Army's 'Secret Service' trains to protect leadership

by Sgt. 1st Class Lisa Hunter

FORT BELVOIR, Va.(Army News Service, March 9, 1998) -- The crack of pistol shots and the squealing of car tires caused sudden confusion, then a life-and-death struggle ensured. It looked like the filming of a police show for television. It was all over before the gun smoke cleared away.

For the soldiers of the Criminal Investigation Command's Protective Services Unit, it was just a regular day of training.

"We have between 40 and 50 agents who provide protective services," explained Special Agent Thomas Le Brun, training NCO for the Protective Services Unit. "We provide protection for people like the secretary of defense and the joint chiefs of staff. We're the Army's 'Secret Service.'"

The agents attend a three-week specialized protective services school before being assigned to the unit, but continuous scenario training helps the agents hone their skills for unexpected events that could occur during a real-life mission.

Fort Belvoir CID agents and military police teamed up for protective services training in February on Fort Belvoir. With military police soldiers acting the parts of would-be terrorists, the four PSU special agents played out a scenario of providing security for a visiting dignitary.

"This was training for our new agents. We have two new active-duty agents and two reserve agents who we are training," Le Brun explained. "The 'ambassador' has an itinerary of several places he's visiting on Fort Belvoir, and at every location, there will be an attempted attack on him, but the agents don't know that."

The agents work in teams. One works as the advance team, going ahead of the ambassador, checking the security of the area, speaking to people in the area to assess whether they pose any sort of threat to the dignitary. The second team accompanies the dignitary in the vehicle.

"We are here to protect the dignitary from any sort of attack -- assassination, injury, kidnapping or possible embarrassment," Le Brun said. "We have to anticipate any type of attack that could take place."

During the half-day training, a colorful array of pseudo-assailants put the agents through their paces. The ambassador's early-morning visit at the Provost Marshal's Office ended abruptly as the agents and the ambassador sped away from a female armed with pepper spray, before she had an opportunity to do anything. During his visit to a projected building site at Tompkins Basin, the ambassador narrowly escaped a water-balloon bombing by a disgruntled fisherman outraged at the idea of losing his fishing spot to new construction.

At the ambassador's last stop, the advance team foiled the assassins' first attempt by taking the ambassador in the back entrance instead of the front. But when the ambassador posed for a photograph upon his departure, the gunmen seized the opportunity.

As the assailants ran forward, guns blazing, agents scrambled to protect the ambassador and other agents rushed in for a no-holds-barred struggle with the would-be assailants, ultimately subduing them.

Following the attack, adrenaline was still pumping hard as the agents and military police examined their bruises, scrapes and -- in one case -- a ripped sweatshirt. Le Brun then critiqued the agents' performance. As the MPs and agents walked away slowly and stiffly, they did so with a little better understanding of what it means to serve with the Protective Services Unit.

(Editor's Note: Sgt. 1st Class Hunter is a writer with the Fort Belvoir Public Affairs Officer.)