On April 29, 1997, Frosty Fowler interviewed Secret Service Agent Charles “Chuck” Brewster on KGNW AM 820 in Seattle, Washington. Mr. Brewster was the Special Agent in Charge of the Seattle Field Office for the U.S. Secret Service. Please read “A Conversation with the Secret Service” for the events that led up to this encounter. (This interview was transcribed by C.E. Chambers June 2011 who helped arrange the broadcast.)
Frosty Fowler: Hey, we got a special guest tonight, the head or Special Agent…in Charge for the U.S. Secret Service here in Seattle. And it’s Mr. Charles Brewster. Now that we met you, Charles, can we call you Chuck?
Charles “Chuck” Brewster: You may. You may, Frosty.
F.F. Nice to have you here. How long have you and your family been in Seattle?
C.B. We moved here about a year ago from Chicago, Illinois.
F.F. And I saw you with your head bowed toward the sun out there and you were just soaking it in [chuckles]. Have you and your wife gotten used to the rain yet?
C.B. We have. We just spent a week in Las Vegas and we just dried out a little bit. But the winter has been very good to us and it’s not as bad as we had heard.
F.F. How long have you been a Secret Service agent?
C.B. Twenty-two years.
F.F. And has the time gone fast?
C.B. Sometimes gone fast, sometimes on a midnight standing around the White House it went real slow.
F.F. Have you ever felt that you had regrets about entering into the Service?
C.B. No, I think the Secret Service has been a true family to me and mine, and it’s been an excellent career. It’s not over yet.
F.F. In Seattle, are you working an eight-hour day? I know I have heard from other agents that you can work a ten-, twelve-, fourteen-, sixteen-hour day easily.
C.B. Never. We never work an eight-hour day. We always give it at least two hours more or more than that. Sometimes we get overwhelmed with the number of hours we’re working but we try to always make time for the important things in life.
F.F. All right. You’re listening to “Talkline” with Frosty Fowler on AM 820 KGNW. If you want to ask Special Agent Chuck Brewster here a question about the Secret Service or you just want to listen, that’s all right. It’s 443-9214 [this phone number has changed], toll-free 1-800-955-8200.
F.F. Now, look at me: Would I make an agent?
C.B. You’d make a fine agent [chuckles].
F.F. [chuckles] What does it take to be an agent?
C.B. Well, you have to be in pretty good physical shape. You have to be a college graduate. You have to have good eyesight. You have to be pretty well-rounded. You have to bring a little something extra to the plate because we have so many applicants that want to be a Secret Service agent. You know, it’s glamorized but it’s not always that way. But they see it that way. But there are a lot of dedicated law enforcement people that are having career choices that are being made and they come to us, but they have to bring a little extra to the plate because we have so many applicants come in.
F.F. You mean, you have to truly be dedicated?
C.B. You have to be dedicated, you have to take a little extra effort in your studies, maybe get a language, get a Masters, get a job in law enforcement already so that we see that you are serious about law enforcement.
F.F. And you have to…I understand you have to have a clean record with the Police Department.
C.B. That is absolutely true. And we have zero tolerance on drugs and you cannot have a criminal record.
F.F. When you’re a Special Agent, you work such unheavenly hours. You’re so in the Service, so dedicated, and your hours are late, they’re all times of the day and night and in the week. Does the divorce rate go up pretty high in the Service?
C.B. I think our divorce rate in the Secret Service is probably the same as in law enforcement in general. The Secret Service agents travel…The agents travel quite a bit so that gets them away from home but sometimes that brings a heavenly reunion when you get back.
F.F. Oh, I heard something. I think you know the Lord, don’t you?
C.B. Yes, I do.
F.F. We’re going to talk about that later. And that’s a pleasure to know and it gives you a great feeling of, oh, I don’t know, a joy to know that the head of the Secret Service here in Seattle loves our Lord. And we’ll talk about that later. I would like to mention: What are the ages? What are the age parameters?
C.B. Twenty-one to thirty-five is the age parameter for entry into the Secret Service. It’s more on the twenty-eight level that we see the typical profile.
F.F. Any ethnic restrictions?
C.B. No. In fact, we’re constantly seeking qualified minorities and people that bring a little extra, like I say, to the plate.
F.F. How about women?
C.B. Oh, yes. We have women serving as agents…
F.F. In the front lines?
C.B. …all the way up to the top.
F.F. And I understand sometimes — maybe during WWII years — there were maybe 250 or so [Secret Service agents]. How many do you have now? Maybe 3,500?
