It goes without saying, but the United States Secret Service is a rather secretive group. It’s understandable, though, when you have to protect the president and other high-up government officials; you can’t exactly risk people knowing the ins and outs of your work.
While these men and women dressed in sunglasses and suits have long been cloaked in mystery, with a little research you can actually learn quite a bit about these brave public servants.
Just take these 21 top secret facts about the Secret Service, for instance. The next time you see them with the president, you’ll know exactly what they’re up to!
1. There are thousands of Secret Service agents: While you’re likely to believe there are only a few men and women who operate in the Secret Service, that is untrue. In actuality, there are more like 6,500 in total.
2. They’re not strictly assigned to protect presidents: In addition to the POTUS, these agents also serve and protect the president’s immediate family, former presidents, and those ex-presidents’ families, too. Furthermore, they protect guests of the presidents—like the Pope.
3. There are three steps to becoming an official Secret Service agent: As with many jobs, these men and women have to work their way to the top. First, they have to work in the office for three years, followed by four to seven years of completing different tasks. In the last step, they’re either sent back to do office work or promoted to a higher position.
4. Their rigorous training includes learning to throw themselves in front of bullets and learning to survive in water: This is done in order to prepare for the worst possible situations, including shootouts and even murder attempts.
5. They’re also trained to perform a number of first aid tasks: Every Secret Service agent is required to know basic medical skills. Likewise, they’re required to study and know the safest and quickest route—a 10 minute maximum—to get a president to a hospital.
6. They carry pouches of the President’s blood at all times: In addition to their basic medical skills requirement, agents are required to know how to perform a blood transfusion. For that reason, they always carry the pouches with them so there’s never a risk in using a donor’s blood.
7. The underground Mount Weather bunker is very real: Located in the commonwealth of Virginia, this bunker was built in 1959 in order to hide one government official when every other state official is gathered somewhere else.
8. Each president has their own code name: Surely you’ve heard agents in movies use code names for the POTUS. Well, it turns out, those are totally real. In most cases, the entire presidential family will use names with the same first letter. Barack Obama’s name was Renegade, Michelle Obama’s was Renaissance, and their daughters were Radiance (Malia) and Rosebud (Sasha).
9. The Oval Office is equipped with motion sensors in the floor: One part of a Secret Service agent’s job is to ensure the President is almost never left alone. If they needed a moment to themselves in the Oval Office, however, they can detect whether or not there’s movement or someone entering the room.
10. Secret Service agents participate in the president’s hobbies with them: Keeping in mind that the president can’t do anything alone, agents are required to do whatever hobbies the POTUS may have. Yes, that includes going for morning runs and hikes!
11. They attend doctor visits with the President: The President is under such tight monitoring that they can’t even see their own physician without an agent there to keep a close eye on the visit. That means for every shot, physical, or surgery, an agent is close by.
12. They trace every threatening letter sent to the president: The Secret Service has a database containing thousands upon thousands of ink types so they can easily track any anonymous letter sent to the President.
13. They record, film, and monitor just about every moment of their’s and the President’s lives: This way, should an incident occur that needs quick and accurate monitoring, they can easily find a perpetrator at the drop of a hat.
14. They never actually swear to sacrifice their life for the President’s: This rumor has long floated around as the testament to becoming a Secret Service agent, however, it’s completely false. While they do learn to take a bullet, they’re never forced to sacrifice their lives.
15. Just one Secret Service agent was ever killed in the line of duty: If an agent were to take a bullet for the POTUS, he or she does so voluntarily. On November 1, 1950, Leslie Coffelt became the first and only agent to ever lose his life. He did so while defending Harry Truman.
16. The Secret Service headquarters are a top secret facility: Though it’s known they’re located on H St. in Washington D.C., the building itself is not identifiable by any signage. Furthermore, they don’t keep trash cans close by, so no one can stash a bomb.
17. The United States Secret Service was first established on the day Abraham Lincoln was assassinated: Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch suggested enacting the service on the morning of April 14, 1865, the same night the POTUS was shot and killed at the Ford Theatre.
18. The agency’s initial purpose was not to protect the President: While the idea of protecting the President was floated after Lincoln’s death, the agency’s original purpose was to deal with financial fraud and counterfeiters. They still do that to this day, though their roles have most certainly expanded since that day in 1865.
19. They don’t actually wear sunglasses outdoors: Every time you’ve seen an agent depicted in a film, there’s good chance they wear sunglasses. In reality, they don’t wear them so as not to miss anything happening as the result of a glare or because it was too dark.
20. They are capable of making—and they do make—mistakes: One time when President Obama was riding an elevator with an armed agent, a man brandishing a knife managed to climb over the White House fence and into the yard.
21. They’re always ready to defend the President: Just take a look at some of these agents; their hands are always placed near their waist, and in a manner where they could grab a weapon or react as quickly as possible.
Secret Service agents have always been shrouded in mystery, but these facts certainly make their jobs easier to understand.
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