The elite Close Protection Unit of the Royal Military Police (RMP) is tasked with protecting VIPs. In order to become part of this unit soldiers who have already spent time as regular Military Police, must undergo an intensive selection process, before they can become part of the unit.
The Close Protection Unit works and trains from a camp in Hampshire and operates in areas as diverse as Columbia and Algeria, protecting everyone from Diplomats to Afghan Generals. Those would-be bodyguards must show above average intelligence and fitness as well as grit and determination before they are accepted on to the eight-week course.
The course takes the volunteer RMP soldiers back to basics, teaching them defensive and offensive driving techniques, new weapons systems and shooting methods. All of this is so that they might save the life of ‘the principal,’ as the VIP is referred to, in an ambush situation.
Alongside the lessons, recruits are developed physically. The intensity of the fitness programme does contribute to the failure rate on course. For most of those who fail the course, fitness or injury is the reason.
Another major aspect of the course is the ranges, where the new weapons and drills are practiced. The nature of the job, means that prospective bodyguards need to be well drilled in non standard engagements as well as a variety of new shooting techniques geared towards protection of an unarmed principal both on foot and in vehicles.
For those who last the course, there is a two-week exercise, which acts as their final assessment. This test can be anywhere in the UK and sometimes involves guarding actual VIPs, who volunteer their services to enhance the realism. The assets brought to bare on the final phase of training are impressive, with helicopters routinely used to move exercising troops as they would be on the job.
For those who pass this final hurdle, the job awaits, where ‘the principal is the only thing that matters’, as one instructor put it. The newly qualified bodyguards or ‘BGs’, as they are know, could find themselves operating all over the globe, in small teams or on their own. For all those who pass, the job is a calling.