Derek Lyman

Secret Service Agent on 9/11 & Secret Trip to Iraq

In the debut episode of Interesting Humans with Jeff Hopeck, host Jeff Hopeck sits down with his guest Derek Lyman, a former U.S. Secret Service agent with a remarkable 25-year career.

Season  1Episode  152 MinutesNovember 2, 2023

Jeff introduces the podcast as a passion project aimed at sharing the stories of extraordinary individuals who have overcome challenges and adversities in life, and still managed to achieve success in their chosen path of life.

Throughout “Episode 1: Derek Lyman – Secret Service Agent on 9/11 & Secret Trip to Iraq,” Jeff Hopeck and Derek Lyman discuss their shared career paths and the adventures they’ve experienced along the way. Derek shares a memorable anecdote about his father’s disbelief when he revealed that he was on Air Force One


Key takeaways from Derek:

1. Trust where you are in life. Trust the people surrounding you.

2. Find your sense of peace no matter where life takes you.

3. Follow your passion in life. Persistence, resilience and taking risks can help you immensely in the pursuit of happiness.

 


Tune in to hear more inspiring stories from fascinating individuals.

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Timestamps:

[00:00:09] Proud dad moment there.

[00:04:58] A career in law enforcement.

[00:06:54] The polygraph experience.

[00:12:36] A secret trip to Iraq.

[00:13:36] Work-life balance and sacrifices.

[00:17:58] The significance of CAT.

[00:22:43] Proud dad moment there.

[00:24:09] Escape pods and airplane trips.

[00:28:08] The Bush family at the White House.

[00:30:24] Crushed finger incident.

[00:34:30] The hundred degree club.

[00:36:34] Running and biking with him.

[00:40:19] Finding Identity in the Secret Service.

[00:45:46] Cyber security age limit.

[00:47:09] Foreign trips and wartime experiences.

[00:51:23] Trusting life and finding peace.


Show Transcript

Transcript: 

Introduction snippet:

Of course, the guy’s like, okay, sir, stand by for a call from Air Force One. And he goes, oh yeah, right. And he hangs up the phone.

Proud dad moment there. Whoa, he hung up? Come on.

He did.

Oh, that makes this even better.

Yeah, he hangs up the phone. And the operator, remember, said to me, okay, we’re going to do this one more time. If he hangs up, I’m not calling back. Calls back again, hello. I said, and I go, dad, don’t hang up the phone. He’s like, where are you? I’m like, aren’t you in Texas? I said, no, I’m on Air Force One. He goes, what? I said, turn on the TV. Well, at that point, they finally let the news know.

 

Podcast transcript:

Jeff:

Welcome, everybody, to episode one of Interesting Humans. I’ve got an awesome guest here today. We actually share similar roads in our career, so I’m excited to have Derek on here today. I’m Jeff Hopeck. I’m going to be your host.

This podcast is a passion project for me. I’ve been so fortunate to do some really cool stuff in the first 45 years of my life. Everything from U.S. Secret Service, where today’s guest, Derek Lyman, had a remarkable 25-year career.

I’ve traveled the world, started multiple businesses, had a long, fruitful run in residential real estate, and the list goes on. The point of this podcast, along the way, I’ve met some truly remarkable humans. And as I said, this is a passion project for me. So I really want to get their stories told because stories are inspirational for all of us.

These are men and women here that have endured so much to get to where they are today. They just did not stop. And they literally risked it all at times. They’ve risked it. to get everything that they wanted from their lives. These are gonna be everybody from F-18 pilots, retired Secret Service agents, Olympic sports coaches, entrepreneurs, and the list just goes on and on and on.

So today’s guest, let me introduce Mr. Derek Lyman. And Derek, thank you so much for taking the time to come out here.

Derek:

Thank you for having me, Jeff. I really appreciate it. It’s great to be here.

Jeff:

Yeah. This is going to be, like I said, a very special episode. Derek and I go back 15 years. Derek, as I said, retired from the Secret Service as an agent. 25 years, has remarkable stories, but did a handful of missions that are really, truly unique and I can’t wait to unpack some of those stories today because some of them are truly my favorite stories of all.

So Derek, let’s. Let’s start off by telling the audience, where are you at right now in your life?

Derek:

Currently, I work for Commissioner John King in the insurance commissioner’s office here in Georgia. It’s basically insurance commissioner of insurance and safety fire. I’m the head of the CID division, so we investigate all insurance fraud.

We’re all post-certified officers, all have arrest powers. basically handle any type of insurance fraud, whether it be with an individual, with an insurance agency, with an agent. And we have arrest powers for that, because insurance fraud is a felony here.

So I head up about a division of about 25 to 30 people, and we’re growing, getting bigger. We’re hiring. So that’s a good thing as well. But I’ve been there a year this past August. And it’s been great. Been great. Really enjoy it. kind of has taken me back to my original roots as an APD officer and Atlanta PD. So that’s been great too, which I really enjoyed that.

Jeff:

That’s awesome. Which leads me right into the next question is, I want to sort of go all the way back and get up to how one possibly has even the desire to get in the secret service. So sort of walk me through your life as you, as far back as you can remember.

Derek:

It was interesting because I was one of the few young people that knew right early on I wanted to go into law enforcement. I’d say by my 10th grade year, I just, it always interested me. It always interests me to know that there were people out there that were not sitting behind a desk.

You’re out there working every day. You’re on the street. You’re, you’re interacting with folks. You’re chasing bad guys. So actually my, my senior year of high school, they allowed us to do an internship just that year.

And I lived in Madison, New Jersey at the time. My dad was working for a radio company that his headquarters was in New York. So I finished my high school years, my junior, senior year up in New Jersey. And they offered me this The opportunity to go out and find something. So I went to my local police department said, Hey, I want to do two weeks here. I just want to kind of get a feel what this is. Next thing, you know, it just kept moving forward.

