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Terror and Tedium for $500 a Day

James Yeager, 36, teaches firearms, self-defense and bodyguard skills at his security company, in western Tennessee. He was a bodyguard in Iraq for ten months.

What did you do in Iraq?
I helped provide security for Iraqi election commissioners for the country's first election. What's bodyguard duty like? Weeks of boredom and seconds of sheer terror. The biggest dangers: bombs and gunfights from cars.

How good is the pay?
There are probably still guys making $1,000 a day. But such high-paying jobs are scarce. Now the pay's about $500 a day.

How many of those who work as bodyguards do it for service, and how many do it for the money?
At the end of the day, everybody has to pay the mortgage. But every U.S. security contractor I've worked with also had a higher sense of purpose.

How did you get into the bodyguard-training business?
I worked in law enforcement for 12 years, started teaching classes in firearms handling and branched out from there. I started my business, Tactical Response, in 1996. After I was in Iraq, I realized that good training was rare and that there was a niche I could fill.


So, why the tour in Iraq?
I look on it as an extension of service to my country. Some days, I thought being a cop was the right choice; other days, I thought I should have been in the military. When I saw that plane hit the second tower, I knew I should have chosen the military.

What training do you need to be a bodyguard?
People need training in shooting, driving, medical aid and executive protection, which is everything from checking routes to reminding clients to take their medicine.

How much would that cost?
You're looking at a minimum of ten grand.

Who typically takes your courses?
Most are military or police. But about 10% to 15% have no intention of ever going into a combat zone. They want to learn new skills.

-- Interview by Robert Frick