The Secret Service detail running with the president was approaching Bayberry Lane when the first shot rang out. The lead agent in the president’s running detail went down from a bullet to the left side of his chest. A second later the other lead agent also went down from a shot to her chest.
The remaining four Secret Service agents quickly joined ranks on the president, with the two agents in the back peeling off their T-shirts to unship their MP5s. Lead Agent Dan Nicols hit the transmit button on his headset and broadcast, “Code Red, Code Red, Monsignor under fire—Monsignor under fire, lock down Eagle’s nest.”
When a Code Red call is put out on a Secret Service channel, it means that all Secret Service agents move to a priority one, or P1, security state. That sets in motion a series of important actions.
The Secret Service agents on duty at the defunct Coast Guard station immediately sent a Scramble Alert out on all military and police channels. Receiving that alert, the two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter pilots standing by at ACK picked up their helmet bags and ran to their CH-53Es. Ground crews were notified and they started the APUs, or automatic power units, which would initiate the helos’ emergency start engine procedure.
The emergency start protocol called for all cylinders to be primed and revved to operating rpms, regardless of the engine temp, which ran the real risk of damaging the engines. A start like this, used only for emergency purposes, would shorten the life of the CH-53E’s engines, but that didn’t matter at the moment.
At the ACK airport, the Code Red call required that the control tower implement a ground stop. In addition to the Super Stallions, the two US Army Apache helos based at ACK were now also scrambling on the Code Red call.
On board the USS Theodore Roosevelt the Combat Direction Center received an encrypted message from the Secret Service: “This is a Code Red alert, repeat, a Code Red Alert.” The COs and admirals were informed of the Code Red immediately.
The captain picked up his handset. “Launch the Alert 5.” The pilot, who was already seated in the cockpit, heard the order and started to spin up its engines. As the name implied, the Alert 5 jet could be launched within five minutes. Hammer 11 of VFA-136 would be airborne in a matter of four sweeps around the clock.
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