Then when I went to university, Georgia, um, criminal justice degree, I had to do a whole, uh, semester, uh, internship, which I did. at a sheriff’s office in Maryland. So it was just always something that I always wanted to get in law enforcement.

I didn’t know I was going to go to the Secret Service. It wasn’t like that was my goal. My goal was to become a police officer. And then as soon as I get out, probably within five months, I was working for Atlantic PD on the on the street getting some wow amazing experience.

Jeff:

that’s real stuff there that’s all that’s awesome though okay so something happened there had to be a pivotal point so you’re a cop right in uniform uh out of uniform okay in uniform on the street on the streets yep what take me to the year this is

Derek:

Uh, so that would have been about a year in I had, uh, I met with a gentleman that my dad knew who was in the secret service and I had kind of put out there that I was interested in going to federal work and, you know, I’d had a degree and everything. So I knew I could do that.

And I met with him, and he had been on the vice president’s detail, or was still on, I should say, and we just happened to be able to sit down and chat. And his initial thing was, hey, just put out your application to everyone, which I actually did. I actually threw it out to the FBI, I threw it out to the Secret Service, threw it out.

I think to the DEA and marshals, I just kind of applied to everybody. Sure. Secret service sounded interesting to me. And the secret service was actually the first to, to respond to me and started going through all those initial steps, the interviews, the, uh, polygraph, and actually went all the way through the polygraph past it, which you and I both know, and it’s a very, It’s very difficult thing to do. It’s very polygraph was, was stressful.

Yeah. Um, but then they quit hiring. So that was about, I think 94 or five, they did a freeze, which agencies do. Yeah, sure. So they froze it for a year and then they started the process again. Only she was, I had to do the polygraph again. So I did it twice, made it through twice, which is, uh, which I guess says something that I made the polygraph twice. Um, and got hired in 96.

And obviously, as I was applying, I learned much more about it and their mission and how different they were. Because I think the presidential thing takes priority, and that’s what people see. But when you realize why they were created, how they were created, what else we were doing, there’s a lot more to it than just that. Yeah, than just the production part.

Try to get the audience literally into the seat of what it’s like when you walk out of your, the first polygraph. What did you say as soon as you came out of the polygraph? I did not pass that. I told the truth, but I didn’t pass it. Um, and I think what you learn is, is the polygrapher tries to zero in on something, even if there’s not something there, they, they, they really want to zero in on something just to try to get you going. And, um, my big thing was I told him I’d never, drugs before, cause I hadn’t, I just had never tried it, never experimented, nothing, not even marijuana.

And he started, Oh, you know, throwing his pen down. You’re lying to me. And he’s trying to get me riled up and. you know, I turned out in the end when I got to know the guy who was in the Atlanta field office, whereas where I stayed, I got hired there and stayed. I didn’t get sent to one of the bigger offices.

Right. He, uh, when I saw him later afterwards, of course he was, yeah, you know, I had to do something there. There’s nothing going, but I had to at least project, try to get you fired up for, for what was happening. And, uh, Which is, which is a lot of it. Um, so yeah, it’s, uh, it’s not a good feeling.

And when I went back for the second one, he was a lot more calm and said, look, you know, I think you’ll same guy. I think, yeah, same guy. He said, I think you’ll be, you’ll be all right. Just, just, you know, tell the truth again. It’ll be fine. It was so, so you come out feeling very little.

Right. So if you’re, if you’re out there listening right now, And you did not feel this way when you left a federal polygraph. Please leave a comment below because I remember literally making five phone calls after that to my sort of second like back out plan going like already even getting something started because I was like, there’s no way I passed. Yep. No way at all.

Jeff:

Right. So, all right. You, you get in secret service. You’re what year again? That would have been 96. Something happened in 96 to start off your career? Were you part of the Olympics? What was going on?

Derek:

The Olympics is interesting enough. You’re right. I got hired and my last Our last two weeks where the, where the Olympics were. So we’re in the second to last week. And when the bomb goes off, of course, and then my actual last working day in the office was the closing ceremonies on Sunday.

So when we graduated Friday, technically you’re supposed to have a whole weekend to, you know, travel home and start on a Monday. Well, no, we had to get back, um, on that Saturday because that Sunday morning I had to be up. I think it was at, um, Uh, Dobbs air force base or Dobbins Dobbins. Yeah. Had to be there for the arrival of AF two for the vice president.

And they were always standing posts on the runway. My first day just here I am out of school and on the runway out there at the airport and the runway and you know, dealing with all that. So yeah, it was, it was, it was a flying start right after the Olympics happened.

And of course, you know, that’s a whole, those Olympics were a whole separate thing with the bomb going off and everything. Yeah.

Jeff:

And in your career, if I understood, um, when we talked before the podcast started today, you didn’t really have any sort of downtime, so to speak. It was like one of big event after another.

Yes. So you get in and there’s the Olympics and then we’re going to get into some of the other stories, but, but for now, do you, do you have a favorite story of all when you were in?

Derek:

Um, I guess it can kind of be broken down into, uh, trips, but also experiences I’d say, um, in terms of my career, um, the first, uh, campaign with George W. Bush when he was running in 2000, which I was able to get on was just a great time. You’re talking three weeks out. Three weeks home, three weeks out, three weeks home. And in those three weeks, you’re working a day shift, an evening shift and a midnight shift. So yes.

And on the midnight shift, literally you’re working the midnight and you’re going right to the airport because you have to go to the next place, get your rest and be there for the midnight. So, um, Great. And in terms of what most people probably don’t realize is on the details, when someone’s running for president, there’s much more, what I would call intimacy on the detail, meaning you interact a lot more with the protectee.

