Protecting the Principal, Part 3

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Officers from across Mississippi can get elite security task force training in Meridian, funded by Homeland Security.

The officers spend a week here, rehearsing tactical maneuvers, mission planning, and security analysis leading up to a scenario carried out just as they would if working to keep a real life dignitary secure.

From shielding training, protecting the 'bravo car' that carries the principal to shooting at threatening targets through vehicles to averting an ambush by sacrificing the 'alpha car', there's never a dull moment.

These drills and intensive behind the scenes prep work lead up to the night of the scenario, when the officers put their skills to the test. This is where my role comes in, playing a principal, along with pilot Troy Moore.

As we receive our assignment, the officers pick us up at an airport hanger where they've been told they are protecting a nuclear power plant broker whose life has been threatened and the head of a pharmaceutical company.

Despite careful preliminary route planning, the motorcade and the security of the principals are threatened by another vehicle. But the danger is taken care of quickly.

We enter a local hotel that has been swept in advance. Our team is prepared for any security risk. And at a local restaurant, we dine in peace, unaware that even some of the servers are actually task force members.

An unruly visitor is taken away and our evening remains secure and peaceful.

The debriefing at the end of the night is eye-opening. What we thought was a handful of officers around us was really a roomful.

The homeland security official overseeing the training cannot risk being identified, but he says the officers' roles continue to grow in real life scenarios.

"We want to make sure we do what we do without a lot of praise and applause," said the undercover agent. "This is our country, our state, our city. And our job is to protect it and make sure we have enough manpower on hand to get the job done."

These officers will be a part of the select Force Protection Task Force of Mississippi, a pool of security experts that can work side by side with Secret Service or any other federal, state or local agents.

Homeland security has funded training in Mississippi for more than 1400 law enforcement officials and about 2700 firefighters. Homeland security plays a big role also in responding to natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.