US Department of State Mobile Security Division
When the Secretary of State travels, be it abroad or within the US, or when high ranking foreign dignitaries visit the US, they travel under the watchful eyes of a little known unit of the US Department of State...The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS).
The US Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) were established on November 4, 1985 to combat the rising trend in terrorism of targeting American facilities overseas. It has its roots in the Office of Security, created after World War Two to provide security for American installations overseas. Agents would be sent to embassies around the world as security personnel, or on temporary duty assignments with diplomats. During the 1970s, the Office of Security began surveying US installations, assessing their vulnerability to attack, and learned new skills in close-quarters combat and defensive driving in order to maintain a high level of proficiency during their assignments. Today, the Diplomatic Security Service is around 750 strong, with agents serving all over the world.
The DSS is responsible for security within and around US Diplomatic Missions, Embassies and Consulates, the DSS also provides intelligence and assistance as necessary to agencies whose mission intersects and compliments that of the DSS. The other major task of the DSS is dignitary protection. For instance, visits of key public officials, US or otherwise, may call on DSS agents to interface with personal bodyguards and governmental protection details as well as logistics and other planning units. In the past, the DSS was responsible for providing security to all visiting heads of state, but today, they are responsible for foreign ministers and dignitaries, as well as heads of state whose countries are not recognized by the United States. If any of these leaders, such as PLO Leader Yasser Arafat, visit the US, the DSS provides physical security. In addition, the DSS provides security for the Secretary of State, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, wherever in the world. Some of those who have received DS protection are members of the British royal family, representatives of the Middle East Peace Delegations, the Secretary General of NATO, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, Boris Yeltsin and Nelson Mandela, before they became heads of state, and the Dalai Lama. DSS provided security at the NATO 50th Anniversary, in cooperation with the Secret Service, as well as protecting the Israeli Olympic team during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Other tasks that fall to the DSS Special Agents are investigating visa and passport fraud.
Although they are often mistaken for members of the Secret Service, or FBI when working, The DSS maintains its own elite tactical unit, the Mobile Security Division, or MSD. Sometimes referred to as "The Ninjas," the MSD consists of Department of State employees of the DSS who usually respond to crises in foreign countries. The MSD is a mobile, on-call-24-hours force trained to respond to increased threats or critical security needs at an embassy, provide additional security, and provide immediate response to a security-related incident. These highly trained, heavily armed agents augment dignitary protection and security operations. The MSD has been thrown in the middle of hostage situations, coups, civil wars and aftermaths of terrorist attacks. The MSD also conducts training of embassy guards overseas, engages in security for chiefs of mission, surveillance detection operations, and assistance with post evacuations.
The MSD currently composed of eleven-six man teams of agents, and operates out of a small office in Dunn Loring, Virginia that acts as both MSD headquarters and staging area prior to deployments. These teams of operators can be used to form several different types of specialty teams. They can form Mobile Training Teams (MTT) that conduct training for local police, local security guards, USMC Marine Security Guards, and Foreign Service Officers. In addition MSD has developed a comprehensive training module for surveillance detection techniques. The MSD has also developed a training syllabus for chemical/biological warfare that will be included in overseas training and will also be taught to appropriate domestic personnel.
MSD operators may also be used to form Security Support Teams that deploy when there is an immediate security threat, such as an attack on a US embassy, or a threat has been made against a US ambassador. SSTs are capable of deploying within hours of receiving their orders. MSD is also capable of forming small six-man counter assault teams known as Tactical Support Teams (TST). TSTs are deployed in situations where there is an increased risk to the subject being protected. Rarely seen in public, they were apparently established in the early 1990s. In a rare public appearance, escorting Sec. of State Madeline Albright during the screening of Shakespeare in Love, TST agents disembarked from a black Ford Explorer, dressed head to toe in black, with soft high-top shoes and night vision goggles, bristling with a menacing arsenal of submachine guns.
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MSD operates closely with other law enforcement agencies. For example, on visits to the UN headquarters in New York, they co-operate with the NYPD's Emergency Service (ESU). In the past, the DS has cooperated with the Secret Service, USMC FAST teams, foreign police forces, the FBI, and various other federal agencies.