So, you know, you and I both know the presidential details humongous. I mean, your, your number of agents are probably over like 300 or something. It’s just, it’s massive. So the day-to-day that you’re with on the, on the campaign is, you know, you’re in his private plane, you’re a lot closer to him. You’re at his house or governor’s mansion. So you get to know him better. He got to know me well.

And I got to know him well, just because. Um, you know, I’m, I was always friendly to him. Some, some agents aren’t feel like they can be friendly, but, but George W. Bush was just a very friendly person. And if he liked you, he would talk to you. So the intimacy was much better in terms of, um, the agents and getting to know him. So he pretty much knew everybody and addressed you, which was great. So that experience is great.

Um, my time in secret service would be my counter assault team time, my cat time, just being with that group, being able to work with so many special operations outside of the service, whether it be with, uh, the seals got to do a lot with their teams on various trips. Um, any of the other federal agencies who worked with HRT during, uh, the G8 summit.

So that in terms of that, and then trip wise, obviously, um, The secret trip that happened over to Iraq on Thanksgiving was pretty amazing trip just in itself and how that whole thing happened.

Jeff:

So I want to stop everybody there because I’m actually going to get some details today too. So this is going to be new for me. I know it from a high level and I’ve repeated this trip a bunch of times, but we’re going to get it straight from Straight from Derek today, this is going to be incredible.

In preparation for this next question, I want to just ask you something. Did you have work-life balance?

Derek:

I’d say when I was in, when I was in the detail, I was single. I wasn’t, you know, married, have kids, but I say it was, I say it took a lot of time. Um, and I think when you’re on the presidential detail, it’s, it’s very difficult. Um, cause the amount of travel, um, you definitely have to make it happen. You have to work at happening.

And I know guys that had, Wives and kids there, you know, it was difficult because you, you miss a lot of stuff. And that’s one of the things they kind of tell you going in is, and they say it in a way that you’re going to miss birthdays and anniversaries. You just gotta, you know, deal with it type stuff. But that’s difficult.

Now for me being single, it wasn’t as difficult. So my, I’d say my work life balance was good. I’d, you know, have time to, to work out. And, um, my parents did live up in Maryland, so I would see them, um, still be able to go do things out on my own. So there was, but it was also, um, when you’re on the, and then on a campaign year on the detail is very difficult as well. There’s just, you’re just nonstop. So it’s kind of come home. couple of days, go back out, come home. So it’s, it’s difficult.

I mean, back then it was four years on the detail. I think it might be longer now. And that, and that even was a lot. So yeah.

Jeff:

Yeah. Great. Awesome. So now, so now take that and then where were you the day that you got the call for this big story? What were you doing?

Derek:

The way it happens that we were working, we were the, I want to say we were the, um, day shift and we were down in Waco. So we were, we were at his Waco ranch. And as I was leaving, um, the, uh, GS 14 or what you and I would know was called the at sack, the assistant to special agent charge, who was, there that day, kind of pulled me aside by myself and said, Hey, I need to talk to you. And I said, okay. He said, listen, at about, he said about 1130 at night, I want you to meet me, meet you, your team, be ready. You dress, just meet me here. And I said, well, he said, I’m not going to tell you what it is. I just want you to be there.

And he gave me a spot not too far outside the ranch where we were all going to meet up. Wow. And I said, OK. So I got back in the truck with my guys. I said, all right, guys, we’re going to change the plans tonight. We’re not going to go out and have dinner and just relax as we thought we would. I said, we got to be somewhere at 1130.

And of course, everyone, same thing. All right, there’s something happening. Where are we going? What are we doing? Right. So we get all our stuff together, have all our gear, get our rifles, everything, and we’re at the spot. And that sack, again, I can’t remember his name, pulls up, and he’s in his car, and there’s a bunch of other agents.

And he said, OK. He said, just be in your cars. There’s going to be a car coming down the road out of the ranch, and we’re just going to Um, follow it to the airport where F1 is still, still not telling me anything, still no idea. You don’t know where you’re going.

So as we’re sitting there kind of in a single file line, here comes a car, completely just benign unmarked car. We have a car pulling front car pulling back and we go to the airport and after pulling the airport, who gets out of the car, but George W. Bush. No way in a car in a, just, they got them out of the ranch. They got them out of the ranch.

People, the ranch, people, the ranch didn’t even know he had left. So that’s how secret they kept it was. So even our agents, even the teams that were working there couldn’t know because that’s how secret it had to be.

So he gets out. Like, okay, we get, that’s when we finally get onto the Air Force One is when they finally sit us down and say, okay, we’re, we’re flying over to Iraq. We’re going to surprise the troops in Iraq for Thanksgiving day, essentially their day. And we’re going to be on the ground. I think they said about three hours.

So. We fly from, uh, Waco to DC first. And I think we did like either refuel or another fuel up in DC. So we arrive at Andrew’s very brief time. And I think, uh, they also fueled up the other plane as well. Cause they’re both flying, uh, leave there again. We can’t call, we can’t tell anyone anything, you know, nobody knows anything that’s happening at all. And I want to say the flight was about 13 or 14 hours. Maybe that’s, does that seem as time-wise?

So my only time on a F1 very, you know, it was the only time I was on it because I was on cat, which we didn’t fly on it. Of course, it was most of the detail that did.

Jeff:

Sure. Now at that time, hold on one second. Were you on cat at the time or were you on presidential?

Derek:

I was on cat.

Jeff:

So you were brought for your cat.

Derek:

Yep. My whole cat team was on AF1.

Jeff:

Let’s take one quick, quick, quick sidestep here. Explain to the people listening, they might not know cat. Some might’ve even been in the secret service in a different department. heard a cat. Tell us just a little bit about how significant cat is to the detail.

Derek:

So the counter assault team is a group of about six individuals and we’re the special operations group, essentially for presidential protected division. And we travel wherever the president goes. There’s always a team with us. If there’s some sort of an attack that we have to counter or go after We would deploy to take on that attack or if something happens They need us to set up a perimeter we could do that or if we have to leave a building leave an area We would be the team we would be the special operations team.

