By Rich Monetti
The mystique of the United States Secret Service can almost be encapsulated in the dark glare of its agents’ signature sunglasses. On the other hand, the optics definitely serve a function beyond just looking cool, according to 30-year Secret Service Agent, Nick Trotta.
“The one thing I don’t think you want us to do is to come up to that rope line with the president and squint,” he said.
With his recent honor at St. Joseph’s Church in New Rochelle, the affair certainly hit home for Trotta, a New Rochelle native and recently retired assistant director of the service.
When you are with a community to this day that you still consider home, he says, “it’s a pretty humbling experience.”
The son of Italian immigrants, Trotta knew from an early age the Secret Service was his goal.
“I was very fortunate that I got to do exactly the thing I dreamt of,” he said.
A graduate of Iona College, Trotta cited the encouragement and mentoring of Father Joseph DiSanto. As such, he initially pursued experience through internships and seminars while applying to all manner of federal agencies and police departments.
Before all those resumes could be filed away, he got the call after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.
“Because of that, the Secret Service was able to do some additional hiring,” he said.
Assigned to the White House, Trotta’s hiring didn’t rate a formal sit-down to tea in the Oval Office, but the daily proximity to the nation’s chief executive was close enough to reveal how far he had come.
“You see the President of the United States—right there, right in front of you in the White House, and you’re a kid from New Rochelle, New York. The west end of New Rochelle,” he said. “That’s pretty powerful—an image you can never forget.”
Of course, as he rose in stature, the personal relationship with the president also escalated and Trotta played a part in preempting the president’s power when safety issues arose.
“Yes, you have to earn that trust,” he said.
On the other hand, security concerns do not put the Secret Service in a preeminent position.
“There are times that the agent in charge is going to step in and say, ‘Mr. President, Madame President, I strongly advise not doing this,’” Trotta said.
It then becomes a matter of compromise and adjustments. At that point, he said, “We have to make it work.”
In order to protect its charges, the Secret Service keeps abreast of any unusual behavior. That means looking at people’s tells, such as facial expressions, movement of hands or a determined traversal across the gathering by a sole individual. In accordance, he said, “you’re watching to the right and to the left, behind and front, above and below.”
As for the fictional Secret Service that we may know more intimately on screen, Trotta admits he’s not the one to ask.
“I’ve never watched any of these movies from beginning to end,” he said.
He instead recommends a recent National Geographic documentary “Inside the US Secret Service” done with the input of the service. Still, Trotta certainly understands the Hollywood necessity of adding embellishments to keep audiences interested. In this, he includes Clint Eastwood’s, “In the Line of Fire,” on which the Secret Service was consulted.
But real life also means political point of view is a right that each agent is free to exercise. It’s simply checked at the door, and doesn’t ever deter the primary mission of protecting the president.
“It sounds hard to do but it’s really not,” he said.
Trotta hopes his retirement from a job in which you never really go home make him value his all the more, but he wouldn’t trade it for the 30 years of service to “five unbelievable leaders of the United States of America.”