C.B. No, we don’t really get into the numbers that easily. It’s well above 2,000. But we’re a small agency, but we grew tremendously after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. We started out with eleven operatives in 1865 and that is a large growth, I guess, when you look back that long. But we’re the oldest Federal law enforcement agency in existence.
F.F. Did President Lincoln have a Secret Service operative with him when he went to the Ford Theater?
C.B. No, actually he had a man that maybe should have been a Secret Service agent and he’d be alive. But he…at that time did not have Secret Service protection; he had a military guard with him. It was odd, it’s a unique little story that the day that President Lincoln was assassinated, the Secretary of Treasury had brought up the idea of creating the Secret Service and he gave his approval to go ahead with that idea the day that he was shot.
F.F. So that day was important and it changed the environment of the country greatly. We lost a fine man, but it also was the beginning of a new service, wasn’t it?
C.B. Yes, it was.
F.F. And, again, he is a man with many offices under him. In fact, if you were to look at the dots or the pins on the wall, what other areas are you responsible for?
C.B. Well, our office here, we cover the responsibility of Montana, Idaho—the northern half of Idaho—Oregon, Alaska, and the western provinces of Canada.
F.F. Now how do you include Canada?
C.B. We have…We work constantly with the RCMP and with the Canadian government on fighting counterfeit money, credit card fraud, different activities. When we have a former president or one of our current sitting presidents go up to that country, then we will interact with them, but we have responsibilities up there as well for our violations.
F.F. If anybody is listening, by the way, that felt like they may have a son or daughter or they themselves might be interested in the Secret Service to work for them, they’d like to at least hand in an application, how would they go about it?
C.B. Well, they would call our office at 220-6800 [phone number has changed] and we’ll send them an application with a little informational brochure on the qualifications needed to be a Secret Service agent. Or they can just write to us at 915 2nd Ave., Room 890, Seattle, Washington, 89174.
F.F. Uh-huh. All right, we’ll probably go over that again later on. Let’s hit some of his background here, he has an interesting bio here. You were at one time in the Chicago office?
C.B. I came here from the Chicago office. I spent the last three years in Chicago.
F.F. What’d you do there? Is that a lively office?
C.B. Well, it’s pretty busy. It’s one of our biggest offices. We have Chicago, New York, L.A., Miami. The typical big city areas and everything are our largest divisions. I was the Assistant Special Agent in Charge for Criminal Investigations for the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana.
F.F. When you say “Criminal Investigations,” the Secret Service is what — number one? Are they in charge of counterfeiting — or not “in charge of” but to ferret it out?
C.B. Well, when I spoke earlier about the time the Secretary of Treasury spoke to Abraham Lincoln about creating the Secret Service, that was due to about a third to half of the currency in the United States during the Civil War was counterfeit. It was issued by state banks and it was undermining the economy of the United States. So that’s why we were formed: To fight counterfeiting. And since that time, it has evolved into bank fraud and credit card fraud and, basically, we like to think that we are protectors not only of the people that run our country but we are also protectors of the financial institutions of our country.
F.F. And have you ever dealt with counterfeiters yourself?
C.B. Oh, yes…oh, yes…many times.
F.F. Have you ever collared ‘em and sought ‘em out in their little hovels wherever they do their work?
C.B. Yeah. In fact, in an article I gave you on a magazine, we had a gentleman when I was in charge of our Las Vegas division in Nevada arrested when I first got there that — counterfeiting: typical with the light bulb and the printing press — it could have been something right out of the textbook. And we sent him off…
F.F. Remember the name of that man?
C.B. Well, I don’t want to really say his name on the air because it violates his privacy.
F.F. All right.
C.B. But he basically was sent to jail, and about four, five years later got out and got down to another part of the country and was counterfeiting again and had about $19,000,000 dollars in counterfeit money. So, you know, we constantly run into people. We are the best at doing what we do. And worldwide recognized. The dollar, the greenback, the almighty buck, whatever you want to call it, has a lot of confidence because we suppress the counterfeit. We keep the numbers down. There’s not an acceptable level in my book for anything being passed onto the public where the public is the victim. But there is a certain amount of counterfeit that goes around but we get it pretty quick.
F.F. Is there a thread in the new…what…hundred dollar bills? Is there something that makes it easier to help you work?