That would be essentially in front of the detail in front of him trying to take on possibly whatever Assault is happening to us. Okay. I’m actually recently watched a really good A clip on it from CBS morning. I don’t know if you saw that car like, but it’s a, um, but we’re essentially we’re there. You don’t see us. You won’t see unless, as they say, unless the stuff hits the fan, you would see us if it’s, if it’s a bad situation, not simply, um, you know, somebody trying to punch the president or in line or something where he had to be moved.

But if, if an assault happens or they think there’s a situation where we need to deploy to set up a perimeter, we would do it. So, um, the training is about, I think when I went through is about seven weeks and it’s pretty, it’s pretty tough. Um, yeah, uh, you train at it, obviously the JJRTC, the training facility for secret service. Um, but just a great group. And we just were, we’re special operators. So we, uh, carry rifles. Um, and, uh, we’re fully kitted up and, you know, we have basically what every other special operation groups has.

So yeah, it’s a great team and it’s, uh, um, love being on it. Love the guys that were on it and just, uh, Decided to make my whole ppd career with that as opposed to Most of them would go back to the detail for sure to finish out a year or two But I decided you know, I love it and they gave me the opportunity to stay and be a team leader So that’s what it is. Essentially.

Jeff:

That’s awesome All right, so back to our story here as it unfolds. So you’re in Waco, they sneak out the president, which still blows me away. I remember it blowing me away when you told me the story a decade ago. So you sneak him out, you get on Air Force One, you refuel in DC, 13 hours to Iraq. When the plane starts to descent, get us right there.

Derek:

We actually have to do a spiral, which is, you know, it’s essentially a spiral down because you can’t just come in. So we’re doing one of those where you’re spiraling down to the airport. Um, and my advanced guy, which obviously I found out once I was on the plane who had been there to do the advance for it. Um, actually we had Delta force there waiting on us when we arrived and went down.

So in addition to us, we had them, um, the base at the time, uh, obviously was fully, I don’t know how many, how many military they had there, but it was fully secure. Um, it was nighttime, obviously when we got there and, um, we had to make sure all the windows in the jet were out and everything. So it was, it was intense. Um, so we land, we get out, uh, we have obviously a butter kid waiting for us and we immediately go into the base and he comes out and makes that surprise visit and the troops just go absolutely crazy.

We were kind of in a back room in a back area, but you could just hear it, how excited they were. And, um, I think, yeah, we were there for maybe three hours. I think he went, he had his time with them, um, had Thanksgiving with them. And then I think he went to another area of the base and was there for maybe another 30 minutes. Yeah.

But it was that quick of being down there, being with the troops. Like I said, having Delta there with us as well. So it was pretty amazing.

Jeff:

When you guys were on the way over, did any other airlines spot you or see you up in the air?

Derek:

No.

Jeff:

How did that all go? How did they keep it?

Derek:

Such a, they were able to do it. And we were, once we got, once we got back in the air, um, this was kind of funny. We were still, when we finally left the airspace, when we finally got out of there, so when we could make the phone calls to our families, they said, okay, you can, so you, um, on Air Force one, there’s an operator and you tell them the number and then they would dial through.

So, Finally gets to be my turn. I pick up the phone. I tell him the number and my parents were down at our house, uh, in Seattle and they were all my parents, my sister, and some other family members were there. I of course was in Waco, um, covering that.

And so I give the number of that and my dad answers the phone. And of course, the guy’s like, okay, sir, stand by for a call from Air Force One. And he goes, oh, yeah, right. And he hangs up the phone. Proud dad moment there. Whoa, he hung up? Come on. He did. Oh, that makes this even better. Yeah, he hangs up the phone.

And the operator, remember, said to me, okay, we’re going to do this one more time. If he hangs up, I’m not calling back. Calls back again. Hello. I said, and I go, dad, don’t hang up the phone. He’s like, where are you? I’m like, he’s, aren’t you in Texas? I said, no, I’m on air force one. He goes, what? I said, turn on the TV.

Well, at that point they finally let the news know. So he turns on the TV and there, of course, on all the news channels, you know, that George W made this amazing trip to Iraq. He’s like, you’re on the plane. I’m like, yes, I’m on the plane.

So It’s a pretty cool conversation. Talk to him and talk to my, uh, mom, talk to my sister, talk to everyone from air force one. So, and of course collected up all kinds of jelly beans and everything else to take back for them. And, uh, then we actually had our, uh, Thanksgiving meal on the plane, which they had prepared for us.

Really good, uh, meal for airplane food. Oh yeah. And of course with the way they’re on the way back, you, you watch movies and you know, we were kind of in the back of the plane and of course he owns pretty much the whole front of the plane. And there’s an area in between where the press is, you know, Uh, there’s no escape pods.

Just want everyone out there to know there’s no nothing like you see in the movie, not like in the Harrison Ford movie. Uh, I get that question all the time. Uh, or I think it was an escape from New York. He had a skate pod too, but, um, it was just, it was a great trip and it was just one of those trips that you just, I can’t believe I just did that. I just, you know, literally it’s a 24, 36 hour thing that happens.

It happens so quickly, right. You know, but the preparation for it, you can imagine in that, you know, we didn’t know about it. It was obviously happening weeks ahead of time. Right. And even my cat guy that went over to do the advance, I didn’t know until, you know, I hit the ground and he was there. So, um, so he knew and you didn’t know. Right. So he had to be one of the only people in the world going on that advance that knew it was going to happen. Exactly. Right. Who else would have known?

