I provide security for rich people on holiday. We'll do almost anything except be photographed.
- Mike (not his real name), 40, is a former Navy SEAL whose company provides security for wealthy clients' vacations.
- Mike's team inspects ports and yachts, finds secure restaurants, and runs background checks on local staff.
- Here's what his job is like, as told to freelance writer Claire Turrell.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
I used to move US Special Forces troops around Iraq and Afghanistan. As a Navy Seal, I was awarded a Bronze Star Medal in Iraq and a Bronze Star with V for Valor in Afghanistan. Now I move rich families around the world on vacation.
The idea for the Servius Group came after my cofounder Ethan (not his real name) was on vacation with a wealthy family at the Monaco Yacht Show. The family and other guests would travel between yachts in a small boat, and he was shocked when one of the guests revealed he was carrying $1 million (around R14,4 million) in cash in his bag.
In summer 2020, Ethan and I decided to launch a company that would organise vacations with Special Forces-trained security. Our team consists of ex-Special Forces personnel, such as former Navy SEALs, Rangers, and Marines. Each team member has completed 10 to 12 combat tours, so they are masters of risk mitigation. We are also multilingual - I personally speak English, French, and Farsi.
We start working for clients a month before they travel
We check routes, find English-speaking doctors, and see where the nearest US embassy and police stations are located. We send an advanced team to the destination and make sure their chosen restaurant isn't in a seedy part of town. We look for the red flags.
We also vet staff working in venues and track private jets. And if a VIP family is enjoying a coastal or lake holiday, and their teenagers are using jet skis or cars, we tag the vehicles and track them for the parents. We also offer cyber protection for bank accounts and our clients' identity.
When we travel, we look like a member of the family
We don't wear suits or earpieces. While our services are expensive, we can make our clients' travel insurance cheaper. When you're entering a channel known for piracy on a $200,000 (around R2.9 million) vacation, it helps to have ex-Special Forces personnel on board. We protect the family, but we can also protect the yacht's contents - some of our client's yachts have multi-million-dollar art collections on board.
Our first clients came by word of mouth, and we now work with luxury travel advisors Embark Beyond to support their VIP guests.
While some of our clients just want to relax on the beach, others want to have a life-changing experience
We have a client who enjoys scuba diving for three months at a time. We dived with him in French Polynesia where it's common to see humpback whales and manta rays. Safari is also really popular with our guests - we've been to the Ivory Coast, Mozambique, and South Africa. We've even joined clients on chartered yachts to the South Pole.
We recently provided security for a bachelor party that was held on a yacht in Miami. The men wanted to spend the day on the boat cruising around and visit some clubs at night. And no, we didn't leave anyone behind.
If they want to trek to Everest Base Camp, as one of our clients did recently, we'll first make a baseline assessment of their physical abilities to know that they can meet the physical demands of the trip.
If we have a guest who has never skydived before, we'll hook them up with a Special Forces instructor. And if it's your first-time scuba diving, our ex-Navy SEALs will be next to you with a safety line. But if it's skiing, it would be more fun for the client if they book professional lessons. Are you going to find an ex-Special Forces person on the nursery slope? No.
The job only gets challenging for us when unexpected guests join the party, but we're used to dealing with last-minute requests
As former Special Forces, we're trained for extractions. We once had a client who found themselves in a dangerous and vulnerable situation, so they contacted us and asked for an extraction. We got them out of that location, collected their valuables from elsewhere in the world, and took them both to a safe place.
So far, there's only been one request we couldn't accept, which was to take 15 guys to South America with 24 hours' notice. The government said it was too short of a notice for visa approval.
We try to help our clients as much as possible, but there are two things we won't do: We won't help acquire drugs and we won't be photographed
Our guests could hire a ski guide or scuba diving instructor to join them on their trips, but they want to hear our stories. A ski guide may be an expert, but he's never deployed in combat or sat in at a tribal meeting in Afghanistan.
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