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Steele Foundation ITG
Also Known As International Training Group
Steele Foundation ITG
Length of training: Two days to three weeks, depending on sub courses attended.
Cost: $500 to $4,000 per student, depending largely on subcourses attended most students do attend the entire three week course.
Overall reputation: Billed as third best school of its type in the USA but rapidly gaining respect due to the use of a modern training facility, experienced staff, and high employment ratio of graduates.
Instructor Background: Varies, mostly military, corporate executive security and former US State Department personnel.
Room and Board: Not provided in the package, but a "discount" rate a local hotel is provided. Expect these costs to significantly affect the overall costs of attending the courses offered by ITG.
Background check required: Yes, basic FBI, no felony, must have some military, security or law enforcement background. Students must have a valid drivers license. International driver permit is acceptable. Must have no lega disqualifiers for possession of firearm.
Foreign enrollment: Yes
Driving: Extensive, student should be familiar with automatic transmission USA pattern right hand drive cars and SUVs. Students should be mentally prepared for extreme driving, ramming, and intentional impacts under controlled conditions.
Weapons used in training: Yes* (in most courses). Students may bring their own firearms, but California legal restrictions apply. ITG will supply Glock 19 pistols for those students who do not bring their own handguns. Note, the majority of the course is not a "shooting" course.
Physical fitness requirement: No formal requirement, but informally, students should be in good basic health and be up to long hours of moderate physical activity. Some martial arts instruction is incorporated into the course.
Dress Code: Uniform shirts provided as part of the cost of the primary course, the rest is corporate casual or determined by the practical exercise. Students attending the entire "academy" will be expected to have one formal suit for the practical exercise.
Certificates and licenses offered: First aid and CPR/AED certification through Red Cross, Law enforcement and some military may get credit for in service training, no gun or employment license requirements met for state of California where the training is held, but some local jurisdictions in other states may accept the protective firearms portion of the course for purposes of CCW issue.
Sources for review: ITG website, discussion forums, personal attendance by author in November of 2004.
While billed as a professional development school for executive protection personnel and government service dignitary protection agents, this comprehensive school offers a good comprehensive curriculum that is relevant to several real world modern survival skills. The majority of the students that attend this school have backgrounds in the military, many in law enforcement, and no small number who have served in both. Unlike many of the government access only schools, this one is also open to foreign students and qualified individuals (applicants must pass a standard background check).
Billed as the "anti-assassination academy" by some students and the media, this unofficial name of the school is pretty descriptive of what they teach. Their comprehensive executive protection course combines classroom work and practical exercises that approximate the same courses taught to US State Department protection specialists who are in charge of protecting foreign dignitaries who travel in the US, and some US dignitaries who travel overseas. This is no coincidence, since the Steele Foundation is a corporation that has held several contracts for the protection of high profile individuals and they have hired several highly qualified government sector experts as team leaders and instructors.
While many, if not most survivalists seek combat oriented training to deal with the highest threat level scenarios, my opinion has been that the most important focus needs to be on the most common and likely threat scenarios, and while they take place in a lower overall threat environment, they can prove just as deadly or damaging as a conventional war. In reference to the scenarios for survival section of this site, realize that crime, corruption and hostility do not need a wartime environment to become a significant threat to the survivor. Also consider that in any group, the default "protectors" are going to likely be those who are the best suited for the job. Whether this is the head of the household, the a deacon on the church, or designated protector of a small retreat community, the prepared survivor will most likely end up in the "protector" role when the need arises. It is also entirely realistic for a well prepared survival group or individuals to make unique skills and services economically viable in several different kinds of scenarios.
The cost of capable protection professionals whether they come from the government or private sector is cost prohibitive for most people, non profit groups or small businesses. Regulatory restrictions and a general lack of the distribution of information about sound security practices make these skills somewhat uncommon to find with any one person or small group of people, and when you do find these skills, those people know it and become costly to employ. Government agencies and corporations often do not provide these services to anyone outside of their elite. The bottom line if you want high quality protection services, you are probably going to end up spending money one way or the other. You hire qualified people, send your own people to training, bring in qualified trainers, or attend training yourself so that you can supervise your own people. Competent organization leadership will probably do some combination of all four. Protecting someone else is definitely going to be more complex job than simply protecting yourself, but the skills are often closely related.
