“We may learn wisdom by three methods: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
In Pakistan, the ever-increasing threat of terrorism, and mushroom growth of organized crime across the country, has increased the genuine need for self-protection for those who are either directly or indirectly exposed to a wider range of security risks. It becomes more relevant if the person at risk has to leave the citadel and move out, where he/she would definitely be exposed to maximum risk.
In corporate environments, consistently accelerating risk-related legal obligations (‘Duty of Care’, ‘Compliance’, ‘As Low as Reasonably Practicable (ALARP)’, ‘Suitable & Sufficient’, and ‘Reasonably Foreseeable’) have left very little space for the security professionals of high profile organizations, to move around. The presence of an armored vehicle, a well-trained tactical driver, and a Close Protection Official (CPO) in an organization may bring down the risk factor to ALARP; while, at the same time, compulsions related to Duty of Care and Compliance are also met amicably.
However, despite the obvious importance, many organizations fail to provide even the most basic pre-deployment armored vehicle training to their tactical drivers.
This negligence in essential training falls short on ‘Suitable & Sufficient’ and ‘Reasonably Foreseeable’, as in a matter of time it would become obvious that the training didn’t match the requirements.
The topic of an armored vehicle and tactical driving is quite vast, but in the succeeding paragraphs, the effort would be to highlight the important factors and start a thought process among the security professionals to further dwell on the subject.
Dynamics of Armored Vehicles
In most cases, standard heavy vehicles are converted (post-manufactured) into armoured vehicles, which increases their weight. For instance the weight of Toyota Land Cruiser V8, is increased from 5000 to 9000 lbs approximately. With this additional armoured plating all around, and accumulation of multifold weight, it would be un-justifiable to have the same normal working parts in a vehicle. At this point, the vehicle needs a huge upgrade on its suspension, tires, battery, motors, radiators, run-flats, fire extinguishing system, windscreens, satellite communication tracking, PA system and kill switches among others.
While either commercially purchasing or renting the armored vehicle, it is important to have a complete understanding of the company involved, i.e. since how long have they been in this business; from where they have purchased or upgraded the vehicle; who has issued a certificate for the final armored standard classification test of the vehicle (manufacturing company can’t test the classification, itself), Underwriter Laboratories (UL) is one of the most trusted and renowned standard testing organizations.
Principals using armoured vehicles may have threats, such as shooting attacks, underbelly blasts, hijacking, kidnapping and road traffic accidents including rollovers. All the specific risk scenarios for the principal need to be considered while selecting an armoured vehicle. It should be the endeavour of a Security Manager to get the armoured vehicle carefully chosen by a professional, but if that is not possible, besides the above-mentioned features, at least the following should be checked thoroughly.
One of the important signs of a good pedigree armoured vehicle is that the armour overlaps are available in all the doors and boot. To check that, sit inside the vehicle and close the doors, then try to find a gap, and get your fingers between the door and the overlap; if you succeed in doing that, a bullet or shrapnel would certainly come through this way. Most importantly, if there is no quality here it will be failing in many areas you even can’t see. Both, fuel tanks and radiator should be fully armored; a 50km run-flat; a vehicle bullbar at the front of the vehicle; deadbolts on doors; a very robust electrical or manual operating system for opening/closing of windows should all be considered.
In addition to the above, a trolley jack, first-aid kit and body armour sets for all the travellers should also be an integral part of armoured vehicles. These items should be duly tied down at the back, otherwise they could seriously injure the occupants, if the vehicle gets toppled.
One of the most important segments of armoured vehicles is their tires, which is a complete subject on its own. A lot of written information is available on tires, but an important piece of information is the manufacturing date, the expiration date is usually six years from the manufacture date. Further, if the vehicle has to be used in a low-profile security protocol, it should be of a common colour, like different shades of grey, or white as a second choice. Last but not the least, regular maintenance of armoured vehicles consumes a lot of finances, but despite that, it should remain the top priority of the setup; especially the braking and lubrication system of the vehicle.
