer to figure things out and I’m a patient man. The end of every training day culminated with a team competition all designed to enforce the teamwork ethos and have a little fun before training finished for the day. The weather was favorable for day one and a good way to start this course.

……….Day 2, a new day and new Course Senior. Mike by far the oldest person on course in his mid 50’s is a paramedic by trade and if seen outside this course not armed you’d think he was a sweet grand father and not a silver haired hard charger. Right off the hop the course was thrown into another cold start team competition, no time was wasted. This was a distance steel challenge. We were shown and practised that shooting in from 25 meters and beyond with a pistol effectively is very much possible. The dress of the day as it was the previous and moving forward is relax concealed. Everyone’s new camouflage were plaid shirts as conceal garments and slacks. No Multicam, UF PRO, or anything overt, the name of the game is low profile.

……….Once again on the range and staff were conducting more shooting basics to shake out the cobwebs. We all got a refresher and run through of phase 1, 2, and 3 malfunctions on pistols. Walk through, talk through of basic circle movement drills safely with a hot gun were conducted. More team work exercises were done with with an ATR favourite: hauling railway ties around as a team. After lunch another pistol qualifier was ran again, and again the results were withheld until the end of the course. During our course of shooting drills it was quickly noted that head shots and prone shooting needed work all around. Staff did an excellent break down and diagnoses with reasons why explaining how to dial in way tighter on our shots from the prone. While many people preach “Aim small miss small.” It was actually broken down and explained to the course so everyone understood. Like the day before a couple of of “Jody’s” and “Dudes” were thrown out and more sprints and push ups were conducted for good measure. It was a good end to day 2 on the range.

……….Day 3 and we are all back on the range today. We were warned of a high round count today at least 1000 rounds down range if not more. We ran through the basic theories of CQB and began to apply them in live fire applications. The name of the game was: Move, Shoot, Communicate. For those that didn’t pay attention, the results were painfully shown at the end of each scenario that was ran with more positive reinforcement of sprints to the range flag pole and back.

……….Barricade drills and one-handed manipulations, draws from concealment were all drills working our way up to body guard (BG) drills. The emphasis was on controlling your principle or VIP when coming under contact or when there is an Attack on Principle (AOP). Instead of just repetitive practice instructions were given to candidates playing VIPs away from their body guards as to how to act when a threat presented themselves. Whether it was a frozen VIP, a runner, a non-stop screamer or yapper, trips halfway on a move, each body guard had to remedy the issue on the fly and get off the X fast. Having spent a significant amount of time on body guard drills we transitioned to team fire movement.

……….Starting with pairs live fire, again the name of the game is Move, Shoot, Communicate. There is no time or ground to waste when you’re trying to break contact and moving to a hard point or designated safe area. As teams increased in size to 4, 6, and 8, that’s when staff started to challenge our scenarios with injuries, KIAs, CASEVACS, and so on. It was just the right amount of stress, safely conducted during live fire training to drive home that you never leave anyone behind and to fight through the perceived chaos to get to a hard point. There was still a certain amount of What do I do? Where do I go? happening throughout the day but it was emphasized over and over again to always be looking for work. This is where I noted who the natural leaders on this course were, directing team members where they need to go and what to do and still maintain control in the scenario. Day 3 was a good day of training and ended with a team competition. The burliest gents from Gold and Blue were hooked in full body harnesses and then to each other. It was a one on one tug-o-war to move a steel plate to their indicate pylons. It was a great individual effort on both sides and was an excellent morale booster at the end of a long training day.

……….While I never pass up range time and live fire, I was definitely looking forward to Day 4. Classroom time at Saskatoon Gunworks was a day of what we call in the army Death by Power Point. But when it’s about subject matter that you actually care about it, you tend to pay more attention to it as opposed to your weekend safety briefs… but I digress.

……….The dress of the day was grey polos, chinos, and dark shoes. Looking professional and acting the part goes a long way to presenting a clean and confident impression to your clients and the people you ultimately have to protect. Close protection was introduced in the first set of slides and the emphasis on protection was first and foremost. Not just the physical protection of your client but their reputation as well. How you present yourself to your client and the public is just as important, a good executive protection detail ideally will prevent accidental and embarrassing situations from arising for your client as well as shielding them from physical harm. Foot mobile formations and tactics, attack on principle, abiding within the confines of local law of where you are working, and minimizing your footprint and profile with your VIP to make everyone’s lives easier were all emphasized.

……….What followed is what I wanted to dive into, and that was theories and principles on motorcade operations which included arrivals, departures, route planning, types of routes, and the complexities and layers that you can dive very deep into for hours if need be. While driving and route planning is not as sexy as shooting your way off the X, vehicle moves, beyond normal limits driving, and route planning on the fly is what I live for. Part of the driving portions also dealt with Advance Teams and the fine art of dealing with the public at public venues and working soft skills to help your motorcade entries and exits a lot smoother and seamless for your client.