Obviously the president. Yeah. Basically the special agent in charge, the ASAC, all those folks would have known. We know the people that were in charge of PPD at the time. And then, Anyone that was over there doing the advance besides cat of course PPD has their whole advance over there as well

And I think even on these trips they had special agent charges and a sex that were over there just because of the nature of the trip Right, so they would have known but yeah that they kept it that you know small Incredible which kind of the other day when I saw that they announced the president was going to Israel I was kind of like right who’s who’s announcing that And why? Exactly. You and I are on the same page. It’s like, why are you announcing that he’s going over to a war zone? So made me think of that.

And just again, how amazing it was that that was kept so secret. And then that we, and then Bill, once you get back to be able to talk to the guys that were protecting the house that night and they thought the president was in there when they had snuck them out in just a vehicle.

yeah because think about it they they didn’t know they all said they wake up and see it on the news like wait a minute well how do you get out of here they get they suck them out in just a a normal car that normally would come and go as opposed because you know everyone normally he goes an armored vehicle but this particular way they had to get him out in just a standard vehicle.

So it’s all like, wow, it’s like, can’t believe it happened.

Jeff:

So, so fascinating. All right. Yeah. So many questions, but you, first off you get on the plane, you’d still not know where you’re going. I’m guessing they pulled the door shut before they told anybody.

Derek:

Right.

Jeff:

So now the door shut and you’re going, what in the world is this one? When they told you, they said, we’re going to Iraq. What, what did it feel like?

Derek:

Wow. We’re going to the middle of a war zone. What’s this is, I mean, that’s when it was going on, obviously this was Oh four, you know, it had pretty much been ramped up and I’m like, we’re going to, we’re going to the middle of a, or a major wars happening that we’ve gotten involved in. And, um, I mean, I also do, I’m like, well, they’re going to have, the base is going to be completely protected, shut down, you know, And they did.

They, it was completely secure. And, you know, it was also my mind thinking, this is, this is, this is a huge trip. This is something that most people don’t get to do. And that’s exactly what I thought. And then, um, again, I think safety wise, and you know, this Jeff from being there, you know, the security, whether you’re at the white house and you can see it and, You have confidence in your, your fellow agents, your fellow officers, your fellow operators.

So, and like I said, once we got down on the ground and there were the Delta guys were there, you know, it was, it was awesome. Wow. It was overwhelming of, wow, I’m really doing this. And then, like I said, on the way back thinking we just accomplished this. Right. And we kept it a secret and, um, got to be on the ground and got to see some troops got to, you know, be a part of it. And again, it was secure, no issues there.

As soon as we got on the ground, we got a great briefing about what we were doing, how we were doing it, where we’re going to go very well done, which, you know, the services is the best at. So yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Jeff:

Oh my awesome. That’s incredible. Yeah. All right. One question I get and I know how I answer it. I get this a lot. It’s definitely the most commonly asked question. When people know that I did a small, a small tour at the white house, um, they say, was George W what he appeared to be on TV. And, and, and I know my answer on that. It’s a slam dunk. I’d just like to hear some stories.

Derek:

The Bush family, I would say very personable, very treated us like family as best you can. And always, I always tell people, I said, imagine about, 12, 15 people my size around you 24 hours a day, seven days a week for eight years. How would, how would that feel that, that, that the only privacy you get is if you go up to, um, you know, the third floor of your residence or you’re at your house in Waco and there, but I said, imagine that around you every single day, just as a human being. Hmm.

There are going to be days where you’re just, you’re not in the best of moods or they’re going to be days where you just want to tell people where to go away from you. But they always, they were always professional. Um, Laura Bush was, and like I said, I got to know, um, the president were well, in fact, kind of a very funny story that happened during, um, the campaign on, he always came back on Fridays to Waco even during the campaign. He said, I’m not going to campaign on weekends. He didn’t.

So, on the weekends he would go out on his ranch and he would cut trees and burn brush and he was doing all kinds of stuff like that. Well, essentially you’re supposed to be protecting him, but every once in a while he’d say, hey, come over here, give me a hand.

And I was out there one day with him and he just, he knew me by name and he was getting ready to move this huge log and he had all these chains and he had a six wheel gator, he had gators down there. I don’t know if you ever, Went down there where they get around on. So he says, Hey, take this chain, wrap it around this log.

I’m getting the gator. We’re going to pull it over. And I said, okay, so I’m, I’m wrapping the chain. He’s in the gator. And he yelled, you know, he yelled back in that you’re ready. And I said, Oh, and I think he said, I thought I said, go, I said, Oh, and as I’m wrapping, all of a sudden the chain gets taught. Well, it was my, it was my sugar finger on my right hand.

The chain was right over my finger and all of a sudden he starts going and I’m looking at the log and I’m looking at my finger and I’m like, wow, my finger’s getting crushed right now. And he keeps going. I’m, I’m trying to yell at him. Finally, he looks back and, you know, sees me. And there was also a, uh, our group leader of 14 was there he’s yelling.

So he stops. Well, of course he stops in the chain, still stuck on my finger. And then he backs up the chain comes off. And my, my finger was, was smashed. It was like, it was smashed and I’m looking at it and. The 14 boss was looking at it and I know in his mind, he’s going, Oh man, how am I going to explain this to the people up in DC? So Bush comes back. He’s like, what happened? I’m like, well, the, the, the chain got caught on because you’re okay.

I’m like, yeah, I’m thinking, I think, and I couldn’t bend it at the time. I literally thought, man, this is not good. So about a day later I iced it. It was good, but he always asked me about it. And then on Monday we’re at a, We’re at a hospital, actually. That’s what’s funny about it. We’re at this hospital. He’s doing one of his tours. He’s running for president. He’s at this big hospital. There are all these people around.

There’s this giant machine that does all these x-rays and stuff. And I’m kind of on the side there near him. And they’re explaining this huge x-ray machine. And with all the press there and everything right in the middle, he just turns right to me and goes, hey, Derek, let’s get an x-ray of that finger. We’ll see what’s wrong with it, all right? He starts laughing. And I’m like, oh. And of course, all the cameras and everything turned my way. I’m like, oh, he didn’t just say that.

