Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles The alarm goes off bright and early, and you jump out of bed. It's time to get to work, and you'd better be on time because you have one of the most important jobs in the country. You work in threat assessment and investigation, with the goal of protecting your assigned VIP. But you're not in everyday protection, guarding movie stars or criminal witnesses. You're in the United States Secret Service, and your job is guarding the most important people in the country - politicians, diplomats, candidates, and even the President of the United States and their family. It wasn't easy to get here, and Secret Service agents are vetted more carefully than most federal agents. An exhaustive background check is the first step - after all, the government is putting the lives of its most critical representatives in your hands, so that record and browser history had better be squeaky clean. If you pass, it's off to boot camp - and while many Secret Service agents are military veterans, most say they've never experienced anything like this. The first step is three months of law enforcement training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico. Once you get through the same grueling process of military-style training that FBI and CIA agents go through, it's on to three more months of specialized training at the James J. Rowley United States Secret Service Training Center in Maryland. There, you learn marksmanship, driving, hand-to-hand combat, and threat assessment. But your real job would be far more dangerous than anything training had to offer. Only one in a hundred people make it through the training process, but you were one of them, and now you're ready for the most high-risk assignments this country needs. Well, usually. One of the biggest secrets of life in the Secret Service is that you don't know what you'll be doing from day to day. You're trained in countless tasks, and you often don't know where you'll be detailed until you get into work each day. Only a small percentage of Secret Service agents ever meet the President. The service has two primary missions. The protective mission is what most people think of - guarding high-level politicians and diplomats. You might be assigned to the President or a candidate on the campaign trail, but it's just as likely you'll be shepherding the ambassador from Latvia around town. Then there's the investigative mission, which is what the Secret Service was originally founded for in 1865. As part of the US Treasury department, it was designed to track and intercept counterfeit currency. It was only expanded to the role of bodyguarding the President after Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, and William McKinley were all killed by assassins in under forty years. Guess having a random bodyguard hanging around the President wasn't doing the trick. Even today, the majority of Secret Service agents are investigators, working on cases involving counterfeiting, financial and computer fraud, and money laundering. And if you're hoping to get on protection detail, you can expect to do two years on investigation detail before being considered. It was a lot of long, in-depth, often boring investigations, but you proved yourself to your superiors, and they began assigning you to protection details. All your charges came back safe and sound, and one day that call came - you were going to be protecting the President of the United States. Now your job is more high-stakes than ever, and your schedule depends on one thing - what is the leader of the free world doing that day? Where the President goes, you go, and that means you should be prepared for anything. Make sure you're in shape - if the President likes to jog, that means you're jogging too. Not only that, but you'd better be able to keep up because the President isn't supposed to leave your sight. The President is never alone when on the go and always has at least one agent by their side - that includes in the bathroom. When the President is working at the White House, the Secret Service's job is easier. They're stationed around the West Wing and have the entire place covered, but there aren't likely to be many threats around. Entry into the White House is carefully controlled, with everyone being vetted prior to coming in and searched for any potential safety hazards. Before being stationed in the White House, a Secret Service agent will be briefed on the grounds, the possible entry and exit points, and how to best protect the President in case of an incursion. Sure, the idea of an attack on the White House directly might be the stuff of popular action movies, but the Secret Service specializes in preparing for all possibilities - even the most unlikely ones. The President's protection detail spends the majority of their time in the White House and the surrounding grounds, so they probably know it better than the President does. But when the President leaves the White House, that's when he's at the greatest risk. And that's where the Secret Service's job gets trickier. All the successful Presidential assassinations have happened far away from the White House - at Ford's Theater, at a railroad station in New Jersey, at a convention in Buffalo, and via sniper rifle while the President was traveling in an open car. That's why the Secret Service protection detail's job involves reconnaissance as much as it does directly guarding the President. Before the President is sent anywhere, a Secret Service delegation will arrive at the key location and scout it. They will meet with the site's security team if one exists, coordinate plans, and map out the easy access points should they need to evacuate the President in a hurry. Even the safest-seeming location can suddenly become a dangerous one, and the Secret Service needs to be ready. That's what happened on September 11th, 2001, when President George W. Bush was reading a book to a group of elementary schoolers. Suddenly word reached the Secret Service of the events unfolding around the country, and they