What Does Success Look Like To You? – Andrew Smith

What Does Success Look Like To You? – Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith, Certified Protection Professional (CPP), is a seasoned professional with over 30 years of experience in law enforcement, security and emergency services. He holds a Bachelors in Biology and a Master of Arts in Defense and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College. Throughout his career, Andrew has served in a variety of roles that span both public and private sectors, where he has been instrumental in managing complex security programs and crisis operations. He was an Adjunct Instructor at the Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Center for Law Enforcement Medicine, where he taught tactical medicine. Andrew’s expertise in integrating technology with security operations and his commitment to continuous learning and mentoring make him a respected leader in his field. He is passionate about teaching and contributing to the development of future security professionals.

Q&A with Andrew Smith: Insights from a Retired US Marshal and Certified Flight Paramedic

Can you share how your journey in security and emergency services began?

My career started on my 18th birthday when I joined the local volunteer fire department while at Bucknell University.  This experience really formed my strong interest in public service and safety. This foundation provided a unique perspective on risk management and crisis response, guiding me into more specialized areas of security.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your field?

I have been accused before of being “an idea guy” as both a positive and a negative.  Many of these ideas have originated from challenges, particularly staying ahead of the rapidly evolving nature of threats, whether they are cyber, physical, or related to natural disasters. Each of these required a proactive approach and innovative solutions, which are often difficult to implement swiftly and efficiently across large organizations.  Innovation is not always well received, particularly within larger established organizations.  Convincing my peers that change is vital to success has been my biggest challenge.

Over your career, how have you seen the field of security change?

The integration of technology has been the biggest change. I remember graduating from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center with a Ruger GP-100 revolver for example.  Clearly, now modern law enforcement has tasers, body cameras, and electronic surveillance.   When I started, a lot of processes were manual, and data was not as centrally involved in decision-making as it is today. Now, we use advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence to predict and mitigate risks before they materialize.

What personal attributes do you think are essential for success in security and emergency services?

Resilience and adaptability are crucial. This field requires an ability to remain calm under pressure, think on your feet, and quickly adapt to new information or changing situations. Additionally, strong leadership and communication skills are essential to effectively manage teams and convey critical information during crises.

Can you discuss a particularly rewarding experience from your career?

I have been very fortunate to have found niches within my job that bring me great personal satisfaction.  Teaching in emergency services has been incredibly rewarding. Sharing the knowledge and experiences I’ve accumulated with the next generation of law enforcement and emergency services professionals, and seeing them apply these lessons in their careers, has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my work.  This is particularly true as I look back at the United States Marshals Service Operational Medical Support Unit.  This program merged my interest in emergency medicine and tactical operations. I remember being told that the government would never approve such an idea.  I refused to accept this position as I believed in the idea.  Now there are numerous examples of lives saved by the valiant men and women who serve in this unit.  

How do you approach leadership in high-stress environments?

In my opinion, leadership in high-stress situations is about maintaining clarity of thought and purpose. It often involves making decisions quickly based on imperfect and incomplete information, communicating effectively, and most importantly, ensuring the well-being of your team. I also believe in leading by example; showing your team that you’re alongside them in the trenches can significantly boost morale and effectiveness.

What advancements in your field do you find most exciting right now?

The advancements in automated security systems are particularly exciting. These systems can significantly enhance our ability to monitor and respond to threats in real-time. They also allow us to be more predictive about potential security breaches, which is a game-changer in the field.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in security or emergency services today?

My advice would be to embrace every learning opportunity and to seek diverse experiences within the field.  Even as an experienced professional, never stop learning. Security and emergency services encompass a wide range of specialties, and understanding the interconnections between them can greatly enhance your ability to respond effectively to incidents. Also, never underestimate the importance of building strong relationships within your community and professional network.

Looking forward, what are your personal goals?

I enjoy learning, particularly understanding how things work and why.  At the same time, continuing to mentor and teach is something I’m passionate about. I continue to train new paramedics and believe in service to others.  Furthering education and training in crisis management and security not only prepares us for the future but also ensures that we have a well-informed, capable group of professionals ready to take on the challenges ahead.

Finally, how do you unwind from the demands of your career?

I find it essential to have hobbies outside of work. For me, that includes outdoor activities like hiking, climbing as well as endurance events. These not only provide a physical outlet but also help me maintain a balance between my professional and personal life, which is crucial for long-term career sustainability and personal well-being.