SPECIAL AGENTS

Presidential Protection 101

On the first day of Secret Service boot camp, this year's two dozen recruits were greeted with the following welcome speech: "Sometimes trainees pass out in the bathroom, so develop a buddy system among yourselves.” So it goes in Secret Service training, according to an article in the Washington Post that offers a rare glimpse into the making of the country’s premiere bodyguards. Presidents typically receive 3,000 threats a year, and Obama is outpacing the average. "If we make a mistake, it's going to be devastating for the country,” says current director Mark Sullivan. “We're not going to let the country down." Recruits train for 28 weeks on, essentially, a set—complete with fake colonial-style houses, a mock airport, and a facade-laden main street. But it's not your typical small town: “All day and many nights, explosions rock presidential candidates at the pizzeria...Behind every mailbox, lamppost and flowering bush, a killer possibly squats, racking his AK.” The recruits are taught to use whatever (legal) means necessary to fend off attackers: "You can hit them with your car, stab them with a big pin,” says a trainer.