ITG is one of the few schools of its type in the US which includes a comprehensive security driving program in its core curriculum. The skills can prove extremely valuable to executive protection professionals as well as high profile and threatened individuals. The instructors are drawn from the ranks of several elite military and law enforcement agencies. The complexities of dealing with high threat scenarios while on the road become evident when we watch the news and read the larger newspapers. Assassinations and kidnapping quite frequently take place in conjunction with the use of motor vehicles, not to mention robberies and carjacking. A savvy survivor will be keenly aware of how the dynamics of wheeled vehicles will affect the moderate threat level scenarios that one might face. The relevant skills taught at ITG not only include the classic high speed maneuvers, but extensive practice in the dynamics of ramming roadblocks and other vehicles, driving from the passenger seat while the person in the driver seat is disabled, driving while being shot at, and in the advanced portions of the course, shooting effectively from a moving vehicle. All of this is done in real world real time with actual vehicles in the training environment and much of the cost of tuition for the course goes to pay for cars which get wrecked during the course.
Shooting and hand to hand skills taught by ITG are not going to be highly impressive to the accomplished shooter or martial artist, but they are unique to the protection field and I had not previously seen the same methods anywhere else. Their unique martial art is set up specifically to reduce the chances of permanent damage to the target and give the appearance to bystanders that minimal coercive force is being used on the opponent. This is uniquely valuable in a litigious environment that the survivor or protector deals with in moderate threat level situations. The shooting methods and mindset of the protection professional are necessarily different from the individual whose priority in a gunfight is personal survival or taking out a target. The basic shooting methods taught by ITG generally reflect the modern doctrine used in most California law enforcement agencies.
Note that Steele Foundation's ITG training courses are steeped in a modern corporate culture and not paramilitary or even "para-law enforcement" in nature. Given that the parent corporation of ITG is headquartered in California, students should not expect an environment that is comparable to the "running and gunning" schools found in other parts of the US. All of the courses are conducted in an academic environment which is reminiscent of a high end private school, complete with school issued uniforms. Students are well advised to dress fashionably apart from the school issued shirts and hats although blue jeans are nominally tolerated. Trousers de-reguer are from 511 tactical, with tan being the most popular color. Even the instructors with a strong military background who wear tan BDU pants will most likely have them pressed and starched. Students are expected to have a well fitted semi-formal suit for practical exercises that are conducted out in public.
The cost of the ITG courses ranges from $3,000 to $6,000 depending on a number of factors including one's association with the parent company and how many subcourses the student is attending. Current employees of the Steele Foundation get the cheapest rates, while those coming from outside the fold and taking the most instruction will pay the highest rates. Considering the total training cost of a two to three week training package to get one person reasonably well qualified for protection work is costly, but when considering those costs compared to contracting a security company to provide comparably qualified people at roughly $6,000 per person per month, the costs start to make sense. That is at a national average level for a higher end protective agent, while rates in places like California and New York are considerably higher due to a number of factors like cost of living and the limited distribution of the necessary legal permits and authority to contract for such work. In many instances, executive protection will cost well over $10,000 per month per person which is unjustifiably costly even for most wealthy individuals when considering that an effective protection team will need at least three people for round the clock coverage, and can require as many as a dozen people when there is a significant threat to contend with.
One should also understand that many security consultants recommend the use of unarmed bodyguards and security personnel because this generally means less liability in use of force situations. The general consensus among those in the industry is that quite often, the most qualified people and the most legally authorized people available to hire out armed bodyguard and security services are simply not mutually inclusive groups. On the flip side, use of armed security personnel, whether legally or illegally, will generally provide a more effective response option to greater threats and people who are paying the big bucks expect those armed individuals to be well trained.
