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LAGUNA NIGUEL : President's Guardians Score a Hit

March 25, 1993|ANNA CEKOLA

One of his bulletproof limousines was there, along with two of the Secret Service agents who protect him. About the only thing missing from George White Elementary School on Wednesday was President Clinton himself.

In a rare school presentation, about 300 Laguna Niguel fourth- and fifth-grade students had a chance to learn more about the Secret Service and two of its most important duties: protecting the President and preventing the flow of counterfeit cash.

Parked in front of the school during the morning was a customized 1984 Cadillac limo, used by the President and foreign dignitaries during visits to Southern California. Inside the school auditorium, students watched a Secret Service video on counterfeiting and had a chance to inspect phony bills.

By morning's end, scores of patriotic students said they were ready to join the Secret Service and help protect the President and his family.

"I think it's interesting how you put your life in front of the President," said Lauren Teetor, who along with twin sister, Katherine, was wearing an FBI National Academy sweat shirt given to them by their father, who works for the Internal Revenue Service. "You have to care about your country a lot to do that."

Fifth-graders O.J. Canova, Cheyne Tilly and Tiffany Kilgore were among the many students impressed with what Cheyne called the "daring, death-defying and courageous" aspects of being an agent.

But as Secret Service agents William Ison and Tony Marengo explained to the children, their job is to stop any trouble before it ever gets close to starting.

In addition to the thick bulletproof windows on the limousine, the 10,000-pound car has features that prevent explosions if the gas tank is hit by bullets and allow it to keep rolling in case the tires are shot out.

Agents also investigate the places the President will visit long before he gets there.

In the 15 years he's been with the Secret Service, including assignments driving Presidents Reagan and Bush, Morengo said he's never been fired at during an assignment.

"Again, we do our jobs very well," he told the students.

About the closest he has come to danger in the line of duty as an agent was when someone almost hit the limo by accident on the freeway.

The presentation, which was arranged by two former Secret Service agents whose daughter attends the school, was a hit with the students.

The event also tied into activities at the school involving Women's History Month because the mother who helped arrange the presentation was one of the first women to join the Secret Service in the early 1970s.

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