written by Justin Fields
“It’s not about fear, it’s about safety.” Garrick Fernbaugh squares his shoulders and looks me in the eyes when speaking. He has that rare combination of command presence combined with calm affability. “We want to help you improve your security posture and increase your confidence in the plan,” said Fernbaugh.
At a time in America when school shootings sadly seem to be the new norm, Fernbaugh has difficult truths to impart, but exudes a trustworthy manner that makes you listen. He didn’t study how to protect children and civilians in classes stateside. As a 20-year veteran of Navy SEAL Teams 5 and 3, Fernbaugh lived that experience in dangerous places from Baghdad to Beppu, and Kunsan to Kabul.
Fernbaugh, along with his company founding partner Shannon Monihan, say they created Red Frog Security to provide elite protection strategies that are above the usual industry standards. By staffing elite first responders, they’re able to provide jobs for former military personnel stateside.
Monihan brings 25 years of experience in a variety of industries, with the last 16 focused on business development and marketing, including her work as a flight attendant, where pre-9/11 training in security measures has informed her world view. “It was substitute teaching work, in-between flying, that fueled my desire to become focused on ways to protect children,” said Monihan, “in addition to being a mother of two.”
On a sunny summer afternoon, I met with Fernbaugh and Monihan aboard motor torpedo boat PT-658, the last remaining operable World War II PT boat, and discussed Red Frog’s unique approach to protecting schools and other public facilities.
Can you describe for our readers what Red Frog Security does for its clients?
: It all begins with an assessment that includes topics such as crisis leadership management, communication and even non-lethal weapons. It takes discussing all this and more to formulate a well-built plan. Next we provide risk mitigation solutions. Our goal is to transition your school from being viewed as a perceived “soft” target to a “hard” one. This is a paradigm shift in the way security has been previously approached.
You two have an energy and chemistry that is palpable and fun to be around. Is that because you have shared goals and dreams, something to accomplish together?
SM: Absolutely, I have a passion for marketing and business development and Garrick has an extensive knowledge base of security and counter-terrorism. Red Frog became the
pathway for blending the two. We started laying the foundation while he was overseas during our Skype calls. The movie 13 Hours does a great job of showing what it’s like to exist in that lifestyle. Starting this company would be a way for him to work from home for the first time in years.
I love working this company with Shannon. I completely fell in love with her on the first date. After heading back to Afghanistan we talked a lot on Skype about the company I was developing. Eventually I dropped the original concept in favor of a new company we would develop together.
Do you guys work well together?
GF: Our skill sets and resumes definitely compliment each other. I think people are surprised to hear that we get along so well on a daily basis.
SM: Together we’re an unstoppable force and tackle each mission with passion. Genuinely enjoying each other’s company is key, along with lot’s of laughter and great communication.
At About Face Magazine, we really like to explore those formative times when everything begins to gel. What was your “ah-ha” moment?
GF: For me, it came after a threat assessment we had just done for a medical facility. I just remember this great feeling going away that we had really helped these people. It was a great feeling I’m hoping to repeat every time.
SM: After graduating from U of O, I worked as an international flight attendant for Delta. Annually we went through some- thing called jet recurrent, which was emergency scenario based training in Atlanta. The drills focused on strategies that became second nature in the event of an emergency. So when situations occurred, we were never frozen in fear. Our training kicked in, and we went into “auto pilot”. I felt that same concept could be successfully applied to teachers and students in schools, as well as other environments. I’m often asked about those emergencies still, and in every situation, my crew and I reacted with calm authority. As a result, the passengers felt safe.
Garrick, when we initially met you shared some harrowing tales of intense conflicts that required you to rely upon the extensive training you received as a Navy SEAL. Can you tell me about those experiences?
GF: Probably the biggest takeaway for Red Frog is an experience that I had in Kabul, Afghanistan. One night at the Embassy Annex one of our guard force guys turned on us. He began ripping off rounds with his AK-47, firing through the dining facility windows. He killed one, and wounded 4 others. I was the first responder who engaged him and suppressed fire. It’s an attack profile referred to as a green-on-blue. The attack is essentially an active shooter, with a terrorist element. So, this personal experience has given me invaluable insight that I apply when appropriate.
How does that experience relate to all the recent shootings we’ve seen?
GF: Orlando comes to mind, because that wasn’t a typical active shooter – it was a terrorist attack similar to my experience in Kabul. Terrorists are likely to have at least some training, as we saw in Orlando. In fact, the shooter hit one of the SWAT officers in the helmet, just above the brow. That was a well- placed round fired under pressure, and in complete darkness. Not what you’re likely to see from an active shooter. Reportedly, there was an off-duty police officer in the club who was armed. And, he’s up against a guy with an AR15-type rifle. Same situation I had been in basically – pistol against a full-auto AK-47 at night. Now, I don’t want to judge that officer for what he did or didn’t do, but speaking for myself, I had the confidence to engage the shooter due to all the training I’ve had. That’s what I aim to duplicate with our elite first responders.
Does Red Frog rely mostly on firearms for security, or does your strategy involve more than that?
SM: It’s definitely NOT all about guns. It’s about being prepared, having an effective plan, and having confidence in that plan reduces stress and anxiety.
GF: I’m not exactly a proponent of guns in schools unless it’s someone highly trained, more highly trained than typical School Resource Officers, or security guards. I’ve spent a lot of time developing a non-lethal weapons strategy for teachers, staff, and others within a school.
Every time we see a school shooting, I notice real emotion comes welling to the surface amongst my friends and family, particularly women. Are mother’s really fired-up about this?