On the low end of security work, just about nobody can get by at under $2,000 per man per month and at that level, you are talking $7 per hour people who are simply not going to be making enough money to afford quality equipment and effective professional development training regardless of how much they care about doing their job. Consider that money to be simply burned away every month while an investment in training people who are already members of your organization either through employment, partnership or loyalty will be recovered in less than six months as long as they stick around. This can include personal assistants, drivers, attendants, midlevel managers and even business partners.
Philosophies and procedures in protection and security work tend to follow a general guideline but will differ in technique. It is advisable that people who are working together in a particular group should, if possible, have schooling from the same general curriculum in order to standardize procedures, and then perhaps go on to learn specialized skill sets in depth. This way, your group should be able to work together off a standard playbook yet have the expertise in house with those who have the more specialized training able to bring other members of your team up to speed on a mission task specific basis.
ITG is one good environment where such in house people can receive a solid generalized overview of protective security work and roughly half of the students attending the course I was at were such people. By training those people who are more connected with your organization, you can better control the level of competency that is available to your organization rather than depending on the honesty of a contractor who may be tempted to pull the bait and switch with less qualified personnel once a contract is signed. In either event the contractor is often essentially just a gun for hire, and will often favor the more profitable situation. Ethical conflicts can also happen due to the fact that many executive protection specialists split their private sector careers with public sector law enforcement jobs.
Security professionals will be quick to point out that the wide variances in qualifications in the industry make it important for highly trained and more experienced individuals to stand out among the competition if they want to get into the better paying jobs. Training such as that offered by ITG gives experienced operators the edge, and in most cases allows for inexperienced operators to gain at least some inside knowledge of what is often otherwise a very closed industry that is guided by a loose knit code that in part is engineered to favor those who are well connected in the industry. This behavior on the part of the inside cliques in the industry can range from highly supportive to judgmental and condescending, regardless of an individual's performance in objectively graded tasks at any particular school and ITG is no exception since the attendance at the course is a microcosm of the industry itself.
It should also be noted that unlike police or military academies, there is no particular accreditation with most ITG courses although that is likely to change in the future. Persons seeking entry into protective professions outside of general consulting will likely need to attend additional localized licensing and qualification courses which may involve some different standards of performance and procedures. For example, ITG uses a standardized State Department qualification course which is generally similar to the FBI standard I publish here, but various state requirements for gun carry permits usually don't require as extensive of a qualification standard.
Writer's note. This article did include some pictures from the first ITG course I had attended, but permission to use the pictures on this website was rescinded by the photographer who now wishes not to be named or associated in any way with savvysurvivor.com While I have promised not to publish this individual's name in either a positive or negative light here at this site (and the original reference to this person in the class picture published earlier was a simple photo credit and link to his site), students and prospective students of these courses should be aware that pictures are going to be taken of them during these courses and while they may serve privately as a keepsake, their use in validation of an individual's credentials and the nature of the training is going to be limited by the desires of the photographer.
That validation is an important part of what the less established professionals often need in the security industry in order to move forward in their careers. Even among non-professionals and volunteers, it can be important to validate training when determining procedures among those who are assigned with security responsibilities. It is neither unusual nor undesirable for other schools to publish and allow some publication of class pictures and some action pictures from the actual training. Certificates are one thing, but as we all know, the less informed people of the world often are the ones making management decisions based on the evidence in front of them, and certificates, no matter how respectable they are among those "in the know" are not always going to portray things as well as actual pictures, such as are published at another school which is geared toward higher risk environment operators and the people running it understand the value of validating their students through demonstrable photos. At Tactical Response, for example, they at least publish and or allow for the publication of class pictures as long as they are not overly detailed to the point that undercover operatives can be easily identified as seen HERE. Such photography is rational and realistic to expect within the realm of open and semi-restricted enrollment professional development training.
Counterpoints to commentary about this article made on Tacticalforums.com and Lightfighter.com