There's unrest in the Middle East, turmoil in South America and uncertainty in Africa. The famous and the wealthy fear kidnappers and crazed gunmen. Who knows if the streets are safe anywhere?
"From our standpoint, the world situation couldn't be better," says Charles Vance, 40. With partner Dario Marquez, 34, Vance owns MVM International Security Inc., a Virginia-based executive protection firm staffed mostly by former Secret Service agents. MVM began business three years ago and garnered some early publicity because Vance, in addition to having been Gerald Ford's bodyguard at the White House, is also married to Susan Ford.
Today Vance, Marquez and about 30 fellow staffers ("90 percent of them once worked for the Secret Service," says Vance) are working at slightly more bizarre jobs. For example:
* When a newly married Middle Eastern couple flew to the United States in their private 707 to do some postnuptial shopping, MVM was hired to provide security for the around-the- country expedition. The couple bought so many consumer items that an extra 707 had to be hired to fly the loot home.
* When Time, Inc., decided to take about 45 of the country's top executives on a world tour (complete with briefings in world capitals), MVM did some advance work and provided security. The fear: that had anyone managed to hold hostage that chartered plane filled with execs, the bad guys could have named their price.
* On another assignment involving a Middle Eastern zillionaire, MVM protected him as he flew around the world collecting animals for a private zoo he wished to furnish. Many of the exotic animals and birds shared his hotel suite and, naturally, enjoyed room service steaks along with him.
In addition to protecting individuals (at about $1,000 a day plus expenses), Vance, Marquez and company train foreigners in modern protective techniques, regularly acting out possible scenarios using blanks and phony explosives. Vance recalls teaching a group of South Americans how to guard a person in a crowd.
"We had a situation similar to (Arthur) Bremer's attempt on George Wallace, a lone assassin in a crowd," he says. "As the protectee shook hands, the killer reached over and shot him with a small caliber weapon. There were six men protecting the "president," and they indiscriminately emptied their weapons into the crowd of onlookers. We had to explain there was a lone assassin, and they had just killed a whole crowd of innocent people."
Another time, MVM instructors reenacted hostage negotiations with a West African security force.
"We gave them a scenario where a man had taken a political prisoner and asked them to go ahead and do what they do," recalls Vance. "Their response was, 'Very good, then we will find his mother and take her hostage.' It was a little different slant than we're used to."