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Marines learn combat bodyguard techniques

7 Aug 2009 | Lance Cpl. Ned Johnson

Students from several units are learning personal security training at Division Schools, 1st Marine Division, during a two-week evolution that began Aug. 3.

   The three units training in the PSD course are 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion from the Military Police Detachment from Combat Logistics Group 15, the Advisory Training Group with I Marine Expeditionary Force, and the Coast Guard Port Security Unit from San Francisco.

   The PSD course trains individual units to protect a VIP like a general, battalion commander, politician, or foreign official. 

   “Our mission is to train Marines to protect high value individuals in any combat environment,” said Sgt. Sam Tumanuvao, a PSD instructor with Division Schools, 1st Marine Division.

   The class teaches evacuation procedures, convoy operations, and hand-to-hand defensive tactics.

   “There are three specific areas of the course: protecting the VIP in a close-quarters battle environment, a mobile environment, and a vehicle-to-foot environment,” Tumanuvao said.

   To help master these three areas, students also learn walking formations, evasive driving tactics, and contingency planning.

   The course is two weeks long and includes classes and practical application.  According to Tumanuvao, the toughest part of the training is an off-base advanced site survey.

   “We send them to Carlsbad and Oceanside and give them events and a venue the VIP has to visit and they have to come up with a protection plan,” Tumanuvao said.  “They are on a very short time constraint and we try to put them under added stress.”

   Tumanuvao said changing attitudes is the toughest thing instructors have to teach students.

   “We have to re-train Marines’ mindsets,” Tumanuvao said. “They come in with the Marine Corps rifle squad position of ‘close with and destroy the enemy’, but you can’t do that with PSD.  You have to protect the VIP.”

   Marines from any military occupational specialty, not just infantry, are eligible to take the PSD course, said Sgt. Judson Austin, a PSD Instructor with Division Schools.

   “We train anybody and everybody that needs PSD training. We are supposed to focus on 1st Marine Division, but we won’t discriminate against other Marines,” Austin said.  “We’re a band of brothers and we’re all hooking and jabbing together.”

   Austin added that the PSD course has trained more than just Marines, with students like Japanese soldiers, Coast Guardsmen, and the Navy’s religious program specialists.

   The students are diverse, but need the training equally.

   “We are learning what our units are going to do when we deploy and most of us have a general idea of when that will be,” said Cpl. Stephen Paletta of 3rd LAAD Bn. and a student in the PSD Course.

   Although the course is in-depth and fast-paced, the practical application side helps balance things out.

   “The practical application is fun.  It gets everyone involved and is very physical. It’s good training,” Paletta said.

   The practical application exercises run throughout the course, but the students have their favorite exercises.

   “My favorite part has been the 8-man formations where you have to guard the principal,” Paletta said.  “You take fire, get down, break contact, and then regroup.”

   There are eight instructors that teach the PSD course.  Each instructor has an infantry background and operational experience with PSD.  The instructors have also received extra military and civilian training, Tumanuvao said. 

   “All of the instructors have done this before in Iraq or Afghanistan, and you can definitely tell they know what they are doing,” said Paletta.

   Each of the units in this class will be protecting a VIP at some point on the battlefield, Tumanuvao said.  According to Tumanuvao and Austin, this training is invaluable for the success of these units when deployed.