SM: Mothers have contacted me during school lock-downs, and as you can imagine, they were highly charged as their child texted them from inside. I’ve also responded to requests from mothers who have received security alert emails from schools. It’s those types of first-hand experiences, along with the increasing frequency of these horrific events in today’s news, that tends to really get mom’s thinking about the safety of their children at school. I recently followed up with a mother who’s daughter was in a lock-down situation at a local high school last spring. She was as fired-up today as she was five months ago! This issue touches a raw nerve for a lot of people. I think I speak for many women in saying we’re truly mama bears. I would do everything within my power to protect a child. It’s in our nature. I may not be a Navy SEAL, but I think if I was in that situation, I would try to be brave like one. The key is to give schools some direction and strategy to respond effectively under pressure.
Garrick, how did your experiences in Afghanistan and other dangerous places as a Navy SEAL influence your desire to utilize your skill-set back home?
GF: I’m seeing problems, and I’m not seeing effective solutions. Clearly, there is an increasing attack trend. I’d like to help keep people safe. What that experience in Afghanistan provided was a look into different security strategies, and how effective they were. I’ve seen changes in response to an attack, and the increased security measures that follow. And, I feel these experiences help me to understand security much better than most folks.
I know the Sandy Hook School shooting had an impact on you and your plan to go forward with Red Frog. Can you tell us more about that?
Yeah, I was watching it on the news over in Afghanistan, and I was very upset about what I was seeing. At the time we were re-thinking our tactics after a green-on-blue attack at headquarters. I was intimately involved in developing those tactics. It seemed there were many parallels between what we were implementing there, and what would also work at Newtown. I began writing down my thoughts and ideas as they applied to schools. Initially, parts of the strategy revolved around firearms, as you might have guessed. But, eventually decided against it in favor of a non-lethal weapons strategy.
Non-lethal weapons strategy? That doesn’t sound like something a SEAL would come up with. Why did you decide on that?
GF: Well, there are a lot of training issues with firearms – lack of training to be more specific. I can’t expect teachers or staff members to shoot like Navy SEALs, or SWAT officers, so I came up with another plan that everyone can use.
Why is pulling a fire alarm in an active shooter situation a bad idea?
GF: When people hear the fire alarm they immediately think fire, and then think something like, “I don’t see smoke, or a fire.” So, people evacuate casually looking for smoke or fire, not a shooter. They flow out into channelized hallways and stairwells that make it easy. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel at that point.
How about a lack of cameras? How does that affect how people react in an emergency?
GF: Camera’s are important, but they should be understood in terms of what they offer. Camera’s offer information, but if that information isn’t received when it’s needed its of little use, and only provide a playback of what occurred. They can, and should be much more than that. So, part of what I do is analyze this process, and make recommendations to improve it.
So is one of the weaknesses naiveté? Is the problem that they are naïve about certain threats or how to handle them?
SM: I think they know improvements need to be made but do not know where
to begin. There’s conflicting information online and a void in information regarding what to do between when the incident occurs, and when law enforcement arrives. They may be told they have a plan, but is it really an effective one?
How does your work with clients begin? What is your approach?
SM: It all begins with a threat assessment to identify the mistakes and vulnerabilities in your existing plan. Next, we identify risk mitigation solutions to improve your security posture.
Can you explain how the Red Frog process is unique?
SM: We demystify security for you, and educate you along the way. Red Frog staffs elite first responders. Our teams were trained by the government who spent millions on them. We’re transferring that knowledge base into a civilian application. This is also incredibly personal for us. There are many families looking for the opportunity to have their husbands and fathers work closer to home.
Is the run, hide, fight approach some- thing you would recommend?
GF: Yes, but I’ve found it needs to be explained. Run, hide, fight suggests people should run first, and if that doesn’t work, hide. And if that isn’t working, then fight. Pre-thinking different scenarios before they occur is the key to survival. If you’re in an enclosed office space jumping right to fight might be your best chance of survival. Whatever the case may be, when the adrenaline hits, you will revert to your plan without much thought or hesitation. No plan equals panic.
Do you think that if the Pulse night- club in Orlando, FL or Umpqua College in Roseburg, OR had a threat assessment plan in place it would’ve saved lives?
GF: Yes. The first part of run, hide, fight, is to run, but they had nowhere to run to. So, identifying how people will get out is an important part of the assessment. At Umpqua, it’s worth mentioning an Army veteran named Chris Mintz held a door shut denying the shooter access. He was shot multiple times, but he lived, and saved the lives of others. He’s a hero. It’s clear they would have benefited most from our elite first responder option.
Can you tell me a little more about your elite first responders?
GF: Absolutely, so former Special Opera- tions veterans are hired to be onsite as our elite first responders. Uncle Sam has spent incredible amounts of money training these guys, and it’s all basically wasted when they get out. We put them to work providing a valuable service protecting people.
Aside from protecting schools what other kinds of places are potential targets that Red Frog could help protect?
SM: Other locations that might be considered soft targets such as hotels, manufacturing facilities, medical and business centers. It’s been common to hear stories of managers in fear of disgruntled employees. We have also developed a home security plan. When Garrick was still traveling overseas, he came up with some great tactics for the kids and I. Later that year we had family visiting, and Garrick began laying out a home defense plan for them. They’re not interested in having guns in the home because they have small children. So they were very responsive to having all the strategic information as well as non- lethal weapon options. That particular visit inspired us to complete the home Security Solutions download we have available online in our team store.
GF: We also have future plans to develop something for the cruise ship industry. I kind of miss those days of climbing up, diving under, and fast-roping onto ships! But seriously, I’ve secured a lot of ships in my time. I’m not sure who could be more qualified to protect a ship than a Navy SEAL.
For more information about Red Frog Security Consulting, call them at 503-740-3099, or visit them online at RedFrogTeam.com