The DSS took part in the arrest of World Trade Center bombing suspect, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, in Pakistan, as well as responding to the bombing of US barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in June of 1996. The MSD has been posted to such high-risk locations as Bosnia and Liberia to assist in securing US installations there. The MSD was also deployed to Tanzania and Kenya in the aftermath of the US Embassy bombings in the capitals of those two countries in August 1998. Within twelve hours of the bombing, MSD security support teams were reinforcing the embassy Marine Security Guard detachments in both countries. Two weeks later, teams of MP-5 armed DSS agents, took part in the arrest of suspected terrorists connected with the bombings. DSS agents accompanied the suspects on the flight back to the US. DSS agents have also been extremely active in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. After one such visit a MSD operator was an award for valor, for his part in saving the life of a Bosnian woman who had been wounded by a sniper.
MSD operators are drawn form the ranks of experienced DSS agents. After a rigorous screening process, those selected for MSD training undertake an extensive six month training program at the DSS's Diplomatic Security Training Center (DSTC) in Maryland. During the training course MSD operators become certified field firearms instructors, anti-terrorist driving instructors, receive instruction in land navigation, precision shooting, counter ambush techniques, first-aid, and other tactical skills.
In addition to the training provided by the Department of state MSD operators attend training at a number of government and private facilities. MSD operators conduct extensive training at Dieter's Close Quarters Defense (CQD) in Easton, Maryland. Several times each year MSD operators attend two week training sessions. During the two week session MSD operators receive extensive training in hand to hand combat, defensive tactics, weapons handling, precision shooting, close quarters combat, and hostage rescue training. The last phase of the training includes a realistic hostage rescue exercise and a protective detail involving role players from a local town.
The MSD is outfitted with the state of the art equipment, weapons and communications gear. Uniforms are composed of dark blue SWAT style fatigue pants, blue polo shirts with the DSS special agent badge on the breast, combat boots of various manufacture, Kevlar RBR Combat helmets equipped with the TSSI suspension system, ballistic goggles, level IIIA Kevlar ballistic vests, gas masks, Motorola radios with ear piece and throat mikes to allow hands free operation, first aid pouches, "Eagle" load bearing vests, and Camelback hydration systems.
In addtion to their commucations gear, MSD operates various night vision devices, and other forms of electronics. When operating in unfamiliar environments, they are known to use the Garmin GPS II Plus for navigation.
As for firearms, the MSD as a number of weapons available. MSD operators seem to prefer the HK-53A5N, 5.56x45mm NATO assault rifle as its weapon of choice. MSD selected a retractable stock and the Navy-trigger, and 30 round magazine. The rifle is fully ambidextrous and offers single shots and full automatic. All of the rifles used by the MSD are fitted with the Sure-Fire Model 628 flashlight under the muzzle. Several of the Rifles are equipped with the Trijicon ACOG scope. The C-MAG double drum magazine holding 100 rounds is also available for this weapon. Pistols consist of the SIG-Sauer P228, 9x19mm Parabellum. It is a compact version of the P226. It features a 13-round magazine, but can also use the 15-round and 20-round magazines of the P226. They also make use of other weapons found in standard DSS arsenals including, UZIs, HK MP-5 and HK MP-5K PDW 9mm submachine guns, Remington 870 12-gauge shotguns, OC pepper spray, ASP collapsible batons, and distraction devices ("Flash bangs"). MSD operators also make use of body bunker ballistic shields.
MSD operates a small fleet of Counter Assault Team, or CAT (heavily modified Chevy Suburbans) vehicles as their primary mode of land transportation. When air travel is required MSD has access to the Department of States air fleet, and they also maintain mutual aid agreements with the Department of Defense (DOD) that allow them access to DOD aircraft.
The Department is conducting a comprehensive curriculum review of the Regional Security Officer (RSO) Training Program and is implementing the recommendations of the Boards during this process. Training in counter-terrorism methodology, explosive ordnance disposal, chemical/biological warfare, surveillance detection, and other related topics are being included in the syllabi for the Diplomatic Security Training Center's Basic Special Agent Course, Special Agent In-Service Course, Regional Security Officer Basic Course, and Regional Security Officer In-Service Course. The Diplomatic Security Training Center (DSTC) has doubled the amount of time spent training RSOs on explosive ordnance disposal from one to two days, and plans to expand this training to five days for subsequent classes.