Diplomatic Security Conducts Training With West Point Cadets

April 23, 2015


The Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) Interim Training Facility in West Virginia is not the typical spring break destination for college students. But it was for 13 cadets of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. For two days in March 2015, the DS Training Center (DSTC) staff challenged these students through protection, firearms, and driver training.

These cadets are members of West Point’s Combat Weapons Team, future military leaders with tactical marksmanship skills. Being a West Point graduate himself, a special agent with the DS Washington Field Office recognized the value in familiarizing future U.S. Army leaders with DS. He proposed the concept of a two-day familiarization course to DSTC’s High Threat Branch Chief Paul Davies. Once Davies garnered DS Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Hipp’s support, planning got underway.

Leading the effort were DSTC’s Firearms Training Unit Chief Sal, Driver Training Unit Chief Maner, and High Threat Operations Chief Mac. With only two days to provide as much training as possible, the team focused on dignitary protective security, firearms, and driver training, which are core skills for DS special agents.

After two months of careful planning by DS, the cadets arrived at the Interim Training Facility on a cold March morning. First on the schedule was an overview of the DS mission and its capabilities. Next was basic protective security tactics, taught by the DSTC’s High Threat Branch training team, led by DS Special Agent Dan and Team Lead T.J. The latter stated, “It’s always a pleasure to cross train with military units. The gentlemen from the United States Military Academy were very motivated and willing to learn.”


Date: 03/16/2015 Description: DSTC's High Threat Branch instructors give West Point cadets specific instruction on protective security operations as part of a two-day training event at the DS Interim Training Facility in Winchester, Virginia, in March 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo) - State Dept Image
DSTC's High Threat Branch instructors give West Point cadets specific instruction on protective security operations as part of a two-day training event at the DS Interim Training Facility in West Virginia in March 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo)


Date: 03/16/2015 Description: During a simulated attack on a protective detail, West Point cadets execute a bailout drill from one vehicle to another as DSTC High Threat Branch instructors observe. This was part of a two-day training event at the DS Interim Training Facility in Winchester, Virginia, in March 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo) - State Dept Image
During a simulated attack on a protective detail, West Point cadets execute a bailout drill from one vehicle to another as DSTC High Threat Branch instructors observe. This was part of a two-day training event at the DS Interim Training Facility in West Virginia in March 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo)

The students quickly absorbed the main concepts of dignitary protection, such as reacting to threatening scenarios; cross loading passengers from one vehicle to another; bailing out of a disabled vehicle and moving to a protected area; and evacuating personnel during emergencies.

For maximum realism, instructors used paintball guns to simulate being shot at by an oppositional force and to reinforce the importance of taking cover and protecting the principal.

One clearly motivated sophomore cadet mentioned that he could do cross loads and bailouts all day long. Other students recognized that quick decision-making in the face of ambiguity is routine in DS, and commented on how different and challenging this was compared to offensive military operations planning that they were accustomed to.


Date: 03/16/2015 Description: West Point cadets receive instruction on cross loading passengers from one vehicle to another as part of a two-day training event at the DS Interim Training Facility in Winchester, Virginia, in March 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo) - State Dept Image
West Point cadets receive instruction on cross loading passengers from one vehicle to another as part of a two-day training event at the DS Interim Training Facility in West Virginia in March 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo)


Date: 03/16/2015 Description: West Point cadets execute a cross load drill whereby they move passengers from one vehicle to another while taking fire. This was part of a two-day training event at the DS Interim Training Facility in Winchester, Virginia, in March 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo) - State Dept Image
West Point cadets execute a cross load drill whereby they move passengers from one vehicle to another while taking fire. This was part of a two-day training event at the DS Interim Training Facility in West  Virginia in March 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo)

To supplement the skills-based training the cadets received on the first day, DS Mobile Security Deployments (MSD) special agents briefed the cadets on MSD’s unique mission, which includes providing emergency security and tactical support in dire situations at U.S. missions around the world. During a working lunch, the MSD special agents described examples of joint-exercises between MSD and the military, as well as how the two entities cooperate in real life overseas missions. The cadets gained perspective and insight into MSD capabilities that will prove to be valuable in their military careers.

The second day was filled with more hard-skills training, starting on the firing line at the shooting range. Sal and his team of instructors led the cadets through a DS pistol qualification, submachine gun familiarization drills, and judgment shooting training.

Whereas West Point’s Combat Weapons Team’s shooting primarily focuses on speed and accuracy in combat, DSTC’s firearms training focuses on target discrimination within the context of real-life security operations.

The cadets, who are some of the best tactical marksman at West Point, unanimously agreed that they were most impressed by the Firearms Training Unit’s PRISim use-of-force training system, based on a video game that simulates confrontations and other scenarios that require quick decision-making. To round out the training course, the DSTC Driver Training Unit ran the students through various maneuvers including swerving to avoid obstacles, braking in turns, and skid pad training.

Interagency collaboration between DS and the U.S. military proved to be critical in places such as Tripoli, Sana’a, Herat, and Bangui. This familiarization training provided West Point cadets early exposure to DS and is bound to have a positive impact on DS-military relations in the future.

High Threat Branch Chief Paul Davies noted, “I am confident this training was mutually beneficial to DS and the U.S. Army. Clearly any opportunity to shape the next generation’s understanding of the ‘new normal’ will pay dividends at our most high-threat, high-risk posts. The added benefit is the potential recruitment of these Army leaders as future DS agents.”

The positive impact of the training was best captured by a cadet, who said, “Throughout the training we were able to see how important the integration of DOD and DS security operations is to the safety of Americans working overseas. While working with the Diplomatic Security Service, we were amazed by how professional, experienced, and knowledgeable the agents and training staff were. We were able to walk away with knowledge that we can take forward with us into the military and future operations with DS personnel.”


Date: 03/16/2015 Description: West Point cadets execute a cross load drill whereby they move passengers from one vehicle to another while taking fire. This was part of a two-day training event at the DS Interim Training Facility in Winchester, Virginia, in March 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo) - State Dept Image
Cadets from the United States Military Academy Combat Weapons Team mark the completion of a two-day familiarization training event at the DS Interim Training Facility in West Virginia in March 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo)