Relationships Critical to Overseas Personnel Protection

By Matthew Harwood

Jim Savage, security director for Hunt Oil, gave attendees at ASIS International's 26th Annual Government/Industry Conference on Global Terrorism a crash course in overseas personnel protection drawing off his experiences in volatile regions such as Iraqi Kurdistan and Yemen yesterday.

Savage's company, Hunt Oil, explores for and produces oil and gas in numerous countries worldwide, some of whose states are fragile with weak militaries and security forces. Unable to rely solely on in-country security forces, Savage must provide for additional security arrangements to protect his company's assets and personnel.

Central to his security planning is what  he calls "Savage's Juxtaposition:" one must analyze and decide whether the rule of law or the rule of relationships is stronger in the country you're doing your security planning. Which leads to Savage Corollary #1: "the more dangerous the environment , the more important relationships are."

In Yemen, for example, Savage said his corollary was crucial to getting business done and keeping his people safe and secure.

Outside the city centers, Yemen's military loses much of its power. Instead, if an individual or group needs protection they must rely on the desert's Bedouin tribes to provide safe passage from one place to another.

"In Yemen, Beduoin tribes have more pull in many areas," Savage told the audience and added that they "gave greater assistance than the military."

Stressing how critical relationships are to good security, he spoke about the importance of hiring the right security representatives. Too often, Savage said companies select their representatives based on their intelligence quotient (IQ) rather than their emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), or the ability to understand and manage one's own emotions at the same time as understanding the emotions of others. While a person's IQ remains important, it can't be the predominate factor because as he noted, there are many brilliant people who have no personality or social skills and therefore cannot build (or will sabotage) relationships critical to security.

Rather, companies should concentrate on hiring individuals with a good IQ but also a great EQ that can inspire trust and loyalty in others. For instance, in Yemen, Savage and his security team bought goats for a military outpost in atrocious conditions, which was running low on rations. The soldiers had been tasked with protecting one of Hunt Oil's investments. The company also provides a mosque for local employees working at one of Hunt's facilities.

"Any acts of kindness help strengthen relationships," he said.

Another area Savage spoke about is knowing the area you're doing business in. For instance, while working in Iraqi Kurdistan, Savage opted for a low security profile that used three private security contractors, two locals and a British national, and an up-armored sports utility vehicle.

Savage said he chose the particular security contractor because of their low profile presence. Other contractors he spoke to wanted to bring the same security profile they used in Baghdad—large vehicles with gun turrets—to Iraqi Kurdistan. He thought such an in-your-face presence wasn't right for Iraqi Kurdistan where the population is friendly and the Peshmerga, the Kurdish military, provides good security.

In September, Hunt Oil signed a production sharing contract with the Kurdistan Regional Government to explore for petroleum. The company hopes to begin drilling an exploration well in 2008.




View Recent News (by day)


Beyond Print

SM Online

See all the latest links and resources that supplement the current issue of Security Management magazine.