By Lucy Perry
It's been a little more than a decade since Sullivan resident, Kevin Arnett, crossed the path of a sitting United States president, but the impact of the meeting is something he'll always remember -- particularly each Presidents Day.
Today, back in his his hometown -- where he resides with wife, Alyssa, and four daughters: Kylee, 9; Arian, 3; Amirah, 1, and Kansas, 1-month-old -- he has many memories to share. He currently works as a food service assistant for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Intelligence Analyst for Indiana Air National Guard and is president of Southwest School Corporation Board of Trustees .
Reflecting on his military career, he says it was a blessing to be stationed at Camp David Presidential Retreat in Thurmont, Md. as his first report for duty. It was 2004 and Republican President George W. Bush was campaigning for the next presidential election where he would end up beating Democrat challenger John Kerry for the highest office in the land.
The time he spent at Camp David is what he considers the best two years of his career. It led to several interactions with the commander-in-chief and other national leaders.
"How could I ever top working at Camp David and being around the Secret Service, presidential friends and families and heads of states?" he asked, adding, " I’ve comes to terms that nothing will fill the void since leaving Camp David as far as my career goes."
Arnett joined the military at age 18 and spent four years in active duty as a Navy petty officer and six years as an Air National Guardsman. Now, at 30, he remembers not realizing at the time -- when he was at an impressionable age -- that he was getting ready to meet heads of state and make memories to last a lifetime.
In fact, his nerves got the best of him on one encounter.
"The first time the first lady spoke to me I froze…I simply stumbled on my words and was embarrassed," he recalls. "The cabin the president lived in was called “Aspen” and I found myself in the Aspen kitchen overlooking the dining area which held George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, along with the current President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura. At that time, it hit me how blessed I was in the moment and how I would never forget that day."
The president and the first lady took pictures with all service members who worked Christmas Day 2005. President Bush struck Arnett as being personable and selfless. The commander-in-chief's love for the military showed, as he treated each serviceman and woman with respect.
"They did not have to take time out of their Christmas Day for pictures, but it was their way of giving back to the troops who were stuck working and not home with their families," he said.
The second picture he shares is of him standing with President Bush in the Oval Office at the White House.
"Each service member who works directly for the president either at Camp David, the White House, HMX-1 or Air Force One get to bring a guest to the Oval Office for one last going away picture. I chose Beth Slick from Maryland, who was like a mom to me while I was away from my family, to be my guest that day," Arnett explained.
During his stint at Camp David, Arnett quickly got the hang of what the job entailed and he learned the personal preferences of both the president and first lady.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Arnett's responsibilities included managing “Shangri La, ”the Camp David gift shop and bar. He was required to attend bar-tending classes to ensure he knew how to serve alcohol to the president’s guests.
He notes that he had minimal contact with President Bush in the bar area, because the former president abstained from alcohol. However, he would see him on occasion in passing by him in the building or while filling supplies in the movie theater or bowling alley.
Managing the property also involved keeping the arcade room clean and making sure the golf arcade machine was always ready, a game Arnett says the president enjoyed playing.
Arnett was required to keep the site's movie theater clean and attend to even the smallest details of making sure the president and first lady's stay was comfortable. He took all these responsibilities seriously and remembers how the first lady expected the pillows to be arranged on the furniture. The first lady was particular about how she wanted the pillows placed on the couch, he said.
Beginning his military career in the presence of the presidential elite was a serious task, but Arnett claims there were some lighter moments as well.
He plans to tell his children theses stories and many more as they get older. He'll share his memories of the time when the Bush's daughter, Jenna, got engaged to her then boyfriend, Henry Hager, and when the Prime Minister of Denmark visited, eating lunch at the White House.
"And numerous encounters with Chief- of- Staff Andrew Card and the Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, peeing beside the president, and so many other wild stories that they won’t believe. My first presidential visit I spoke with Dorothy Koch (president’s sister) for about 20 minutes and had no idea who she was," Arnett said.
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By Libby Roerig, Indiana State University
Presidential candidate Donald Trump may have won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night, but it would be difficult for him to earn a vote from Indiana State University alumnus Dave Brant.
