Pope John Paul II planned for July 2002, what would be his last visit to Latin America, preparing to visit among other countries, Mexico and Guatemala.
About one and one-half year earlier, Vatican City authorities, responsible for the Pope’ security during his trips away from the Vatican, traveled to these countries to instruct the religious authorities as to the details needed to be considered and covered in relation to the Pope’ security.
The purpose of the Vatican’ authorities, was to insure in advance, the selection of the company or organization specialized in the protection of high level officials and dignitaries that could cover this great event.
Whichever company would be selected, the mission would be to protect and guard against any attack, risk or danger the life and physical wellbeing of the Pope, and to insure his safe return to the Vatican at the end of his visit to Guatemala.
This is how the religious authorities of Guatemala, initiated the contacts and the search among the most prestigious and best known companies in the field of protection of officials and dignitaries.
The process of talks, evaluations, investigations and selection of the company that would have this responsibility took approximately six months, and an evaluation of approximately twenty of the most experienced companies.
Having exhausted a complex process during which they had meticulously reviewed the companies for the following criteria:
• Time operating in the security field, preventing losses and reducing risks.
• Experience of their managers.
• Training of their personnel.
• The references of their clients.
• History of the entire company.
• International experience.
• Advantages and benefits offered.
• Confidence projected, etc.
The Guatemalan religious authorities came to the conclusion that only one organization could comply with absolute confidence such and important mission, and chose ProTechTeam and its affiliates in Guatemala.
LOGISTICS AND PLANNING:
After being selected, ProTechTeam initiated a complete planning process, to comply with the enormous task at hand.
Work plans and contingency plans were prepared to perfectly delineate the mission, objectives, strategies and tactics to be utilized; the work programs in chronometrical detail, the necessary human, material and financial resources.
Among the plans prepared by ProTechTeam Corp., there were strict details on the configuration of the equipment to be used, and organization of all other resources, they defined the direction of the actions, the methods and permanent programs of supervision and control of the whole operation.
At first, the ProTechTeam Corp. work group compiled all the data and information related to the operation such as schedules, routes, possible presence and modus operandi of the enemy, population, escape routes, communications, fixed events in which the Pope would participate, etc.
They reviewed over and over, the routes, revisions, anticipated evaluations of all the places where the Pope would, be or pass through, during his visit, from beginning to end, to consider event the minimum risk, the smallest detail or danger factor, and all the preventive measures that would be necessary. All the logistics and plans developed by ProTechTeam, were evaluated and supervised by VIP security experts of Vatican City and by the Guatemalan religious authorities, who after much debate finally approved the plans for implementation.
For ProTechTeam, the implementation of the operation designed to secure the stay and return of the Pope in good health started almost six months before his trip.
Once the Guatemalan religious authorities approved ProTechTeam’s proposal as the best option, the plan was put into place.
Keeping strictly to the plans, a search and a careful selection of the candidates to form the group that would carry out the mission, was started.
Some were chosen from within the company, some from the outside. A great number of candidates were evaluated and examined. Multiple aspects related to personality, their studies, capacity, training, dexterity and reliability, etc. of each person to be taken into consideration and ultimately selected to be part of this elite team. Theoretical and practical evaluations were done on each person to determine the experience, knowledge and dexterity in such aspects as protection of dignitaries, security circles, enemy detection, actions and reactions in critical cases, handling arms, driving the vehicles, handling crisis, etc.
Finally, the group was assembled with approximately forty people, chosen from three hundred applicants.
The people that were chosen to form the group started an intensive training under the direction of our International CEO, Moti Attias,. Due to his wide experience in the Israeli Secret Service, he was the only person who could achieve the high level of preparedness and special training of the team, necessary to carry out their mission.
The vehicles, the arms, the communications equipment and other necessary resources to carry out the mission, were selected carefully. In the same manner, among the preparations prior to the Pope’s arrival, the team evaluated and went through all the places, surroundings, and routes, that the Pope would be passing. They also assessed the evacuation routes and the closest medical emergency facilities.
Places for surveillance and sharpshooters were established. The operations were practiced and drilled several times. In the same manner and with the same care, the team considered the handling of the multitudes. This represented the greatest risk for the Pope. The vehicle that would take the Pope through the streets, was checked and secured on hundred per cent. Hundreds of other aspects were considered in order to accomplish the mission. Special devices were designed and tried for access control, identification and revision of the people and the vehicles, suspects, and armed individuals, etc.
July 19, 2002 finally arrived. The Pope would fly directly from Rome on a special flight from Aerea Centroamericana TACA, his arrival scheduled for 14:00 hours (GMT) Guatemalan time. The plan was implemented; there was no place for error.
All communications were open through a special channel. The members of the team were strategically placed outside and inside the air force airport, “La Aurora”, where the Pope’s plane was to land.
There were moments of tension, nerves, and anxiety. It is important to mention that our team had the support of the special forces of the government that worked with personnel specialized in security of high officials, almost in the same security circles as the personnel from ProTechTeam.
At the designated time the TACA’s plane carrying the Pope arrived at La Aurora. The number of people waiting for the Pope inside and outside the airport was amazing, and created a situation of great risk and danger.
The security team was under alert, the plane parking and the ladder was placed for the Pope and his entourage to descend. After a few minutes the plane door was opened. The first group to descend was a group of newspapermen and photographers accompanying the Pope. The following group was made up of Vatican City officials, and finally Pope John Paul II came to the door accompanied by his private secretary and his Chancellor.
Visibly tired from the trip and his advanced age, the Pope lifted his hand in salute to the people.
He descended slowly from the plane holding on to his assistants until he reached the ground, where he was received by the Guatemalan religious authorities.
ProTechTeam’s CEO was alert to the Pope’s descent, he posted himself to one side of him and verified that the rest of the team was placed at each respective post, and announced by radio the Pope’s arrival.
The Pope was then helped by his entourage to a special vehicle to take him to the podium where he would give his speech.
Everything went well and according to the security plan previously developed.
The Pope stayed in Guatemala three days, during which, he participated in various religious activities, and visited other places previously established. ProTechTeam and its personnel were at all times within the first security circle, close to the Pope, watchful for all the people awaiting him and his presentations.
The Pope’s caravan went through critical routes. Wherever the Pope appeared there were thousands of people. But it all transpired without incident, all the situations were properly controlled, and the hardest part, to manage the multitudes, was handled between the police and the army, who controlled the people. No one came close enough to the Pope to be able to harm him.
All the critical points were checked and controlled by ProTechTeam’s personnel. July 22 arrived and Pope John Paul II would leave Guatemala en route to Mexico. The security measures were held until the Pope boarded his plane, TACA’s flight to Mexico, and fortunately in good health and safe.
The mission was accomplished with success and Pope John Paul II left for Mexico safe and in good health after his visit to Guatemala.