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#22 Having a Private Security Detail

February 11, 2011

Submitted by a reader named Alisha.

Being required to travel in-country with a private security detail is something Expat Aid Workers like. However they will rarely, if ever, actually admit that they like having a private security detail (a “PSD”).

Expat Aid Workers are among the first to make public declarations such as, “Entering countries with weapons only promotes a culture of violence” or “Communities deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and not like violent criminals”.

Expat Aid Workers will attest to an overwhelming amount of trust in local people when working in the most insecure and violent environments like Iraq, Afghanistan or Sudan. In spite of this, having a private security detail reminds EAWs in these countries that they are “hardcore”, have field cred, and are a cut above their old university friends who are working in nice, safe places like Guatemala or Tajikistan.

Expat Aid Workers’ favorite way to brag to their friends and fellow aid workers about having a private security detail is, of course, to complain about them. Facebook postings to this effect are a great way to let others know that you are so hardcore that you require private security: “Going to a small community to look at buffalo cheese production – why does this need protection with guns?!” The PSD-disdain method allows Expat Aid Workers to enlighten friends to their level of importance while maintaining their humanitarian prestige.

EAWs also like the accoutrements required for traveling with a private security detail: armored vehicles, body armor, and sometimes helicopters. Complaining about these via Facebook or Twitter is also a frequent aid worker strategy for self promotion: “Body armor in 120 degree heat sucks!” Talking about the highly sophisticated capabilities of security vehicles to protect against rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs as a “waste of taxpayer dollars” or “unnecessary expenditures that should go directly to helping local people” may also be employed as a tactic. Taking illustrative photos adds credibility and fulfills Expat Aid Workers’ love of war junk and need to take pictures next to it.

For female aid workers, establishing a sexual relationship with a PSD is also a thrilling experience. While it is not as admirable as going native and sleeping with the locals, and fellow EAWs may criticize the female in question for “sleeping with the enemy” or “getting next to violent, military types”, the female EAW in a relationship with a PSD will enjoy briefly dating the most masculine, muscular guy she has ever slept with. Upon criticism from fellow Expat Aid Workers in-country about the PSD’s questionable morality, she will almost always tell them that her PSD is “one of the good ones” and that he does not regularly solicit prostitutes in Dubai while on leave.

The vast majority of Expat Aid Workers who have traveled with private security detail will never find themselves in a situation where use of force or emergency measures by their PSDs is necessary. The tiny minority who do experience this are among the elite of the Expat Aid Worker community, as they will have thrilling and terrifying stories with which to regale old friends at bars and future high school class reunions. This will inspire awe and/or envy and remind the EAW of their grit and humanitarian greatness.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Liv permalink
    February 11, 2011 7:45 am

    Nice heteronormativity and sexism, yo.

    (*is shamelessly guilty of #20*)

    Good post otherwise.

  2. February 12, 2011 5:33 am

    Brings back all those memories of having Close Personal Protection (not).

  3. Xela permalink
    February 16, 2011 10:01 pm

    I do have to point out one error in this article: Since when did Guatemala become one of the safe countries? I live here and would definitely argue a few reasons that Guatemala should be on more peoples’ watch list and should not be brushed aside because it’s not Iraq: most likely to become the first official Latin American failed state, has surpassed Mexico in drug-related deaths, having the government declare they have already lost 6 districts to the Zeta (Mexican civil war) drug cartel, and having the Guatemalan government declare a state of siege to allow the military to arrest anyone suspected of conspiracy against the government.

    Please do your research if you’re going to call yourself an expat aid worker.

    • Nina permalink
      February 17, 2011 2:12 pm

      Chill, Guatemala! First of all, I think this post is making fun of those who use the oneupmanship to feel better that hey are in more dangerous places like Iraq than still-dangerous but not as much like Guatemala. Or maybe you are simply trying to be funny and make us laugh by pretending to be offended that you were oneuped by more dangerous places. In which case, good for you!

      • Xela permalink
        February 17, 2011 6:07 pm

        It was all in good fun! I’m pretty sure they aren’t sending aid workers to Scandinavian countries yet which means we are all in some form of danger and hopefully working hard in the right direction. So let’s have a good laugh and a cold beer (wishful thinking). Cheers!

    • Wendy permalink
      February 24, 2011 1:18 pm

      lighten up, she obviously knows that.. hence using Guatemala

  4. February 19, 2011 9:27 pm

    You missed the fact that the cool thing to call your PSD is “the shooters.” As in, “I’m tired of having to take the shooters every time I want to leave the capital,” in a world weary tone.

    • Jill permalink
      July 10, 2011 3:57 am

      The funny part is, its the shooters that take them! We like to refer to it as ‘herding cats.’ It seems every time something lustrous or distracting catches the eye of a principal they like to wander away from their counterparts. “Sir, if you wouldn’t mind, please stay with the rest of the group. (So we can make sure you don’t put any objects in your mouth, grab an exposed wire, or trip on your untied shoelaces and fall down some stairs.)”

  5. February 20, 2011 10:12 am

    Close protection is hardcore. Only serious aid workers get to ‘help and run’ under fire. The posers end up in Guatemala, desperately attempting to convince others that it’s ‘almost as bad as Iraq’.

  6. Llewellyn G. Hunt permalink
    February 22, 2011 8:55 pm

    How does one join a PSD for an NGO? Can you do it as a freelancer, or do you have to become a contractor? Screwing off in Africa or S America for a bit sounds fun. Besides, I want a change of pace, more jungle, less desert.

  7. Mike permalink
    July 10, 2011 2:43 am

    This is the most honest and true article I have ever seen. Kudos from a PSD.

  8. November 23, 2011 9:00 am

    For those of you, who know your shit hole countries I will say ONE thing – THE ELBOW ROOM , Kabul. it was a mis-match of shooters and cat rescuers. There have been some interesting, conversations and “RESULTS” and I have to say some very disappointed sandal wearing skinny blokes lol

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