Staying Grey

Following on from the excellent article by Adam Scholl, “The Gray Man Concept You’re Doing it Wrong”, led me to think about some of the comms implications associated with trying to maintain a low-profile in as an EP or Surveillance Operator in different environments.

I think we can all be guilty of assuming that just because we know something, that others do too, whereas often that isn’t the case.

I don’t think that anyone would disagree that in a crisis situation, the ability to communicate is critical, be that with your Principal, colleagues on the ground, or the team back in the Control Room.  But doing this whilst remaining ‘Gray’ can be a challenge.

As a starter the curly wurly earpiece often portrayed as being used by bodyguards and Government Security Agencies (the official name for it is an acoustic tube, by the way) is definitely out, if you are trying to keep your profile as low as possible.  They are used by the masses because they are simple, reliable and cheap!

But even more fundamental than that is what radio can you use in this environment, that doesn’t single you out as the security guy?  The truth is there aren’t many conventional radios that are commercially available, that are easy to conceal whilst still giving you the coverage and functionality you need to do the job.  And with all conventional two-way radio, you still face the challenges of coverage and range, not to mention licensing and the issues of using the devices outside of UK jurisdiction.

So it’s time for a paradigm shift, and this is happening slowly but inexorably, from traditional thinking to something more creative.  For many years now, the ability to use your Smartdevice as a two-way radio has been available, but it has gained huge momentum within the past 12-18 months.

We all use and rely on our phones so much these days, why not simply give it one more job to do?  With the addition of a simple application, you can now turn you iOS, Android or Windows device into your radio.  Push to talk, exactly like you do with your normal radio, but without the issues of range or coverage and with a whole range of additional features available.

Moreover, everyone uses a phone, in almost any conceivable environment, so no one will think twice if they see you using yours either.  In most cases, you can even use the same accessories as you would for making and receiving regular phone calls, ensuring that you blend seamlessly with the crowd.

As with any solution, there are always some drawbacks, and it would be wrong not to highlight them.  This technology relies on the mobile phone network, and that, as we all know, can have its limitations.  But networks are becoming more and more reliable, and coverage is becoming increasingly ubiquitous.  Add a multi network roaming SIM card, and you can almost guarantee seamless coverage.

There is one other thing you should consider if you are a heavy duty ‘radio’ user.  Whilst putting all your eggs in one basket has its benefits, it also has its risks, for obvious reasons.

Having a back-up comms device is a basic SOP, so I would usually recommend to clients that if they rely heavily on radio for their inter team comms, that they consider a dedicated SmartDevice to use as the ‘radio’.  There are plenty to choose from.  It doesn’t have to be expensive and there is also an increasing range of bespoke devices that look just like the conventional radio you know and love, but with all of the benefits already I’ve highlighted.

Times change, and we need to be prepared to embrace those changes to the benefit of ourselves, our colleagues and those whom we serve.  Not only will this shift improve and enhance your ability to communicate, it will help ensure that you remain in the shadows!

Staying GreyBy: Adam Scholl

Adam Scholl is a project manager for LaSorsa and Associates where he is currently serving as the Director of Operations for a large-scale executive protection project. Adam is a former law enforcement officer who served on violent crime task forces with the FBI and US Marshals. As a Sergeant, Adam was his agency’s firearms, defensive tactics, and close-quarters battle instructor. Later working for the U.S. Department of Defense as a Fieldcraft Instructor. Presently, Adam instructs Krav Maga and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu through his own company, Scholl Security Group. For more information please visit www.schollsecuritygroup.com and www.lasorsa.com

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