……….After lunch we spent the rest of the day in a practical driving portion. The course had a three vehicle motorcade to work with, and everyone on the course cycled through the positions of Team Lead (TL) who handled overall command and control of the Close Protection Detail (CPD), the Tactical Commander (TC) who manages the motorcade while the main CPD is away from the vehicles, handles routes and generally calls vehicle formations while on the move. The Body Guard (BG) sticks with the VIP at all times, Drivers, and Gunners round out the rest of the CPD.

……….Rolling through the industrial sector of Saskatoon, every candidate on the course practice and refined our follow distance, vehicle offsets on the move, shielding the limo on corner turns, and conducting screens. This was the meat and potatoes of it all and later on in the course, all skills taught and applied would be used. Day 4 ended with another team competition, who could change a tire faster. Again nothing fancy or sexy for today’s training, just back to basics and grinding things out.

……….Day 5 started with a motorcade moves throughout the city. All candidates rotated through the TL, TC, BG, and Gunner roles all day and night until staff were satisfied that everyone was meeting the standard. Very quickly candidates learned that not everything always goes to plan and as a CPD we have to adapt to the whims and changes of the client. This was apparent when on the dozens and dozens of moves conducted throughout the city planning on the fly required more than just quick fingers in Google Maps. Communication with the whole motorcade especially between the TL, TC, Client via the BG were all essential in maintaining a smooth and easy ride for the client, even if there are issues on the move the client shouldn’t know it.

……….Alternate route planning, knowing time of day, road construction areas, rush hour jams, dealing with unruly clients, communications equipment issues, voice procedure, picking proper arrival and departure spots with smooth roll-ins and outs were all dealt with on Day 5 well past sunset into the late evening. Yet another day of working on the basics and it was needed for everyone.

……….Day 6 was a motorcade run to the range, properly planned and executed. With what was taught and practice over the past five days, everything was being put together now. Arrivals and Departures were practiced. Which lead into vehicle counter ambush drills, and attack on principle. All candidates cycled through each position, safety was paramount because of the live fire component aspect, so whoever was TC had to keep a tight grip on his CPD under the watchful eye of staff. Each scenario was slightly different and staff would always throw an unknown factor into it to see how everyone would adapt. Example, on my rotation as TL, after initial contact with a threat, I immediately called my TC to roll the motorcade in for an extraction, meanwhile another member of the CPD was walking all over the comms calling off the pick up in a panicked voice. That was eating up valuable time and ammunition covering our withdrawal. I initiated a Break, Break, Break told the unknown call-sign to stay off the means (in actuality it was my gunner who was two feet from me, but you have to play the game), and ordered the motorcade in ASAP. This was a prime example how one person can endanger a whole team, or how a situation can quickly roll off the rails if the person in charge doesn’t regain command and control right away.

……….After the scenarios were completed, Gold and Blue team were split up again. One team was put in the kill house for a CQB rundown on basic room clearing to a principle, recovery, and ex-filtration of a building while re-dominating our way back out for a vehicle extraction. We ran the drills over and over again until staff were satisfied with each teams performance. On the swap over to the other training stand we conducted a closed circuit driving course of dead stick driver drills. If you’re a TL, TC, or BG riding shotgun in a vehicle and your driver is incapacitated while driving we were shown how to take the vehicle over, maintain control and drive off the X, in forward and reverse. Straddling a centre console of a modern SUV is not the most comfortable thing to do, but eating a bullet I imagine is infinitely much worse if you don’t move. The end of this dry run practice and training day was another pistol qualifier, which was preceded by a very zen focusing pep talk session by Jody before shooting. I don’t know about anyone else but I needed it, because the next day was the start of our 40 or so hour confirmation exercise. Orders were to be issued to the designated TL’s as voted on by the candidates in the morning.

……….Day 7, Phase One of Three of our two day confirmation exercise. With a bit of a heads up from the Phase One TL, I was assigned as the TC. Part of the job as a Tactical Commander is to ensure vehicle security at all times. I drew up a vehicle sentry list and duties and passed it on to the rest of the CPD, the time was 0700 local time, it was game on.

……….The first phase was heavy on multiple road moves. As the TC I was responsible for planning all routes and at least two alternate routes while the Advance Team scouted ahead and secured venues for arrivals, departures, and other arrangements as required by the client. I helped the TL in phase one with planning and getting his orders prepped for the briefing later on in the day. I was tasked with five moves, later on a fast ball made it six moves. Five times 3 routes per move was 15 routes I had to plan inside of 2 hours. We were given a dossier of our client and had to do some quick research on potential threats related to the client as well. Everything was a team effort. Planning moves from our staging area to the airport, then to a downtown hotel, a restaurant, movie theatre across town, and back to the hotel would not have been a success without major help from the Advance Team who were running around the city securing venues, talking to managers and staff, and working with them to make our arrivals, stays, and departures smooth.