So to say that he’s just very personable, and if you do you, he wasn’t afraid to say hello. And the family was just always great. Even the senior Bush, who in 2004, when I went over with him to the Olympics in Greece, That was an interesting trip because we actually had intel that there were people in the area that were there to try to assassinate him.

So working with the Greek police, it was actually a pretty high intense situation because we kept getting updates of people they were following, a particular person they were following. And we were that that was really high on test because it was just, we kept getting this information that there was someone that was been sent there to try to either hurt him, plant a bomb or do something.

So, uh, but the whole family has to, after all that, to answer your question, treat us well, respectful. And again, Um, being in that position, very easy not to be just cause I said, cause so many of us around privacy is very nil, but yeah, yeah. That’s not even got a great, uh, when I retired, he actually somehow word got to George W and he wrote me a letter of congratulating my retirement that was sent to my home. So that’s, that’s pretty amazing to get that.

Jeff:

Yeah. Yeah. Was that in the batch that you sent me? I think it was, it may have been, I’ve got a copy here, but yeah, it was, um, we’re going to post it up if you’re okay.

Derek:

Yeah, absolutely.

Jeff:

So that’s special. Yeah. Oh my goodness. Yeah. I mean, how many people just get that all those years later?

Derek:

So it was pretty, uh, pretty awesome. Cause I think my dad ran into Karl Rove and Karl Rove, Um, I got to know because he was obviously on the campaign quite a bit. Right. And he showed a picture to Karl Rove of me with, I think it was Bush. And he’s like, Oh yeah, I think I remember that guy. Cause I just, he was just around the white house so much. So he even wrote me a nice little letter as well.

So it’s just type of people that were, they were, they were good folks and they respected us and they understood our job. They understood what we had to do. Um, So that’s always a big plus is when they have respect. In New York and the White House, there’s just as many people that can be not happy to, you’re not nice to you because of where they are, what you do. So you remember the ones that are, and they were, so I’d say yes.

Jeff:

That’s awesome. All right. Now in and around that story, you told me something about a hundred degree club and I stopped you. I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to know anymore. I wanted to save it for the podcast. So it’s all yours.

Derek:

The hundred degree club was actually made by Bush because when he used to run, He had this thing where he would run for three miles, but he’d, he’d run it like as fast as he could, which is, I think ultimately what hurt his knees and why he ended up biking and became such an avid biker. Cause his knees just became bad. Cause that’s how he would run it.

And when he would run, it was like. Well, I’m, you know, I’m, I’m at the time two 25, I’m six, two, I’m more weightlifting and running. I joke, I say, I don’t run, I lumber. So I’m down there with my, with my detail and it’s our day to run.

And it’s over a hundred degree. And he said, if you make, if you can run with me in Texas, he over a hundred degrees, I’m going to give you a certificate and a shirt. And so he had the hundred degree club that if it was over a hundred degrees and you ran with them and you stayed with them, you know, it didn’t stop or whatever. Wow. You got the shirt and the certificate.

So there was a day, I think it was like one Oh two that I ran and. I sucked it up because I was hurting. Right. I said, I’m a big guy. I’d rather run a short distance. I don’t want to do these. You know, when we hit the mile and a half test, that was enough for me at the, at the, when we had to do that, that’s all I cared about.

Don’t we had guys that used to run like 10 miles or something like that for me. So. I can do this three miles. So yeah, that you got your shirt and you got certificate. If you ran with him at the Texas ranch and it was over a hundred degrees and could stay with him. And let me tell you, he, he tests you. He, if he saw someone was lacking, you better watch out. You never hear the end of it.

You know, fill out that race. I saw you fell out. Didn’t make it. Did you? So he was, he was tough. So is it true? Was he able to run a mile in a, in a round seven? Possibly even under. When he started doing that back in the campaign. Yeah. He was, I mean, he would really cook. He would really cook because that’s what they said.

When you come to detail, look, he’s going to get this done in under 25 minutes, 28 minutes. Does that seem about right? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, he was booking. Yeah. Wow. And I’m pretty sure that’s why, because I mean, he would just run them. It’s like, why is he running so fast for, you know, just, just run it, just enjoy it. But no, he just wanted to get out there and go.

Jeff:

Right. Did you ever see him when he would do the bike around the South lawn? I’m sure you were there for that.

Derek:

Yes. Yeah. I actually ran, I ran around the South lawn with him one time on that circle. You did? He biked and you ran? He was running. He was running. I made the mistake though. I ran on the rubberized part and didn’t realize. It made it made you more tired.

So I’m like, I’m like, he’s going, I’m like, I know I’m not this, I know I’m not this bad. And I realized I got to get off this rubber eyes because it’s, it’s heavier. You know, it’s your foot hits it as opposed to being on the road. So I learned that quick too. Yeah. You don’t get the push as much.

Jeff:

That’s incredible. All right. So just life in general, whether it was when you were a kid, uh, APD secret service, even up until now, who would you say is the most influential person or was the most influential person in your life?

Derek:

Um, I’d say for my family, it was, um, growing up was probably my mom. Uh, she was a stay at home mom when they called it, I guess when they called it stay at home mom, she was a mom that would take us to school every day, pick us up. Um, I was early in my life. I was asthmatic. I was really sick very early. So made a lot of trips to the, Doctors offices and stuff and she was the one always took me there.

So in terms of someone just being there Day to day it was my mom Daily my dad also Had a huge part in my sports career. So I played football played basketball played lacrosse. He would always attend all my games. So Definitely shaped me in terms of just always being there for me his job being in radio was, was, was kind of cool for young.

