CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- In movies like, “Bodyguard” and “In the Line of Fire,” actors like Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood portray well trained, diligent men protecting their principal; in these cases a celebrity and the president. The new government officials and high ranking military officers trying to rebuild Iraq from the ashes of war are faced with finding their own Costner or Eastwood to provide for their security as they go about running the country.
Even as they identify the members of their personal security detachments, they are realizing that they lack the training and skills to perform the needed tasks but here there are no facilities to offer such training. Or is there?
Marines like Sgt. Peter K. McKinney with 2nd Marine Division Training Center have recently begun a new course answering this need; the Personal Security Detail Development course.
The PSDD introduces students to considerations they have to make when developing a security plan and course of action. It includes instruction in rudimentary security formations, defensive vehicle driving and enhanced marksmanship training based off skill sets used by U.S. military personal security detachments.
According to McKinney, the 10-day course averages 12 to 14 students that have already completed the Iraqi Small Arms Weapons Instructors Course.
“The reason for them completing the ISAWIC prior to attending PSDD is their basic weapons handling skills,” the 23-year-old, Indianapolis, Ind., native explained. “Iraqi soldiers have never received weapons handling, marksmanship or safety course prior to attending our courses here. They must first go through ISAWIC, which teach those skills.
“Once they have completed ISAWIC, they are ready for the more advanced trying need to assist in protecting their commander.”
As with any course, the first day of PSDD is filled with basic classes to build a foundation for the rest of the course. These classes consist of an Introduction to Security and Personnel Formations.
“Introduction to Security is a lot of basic security concepts to include the five steps to assess the situation and the List of Ten,” said McKinney, the Chief Instructor for the PSDD course. “The List of Ten is basically how insurgents see their commander as a target with number 1 being the easiest to get to or softest. When we teach the List of Ten, we teach them things to look for to put their commander closer to number 10.”
With the foundation of personal security laid, McKinney and his fellow instructors begin the hands on portion of training with Personnel Formations. The Personnel Formations class instructs the students in mobile formations they will use to protect their principal and immediate action drills that they will take if attacked.
These lessons are then reinforced with practical application sessions.
“During the practical applications of Personnel Formations, we take the students outside and have them practice the formations. One instructor will be their principal and as they progress and they become more confident, we have other instructors act as aggressors,” explained the graduate of Norwell High School, Bluffton, Ind. “This gets them to think and review all the major points of what we covered.”
The following day they begin to learn about driving with three class and more practical application.
The first class of the day is Vehicle Dynamics. Vehicle Dynamics goes into how the weight of a vehicle, weather and terrain conditions affect controlling a vehicle. If a vehicle is armored it will respond differently than if it is not and if the road is wet or rough the vehicle will also respond differently.
The next step of the course is Introduction to Tactical Driving. This is where the students begin to learn different driving maneuvers such as threshold breaking, thresh hold breaking with 90 degree power turns and S-turns right or left.
“We teach evasive driving skills to build confidence in the vehicles,” McKinney said. “Many of the students have never driven before and those that have had no real driver’s training.
“This is often times one of the most difficult portions of the course to teach. They are afraid to push the threshold, push the vehicle to the limits. Once you get them to push the vehicle, it is hard to get them not to do it all the time.”
This portion of the course is often better understood by the students after the practical application portion of the class. The threshold training portion of the class, which continues through Day 3, allows the students a chance to get behind the wheel of their vehicles and apply what they learned. If they have a hard time completing the tasks, the instructors can demonstrate.
Before they can begin driving though, they still have to learn how to sit behind the wheel. This is may seem simple to most people but, according to McKinney, most people sit behind the wheel wrong.
“We teach the best way to position yourself in the seat, the best position to have the seat in and the best way to grip the wheel,” he explained. “You can see people driving while leaning way back with one hand on the wheel, which leaves you will very little real control of the vehicle.”
Day 4 begins the class room portion of instruction on the Glock 19, 9mm pistol. The Glock 19 is taught in three separate class room courses, to include, Introduction to the Glock 19, Pistol Weapons Handling and Fundamentals of Pistol Marksmanship.
Introduction to the Glock 19 covers the basic characteristics of the pistol, assembling and disassembling the weapon and conducting a function check.
Once the students understand the operation of the weapon, they go into Pistol Weapons Handling. It is here that they learn weapons safety, weapons conditions (where in the loading process the pistol is) and remedial action for malfunctions such as stoppages, failure to fire and failure to feed.
Then finally, McKinney and his fellow instructors teach the students Fundamentals of Pistol Marksmanship.
“The fundamentals taught here are basically the same as what is taught during ISAWIC for the AK-47. We teach proper grip, body positions and a little bit of movement on the range,” McKinney said. “We teach both the Weaver and Isosceles stances but focus on Isosceles.”
This prepares the students for what they will face on the range the next two days.
The first day of the range is the very basics. The students fire from 5, 7 and 10 meters at 25 meter targets to get familiar with the pistol.
“We are basically just getting them familiar with the weapon,” he said. “We coach them along, show them ways to correct their body positions and stress accuracy.”
The second day of firing the pistol on the range they get into a little more advanced techniques. They learn how to shoot controlled pairs (two well aim shots in a row), hammered pairs (two rapid fired shots in a row) and coming from the holster. According to McKinney it is more realistic combat shooting.
“What they have trouble with the most is anticipating the shot just like most Americans,” he said about the challenges of teaching them the pistol. “To get them to understand what they are doing, we take the pistol and pretend like we are reloading it. We give it back to them with no round in the chamber. When they go to fire they see the weapon push forward with the kick of the weapon hiding it.
“After that they correct it on their own.”
The following two days of the course are also spent on the range but this time with the AK-47. The instructors take what the students learned about firing the AK-47 during ISAWIC, refresh the lessons and then move into more advanced shooting like pivot drills and shooting and moving at the same time.
“The students have problems with accuracy when it comes to shooting and moving,” McKinney explained. “They practice, practice, practice. We have them shoot a lot, the same maneuver over and over again. We have them shoot each drill 10 to 15 times or more because it takes time to master them.”
This isn’t the last that the students see of the range though. They have still one more day. But this is something new to the course brought about by requests from previous classes at the end of course interviews. It is the PKM mounted shoot.
“We add the PKM mounted shoot because the previous class asked for it,” McKinney said. “They fired the PKM on the ground but it is different firing it while mounted on a vehicle. They don’t have a standard mount like we have. It is mounted on a pull in the center of a truck bed and moves freely which is difficult to control.”
After firing the PKM, the students then conduct Team Fire & Maneuver in the afternoon. They practice working as four or five man teams.
The final day of the course begins with one finally assignment before graduation; a Mission Profile Exercise. This course puts all they learned over the course to one final test.
During the Mission Profile Exercise, the students are given a scenario where they must make a vehicle movement to the range while guarding their principal. Once at the range they dismount and move onto the range using the personnel formations they learned until they hear the whistle blast signaling contact. At this point they conduct live fire engagement of targets on the range to protect their principal.
The successful completion of this assignment moves the student on to a graduation ceremony in the afternoon. At the ceremony, the 2nd Marine Division Gunner addresses the graduates and VIPs from their unit in attendance followed by the instructors presenting certificates to the students.
According to McKinney, they perform a job similar to convoy security for their principals than an actual PSD. Most government officials use family members or tribal members as their main security, which is common in their culture.
Still, McKinney feels they are more than capable of the job the have before them.
“For what they are doing they are more than combat effective,” he said. “When you first see them, you think, ‘This is going to be the worst class and going to be the hardest to teach.’ Then you see them perform at the end and you are surprised by how well they do.”