C.B. We spent many years developing the new design of the new money working with the Secretary of Treasury and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, but we incorporated security features such as a water mark, color shifting ink, a security thread, concentric fine-line microprinting. These are things that we needed to get into the money in order to offset the desktop publishing or the Xerox or the copier type of easy counterfeit that a child might do, that a junior high might do, or a high school student or even a more sophisticated counterfeiter as the more sophisticated the equipment began to get. And now with desktop publishing with computers and scanning and everything, we have to build in devices so that we can detect the counterfeit money.
F.F. All right, you’re listening to “Talkline” here with Frosty Fowler on AM 820 KGNW, and if you would like to call in with a thought or question or anything at all pertinent to the Secret Service, something we haven’t thought of, please call 443-9214, toll-free 1-800-955-8200.
F.F. This is an ancillary bit of information, not really important, but I think my wife told me one time that one of her direct relatives was a bodyguard for Abraham Lincoln. And to which we’ve asked her many times, where was he on that night? He must have been out for a coffee break or something.
C.B. Or something.
F.F. Or something…Do you…Have you ever been in the guarding of presidents’ families or the presidents themselves or foreign heads of states or whatever?
C.B. All of the above. I was hired on with the Secret Service in Birmingham, Alabama, and after serving there I went to the President’s detail in 1977 when Jimmy Carter was the President and served there for four years through the first part of Reagan’s tour before I was transferred to Los Angeles, California. So I was at the White House at that point. After spending four years in California, of course, that was like being at the White House because President Reagan used to come out there quite often. And then we had the…‘84 Olympics in California which I helped do the advance for, for the track and field and swim and dive and boxing venues…
F.F. That must have been very straining to peer through the crowds constantly. Kind of remindful…of the Atlanta thing that happened.
C.B. Well, you know it’s kind of interesting, and I guess the time has gone by and I can maybe give a little insight on that. We were at the Coliseum and it was opening ceremonies and President Reagan was there in the press box and there was, as you know, a ton of people there and it was just very, very majestic and, you know, there was this point where there was this ticking sound and we couldn’t figure out what it was and it was as the runners were running around with the torch. They were going to light the torch and it was up by the torch and we kept hearing this ticking sound and we went, “Oh, no.”
F.F. I bet it drove you nuts.
C.B. Well, you know you start thinking of a lot of things…
F.F. Sure, absolutely.
C.B. Then we, you know…It’s kind of like you almost want to put your fingers in your ear, but because it was too late, we had done our job, we knew there weren’t bombs there…But, still, to be aggravated by this ticking…
F.F. What did it turn out to be?
C.B. It turned out to be the news. One of the networks left one of their line locating devices that kind of gave a beeping sound and everything that let them know where the line was. And they had left their piece of equipment up there. So that was kind of a scare that kind of didn’t happen.
F.F. Special agent in charge for the Seattle Office, U.S. Secret Service. Chuck, you ever been shot at?
C.B. No, never have.
F.F. That could be pretty tensing, can’t it? It can be…
C.B. It’ll certainly make you think about where you are.
F.F. Are you prepared…Is it okay to ask this? Are you prepared to offer your life or to protect a person by shielding that person with your body?
C.B. You know, I don’t think anybody is prepared for something like that. Let me share with you: We in the Secret Service train ourselves to a point to where we react not because we thought about it or that we know what we’re doing at the time. But we train so proficiently that we know scenarios and we know what we’re doing in a protective mode to where we react. We react according to our training and much like, you know, we need to react even as Christians. That if we had, you know, the Word of God in us all the time and fully occupying our bodies and training in the Word of God, then we’ll react to people with the Word of God on our lips and not in the flesh. But agents tend to react the way that they are trained so we spend an inordinate amount of time training our agents. Going through practice scenarios, drills…
F.F. Kind of role-playing?
C.B. Role-playing. And this bore itself out in the Reagan shooting. Tim McCarthy, the agent that was shot, reacted, I think — reflecting back on it, that was my shift at the time, that I was working — and I was on special assignment across town on another assignment and ended up meeting them at the hospital. But Tim McCarthy turned and spun and is treated as a hero and is a hero. But he reacted the way he was trained. And he was shot in the abdomen.
F.F. Dozens of others could — or probably would — have reacted the same way.
C.B. Every one of us. Because that’s how we we’re trained. And he did it textbook. And you know he did his job; he survived because he was in top physical shape. His muscles actually deflected part of the bullet as it entered his abdomen.
F.F. …I’m going to ask, and what part you want to go into or not…Were you, what? The first agent to the hospital where President Reagan was taken?
