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Ambassador's Personal Protective Security Unit by SSgt Clem Segura USMC
Background of the Personal Protective Security Unit
As delineated in paragraph F.2 of the Memorandum of understanding between the Department of State and the U.S. Marine Corps pertaining to the use of Marine Corps Personnel In the Marine Security Guard Program, specially trained Marine' Security Guards may be assigned to the personal protection of a U.S. Chief of Diplomatic Mission Abroad. Such assignments will be subject to the following conditions:
- a. An actual threat to the Ambassador and the host government was either unable or unwilling to provide an acceptable degree of protection.
- b. Arrangements were made with the host government to insure appropriate immunity or safeguards for the Marines performing these protective duties outside the U.S. diplomatic premises.
- c. The duties were performed under the guidance and supervision of a professional Security Officer's).
- d. Such duties were performed only on an interim or temporary basis for the duration of the immediate emergency or until alternate measures could be arranged. In accordance with the Memorandum dated 27 December 1972, and previously superseded Memorandums the Personal Protective Security Unit, U.S. Embassy, Saigon was created in 1965 for the protection of Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and existed until the fall of Saigon, 30 April 1975.
The activation of the Unit was the result of a White House Directive to improve protective security of the U.S. Ambassador in Vietnam. The Unit was activated and operated under the approval of the host government. The Unit performed under the operational control of the State Department's Regional Security Supervisor who was assisted by a designated State Department Security Officer. The Officer - In - Charge, Marine Security Guard Detachments Vietnam, retained responsibility and control for Marine Corps related matters. In the beginning, staffing for the Personal Security Unit came from Company "E," Marine Security Battalion, Saigon, Vietnam. These Marines were considered to be among the "best of the best." When identified, the Marines were sent to a local selection board. The board was composed of the Regional Security Supervisor, Senior Marine Non - Commissioned Officers from the Embassy and the Non - Commissioned Officer - In - Charge of Personal Protective Security Unit. Once selected, the new unit members were immersed in an eight (8) week Bodyguard training program supervised by the unit's Non - Commissioned Officer - in - Charge. The Unit had an internal training program that was thorough and in depth. This encompassed supplemental training for new personnel and a substantial training program for veteran members.
As the war escalated and the "Threat Condition" increased, the U.S. State Department and the Marine Security Guard Command identified a need to become involved in the selection and training of Marines designated to serve as Diplomatic Bodyguards. After completion of Marine Security Guard School, the graduates were well versed in the following subjects: Embassy Defensive Tactics...Physical Security Considerations...Destruction of Classified Material...etc. The Marines were then trained by the Office of Security, Education, and Training Staff located in Washington, D.C. The course lasted five (5) weeks and comprehensively covered all aspects of the Personal Protective Security mission. The Marines became knowledgeable in matters of Diplomatic Protocol, Security Equipment, Weapons, and Techniques. Some of the subjects covered were as follows: Counter Terrorism and Protective Techniques... Crowd Control... Technical Security Considerations ... Searches and Equipment ... Locksmith Training ... Weapons Training ... Radios... Vehicles.. .Motorcades ... Vehicle Defensive / Offensive Tactics... Ordnance Disposal ... Embassies and Personnel Functions ... etc. Upon arrival in Saigon, the Marine was provided with approximately eight (8) weeks of follow - on training before becoming a fully qualified member of the unit.
The Personal Protective Security Unit, Saigon, Vietnam was composed of eight (8) Marine Non - Commissioned Officers. The unit provided a security operation modeled on the Secret Service Personal Security template available to the President of the United States. The actual Operational detail consisted of four (4) basic positions: 1) The advance man, preceding the Motorcade by approximately 15 minutes, and responsible for advising the Motorcade on the selection and security of the route and the security situation at the destination, 2) The driver, responsible for driving, daily maintenance, and security surveillance of the Ambassador's vehicle, 3) The follow vehicle man, responsible for the supervision of the Vietnamese Police in the Motorcade and the man most directly responsible for defensive reaction in the event of an emergency on the road, and, 4) The escort man, who rides in the right front seat of the Ambassador's car, accompanies him into buildings, ceremonies, etc., maintains liaison with the Ambassador' s staff concerning scheduling etc., controls access to the Ambassador's office while the Ambassador is at the Embassy, and is responsible for the Ambassador's immediate personal safety in whatever situation might develop. In support of these four basic positions, the detail is reinforced with additional advance visits involving additional protection requirements, and other situations requiring special security considerations. Added to the basic operational duties described above, members of the PPSU also had individually assigned support and logistics duties. These duties included maintaining their own quarters and messing facility, the armory, establishing liaison for the acquisition of ammunition and other supplies, assuring rapid repair and maintenance of the Ambassador's vehicles and for the emergency and reaction equipment (examples include gas masks, oxygen systems, fire extinguishers, first aid supplies, radios, weapons and the bunker at the Ambassador's residence). After completion of the follow - on training period, each member of the PPSU was fully capable of functioning in all of the four basic jobs, and all of the jobs were, in fact, rotated among the members of the unit, each Marine changing functions each day. The Ambassador's Personal Protective Unit supervised all aspects of security including the monitoring of residence alarm systems, controlled grounds access, monitored residence security patrols, embassy access, motorcades, telephone switchboard and other secure communications network. The 14 Vietnamese Special Police Officers assigned to the unit were truly professional Police Officers and the best the Government of South Vietnam had to offer. These dedicated and loyal professionals considered it a true honor to serve and protect the "Dean of the Diplomatic Corps", the American Ambassador to the Republic of South Vietnam. The Saigon Personal Protective Security Unit was acknowledged as the best Unit of it's type among Security Details of visiting U.S. Dignitaries who were frequent visitors to the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of South Vietnam.