NAVAL BASE IN THE MOUNTAINS

Blue Suits and Shoulder Holsters

By Harry M. Covert

            It is rather refreshing to have a breather from all the animus enveloping us all from the murders home and abroad and all the yapping about “boots on the ground” instead of the truth about troops in battle no matter what description is on the lips of the wizardry newsies, politicians or even poll takers.

            How about the grilling of the former Secret Service director? The billion-dollar-agency is charged with protecting the president and his family, the vice president and his relations and to provide the muscle when foreign heads of state come calling, usually to tap the treasury, buy weapons of all sorts and medicines for health and happiness.

            The good citizens of Frederick County, Maryland may not realize it but this part of the Free State is Shangri-La. Take a ride up Route 15 to beautiful Thurmont. Right there is a Naval Base. That’s correct, in the heart of the Catoctin Mountains; the Naval Support Facility Thurmont is in charge of Camp David, the presidential retreat. For the historically impaired, President Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, named this idyllic spot Shangri-La.

            For the record, General-President Eisenhower, a Republican, renamed the facility in 1953 for his grandson, David, who today is a historian of note.

            Of course, while the Navy provides for upkeep, troops from the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., provide permanent security with guns – M16s and various side arms. The Secret Service protects The President here too. Oftentimes, the Frederick County sheriff and his deputies assist in traffic security. Sometimes the feds forget to inform the locals of the fly-in.

            Further, the fourth estate’s purveyors are also around when The President is in residence. To date, no reports of gate crashers or violators of the compound have been reported. Thurmont area eateries have enjoyed catering to the correspondents who find great pleasure in expense accounts and what is often described as “swindle sheets.”

            While the Secret Service’s former director was facing devastating interrogation from Congress recently, with some public CYA, not “posterior osculating” this week, none of the esteemed agents have been lured to any houses of ill repute in and around Frederick County’s communities. Local lawmen and lawwomen apparently have either kept close eyes on any such bawdy facilities or they locked down possible dens of iniquity, if they even exist.

            Perhaps security has been a bit lax of late around the Presidential Manse in the District. The probes have made good television and newspaper coverage. The USSS, as it’s known in acronyms, is really a first-class agency and probably with one of the most demanding in the world. How many men and women want to give their lives for whoever is the President? Don’t answer. Fortunately, local police agencies on all levels have limited responsibilities in this area, even though they are often in the cross-hairs. Pennsylvania is still searching for a killer on the loose.

            Lots of the Protectees, present and past, do try to slip away from their guardians. Not to be unfriendly but retired -agent Dan Bongino has a written about the trials and tribulations of the agency. He is also campaigning diligently for Maryland’s 6th District Congressional seat, which includes Frederick. He is no minor leaguer nor was he on the “JV” team.

            The retired director now will spend more time with her family. An Acting Director is on the job. It was quick but that’s the way it works.

            One of the cleverest Protectees was and is President Clinton. He still has the blue suits with all kinds of should holster equipment driving him around. A few years ago he was speaking at a Virginia Senatorial campaign. Of course he was late arriving, slipping through a side door of city hall. The agents had the schedule all detailed to the moment, this room at such and such a time and then this glad-handing, and so forth.

            He was clever. Looking for the lavatory, which had already been searched for explosives and any excitable fan, Mr. C quickly glided down a hallway out of view to visible dismay. A smiling Mr. Clinton saw four visitors. He walked straight up to them, grinning from ear to ear, “Hi, I’m Bill Clinton.”

            Naturally the four shook hands and ventured into happy talk. It was pleasant, too, because he spoke directly to each. One of the new friends introduced the wife of the city’s sheriff. Without missing a beat, Mr. C grinned, “Well, I guess I’ll have to behave myself.” Oh, yes, his armed entourage caught up in moments. They weren’t grinning or smiling.

            But, Mr. Clinton was in top form too. The First Smiler thrilled them all inside and outside.

            I knew then why he was successful. A smile and handshake goes a long way.◄