By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL – With all the attention these days on the office of the president of the United States it has made many Americans take extra notice at who is serving in the Oval Office.
Shaun Bartley is no different than others in watching President Donald Trump on TV, but the Slidell Police Department (SPD) reserve officer has a bit more insight than others when it comes to the leader of our country.
Bartley, who was recently named the SPD Reserve Officer of the Year by Chief Randy Fandal, previously served in the U.S. Marines and went through Military Police School, something that eventually led him to becoming one of the security officers for “Marine One,” the helicopter that is used to transport the president.
Bartley served on the special security force for the Marine helicopters during the time when Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were in office and he said there were more times than he can count that he was working near the president of the United States.
“I probably went to at least 40 states with the president and also many times out of the country,” he recalled, now settled into a calmer lifestyle working for the U.S. Agriculture Department as an IT technician in their National Finance Center.
While the experience is one he will remember all of his life, the former full-time officer with the Slidell Police Department said it is now just an interesting memory when he recalls the days flying around the country with the president.
“It was certainly a very good experience to get to do that,” he said. “I did it for about three years, but as you can probably imagine, it’s something I can’t talk much about since we were instructed to not tell anything we saw or heard during those times.”
Becoming a member of the president’s security force on the helicopter known as the HMX wasn’t something that anyone could do just by asking.
Bartley said he entered the Marines after being influenced in that direction by his father, a 20-year Navy veteran, and a brother who also served in the Navy.
“I knew from a young age that I was going into the military,” he said. “I liked the idea of going to different places in the world.”
After graduating from Slidell High in 1999, Bartley originally tried to enlist at the age of 17, but his father wouldn’t sign off on the early enlistment age, so he waited one more year until he was 18 and picked the Marines. Once finished with boot camp, he decided to train as a military policeman, something that opened the door to become a member of the HMX security force.
Getting accepted into that unit still didn’t send him directly to the special job of protecting the president. During the 18 months of training for the military police he remembers a time when some officers came to their class and talked about the possibility of being picked for the HMX crew.
“I remember saying I was interested, but at that time nobody knew if you were going to be picked for it. There is only a group of about 150 on the entire unit,” he said.
Once he graduated from military police training he still hadn’t heard that he was selected for the HMX team and actually had tickets to fly to Japan where he thought he was about to be stationed.
“The day I was about to leave an officer showed up, took my ticket and tore it up, and said ‘you’re going to Reagan International,’ which is where the HMX team operates from,” he said. “It was quite a surprise.”
Even making the HMX force still didn’t ensure everyone would be protecting the president. Once starting on the unit all team members had jobs that did not entail the president’s security force. That took a higher level security clearance, something not all members qualified for.
“There are a lot of reasons they might not clear you to work with the president,” Bartley said. “One of the things that can keep you from doing the work is if you have financial problems. They see that as making you open to potential bribes.”
But after months working with the HMX unit Bartley was, in fact, assigned to begin working the chopper when the president needed to fly. He said he was told FBI agents had come to Slidell and talked to family members, neighbors and others to get as much information as possible about him. But once in the job, it was a common occurrence for him to work on the White House lawn where the helicopter is frequently seen on television, coming or going with the president on board.
Obviously Bartley wasn’t chatting it up with the president very often. For that matter, his unit was mainly responsible to arrive at a location three to four days before the president came to secure the area, then simply be on hand with a crew chief to escort him on and off the helicopter.
Bartley remembers one trip in particular that took Bush to Rome for a world conference where his unit served for nearly 10 days.
“Any new place entailed a security briefing, needing to be certain the area was secure for the president to come and go,” he said.
One of his most frequent locations to work, he recalls, was with Bush at his Texas ranch.
“We had a lot of work down there with him, and Bush loved to run for his exercise so a lot of our guys would run with him,” Bartley said. “I never was a runner so I didn’t do that, but it was a great chance to get to talk to him. He always impressed me as a sincerely nice guy.”
Even getting a picture taken with a president was something that rarely happened, but Bartley was fortunate enough to have a friend snap a shot or two of him with Bush. Most of the time, however, Bartley was actually working—it just happened to be around the president of the United States.
Bartley served four years with the Marines, then joined the Slidell Police Department full-time in 2006. As he continued to add to his education he graduated from LSU with a Master’s Degree, which led him to his job with the Agriculture Department.
Even then he wanted to continue with the SPD Reserves and has put in hundreds of volunteer hours, frequently serving as the designated officer in charge at public events.
Bartley is married and has two children.