quietly informed the President of the crisis and coordinated their plans to evacuate him - without alarming the children. The President even had the opportunity to finish the book, but the Secret Service made sure there was no risk to him. If you want to be one of the most elite bodyguards in the world, you had better have eagle eyes. Much of the Secret Service's job is scouting out potential threats before they become threats. Every President has many angry people who didn't vote for them or aren't happy with the job they're doing, and they send letters or post on social media about how much they hate the President. But some of them take it too far, and they get a knock on the door from the Secret Service. If one is in the area that the President is visiting, that'll be one of the first stops of the pre-arrival detail. They'll interview the potential threat, assess if they're an actual danger or just someone who likes to yell at the President, and inform them of any criminal liability. While the Secret Service interviews many people whose posts weren't against the law but were concerning, the government does prosecute multiple serious threats against the President every year. After four assassinations in forty years, they're not taking any chances and it's worked - there hasn't been an attempt on the President's life since 1980. But what about when the poop hits the fan? One thing that was drilled into your head in the academy was to always be prepared. A Secret Service agent on protection detail has to be ready for any crazy event possible, and that means you'll never be traveling light. A Secret Service agent's usual cargo includes their service weapons, electronic gear giving them important locations, any important documents and equipment the President needs, and some of the President's blood. Wait, what? Yes, bags of the President's blood are part of the Secret Service gear. This is because all Secret Service protection agents are trained in emergency field medicine, and if the President is seriously injured, they can do an in-field blood transfusion to stabilize them to keep them alive until they can reach a nearby hospital. The Secret Service won't take the President anywhere without easy access to a trauma center. It was in-field medicine that saved President Reagan's life when he was nearly assassinated by John Hinkley in 1980. Most Secret Service protection details are uneventful, closer to being a chauffeur than a soldier. You drive the President places, make sure to maintain a perimeter around them, and keep a close eye on the surroundings. But as you drive the President to the golf course again, you know one thing that you signed on for when you were assigned to protection detail - if someone takes a shot at the President, you're expected to do your best to throw yourself in front of that bullet. Every Secret Service agent is expected to sacrifice themselves for the President if they can, and multiple Secret Service agents have been wounded in the field. In 1950, when Puerto Rican nationalists made an attempt on the life of President Harry Truman, Agent Leslie Coffelt returned fire and took three bullets. He is the only Secret Service member killed while protecting a President, and every agent knows they might be called upon to show the same bravery. As a Secret Service agent, you know that all eyes are on you to represent the country and the President. As an investigator, you were expected to abide by the government's code of conduct for agents, but the spotlight wasn't nearly this big. You and your team stay in a lot of luxurious hotels while guarding the President - only the best for the leader of the free world - but you can bet you'll be held accountable for trying to take advantage. You're confident that you and your team aren't going to fall into the same trap that a group of agents protecting President Barack Obama did on a trip to Columbia. They decided to take the opportunity to bring local prostitutes back to their hotel room and have a rowdy party. When this was exposed, it was a major scandal and led to some agents being dismissed, the leadership being called in front of Congress, and changes in policy for agents on protection detail. One thing that might surprise rookie agents is how much free time you have. Despite the critical nature of your job, you don't work more than a standard forty-hour work week. Agents typically rotate out of positions regularly and their schedules are determined by the President's, but the agency leadership makes sure no specific agent is overworked. That's because it's critical that a Secret Service agent be alert and at their best every moment of the work-week. A crisis that requires a fast evacuation can happen in a second, and a tired agent whose reaction time is seconds slower could throw the entire country into chaos. Agents switch out details every two weeks - you'll work the 8AM to 4PM shift for two weeks, then do the 4 PM to midnight shift for two weeks, and then rotate into the dreaded night shift. Everyone gets a chance at the best and worst shifts to keep everyone fresh. You're not going to be overworked, but it's not easy being a Secret Service agent. The constantly shifting sleep schedule makes it impossible to get into normal sleep patterns, which is why many agents switch out of protection detail after a few years and go back to investigations, which has a more regular schedule. The other big stress factor is the constant travel, which can keep you away from home for weeks at a time. If you live near Washington and the President doesn't travel too much, you can carve out some family time. But if it's election time and the President is jetting all over the country to kiss babies and try local sandwiches, you'd better get ready for some long-distance chats. For more on how the Secret Service protects the President, check out “The Insane Protection of the President of the United States”. And where does the Secret Service take the President during a major crisis? Find out in “What Does US President's Bunker at the White House Look Like”.