Imagine this: a hot July or August afternoon, 1972 Laredo, Texas; the middle of a high profile presidential reelection campaign.
It seemed the whole city had turned out to catch a glimpse of Mr. Nixon. The plan was to drive to the ramp of Air Force One, put the president into the car and drive from the airport to the city. The motorcade was all aligned according to standard protocol; police lead motorcycles and escort, a lead car with police and the advance agent, the new presidential limousine, Secret Service follow-up with agents and a doctor; White House staff in appropriate cars, the traveling press, a tail car and tail police car. Everything was in preplanned order, What could go wrong?
I, Agent Dale June of the United States Secret Service was the driver of the limousine, and while monitoring the radio transmission awaiting the words, “We have a touchdown” watched Air Fore One gliding down toward the runway. It was only a matter of minutes before the plane would taxi to the arrival spot. All was in readiness, the car was running, the front and back seat air conditioners were on and inside air temperature was at a very comfortable level. What could go wrong?
What could go wrong did go wrong as the landing wheels of the plane touched concrete. Suddenly a large puff of steam from the overheated radiator shot out from under the hood! The traveling mechanic who always accompanied presidential motorcades, quickly ran and opened the hood. “The car is undrivable!” he declared. It was estimated the time remaining before the parking of the plane was less than five minutes. There was no time to get another limousine so a quick assessment of options was done as all the cars in the motorcade were quickly looked at as a possible replacement. The only obvious choice was the very last car before the tail car.
The car was a “souped up” high power Oldsmobile or Pontiac (I don’t remember exactly) but it was a “four on the floor” convertible that seemed to roar as it idled. I gulped and said a quick “Thank you, Dad” to his father and the U.S Army who had taught him how to drive a standard transmission vehicle under some very difficult circumstances. In this instance, it had to be driven at parade speed of approximately 2-4 miles per hour along the main street of Laredo.
All occupants were quickly evicted from the car and I drove it to the front of the motorcade at the same time Air Force One arrived at the stopping point. There were many questions from the president, his immediate staff and the agents on the plane. The answers were quickly made and the president got into the back seat. As the car approached the city main street, President Nixon stood up to wave at the crowd with his right hand, with his other hand tightly grasped onto the back of the front seat. I can tell you my knuckles were clutching just as tight as I held the steering wheel. My concentration was at its highest, with my foot on barely touching the gas pedal as I knew this particular car had a lot of get up and go.
Happily everything turned out well. I later learned the Airman owner of the car was sitting at home watching the parade and eating his lunch. Suddenly he saw the President of the United States riding in his car. He jumped up and gave a loud, “The God damned President is riding in my car!”. Later an autographed photo was sent to the airman.
Even when an unexpected inconceivable event happens, pretend you know what you are doing, even if you don’t. Others around you won’t know you don’t know. In other words, move quickly and confidently! Resolve the Issue. Don’t mutter, don’t complain. The lesson learned is, What can go wrong might go wrong, even if you are already thinking about it in advance.
Anything that Can Happen Will Happen… Even the Inconceivable
By: Dale June
Dale L. June (MA) former U.S. Secret Service Agent, Presidential Protective Division at the White House serving under three US Presidents. With a distinguished career of service that has included, Law Enforcement Officer, Military Policeman, US Customs Intelligence Specialist, University Professor, and Author. An educator and teacher, Dale holds a M.A. Degree in Criminal Justice from George Washington University as well as a B.A. Degree in Public Administration, from Sacramento State University. He is the Author of the seminal piece, An Introduction to Executive Protection and the Co-Author of the best selling, An Introduction to Celebrity Protection & Touring.
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