April 14, 1865 began as a fairly normal day; the biggest change was that the Civil War had ended just a few days earlier. Abraham Lincoln was president and went about his routine in post-celebration for the end of the war, trying to reel the country back to normalcy.

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Medical Bag

One thing he did on April 14 was sign a new piece of legislation granting the right for a new security agency that would eventually become known as the United States Secret Service. Originally, their job was to stop the rise of counterfeit money that became popular during the Civil War. Ironically, it was that very day that Lincoln would go to Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., where John Wilkes Booth would find him and ultimately take the president’s life. The outcome of that trip to the theater changed the way presidents were guarded and after these events, the Secret Service slowly became the ultimate security detail for future presidents of the United States.

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iStock

Lincoln wanted the Secret Service to stop the rise of counterfeit money because in 1865, up to one-third of all U.S. currency was fake. In 1867, their job grew to investigations of people who were a threat to the government. And that is what the agency did for 30 years, but then things changed in the late 1800s. In 1894, the Secret Service began informal, part-time protection of President Cleveland, and in 1901, after the assassination of President William McKinley, United States Congress authorized the Secret Service to be full-time protection for the president.

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Vince Guerrieri

Over 100 years later and the Secret Service is still protecting our presidents, only with a lot more agents compared to the two who were first assigned to the White House detail in 1901.

Now that we know the history, let’s get into some secrets of one of the most secretive jobs on the planet.

They probably know more about the White House than the President.

The reason is simple: They have been around longer. Secret Service agents serve multiple presidents and world leaders and have to know the answers when asked, no matter how simple.

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Washington Examiner

Kathleen Hennessey and Christi Parsons‘ wrote for the Los Angeles Times about some work from long-time Secret Service agents. Shortly after moving into the White House in 2009, President Obama was walking around the White House but wasn’t sure where he could go. “In [Obama’s] early days in the White House, it was those seasoned agents, many of them veterans of the George W. Bush White House, to whom Obama looked for guidance,” Hennessey and Parsons write. “Obama once stopped in front of one of the formal rooms, hesitated, and then asked a Secret Service officer nearby if he was allowed to enter. ‘Yes, sir,’ said the officer. ‘You can go wherever you want.'”

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Obama White House Archives

It makes sense too; after all the Obamas were moving into a huge house that they probably had never really spent too much time in. We can only imagine how odd that would feel. Thankfully, they had a dedicated team of agents to answer any questions about their new home that would arise over the next eight years.

To No One’s Surprise, Their Training Is No Walk in the Park

During training, they have to do a number of exercises throughout the 493-acre facility located between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland. They have to be some of the toughest trained security members in the world, since they’re responsible for guarding the president.

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Karina Frayter/CNBC

As for the target practice and defense training, there is a fake town set up on the premises where trainees have to enact very real situations with a threat. Tim Wood, a former Secret Service agent told Mental Floss in an interview, “In order to prepare, agents undergo regular and rigorous scenario training, with an agent acting as a stand-in for the president while other agents try to navigate threats. To make the simulation effective, the training incorporates non-lethal ‘marking rounds,’ or plastic bullets that leave a colored trace and a superficial sting. Instead of a blank going off, you’d know if you’ve been hit or where you hit your target.”

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White House

Other parts of their training routine consists of physical training like push ups, pull ups, and running. Also, there is tactical training where they learn hand-to-hand combat, often training in suits so they know what it’s like to work in those clothes day in and day out. They also receive extensive firearms training where they are coached on various types of weaponry.

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Military.com

They are taught how to work with K-9’s and emergency response teams in any situation and how to help them work with the Secret Service. And of course, they learn driving skills, since you never know when you’ll have to evade a threat during a high-speed chase or pursuit.

You Can Apply to Join Them—Online

If you think you have what it takes, you can search for job openings at the Secret Service website here. It’s as simple as that. And they might really need you. 

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

John Roth, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, just said at a hearing on Capitol Hill in early July that there is currently a Secret Service “personnel shortfall”: 

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Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

“Mr. Roth estimated that the agency needs to increase by 1,700 employees in five years, to 8,200, if it is to properly perform its investigative and better-known protection missions.”

They Travel With the President’s Blood

The Presidential Protection Division is comprised of special Secret Service agents who assigned with the president’s safety. Whenever the president travels, certain agents with be stationed at surrounding hospitals in case of an emergency to lock down the hospital if the president would have to be rushed there.

Jeffrey Robinson, the co-author of former Secret Service agent Joseph Petro’s autobiography Standing Next to History, explains that agents are always trained in ten-minute medicine which is “Doing everything possible to keep the President alive until he or she can receive specialized medical attention in the event of an emergency. When they travel, they’re never more than 10 minutes away from a trauma center.”

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AP Photo

The traveling agents will also have bags of blood in the president’s motorcade in the event a transfusion is needed on the spot. This training is what helped save Ronald Reagan’s life after a 1981 assassination attempt.

They Never Leave the President Alone

It’s the life of a celebrity in that matter, proof of which can be seen in this YouTube video of President Obama walking around and going to a Starbucks. At some points you see Obama surrounded by only Secret Service agents, saying, “There is no one else on the street.” At another point, though, the guy filming was a little too close and he said, “C’mon now, you got to give me a little space” and, of course, an agent was there to direct him away immediately.

Barack and Michelle Obama occasionally voiced their frustration with having constant armed guards (even in the bathroom at times). In 2013, speaking to women in Tanzania, Michelle said living in the White House is like a “really nice prison.” 

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Getty Images

Barack’s biggest complaint was not being able to go for a drive or a walk like he used to. At a 2012 “Red, White, and Blues” concert at the White House concert, he explained: “Some nights when you want to go out and just take a walk, clear your head, or jump into a car just to take a drive, you can’t do it. Secret Service won’t let you. And that’s frustrating. But then there are other nights where B.B. King and Mick Jagger come over to your house to play for a concert. So I guess things even out a little bit.”

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BBC

It’s hard to blame the agents for doing their job, but ultimately, the Obamas (and every other presidential family) has been more than thankful that the agents will guard the family with their own lives, if necessary. It’s just part of the job.

If you ever end up playing government/presidential trivia, here are some interesting side notes about the Secret Service that will help you dominate the competition.

– The President has private chefs and Secret Service watches them prepare all their meals, at home and abroad.

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White House Photo

– If the president wants to order pizza, an agent will have someone else call it in and get it delivered to a nearby residence so there is less risk.

– Presidents are constantly being filmed, not just for paparazzi but in case anything happens, they can go back and see more information. When someone threw something at President Trump in Ohio in March, they were able to go back and look at the footage and later arrested the individual.

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Fox News

– Secret Service rents out the hotel floors below and above the president when they are traveling to ensure their safety. They also do background checks on all the employees and if one of them fails for any reason, they’ll make sure they are not working while the president is there. They’ll also lock down an elevator just for the president and have a repairman on standby in case anything goes wrong.

– The agents pick up new hobbies. Since the president is never left alone, if the Commander-in-Chief wants to run, the agents are going on a run. If the leader of the free world wants to golf, the agents at least walk the course.

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