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Careering-Ending Accident Turns Tragedy into Triumph

Sometimes you have a plan, and then the universe has something different in mind.  After almost seventeen years in the private security industry, a little over 3 years ago I decided to start my own security company UPPER ECHELON SERVICES.

I was making great progress building the company. Then in June of 2017, I was involved in a motorcycle accident that would change my life forever. I ended up suffering from an irreparable compound break on my right foot and ultimately blowing my heel to dust.

In the emergency room the next morning after the accident, the doctors advised me as to the condition of my foot advising that it would take rods, pins, screws, and plates in order to have my foot anywhere near as functional as it was prior to my accident. The rehab and pain alone to have all that metal in my foot was not going to bode well working security. However, I was still responsible for the well-being of so many people including my staff, my clients, and most importantly, my family. So, I weighed my options told them to “cut it off” knowing in the back of my mind that my amputation would be seen as a liability to clients and colleagues alike.

More important than that was that I also decided that very moment that there was no way I was going to let this stop me from achieving my goals. I came up with the mantra “be undeniable, be unstoppable, be unlimited.”  Prior to my accident I had just signed up with ASIS online and was on track to receive training and credentials for the “CPP Certificate” as well as upgrading some of the several courses I have taken on my own time, such as Defensive Driving, RCMP Bomb Detection, Risk Assessment + Management, Canadian Use of Force Model, and Non-Violent Crime Intervention. I truly felt that if I was willing to put in all the necessary training any abl- bodied person could to operate at the highest level then my “disability” was no longer a “liability.”

it has been two years since the amputation and in that time, I’ve personally been responsible for the planning and protection of many entertainers and executives, as well as world renowned VIP’s. All because of my all because I refused to give up. A I mentioned my goal was to be undeniable. As part of that quest, I’d been following a company known as ICON Global for some time now and saw that they had a training course in conjunction with Executive Security International (ESI). They had always been one of my top choices for training, but since I was based out of Toronto the opportunity seemed more and more unlikely. That was until I saw that they offered scholarship opportunities while I was researching them. Truth be told, I had never won anything in my life, but this was something I was determined to receive.

One of the criteria for awarding the scholarship recipient was based on active involvement in the community where you live and work. During my off time I maintain a consistent physical workout schedule and through my fitness training I take part in several Men’s Mental Health programs. Notably, I’ve been especially involved in a program called Movember, Men’s Mental Health Global Campaign. In addition to a global TV Commercial spot, I’ve also personally spoken to and met several organizations regarding the current state of men’s mental health in the workplace. Through telling of my story I hope that I’ve helped to show that there are many things one can do in overcoming some of life’s setbacks. I share that on a personal level, through no action of my own other than being me, I continue to reach my goals despite my current situation. Many new amputees and people with life changing injuries have contacted me and through those conversations we continue to find inspiration and motivation through each other.

It was in part due to this that I was humbly selected by ICON/ESI to receive the scholarship for their continuing education Celebrity Protection & Behavioral Intelligence course.  Just by being determined, proactive, and focused, one of my biggest goals to achieve was now within my reach.  I remember initially speaking with one of the instructors, Sam Alicea and he reminded me that despite what has happed to me there is a place for me in the protection industry provided I continued to worked for it and carved out my own lane.

I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the course as the majority of the training I had done up until then was more focused on hard skills, However, despite all the uncertainty I had going in I wasn’t going to let any doubts cloud my judgment. In fact, upon my arrival into Colorado airport there was a specific moment that solidified it all for me. As I was waiting for my ride downstairs, I ran into the lead instructor, Elijah Shaw who had just gotten off his flight and was coming down the escalator. Midway down he recognized me, smiled, and congratulated me. I can honestly say at that time a fire was relit that hadn’t been there since the beginning of my accident. I reminded myself that all things were possible, and there wasn’t anything that would stop me from reaching my goals but me.

Day 1 walking into the course I had zero preconceived notions. I was ready to learn, relearn, and unlearn. As I zoned in and got into the flow of the course, I realized that Elijah and his fellow instructor, Mark James’ method of training allowed for me to easily process what was being delivered on multiple levels. Of note, Mark James had really opened my eyes to the business side of things. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had a mentor in the industry close enough to me to show me the ins and out of the business on topics such as how to acquire and retain clients. This portion of the course was the most informative being a business owner myself and responsible for so many others. I have always been a firm believer in letting our work speak for itself, but there was so much more that I realized I could be doing in terms of brand awareness.

The following days were just as memorable, as we got much more hands on and practical. Once again this was training that I hadn’t yet formally received but had already been in similar situations and positions. As such, these were segments that I absorbed the most, a skillset that I needed to be perfected, if my goal was to be among the elite in the protection business.

In the end, the course affirmed everything that I learned through my experience and research. It reinforced many soft skills and further sharpened the “hard” ones. Having the knowledge and ability to operate at higher levels is a great personal accomplishment for me, as well as belonging to a distinguished ICON/ESI alumni network that’s bigger than its individual parts. The relationships I developed have continued beyond my time in the classroom, with my likeminded peers constantly encouraging and expecting only the best from one another, improving our industry, and acquiring and passing on more knowledge and sharing more opportunities.

This is not the end of my journey and I am fortunate to have been able to use the class as an opportunity to grow beyond what I could’ve thought possible that day when I made that fateful decision to amputate my leg. My promise to the industry is that I will represent the craft to the best of my ability and “pay it forward” to create opportunities to others.

Careering-Ending Accident Turns Tragedy into TriumphBy Chris Pinto

Owner/Operator UPPER ECHELON SERVICES

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