Most people who receive a phone call from the Secret Service would be a little worried about what they were about to hear. From Jerry Antoon, he heard an opportunity.
In 1995, Antoon, who was working for Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, WI, had developed security courses and an Associate Degree for the school. The courses were online, and when the Secret Service found them, they called to ask if he could teach them some electronic and physical security courses.
"Surprisingly, there was nothing in the federal government that was up to date or relevant," he says.
It began with the Secret Service’s Technical Security Division, responsible for making sure that wherever the President goes, the location is secure.
"We were privileged to have the Secret Service ask us to put a program together," says Antoon.
That program became Basic Alarm and Theory Application (BATA), which is still run today. The main focus of the course is alarm sensors and system operation.
The Secret Service was presented with the option to include Certified Alarm/Security Technician – Level 1 in their training, which they accepted. Antoon wasn’t an NTS instructor, so he reached out to the Wisconsin Electronic Security Association (WIESA), where he had a working relationship.
After talking about the opportunity, NTS instructors and association members came to the campus for a one-day curriculum development day.
"We had probably 10 instructors/association members on our campus for an entire day," says Antoon.
The NTS instructors taught Level 1 to the Secret Service members as part of the overall training. "Without [the instructors], this program wouldn't have been built or succeeded," says Antoon.
Level 1 became a crucial part of the weeklong training for the Secret Service, says Antoon. "They took it so seriously, if their personnel failed the Level 1 exams, they were no longer employed in that position."
After Level 1 instruction concluded, the rest of the week was focused on installing alarm systems. The students would install a whole alarm system on a bench top. Then they'd move on to the college's lab, learning to install panels, run wire, install window sensors, door panels, and more.
"They also wanted to have lectures on defeat techniques,” says Antoon, or how the bad guys would try to defeat the system so they’d be able to offer countermeasures.
The Secret Service enjoyed the course, and they soon spread the word. "Soon we had multiple federal agencies taking the course, including the military," says Antoon.
The military focus was a little different, says Antoon. They would take the same training but apply it differently, like understanding how to take apart alarm sensors that were being used as triggering devices for improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
WIESA became an integral part of the course, as their NTS instructors taught all of the Level 1 material, while Antoon taught the rest.
"There probably were 6 classes a year, 10 per class, since 1995," so around 960 students taught overall, says Antoon.
He doesn’t know of any success stories– it’s a "need to know” situation, he says – but based on the fact that they spread word of the course, it seems to be working well for everyone.
"We could evaluate the success by the number of additional clients that came through the college," says Antoon. "They loved it, and they continue to send other entities.”
Even though Antoon has retired, the training continues. "It's a fascinating story, and to be a part of it," he says.