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Typical Day

Alan Maninblack settles back in his chair in the Secret Service's Charlotte, NC, field office. He's just gotten orders to travel to Chattanooga, TN, to support that city's team for an upcoming Presidential visit. The White House protection detail has just passed on the logistics information on the agency's secure telephone network. There's not much time, reflects Alan as he looks at the preparation schedule. This must be one of those photo ops the White House keeps dreaming up.

Alan pushes his chair back from the conference table and returns to his desk. He doesn't have time to drive to Chattanooga, since it's afternoon now and the team needs him there the next morning. He'll have to fly, which means he's got to dash home and throw some clothes and toiletries into a bag and head for the airport. "Good thing Charlotte's got some direct flights to Chattanooga," Alan thinks. At least I don't have to sit in some crazy place like Philadelphia or New York, waiting for a connection to an airport just a couple of hundred miles away.

Mercifully, the flight goes smoothly, and Alan's settled into his hotel room about four hours later. He grabs a quick dinner and then sits down with two Chattanooga team members to plan the next day's strategy. First, they've got to scope out the President's speaking venue, somewhere inside the Chattanooga Aquarium. He's going to get on the soapbox about science education. "That's nice, Alan thinks, but that's not what concerns me."

The Aquarium is located smack in the middle of the city, with lots of streets radiating out through the commercial district and into the neighborhoods. The Aquarium is also situated fairly far away from the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, which means it might make more sense to ferry the President in by helicopter instead of having his motorcade weave through several miles of city streets. However, that means the team has to find an open space large enough for the helo to land. "This assignment won't be easy, especially on this tight time schedule," Alan thinks as he shakes his head. But that's why they give it to the Secret Service.

The next morning, Alan's team meets at the Aquarium, and then fans out across the city, each with his own set of tasks to complete by the end of the day. Although Alan's got a handheld GPS to help him figure out where to go, that's certainly no substitute for local knowledge or street smarts. That's why the local team members have taken on the task of finalizing the President's travel route, after determining a helicopter trip isn't feasible for flight safety reasons. Translated: That means there's not enough room for the helo to land safely in the midst of a city full of buildings.

Alan's job is to find, and neutralize, all the potential locations in which a terrorist could hide a small bomb. He types mailboxes, manhole covers, bank night deposit boxes, and newspaper vending boxes into his list. "Even soda vending machines and hot dog carts don't pass the smell test," Alan thinks as he walks along the motorcade route, and even through streets that surround it. Although the Secret Service can't telegraph their security perimeter in detail, it will extend somewhat beyond the President's actual travel route. Surprisingly, that task takes Alan the rest of the afternoon. They've got some security-cleared contractors to remove, weld shut, or otherwise disable any potential explosive locations the next day.

Alan meets with the Chattanooga team again over dinner. For security reasons, they can't discuss these Top Secret plans at a restaurant table. They've picked up a nice Italian meal, including some hot garlicky bread, to enjoy in the Secret Service office. Guess if they're all eating the bread, everyone suffers equally.

The President's trip is rapidly coming together. The Chattanooga team has mapped the travel route, including two alternate routes should there be a security problem while underway. The contractors will take care of the explosive hazards tomorrow morning, and then the Chattanooga team will do a final security sweep before the President's own advance team arrives to finalize trip preparations. They'll only have two days, and they'll have their plates absolutely chock full of last-minute logistics.

The President's Secret Service team will have to scope out the speaking venue, including primary and secondary exits. The team must also put together a crowd control plan, including a single security checkpoint with armed law enforcement and several types of detection dogs. The Chattanooga team will likely assume supporting roles in this important production, once they turn over primary responsibility to the President's protective detail. Alan could be called out at any time to handle unexpected logistics hiccups...even in the middle of the night. He won't get much rest until the event wraps up and the Secret Service teams can disband and go home.