Jan 23 2010

As Ives Sees It: Head on a swivel

By Dwight S. Ives

Despite the White House party crashers blunder, the US Secret Service consists of some of the most highly trained and experienced personnel in the world. Having had the honor to work periodically with some of these wonderful people over the past 30 years, I have had the rare opportunity to “talk shop” with quite a few of them.

Agents sometimes refer to themselves as heads on a swivel since they are ever alert of their environment, while at the same time striving to blend in as an “every day Joe”. Their teams are so inconspicuous that advance teams frequently come and go unnoticed for weeks in advance of a security event.

Most agents are in their thirties or forties and have had prior military service and/or extensive police training before being tested for the job. They spend almost a year in advanced training before becoming active.

Never assume you can identify an agent from a non-agent. The obvious ones are in suits, heavily armed, and extremely well trained: the crème de la crème. Only a small contingency of agents are visible at any time. Once, while meeting with White House staff, I made a comment about a barfly-type downstairs. Everyone laughed and said, “Oh, you met George. He’s with us (Secret Service). “

On another occasion, a friend of mine who works as an electrical technician was assigned to guard a critical spotlight. It had to remain on at all times during the visit of a world leader. When the event was over, he received the shock of his life when an agent walked in front of him and blinked a blue laser light. Instantly, a twinkling of blue lights flashed in the crowd and he saw several heavily armed men move their automatic weapons away from his direction. He never knew they were there.

Dwight graduated from the National College Republican Fieldman School to become a political instructor/consultant. Returning from Washington, DC, he earned dual Masters in Business Administration and Management.

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