Security “Defenders” support Secret Service

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – While many people know that protecting the President of the United States and other protectees is one of the primary tasks of the United States Secret Service, they may not know just how much Wright-Patterson’s 88th Security Forces Squadron contributes to that mission.

From recent vice presidential and presidential visits to Wright-Patterson and the surrounding areas, to the opening of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City and international events at the United Nations General Assembly, 88 SFS Defenders regularly augment the Secret Service.

“It’s rewarding,” said Staff Sgt. Seth Dale, an 88 SFS Military Working Dog handler. “It’s awesome to be able to travel and sometimes see your leaders behind the scenes and get unique perspectives. It’s definitely an experience no matter where you go.”

Dale has been a defender for some 11 years now, with seven of those as a MWD handler. Dale and his Explosive Detector Dog travel to wherever the Secret Service needs them, screening every location that a Secret Service protectee will go, from motorcades and office buildings to professional sports stadiums and major historical locations, to provide support for events that range from heads of state conferences and campaign events to family weddings and stops for ice cream.

It can be a busy schedule. Dale says that the Air Force has agreed to support 63 percent of all Department of Homeland Security and Secret Service requests for EDD support. That often means that Dale is met by other Air Force and joint MWD handlers to provide coverage at events all over the country.

“There’s no event that they don’t get Secret Service protection,” said Dale.

For the Secret Service, the assistance Dale and his colleagues provide is a vital service.

“It’s extremely critical,” says Kevin Dye, Resident Agent in Charge of the Dayton office of the United States Secret Service. “We have dogs in Washington, D.C. that we could bring in but the availability of handlers locally is a great asset. And, the speed at which we can get them is a lot easier because, clearly, we’re deployed around the world. Having a base locally is extremely helpful to us in the state of Ohio. We rely heavily on the armed forces for support in our mission and we appreciate it on every visit.”

Far from a 9-to-5 job, Dale says that augmenting the Secret Service requires him and his canine to be on the top of their game 24/7.

“[My supervisor] could walk in here right now and be like, ‘Hey, you need to be in Chicago tomorrow,’ At that point, I have to do my orders. I have to get the dog over to the vet, get the health certificates. I have to pack for him, pack for me. I need to get a vehicle. It’s a lot of logistics,” said Dale. “We’ve gotten so used to it though. I can knock out my orders in literally four or five minutes, get all that stuff taken care of and get ready to be on the road by tomorrow. It’s very quick.”

Every qualified EDD handler at Wright-Patt supports Secret Service missions, according to Dale. The Secret Service funds the operations with handlers taking orders to the Department of Homeland Security for the duration of the assignment. Dale says he does one or two jobs a month in support of Secret Service now. Back during election season though, when campaign events and area visits were at a very high level, Dale says he spent more time away than at home.

“There were several times when I would come back and I’d be back for one day. And, the day I’m back they’re like, ‘Hey, you need to leave again tomorrow,’’’ said Dale. “So, a lot of times, it was really, really quick turnarounds.”

Supporting the Secret Service isn’t for everyone. Dale says it takes a lot of personal time and requires a very high level of dedication. That’s something that’s not uncommon in the 88 SFS.

“I do like the higher professionalism and attention to detail,” said Staff Sgt. Malcolm MacDougall, an 88 SFS Unit Trainer, of his service in security forces. MacDougall is responsible for ensuring that all members of the 88 SFS are kept current on training such as Basic Life Support, baton, use of force, active shooter tactics, Taser, pepper spray and combatives, to name a few.  

And like Dale, and many other 88 SFS members, MacDougall supports Secret Service missions such as presidential and vice presidential visits to Wright-Patt and the local area. Though non-EDD security members don’t go on orders to support the assignments, the Secret Service’s appreciation for what they do is the same.

“They appreciate us a lot when we’re out there,” said MacDougall. “When we supported the vice president’s visit, we had a bunch of them, when he was gone and they were done, coming up to us and being really appreciative. They weren’t downplaying us for being Air Force Security Forces. They liked our help a lot because we’re doing essentially the same thing they’re doing.”

Dye says that Air Force security members’ role is not in law enforcement, but in protection. He says their training is commensurate with normal civilian police officers and credits their world-wide deployments for their exceptional flexibility and readiness.

“Those [defenders] are great and the command is incredible,” said Dye.

And, Dye would know. He was an enlisted Air Force defender himself for more than nine years. While he never served at Wright-Patterson, he did support Secret Service missions while on active duty. In fact, it’s the whole reason he’s now with the organization.

“It was a great experience and why I’m here,” said Dye. “It was an easy transition for me because security forces has a dual mission. They have a defensive mission and they have law enforcement mission. And, the United States Secret Service has a similar mission. We have a law enforcement mission, which a lot of people don’t know about, and we have our protective mission. So, for me, it was just a perfect fit. The Air Force set me up for success here.”