Need Assessment (Litmus Test)
There are different operational styles on which armored vehicle drivers are trained globally. Defensive driving is a combination of manoeuvres where drivers try to completely avoid the threats; whereas, evasive driving drills are applied to escape from the threat-related incident scene. Tactical driving has combined skills of both defensive and evasive driving techniques.
For the above cited reasons, recruitment and selection of a potential tactical driver becomes quite a task. One of the biggest challenges is to initially identify the bad driving habits and then get rid of those during the training phase. During the hiring process, if a driver frequently commits some of the below-mentioned omissions and negligences, the individual needs to be extensively trained on elementary driving level, first.
The common errors including consistently keeping one hand on the gear lever and the other on steering, or one hand on steering wheel and other on driver’s window; while changing lanes or turning, either no signalling or signalling from hand instead of turn indicators, window washing: on road turns when a driver rotates steering wheel with one open hand, frequently honking and attracting unnecessary road attention, frequent lane changes, lack of understanding of keeping a vehicle in a specific lane, excessively flashing high beams to vehicles ahead, or keeping the high beam on high, consistently driving too close to the vehicle ahead, giving no attention to the traffic road signals, frequently braking hard while struggling on road bumps, frequent tires screeching at turns (over speeding) while driving, loud engine sound (inappropriate gear), poor parking habits, using a cell phone while driving and over speeding/jumping traffic lights etc. A driving training simulator may also help in identifying and further rectifying drivers’ weaknesses.
It is a globally accepted fact that a trained tactical driver is the most important device one can install in an armored vehicle. Finding a suitable tactical driver in a local market is quite difficult; but despite that, to bring quality, it would be more appropriate for a high-profile organization to go through the whole process of recruitment and selection itself, and subsequently get their staff trained from some reputed organization.
While training the tactical drivers, the main challenge is to find trainable human resource; as mostly drivers lack the understanding and determination required for this important task.
An armoured vehicle has always been considered as a weapon, and it is quite understandably obvious that the weapon should not be handed-over to someone who is not fully capable of handling it with confidence. In the succeeding paragraphs, we will be touching upon the important training topics of the subject, which are of absolute importance for a tactical driver to have a thorough understanding.
Some of the basics, while beginning the training process for the potential tactical driver, are as under:
The first thing should be to adjust the steering wheel and driving seat, with both feet of the driver comfortably on the accelerator and brakes. At times you see drivers sitting on driving seats as they would be sitting on their drawing room sofas, this attracts higher risk of road accidents. Both hands should always be at 10oclock (left) and 2oclock (right) at the steering, and if you see someone not doing that, it indicates that he/she has never been trained. Thumbs should not be inside the steering ring, rather outside and close to the fingers. The headrest should be properly adjusted to avoid whiplash. Seat belts are to be worn by all, including passengers at rear seats; if not, a driver should insist. A driver should consult back view mirrors at least every 8-10 seconds. A physical demonstration related to “blind spots” should be part of the training. Tire change of an armored vehicle needs practice; it is not easy, especially if tires are fitted with run-flats. It is important for a tactical driver to completely understand the difference between a brake and an ABS brake. “Dutch reach” is another point to be demonstrated to drivers. To converse with people outside, while avoiding unnecessary opening of the doors, generally a microphone is installed inside the vehicle. Drivers and CPOs should be trained/stressed to maximize its use. The security team should never trust anyone with the keys of the vehicle. All passengers must be well aware of the procedure of getting out of the vehicle if it topples and gets locked. The settings in the armored vehicles are air-tight; hygiene and personal cleanliness get priority, especially in summers.
Fundamental tactical driving skills
Now, once drivers are carefully selected and earmarked for this important task, and they are also corrected on their bad driving habits, and further trained on the basics of driving; we may move forward towards imparting fundamental tactical driving skills. This kind of training should be carried out by a highly qualified trainer and in a completely controlled environment. The training should start with soft skin vehicles in some Go-kart facility; and the trainer should move ahead toward armored vehicles, once comfortable with the progress of the trainee drivers.
