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Although a bodyguard's ultimate responsibility is relatively straightforward—to protect a client from danger—there are a wide variety of tasks involved in this assignment. Bodyguards are part personal aide and part police officer. As personal aides, bodyguards help plan and implement schedules; as police officers, they protect their clients at public or private events. They often act in their client's business and publicity interests, as well; stories of camera-snatching bodyguards have become common fodder for the gossip pages.
Bodyguards face possible danger whenever they are on duty. When there was an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in March 1981, for example, his Secret Service bodyguards quickly shielded the president with their own bodies as gunshots were fired. Bodyguards may have to sacrifice their own security in defense of those they are hired to protect. Bodyguards are not just sitting targets, though. They are trained to react appropriately in any situation, life-threatening or not. Skilled bodyguards do all they can to minimize danger to those they are protecting, as well as to themselves. As a result of their careful preparation, bodyguards carry out most assignments relatively uneventfully.
By keeping a watchful eye on their clients, bodyguards are able to avoid many possible problems. In most cases, people are not actually out to harm a client but are simply interested in meeting an important person. Bodyguards learn not to overreact to these encounters, and usually a polite warning eliminates any potential problem.
When a client hires a bodyguard for a specific event, the bodyguard will determine how many additional people may be needed to provide adequate protection. The client's schedule and travel arrangements will be coordinated for maximum security and, if the client is appearing at a public event, the bodyguard will become familiar with the location, especially the exits and secured areas, in case the client needs sudden and immediate protection from danger.
Bodyguards often work in tandem with other security people as part of a large security operation. For example, bodyguards may help develop a plan to safeguard a major politician who is giving a speech, while security guards develop a plan to safeguard the building where the speech will take place. All security personnel meet to discuss overall arrangements to ensure that specific details are worked out. Typically, one person will coordinate the security operations.
Bodyguards are hired to protect their clients, and activities that infringe on this job must be avoided. At an awards ceremony, for example, a bodyguard must keep an eye on the client and not gawk at celebrities. Bodyguards should not confuse the glamour and excitement of an assignment with self-importance. The person that can remain calm in the midst of an exciting event and can sense possible danger when all eyes are elsewhere will make a skillful bodyguard.