Trump recently attracted Brant’s attention when he said during the Feb. 6 Republican debate, “I would bring back waterboarding, and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
The interrogation technique that simulates drowning is a familiar topic to Brant, who after a career of working at every level of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, led the agency from 1997 until retiring in December 2005. Brant objected to waterboarding when it was used during the Bush administration following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“I define waterboarding as torture, despite what Donald Trump said Saturday night,” Brant said. The practice has since been outlawed.
Brant posed a scenario to Indiana State criminology students when he visited campus Monday: You’re sitting in a 10x12 room with a terrorist and tasked with getting information from him.
“You’re sitting face to face with him,” Brant said. “He wants to kill you. You’re now dealing with a person who your standards, your beliefs, your culture has no relevance whatsoever. It doesn’t matter what you say to this person. He has a single purpose in life — to kill you.”
What do you do? One student said she’d get a translator. Another suggested talking it out with the terrorist — to try to find some common ground. Brant agreed.
“There is a way to establish a relationship-based approach with someone in this setting that can yield positive, valuable information, but it takes time, patience and incredible hours of guys literally just sitting in a room and saying nothing,” Brant said. “I can document, as can other agencies, tremendous success of garnering information from these folks through that methodology that would never, ever be achieved otherwise. Never.”
NCIS is a criminal investigative, counter-terrorism, counter-intelligence agency with 1,500 employees in more than 300 offices around the world. During Brant’s leadership of the agency, detainees at Guantanamo Bay were brought there from the battlefield for two types of interrogation.
The first — intelligence interviews — probed for actionable information, he said. Interrogators try to get information related to a specific threat. Time is everything. “We need to know now where your family is, where your co-conspirators are, where the weapons are hidden, anything that would be of immediate intelligence to troops,” he said.
The mission for Brant’s NCIS agents, however, was to gather information for criminally prosecutable cases in a U.S. court of law or military court-martial. Time is not a factor for these investigative interviews.
When Brant learned so-called enhanced interrogation techniques were being used at Guantanamo Bay, he took action.
“After becoming concerned about the possible utilization of enhanced interrogation techniques, I went to very senior levels and said, ‘I will pull my people out (NCIS Special Agents) if I confirm information that enhanced interrogation techniques are being utilized. I won’t condone or allow my people to participate in activities that I consider wrong and possibly torture. We simply will not participate in those types of activities. It created a big deal,” he said.
Likening it to a cop who shoots first and asks questions later, Brant cautioned students to not react emotionally in highly charged situations.
“You need to be able to step back and ask yourself, ‘Is my action going to produce the outcome I’m seeking … which is accurate information?’” Brant said. “Do you have a problem getting someone to ‘talk’ if they’re talking to avoid pain, serious injury or possible death? They’ll talk. They will absolutely talk. There’s no doubt about that.”
However, in these scenarios, the information the suspect provides isn’t always credible, according to Brant. “You’re going to say whatever you think someone wants you to say to escape an uncomfortable or perhaps very painful situation,” he said.
A relationship-based interrogation approach can produce accurate, credible information.
“Eventually, somebody might say, ‘Could you get a message to my mother?’ They might not say a word for two months, and then the person would say, ‘Could you get a message to my mother?’” Brant recalled. “It takes a long time to get there.”
That simple request can — and did — produce a relationship that led to obtaining critically important terrorism-relevant information.
Brant earned his master’s degree in criminology from Indiana State in 1975. After graduation, he worked for two years as a police officer in Miami and then was hired by NCIS after first making contact with the agency as a student at State.
In 40 years of law enforcement, Brant of Danville, Ill., has worked with the leaders of every major federal agency as well as Department of Defense leaders. He is currently the managing director of the Public Sector Practice at BDO, the fifth largest accounting firm in the world.
During his time at the helm of NCIS, he led the agency through extraordinary challenges and changes.
“The attack on (the U.S.S.) Cole was unprecedented, it was a precursor to 9/11,” Brant said. “Everybody knew then there was no going back. It was a uncertain future, no one knew what it would portend — ISIS hadn’t evolved and the current threat hadn’t taken the current form it’s taken, but everybody knew the world as we knew it would never be the same.”