Special Event Security – The Wedding with the F-16’s on Standby

Special Event Security is a genre onto itself. Professional bodyguards co-exist with ham-fisted amateurs and the finest executive protection officer occasionally is reduced to shaking his head in chagrin.

Additionally, when one is confronted with major events with multiple agencies, turf wars can slowly erode overall effectiveness. So does ego, especially when it involves various government entities. For those who have ever served in the Federal Government, you know exactly what we mean. Winning becomes less important than not losing to another organization. There is a difference and it can be profound.

CASS Global was once tasked to provide overall security at a Corporate wedding. It sounds simple, until we received the Guest List. It included the US Secretary of State and his wife, the Prime Minister of a democratic Middle Eastern Nation, the host Governor (whose brother was the President of the United States), and too many corporate luminaries to mention.

The event included the following organizations:

  • CASS Global, a private firm tasked with overall security and was nominally in charge of all security operations as the event would occur on a private residence
  • Security Services of a democratic Middle Eastern country
  • Corporate Security of the company owned by the family whose son was getting married. Mostly former NYPD.
  • The State Highway Patrol, whose responsibilities include the Governor
  • Department of State Security, tasked with protecting the Secretary of State and his wife
  • The Secret Service
  • The local police tasked with providing security at the entrance, anti paparazzi, etc.

Due to the location and advance press coverage, paparazzi and onlooker turnout was going to be massive. The local press dubbed it, “The social event of the year and the wedding of the decade” for the metropolitan venue it occurred in. It is also necessary to remember in context that this event was slotted to occur just a few months after 9/11, when tensions were still extremely high in the United States. Almost all of the aforementioned elements would be armed at the function, and yet nobody wanted to talk to anybody else.

In joint operations such as this, it is critical to conduct pre event coordination meetings with all the appropriate entities in order to minimize the potential for disruption. The greatest single challenge CASS Global confronted was a systemic and deliberate effort to avoid contributing to the collective success of the overall mission. In other words, information was being kept in silos and was not being circulated to those desperately in need of it. This in fact continues to be the de facto response of some (no longer all) government agencies, large corporations, and any entity who suffers from incompetent leadership. CASS Global continues to confront this challenge on a near daily on a worldwide basis.

Suffice it to say that the media feeding frenzy, coupled with a robust dose of CYA from a government element, finally induced us to ask for, and receive, a Federal NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) creating a No Fly Zone within 5 nautical miles of the event. So CASS Global was indirectly contributing to airflow disruption at the nearby International Airport. There are not too many weddings that have F-16 pilots sitting in the cockpit on standby, but this was one of them.

The event turned out to be a resounding success, from the security point of view. Not that it should have been, but rather because we threw every available employee at it for 32 hours straight and won more by mass than technical skill. We had sufficient manpower to smother the opposition. The truth of it is that is a poor way to conduct business.

CASS Global concurs with Mohammed Ali, who once stated that the fight, “is won or lost long before you step into the ring.”

He is correct, for Special Event Security is a function of two key elements. The first is effective coordination’s with all the key players so we clearly understand who is responsible for what, where and when. The second is a painstaking logistical analysis, from seating arrangements down to number of spare shoelaces to have on hand.

And unlike the event mentioned, which was an ad hoc affair, for all its size and splendor, the best Special Events, in terms of client satisfaction, are those where the details are hammered out weeks in advance.

Special events are usually one-time occurrences of great importance. Therefore, they should receive the same systematic level of planning. There is limited room for error.

CASS Global does well at Special Events because we are highly focused on details, planning, and personalities. The better prepared before the event, the greater the odds of success.

In one of our more recent Special Events (Hunter Hayes World Record for most concerts in 24 hours) we even had chalk lines drawn on the road to perfectly align the vehicles for arrival. And because our logistics were precise, our timings were perfect, and we ended up ahead of schedule.

Special Events are especially special when the outcome is known long before the opening ribbon is cut. CASS Global ensures that success is preordained because you don’t get a second chance.

In terms of Special Event Security think of this wise old quote.

“Amateurs study tactics. Professionals study logistics and coordination’s”