From purely a professional standpoint, there has been a certain lack of reality to skills that have angered me over the years, and in particular post military while I worked in the security industry overseas in hostile environments.
One I’ve already addressed and written about as a published piece in a magazine, and as a blog post…”as one individual is not a bodyguard,
The other, and dear to my heart, is the fact that trying to be covert through guise, when in reality…guise does not represent disguise!
guise not disguise
Guise but not disguise! A way of remaining at a level of low profile only, certainly never covert, while moving around in a vehicle through the provinces of Eastern and Southern Afghanistan. It allowed me to have a similar profile as those around me in their vehicles just so long as we’re all moving. Once stopped though, or out of the vehicle, I’m Bob The Scotsman in a turban and Afghan blanket…fooling no one.
Too many professionals in the last couple of decades have taken (and paid good money for) training courses, and have and are still being given “qualifications” in the art of surveillance and using “disguise” as a tool to win the day when operating overseas.
Back in the day in the military, surveillance was a 6 month course…with an extremely high failure rate. It then took at least 8 to 12 months of operating on the ground, and being completely third party aware to be comfortable as an operator.
However, today in the commercial world of profit, individuals are offered up a “surveillance skill tick in the box,” with no failure rate on the course, and from as little as 2-3 weeks, and certainly no more than a month. That skill is then thrown in with the other skills of bodyguarding diplomats, VIPs and others.
The then said skilled operator will be deployed by a security company on the ground in a middle eastern setting, where he thinks that he’s conducting covert type operations. When if the truth be told, he’s nothing more than conducting low profile type drills in a low profile type vehicle. I’d even argue that in certain circumstances, would it even pass as low profile?
Let’s be clear…it’s hard enough for an ex military surveillance operator to conduct surveillance/covert commercial operations on one’s doorstep in our own country where we fit in, without attempting it anywhere within the Greater Middle East. I’ve even witnessed many a commercial operation in London sticking out to the general public like a turd on a billiard table.
In the Greater Middle East, these local individuals know the difference between their own tribes and the next down the road. Let alone individuals from another province or indeed neighbouring country. So in reality, an operator from the UK or USA for example, has no chance whatsoever of fooling anybody out on the ground. Yet many have thought and some still think today that they can. Too many have already paid with their lives, or the lives of those around them.
So, let’s get real here…it’s one thing to travel around in a guise that allows you to be low profile (but certainly no more than that) while moving around in a vehicle…but it’s quite something else when you actually believe that you’re operating covertly within a culture and ethnicity far from your own!
Please, please, please remember, that guise does not represent disguise.
Thanks all, and continue to be safe by keeping it real.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit

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