……….After dinner at the restaurant was done a fastball was thrown at us that the client wanted to go to a nearby store, that was not previously planned, so credit is definitely given to the BG and gunner team that kept the client safe, as apparently after the fact we were told an actor was hired to breach our security while in that store, it never happened though. While all that was happening my drivers an I were constantly moving our motorcade because three blacked out SUVs in the neighborhood we were in was drawing attention but we also couldn’t be staged too far away either. It was a fine balance and had to be continuously maintained.

……….The move to the movie theater was pitched another fast ball, the client wanted to sight see in the area. Theater was in a new neighborhood under construction so between the TL, myself, and some verbal magic from the BG to the client we managed to kill enough time to get the client to his movie right on time. On the advice from my driver and gunners in my vehicle we re-staged our motorcade much closer to the theater and in a more secure and discreet spot. The move back to the hotel was uneventful and the client was shuttled to his room just before midnight. Phase One was complete and I was happy to not be a human map for the next phase.

……….A new TL was put in charge and new duties assigned to everyone in the CPD, sentries were posted at the clients hotel room door. I drew Advanced Team. Four minutes later word came down that the client wanted to head to a casino just outside of town. Our Advance Team geared up and ran out the door to get to the venue ahead of the motorcade. The time was 0003 local time. Welcome to Day 8.

……….Credit again goes to my advance team driver who drove like a bat out of hell to stay ahead and the other two gents with me who called the casino right away to speak to a security manager. They setup our face to face meeting and made my job a little easier to when speaking to him. This is where working our soft skills really came in as an asset as the security manager was very skeptical of our teams approach. I’ll conversed him down long enough with small talk until our motorcade arrived and disembarked into the casino. As the advance team we set exterior security and let the TL and CPD do their work inside.

……….Once the casino scenario was completed, staff actually paused the Ex and conducted a debrief right away in the parking lot. Working in a casino environment is very different than say a restaurant or movie theatre, many points were brought up on when it was appropriate to scale security up as well as down depending on the facility you are working in. Definitely lessons were learned in the wee hours of the morning on Day 8.

……….A new rotation of vehicle sentries and hotel room sentries were posted and the rest of us got a couple hours of rack time. 0600 local time and everyone was up and prepping for the morning. After a secured move to breakfast in the hotel half our advance team was sent out to a local address for a pick up while the other half was sent to a local art gallery to secure the location for a morning of exhibition viewing. Having taken in the points from the casino I walked into the art gallery with a much softer approach and got a full walk through of the building and even setup a guest service lady to greet our client upon arrival with a quick break down of the exhibits. Once again our advance team set up exterior security and briefed the TC in the motorcade as our radios were not working very well.

……….The client threw another fast ball and wanted to take a walk down by the river, the CPD handled it well despite the poor comms. Once we wrapped up and got everyone back in the motorcade it was off to Phase Three and move to the clients “Cabin” aka the range.

……….A new TL and new positions for everyone. I was tasked as a gunner in the follow vehicle. The set up was four separate scenarios where we had to combine everything we had learned in the past week and apply it in real-time. This phase also include a quick reaction force called a CAT or Counter Assault Team. These were the guys you call in for extra fire support should you need it, which was pretty much almost every scenario we got ran through. Everyone on the CPD pushed hard to finish these scenarios as cleanly as possible and it was very nice to see everyone’s progression throughout the week and how our execution of lessons learned were applied in our scenarios. It was a very good way to end the course and it ended on a high.

……….Individual evaluations of candidates were tough and just because this was a pay-for-play course doesn’t guarantee a pass. Staff feedback throughout the course and at the end with the exit interview were to the point and helpful. Right off the hop there was a lot of information to compress into an eight day course. I would have liked to have seen more closed circuit driving, intelligence gathering, more detail in how Advance Teams should conduct themselves, surveillance and counter surveillance covered, but with such a short time frame I believe Jody and his Agoge Tactical Regimen team put together a very tight course with all the important teaching points covered. The Executive Protection course was well crafted and delivered the good basic building blocks to aspiring and developing future close protection operators to build off of.

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Reporting for TV-PressPass

Wally F.

About Wally F.

Staff Writer and Reporter for TVPP. Background in Broadcast News Operations, Journalism, Criminology, and Firearms. An Infantrymen for over eleven years in the Canadian Army and still counting. I love my country, family, brother-in-arms, shooting sports, and positive and responsible promotion of firearms and everything that surrounds it in Canada and beyond.