Within Arm’s Length: The Extraordinary Life and Career of a Special Agent in the United States Secret Service
© 2014, 2018 Dan Emmett
Dan Emmett was a kid when he witnessed President Kennedy’s assassination on television, but instead of being shaken by the abrupt loss, he was intrigued by another person shown on the tape – -a man who, as the shots hit Kennedy, was climbing over the seats in an effort to shield the president with his own body. After a tour of duty with the Marines, Emmett applied to join the service that he thought so admirable as a child, and served in it for over ten years, protecting three presidents as well as numerous other.. Although not all agents protect the president, he was one of those who did, and in this memoir he tells a little bit about the training and the job. Readers interested in learning more about the men under protection should not expect to find much of interest here; Emmett considers tell-alls not only unprofessional, but vulgar. Instead, he writes about the training and some of the practices of the secret service, like having a tail car with a camera for the express purpose of capturing a president’s death on camera if it does happen. Secret service agents are expected to be extraordinarily competent, proficient in both combat and triage, and those who work with the presidential detail also have to be diplomats, especially if they’re charged with the initial site inspection and preparation for a presidential visits and have to convince local officials to make adjustments in their practices. Although service agents are regarded as brave, Emmett writes that the intensive training makes responses like jumping in front of the president reflexive. Even so, their choice of occupation is courageous. The presidential detail itself is physically brutal, as agents sometimes forgo meals and sleep in an effort to keep up with a traveling president’s schedule. Most burn out within five years, and — like Emmett — retire to join another government service. In Emmett’s case, that was the CIA, but of course he says even less about it.