C.B. Myself and two other agents responded. We heard it on a radio and we responded to GW Hospital and were posted at the surgery and at the operating room, the recovery room, and his eventual room. And then additional agents poured in. We have an operational plan that we know what to do in case of a situation like this. But see, Jerry Parr, who was the agent in charge of the President’s detail at the time — he’s another hero, you know, when you start thinking of heroes — because he threw him in the car, fell on him and you know…almost like it broke a rib. But see, he didn’t know that’s where the bullet went in: underneath the arm. He started checking him—we’re all trained in 10-minute medicine—and he started seeing the frothing blood in his…
F.F. What do you mean by 10-minute medicine?
C.B. Basically, we’re trained to administer medicine. The first 10 minutes are the most critical in anybody’s injury. So we’re trained in 10-minute-type trauma medicine.
F.F. To recognize…
C.B. To recognize and to treat and to act. What to do with them. And so he made the decision when he saw the reddish-pinkish tint in his mouth as blood to go to the hospital. I think if he had gone to the White House, George Bush would have been president. He’d have lost that much blood. But he made the decision to go to GW Hospital. And it was a good decision.
F.F. Did you have the pleasure of speaking on occasion with President Reagan?
C.B. Oh, yeah, many occasions.
F.F. A pleasant man?
C.B. Pleasant, very pleasant. A good man. And I’ve never met a bad president.
F.F. What other…Or what are some of the heads of state or dignitaries that you’ve also been associated with, foreign or otherwise?
C.B. I’ve been…Well, I’ve been with Pope Paul — John Paul — and with different heads of state…the Queen of England. Any head of state, head of government that comes to our shores we protect. So I’ve been assigned to different dignitary details, as we call it, throughout my career, or I’ve been a supervisor in an office where I’ve had to oversee the protection, you know, in a district.
F.F. You’ve had a lot of training in firearms, haven’t you?
F.F. In fact, you have to keep brushed up on that, I would presume.
C.B. Quite often, more often sometimes than I want to be.
F.F. And that requires what, monthly training or somewhere in…?
C.B. It varies. It’s monthly in Washington, D.C., and the assignment in the field, as we call it out here, would be quarterly. We go to the range and train.
F.F. Do cities have ratings so to speak, an unspoken rating like you might consider, say, like…uh…the Bronx, as being a hot area? How about Seattle? How would you regard this? Is this kind of a laid back area?
C.B. Seattle is a great area.
F.F. We’ve had a lot of dignitaries here, haven’t we?
C.B. We’ve had quite a bit. If you remember back to the campaign we had President Clinton and Vice President Gore on a bus trip down to Portland, and down at Pike Street Market, and we had just all kinds of people coming in here and Jack Kemp and everybody. We have a lot of visits because Seattle is an important area of the country.
F.F. I was beginning to think that maybe President Clinton and Hillary were going to rent a room here or something, they were here so often. They were here about three times in a row. Let’s take a break right now.
F.F. Let’s go back to our guest now, Chuck Brewster. I see you have here a picture of a…a hundred-dollar bill?
C.B. That’s the new one hundred-dollar bill that came out here a while back and I think by the end of the year we’re gonna be seeing the fifty come out. It will have the same security features. At first, when it came out, it looked kind of funny. People weren’t doing…They were kind of going, “Oh, it looks kind of weird.” But now it’s being fully accepted and we’re not having the counterfeit problems with it because of the security features.
F.F. Is there a…what do you call it…a holograph on there?
C.B. No, there’s no holograph, there’s a water mark within the paper and there’s color shifting ink on the hundred that you can…When you look at it one way it’s green and another way it’s black, and it’s very hard to duplicate that. You can’t do it.
F.F. Let’s go down to Aberdeen right now. Hi. Is this Alvin?
F.F. Alvin…You had something about — what’d you call it — funny money?
Caller: Yes. About a year go, the Reader’s Digest carried an article that declared that Qaddafi in Libya and the Ayatollah in Iran both bought the very same style of press that we in America use to print these new hundred dollar bills. That article declared that both of these people are turning out literally billions of counterfeit money and they’re so near perfect that it’s almost…It takes an expert to detect them and that article declared that a lot of the [garbled] across Europe are refusing to accept our new hundred-dollar bills because of this counterfeiting. It’s appalling to me…
F.F. Let’s get a comment on that right now, Alvin. What do you think of that?