Cause we got to go to a lot of stuff. He, he ran a company, a radio company. So we got to meet times, a lot of celebrities got to go to a lot of special events. Um, but I I’d say early on, it was probably my mom and just my dad in general. We just had a really good household. It was only myself and my sister. Sure. So she was just always there.

Um, our summers were swim team at a Chevy chase country club. They were huge involved in that. My mom was huge involved in all of our schools Made sure she got involved in that. So I say definitely say it was her

Jeff:

Yeah, and then do you do you feel you were sort of always going in the right direction? Or did you have a pivotal point in life that changed you into a different direction?

Derek:

I’d say in terms of my work, I kind of knew what I wanted to do. I was, again, when I was a kid, I didn’t, I never got into alcohol, never gotten into drugs or any of that as a, as a kid. And, um, that was never part of, um, it was made clear in our household, you know, what that was and what that would mean if, if you did get involved in that.

So I think in that part of my life, I did, I think later, um, after, at the very end of my Secret Service career and after my first marriage, I definitely pivoted toward the Lord more. I wouldn’t say I grew up in what I would call a Christian household, although it was a great household. I mean, we weren’t told about Jesus and God, but I think the pivotal part of my life is when I definitely turned my life to the Lord, and that was huge.

And I think in law enforcement and in certain careers we have, they can become an idol to us. So I’d say for a long time, the Secret Service was like my idol. It’s one of those things where you tell people what you do and it draws attention. And I think definitely it became a very focal point of my life when I was single.

Now, once I had kids, I think that changes it. But I think, especially for men, it can just become something that can You can maybe put too much focus on sure enjoyed it.

Loved it have credible memories, but I also think that it did become Identity for a while that maybe it shouldn’t have so I’d say that’s what if there was a changing point It would have it would have been that right.

Jeff:

Yeah all right so this will go for a lot of the younger folks out there who might be considering government um whether it’s secret service um how would you how would you first it’s a couple part question first off is what would your advice be if somebody’s not in law enforcement, wants to get in law enforcement, especially at the federal level, what’s your advice to them in the era now?

Derek:

I’d say do your research. Look at all the agencies. They all do different things in terms of their investigation, whether it be ATF, DEA, FBI, Secret Service. Really look them over. I think you can get a lot more information now than when we were younger. You’d have to go out and buy that book in the bookstore to You know what I’m talking about? Don’t you, you know how to become a secret service agent. It’s like a hundred pages, a hundred page book on that.

Um, and, and look at doing something like either the military or like I did become a police officer. First off the street experience of a police officer, I think is the most invaluable thing for years. of Atlanta Police Department where there wasn’t anything I didn’t experience, deal with on the street, fights, chases, you name it.

That experience is invaluable to do that. Or the military where you’re in for four, six, or eight years or something. And the great thing is you and I know, You know, you can be up to 37 to get hired. Right. But I’d say really do just your homework. If it’s really what you want to do, understand, um, why we’re something like the services, your, your, your family life’s going to be a little bit more different than if you’re an FBI agent, maybe just going to a field office every day, not traveling as much. Sure.

I think the built-in part of that travel for secret services, it’s just difficult. And I think you and I probably saw it in our careers. It’s hard. The campaigns, I think each year just get more and more and more, more people get secret service protection, which means it’s spread thin more.

So do your homework. Don’t let it become, you know, your life obsession, but to serve, I think to serve our country is a good thing. Remarkable. Yeah. There’s a lot of stuff happening in government now and I know, and it’s, it’s for some people and it isn’t for others. Sure. Um, in terms of my kids, you know, um, my, I have one son that’s showing definitely interest in police work.

They went to a, we did a police camp this past summer with Fayetteville PD and it was two weeks and Cool. They both loved it. But my one son Garrett, especially loved it. I mean, I can just kind of tell he has that mindset. Will he go into it? I don’t know. Sure. But, um, he definitely likes it. And when he heard I was coming up here to do the podcast, he was pretty, pretty excited, you know?

Jeff:

Yeah. So maybe we’ll have him on one day.

Derek:

Yeah. Um, that’s what I’d say. Just, just do your homework. I think, like I said, it’s just very easy to, to learn. And I think you can do internships now more. I’d say do an internship. If you’re in, if you’re in a college and you know, go work for the FBI or the secret service and do that internship. Granted, sometimes you’re not given, you know, the best opportunity to see things, but just do that and, and talk to folks.

Um, but just do your homework and just see which one interests you. I, when I was in Macon, uh, when I was finishing my career, uh, as an agent, I was in the ATF office. So I was, uh, So people know here we have in secret service, we have offices called domiciles and these are one man offices, but you cover large territory.

So in Macon, of course I covered like 20 counties, but I worked with locals, which I love, which is another thing why I went down there. I wanted to get back working with locals, but I was in the ATF office. So I worked with, I think it was eight other ATF agents and they worked a myriad of cases.

And sometimes I was like, man, I wish I could work that gun case or I wish I could work that drug case, that gang case. So, Um, if that’s your passion, uh, you know, that’s do that, but just look into them all, just look into every one of them. Um, you’ve got the central intelligence agency, if you’re willing to go overseas and sure.

So there’s plenty of them, state department, um, which obviously we worked with a bunch of secret service. So, yeah. Just do your homework, check it out. Uh, the stuff is out there with the internet now. I think it’s more accessible than when you and I were there and you know, you know, for sure. And I think, I’m not sure you may know the answer to this. A lot of them have busted down that 37 max 37 years old. Okay. I noticed I just had a family asked me recently, which prompted me to go to the internet and look. and I’m pretty sure it was state and CIA I noticed, don’t have that 37 cap.

Secret service is still saying it. So I see it. If you come with the right expertise that they’re looking for, especially with cyber right now, cyber security, they’re not saying your max is 37 because cyber is pretty new to the world. So you might’ve not experienced it until you’re in your 40s and became an expert until you’re in your 50s. they need those men and women.