In this phase, a trainer should start with the knowledge of basic periodical maintenance (daily, weekly, etc.), brake dynamics – especially less use of brake paddles and more of gears to lower or gain speed, vehicle-related troubleshooting.
Then practicing forward and reverse slaloms with tight cones, hand-over-hand technique, vehicle turns (like J, bootleg, pendulum, etc.), ramming, negotiating sharp turns (apex), under and oversteer (skidpan). These vehicular manoeuvres are important as they help drivers to come out of the killing/danger zones, when and if required.
Essential tactical driving skills
After acquiring comprehensive knowledge from the fundamental tactical level, only the worthy drivers would move ahead. If a driver is not good enough for the previous levels, but brought forward, he/she would be fully exposed and would struggle at this level. Furthermore, it would become extremely difficult for this weak driver to cope with the exigencies of additional training.
Initially, the subjects which may be taught at this level are: quick embussing and debussing of the principal, keeping an extra vehicle key with principal, awareness in advance – about the shortest/alternate routes, hospitals, check posts, police stations and traffic bottlenecks, how not to get boxed-in, off-road driving and recovery, ways to approach a check post, searching of a vehicle and related safe distances (at least 300 meters), the importance of driver’s-CPO’s teamwork (reciprocating each other skills), parking the vehicle with front out (ready to go), importance of not driving during the night and most importantly, motorcade movement.
Motorcade movement is a complete subject on its own, but the hallmark of motorcade movement is extrovertedly communicating your intentions with other fellow drivers on the road.
Finally, the following subjects are taught before moving ahead for scenario training: understanding of security policies, procedures, and best practices of an organization, Incident management (especially for road accidents), the difference between high vs low profile security protocols, firefighting and advance level training in first-aid, educating driver and/or CPO to be able to give short security briefing (2 to 3 minutes only) to a recently arrived principal and the hallmark of this session is Risk Management (assessment, mitigation, etc.) training activities, especially concerning assassination attempts and kidnappings.
All the above phases of training to potential tactical drivers, were given with a purpose to bring them to a level so that they become fully capable of handling their tasks professionally. Until and unless drivers go through the testing process successfully, the trainer can’t be sure of either his, or drivers’ future performance.
The scenario training should be built around 15 to 20 real-time scenarios, and once applied, should come as a partial surprise to underassessment drivers. A single scenario can be arranged in a manner where it may assess multiple skills; for example, a scenario of roadside accident may include assessment of first-aid, tire change, incident management, and even crowd control by the security team. Each tactical driver should be assessed with scenario training while keeping in view their strengths and weaknesses observed during the training.
Initially, for first-year (post-training), two (2) six-monthly refresher training sessions of successful tactical drivers would benefit them a lot in consolidating the ‘good habits’ learned during the training. Later on, the frequency may be reduced, but regular evaluation of operationally active tactical driver should continue, till he/she is deployed on an important task.
After completing all the above training and scenario assessment, a driver can be termed as a tactical driver and should be allowed to drive an armored vehicle with a principal. It is important that this whole ‘tactical driving training’ should be conducted with the ratio of 80-20, for practical and theory, respectively.
In general, if one starts the process of acquiring an advanced level tactical driver, you would likely be able to find only 1 or maximum 2 potential tactical drivers out of 10. The trainer should not be shy of identifying the weaknesses of the drivers; and this is important to bring safety to their future assignments; moreover, they should be further encouraged to constantly improve upon their stated weaknesses.
Worldwide, driving is the most sought professional skill for getting immediate employment. In advanced countries, there are very strict procedural requirements to bring a vehicle on the road. Moreover, in case of negligence, very high penalties are imposed on the offenders. Over time, this whole organized system of traffic operation has given a very robust traffic structure to those nations.
Whereas, in Pakistan, we are still struggling with driving standards and road discipline. In this scenario, it is important to make sure that this weapon (armored vehicle) should be handed over to a person, who has the right skills to handle this daunting task
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