Former Secret Service agent speaks in Niceville

Libby McSheehy, Special to The Log
Pictured are Ed Wood and wife Carolyn (left) and Ed Armbruster and wife Jeanine. [SPECIAL TO THE LOG]

Secret Service Agent Kent Wood visited the Niceville Chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and spoke of his adventures while serving four presidents. A large crowd was kept informed and entertained with all the challenges involved in keeping a president safe from harm as they travel throughout the world.

Wood drove two years for President Ronald Reagan. The audience was fascinated to learn that the glass on the presidential limousine was five inches thick, that it had a dump truck body and was called “the beast.”

He shared that President Trump had a 37-car motorcade causing many logistical problems while traveling. About John F. Kennedy, Kent shared that this president expanded the training for the agency requiring many more hours of physical training, similar to a Navy Seal regimen.

Kent also emphasized that it was not all glamour to spend nine years being at the beck and call of presidents in hotel rooms throughout the world. Another interesting feature is that Air Force One can communicate with everyone, and the president must be prepared to deal with all sorts of problems while in the air. One of the dignitaries that Wood encountered who impressed him considerably was Henry Kissinger, who was extremely knowledgeable. He was likened to EF Hutton because when he spoke, everybody listened.

Folks chuckled when he reminded them of the restrictions on the presidential children who had to take the Secret Service agents on dates with them. President Ford’s daughter Susan actually married one of her father’s agents. Another story that captured the interesting aspects of this profession was that Mrs. Rockefeller flew her hair dresser at quite an expense to many locations. When she asked how everyone liked the results, one brave soul told her it was not worth it. And when the Kennedys put on a big circus bash for the Special Olympics the Secret service had to deal with a really large elephant.

When Jimmy Carter hired a Mississippi River Boat, The Delta Queen, for a jaunt down the river they had to hire a support crew and they had to work a 24 hour day. During this trip crowds lined the riverbank and lit huge bonfires to light their way. Apparently President Reagan had a back-up plan in case there was a failure to protect him. He slept with a gun under his pillow saying, “If you don’t get them, I will.” When Reagan was shot and hit by six bullets he was taken to the ER, but he insisted that he would walk in even though he had a bullet in his lung. Of course, we remember his famous words to his wife, “Nancy, I forgot to duck.”

After being employed by the U.S. Secret Service from February 1971 to October 1992 and spending nine years under four presidents, Wood was hired by the FDA as a criminal investigator to prevent Medicare fraud. He was the seventh agent hired under this new investigative arm of the FDA. He retired in December of 2006 and he and his wife Carolyn live in the Orlando area, where they volunteer as temple workers in the Orlando Temple.