You know you're in for a weird time of it when the man in front of you in the Ryanair queue is Shane McGowan, the one time lead singer of Irish rabble-rousers, The Pogues. Truth be told, I'd signed up for bodyguard school not thinking too closely about what it might involve. Checking in for my flight to the UK, all I could think of was what it might involve. Was Shane and the famously bad state of his teeth an omen of what I faced at an army camp in Wales?
While I was sure some of my fellow candidates might harbour fantasies of chaperoning Britney Spears around Hollywood, I was working on the assumption that the people taking this course would be seeking employment as PMCs (Private Military Contractors) in Afghanistan and Iraq. So the profile would, I imagined, be men in their twenties who were extremely physically fit and a few sandwiches short of the full picnic. In some respects, I would be proven right.
As it transpired, the candidates ranged all the way from a middle-aged American, who resembled Harry Potter a good thirty years after the films had dried up, to an ex-German special forces sniper fresh from service in Afghanistan whose only words of English were "Fuck the Taliban!" And here I was, a man at the wrong end of his thirties, who made a living writing television, about to embark on the same journey.
The course was advertised as very much 'hands on'. Rather than just sitting in a classroom we'd be putting the theory into practice. Some of the highlights from the course syllabus included:
CQC (unarmed combat) including Krav Maga and other systems of appropriate natures.
Advanced / Defensive / Offensive / Anti-Ambush Driving. The entire weekend is spent at out (sic) driver training area where you and your fellow candidates will go through (literally) many different vehicles, in a variety of ways!
Firearms training - to include Team drills. Use of 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 person teams, live fire & movement, mutual cover & evacuation drills.
So, ageing Harry Potter look-alike?
Ex-special forces sniper who's wired to the moon?
Writer wondering what mayhem lay ahead of him?
And we weren't even the strangest candidates, as you'll find out next post, when I introduce the rest of a very motley crew, along with one or two beacons of sanity.