Jeff:

That’s good to hear. Yeah. Cause I remember that was a big thing when you and I were, were joining is that there was that number and sometimes people would make it in cause they were 37 and a half or they had capped that age.

Derek:

Yeah, absolutely. All right. If you, if you can go back and do it all over again, um, do you, do you do it? Definitely. Definitely. Um, I think looking back and thinking why I should’ve done this, should’ve done that, I don’t know. I mean, I think God puts the experience in our life. He knows which way we’re gonna go. He knows what we’re gonna do.

And the career itself, just places I went, I’ve been to every state in the state at least once in the United States.

Jeff:

You hit all 50?

Derek:

All 50 states. Can’t believe it, can’t believe it. Um, can’t remember how many countries I went to, but I mean, I remember, you know, being in Moscow, uh, uh, going to places in Africa, uh, went on trips with, uh, president Carter to Africa to do his habitat for humanity. Um, and, uh, went to another big trip we had was I went with, um, at the time he was the secretary of treasury.

And it was right after the Afghanistan war started and we went to Afghanistan, India, and I want to say at the time, maybe Pakistan. It was a trip for him to see where our money was going. So literally it was, it was cat. It was me and three other guys. And I can’t remember the secretary of treasury’s name at the time, But that was a pretty intense trip too. Cause we, we went out, we went out to some far out places in those countries.

Yeah. And especially in Afghanistan, you really get a feel of, you know, the hardness of those folks that are living out there and they were, and it was, and, and you’re out there and you’re with you with their military, with your folks at the same time, you realize you’re in a country where nine 11 had just happened and what’s going on and, you know, not a comfortable situation.

So, um, that, you know, just some of those foreign places you went, went to, I remember went to Ireland with Clinton, but in the Vietnam trip with Clinton, which was when I had just gotten the details. So I, I leave. I leave the campaign for Bush because my PPD time came.

I think I leave there basically October, go up to DC, get on the detail. Clinton makes his trip over to Vietnam, which was amazing because it was the first time I think a president had been there since who knows when. And we stay right next to the Hanoi Hilton, obviously, which had been completely redone and made it look a lot nicer.

Sure and You know, so I mean here it was just fresh on the detail making this, you know, amazing trip. So It’s just just a lot that it happened. So I wouldn’t change it. Like I said, I know that Things happen alive and God God lets things happen in our life for certain reasons. So I’m glad of the that I was able to get on. And it’s, you know, when you get hired by the secret service and you realize you made it through the background check and the everything you have to do and the physicals and you make it through the school and you go to FLETC and, um, it all comes together.

It’s, you know, it’s, it’s an accomplishment. It is, you know, and then I always joke with people like, Oh, it’s the white house. Like, I’m like, well, It’s like after your first day, when you’re standing on midnights in one spot and you’re looking at a carpet or you’re looking at a ceiling from 11 at night till six or seven in the morning, I said, it loses its luster pretty quick because you’re just there. And it’s just, you’re working and man of midnight at the white house. There’s nothing glamorous about that.

Everything’s still, you don’t hear anything. Exactly. It’s wild.

Jeff:

Yes. All right. Let me, let me, let me wrap up on this one. So you’ve, you’ve done incredible things. You’ve done high stress. You’ve done just all across the board. What a fascinating, fascinating career. Um, which is still unraveling, which is great are still playing itself out. Um, How do you right now and how did you before deal with finding peace in your life?

Derek:
I was have to say I was never really a stress-filled person. I always I uh, always, I don’t know whether it was trust life or trusted just the situation I was in. Um, I was always able to be pretty relaxed and even, um, you know, the streets of Atlanta dealing with what I was, you’d see and deal with out there.

You learn that. Um, so in my downtime, whether like when I was in DC, obviously I would work out or go out, back riding around the mall or, um, there was a place out in Maryland. I would go ride horses, at least a horse and I’d ride horses as much as I could. Um, when I had certain weekends off and time off, um, and, and now, um, it’s mostly with obviously my kids, my downtime is with kids and basketball games.

And, um, you know, my wife and I’ll get out when we can to do things together or, take a trip every now and then. But I think mostly I was really able to trust life and trust myself. I never got too stressed. I never got what I would call too overwhelmed. it could have been that I was single at the time.

And I think it was just like, well, I didn’t have to, there’s nothing at home I had to worry about. I just would go home and it’d be me and there wouldn’t be a dog there or anything. So I think then it was fine. But I, um, since I’ve especially come to the Lord, my peace is even more now. And it’s just, I definitely feel that for sure.

But I just always, uh, just, I guess in life, I just trusted where I was in the situation I was in. Trusted the people I was with, people I worked with. May not have liked every one of them, but definitely trusted them, worked with them. But yeah, I was just able to keep a calm perspective, I think, on the job.

Be able to look at it, yeah.

Jeff:

Well, this is one of those podcast episodes that I know I’m disappointed that is coming to an end, because even though I was there for a little bit of time, I still have a million questions. I think we hit a lot of the big stuff. Like we talked about when this started, this is just such a great legacy for your kids now, right? They’re going to hear this episode forever.

We’ll have it hosted online forever. My kids, they’ll hear this forever. That’s just really cool. And who knows, maybe we’ll have Garrett on one day.

Derek:

By the sounds of it, you never know. He would probably love that. He’d probably love to come talk. He’s gonna love hearing this episode.

Jeff:

All right, for everybody out there, don’t forget to leave a review. And especially if you’re fascinated by anything we talked about in the episode, ask us questions. We’ll be glad to answer them. If I can’t answer them myself personally, I’ll send them over to Derek and get you all an answer.

But thanks for tuning in. And until next time, thank you, Derek. Thank you, Jeff. It’s been great. Thank you very much.

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