Security Training

Sign of the Times

International marine giant Wärtsilä Corporation offers yacht security training.

By Capt. Bill Pike


Photo: Lourdes A. Ruiz
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International marine giant Wärtsilä Corporation offers yacht security training.

It’s ten o’clock at night. I’m sitting at a table in a small fluorescent-lit room at the back of a place called International Protective Services (IPS) in Hollywood, Florida. On the wall to my left is a large poster with mug shots of the September 11th hijackers. Indeed, only a few blocks away is the infamous bar where ringleader Mohammad Atta and sidekick Marwan Alshehhi drank cocktails and played video games prior to executing their plan of unimaginable horror.

To my right, on the table next to the notebook I’m scribbling in, is a 24-pound Maine Coon cat named Sarge, with huge eyes reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor’s in Cleopatra and a presence that, for all its apparent affability, is intimidating.

A padded room for the teaching of hand-to-hand combat techniques is part of the scene beyond the door and a firing range with adjoining armory, loaded with Glocks, Berettas, and assault rifles. There’s a store out there, too, purveying all the tools of the counterterrorism trade, from HAZMAT gear to surveillance equipment. During the day it’s staffed by three guys, each wearing a Kimber 45-caliber semiautomatic pistol on his belt, cocked and loaded.

Eyeing me with the same vaguely intimidating affability that characterizes his cat, IPS president Walter Philbrick says, “Something extra that we offer our students is a technique for the nonviolent management of guests.”

I give him a quizzical look.

“Just sit right there,” Philbrick says, and with surprising agility, he gets up from the table, circles rapidly, then stands behind me with one hand companionably on my shoulder. He’s a big man, not tall but beefy, muscular. His broad face reminds me of Darrin McGavin’s in the old “Mike Hammer” TV series. A retired Hialeah, Florida, homicide detective, ex-SWAT Team leader, black belt judo/jujitsu expert, and security consultant to American Airlines, he’s also one of two instructors teaching a new, two-day, $750-per-person course on yacht security for international maritime giant Wärtsilä Corporation’s Land & Sea Academy.

“Let’s say you’re not a’re a famous rock star, Bill,” he says, as I feel the slowly escalating pressure of his fingers on the brachial nerve in my neck, “and you’re behaving a little badly in the skylounge. And we need to get you down to your stateroom without causing a scene.

“Now, Bill,” he pauses (for effect, I suppose), then clamps down suddenly, “Why don’t you just stand up and come with me?”

Pain stabs through my body with stunning speed—it renders me absolutely and instantly compliant. Under the influence of Philbrick’s right hand, I arise like a puppet and begin moving off at his behest. No fuss, no muss. To an observer, I suppose the two of us might have resembled a couple of old long-lost buddies, reunited at last, intent on a private chat somewhere.

“Whooo!” I say when Philbrick turns me loose, deeply convinced of his talents in the field of martial arts as well as pretty darn wary of them. He apologizes, explaining that whether he’s trying to make a point with a student or a journalist, experience and immediacy are more “instructive” than mere talk.

Next page > Part 2: Biernat believes that terrorism has supplanted piracy as the real threat to ships and yachts today. > Page 1, 2, 3

This article originally appeared in the April 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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