C.B. Basically, the…I didn’t read the article, the article is wrong. I mean, one, all those rumors and…I remember hearing and reading different things on rumors about counterfeit money in Iran and everything and dealt with the old style money, not the new money, and the presses and everything. I think there was even something on 20/20: one of them trying to talk about the size of presses that were bought and transported over there. But actually, you know, we do have foreign counterfeiting of our money but it’s very — it’s not the billions, it’s in the millions — and you know it’s something that we do control, we track and we’re on top of. There are several areas with counterfeit money that comes up in different countries and everything, and we have offices all over the world and we attack it and everything, but those articles got real blown up and out of proportion and they’re not quite accurate.
Caller: I’m pleased to hear that Mr. Brewster…
F.F. That is comforting, isn’t it?
Caller: I’m really pleased to hear that because it was distressing to me. It sounded so authoritative. They even declared that these presses exert twenty tons of pressure on the paper, you know, when it’s being printed. But, anyway, I’m happy to hear that and I thank you for your comments.
F.F. Okay, thanks Alvin. Thank you. Anyone else got a comment on money? [Call] 443-9214, toll-free 1-800-955-8200. This is one of the primary duties of the Secret Service: and that is, according to all the literature I’ve been given here, is to check into counterfeiting. What do you look for when you look at a twenty? Can you look at a twenty and…
C.B. I look at it in your hand and take it in my hand [chuckles].
F.F. [chuckles] All right. What do you look for to see if it’s bogus or not?
C.B. You know, people that handle money a lot can feel it right away when they look at money. But you look at the portrait, you look at the seal. If you have several of them, make sure the serial numbers are not the same because they’re never the same. But, generally speaking, if you have a question, pull one out of your wallet or out of your cash drawer and look at it. Compare it to the one you’re looking at. If it looks wrong, call us and we can run it. Or call your bank and they can run it. And we have a way of circularizing the money and the counterfeit money and, you know, we’re very successful. Probably 97 percent of all counterfeit money that’s produced we seize. So only about three or four percent is passed on the public successfully. And sometimes people say “Well…” You know, we tell ‘em it’s a tax deduction [chuckles]. They don’t like to hear that, they want their money, you know, but…
F.F. Is this a major drop here for counterfeit money?
C.B. You know, we’ve seen in this area it’s not a major drop area. There’s certainly with the Vancouver down to L.A., San Diego area, there’s quite a bit of activity, as I’ll call it. And with the shut down of Hong Kong to PRC control, we’re seeing a little more activity. It’s not something that we’re not on top of. But we’re aware of criminal elements that like to dabble in money and credit cards and we like to arrest ‘em.
F.F. Are you into credit cards?
C.B. Oh, yes. Counterfeit credit cards, altered credit cards, scams. You know, there’s one scam I really want to talk about because it hits people, and when you hear something that’s a scam and it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true. But with this get-rich-quick scheme — it’s what we call a 419-type case but only because of an area code. But it’s basically a letter saying they’re from Nigeria or somewhere in Africa and they have all this money and they just need your bank account to, you know, run it through, and you just need to send them $10,000 to pay the…
F.F. Yes, yes, right, right.
C.B. I mean, that is so, that is so bogus, and they need to call our office when they get that and send us the letter. We have made so many seizures, so many arrests, we’re working with the Nigerian government on it but it is a scam.
F.F. If it’s good, it’ll hold a little longer until they check it out. What is your phone number once again?
C.B. Our phone number is, here in Seattle — it’s always in the front flap of the phone book in every city that you’re in — but here in Seattle it’s (206) 220-6800 [phone number has changed]. We have an office in Spokane, Portland, Bellingham, Vancouver, Anchorage, Great Falls. We get around a little bit. So we’re everywhere.
F.F. Okay. Any more calls on counterfeiting or whatever you want to know about the Secret Service. Again, we talked about employment and the number to call again if you want an application is 220-6800 [phone number has changed] if you think you might qualify. So take a shot at it. And men, women, ethnic apparently is no problem. You must have a college education and you certainly should have a spotless record so I hope you haven’t piled up a lot of traffic tickets there [chuckles]. All right, [call] 443-9214, toll free 1-800-955-8200 and we’ll be back in a moment.
F.F. Let’s go back to our guest here again. And our guest is on the program, and in case you didn’t know, this is “Talkline.” I’m Frosty Fowler. This is AM 820 KGNW and, again, if you want to call, got anything to share: 443-9214, toll-free 1-800-955-8200. This is Chuck Brewster, and he said to be a Secret Service agent you gotta be in shape. What do you do?
C.B. Don’t look at me right now…
F.F. What do you do? [chuckles]
C.B. I’m a little older. But I’m still in pretty decent shape for my age. But we emphasize cardiovascular-type training and weight lifting and, you know, when you travel as much as we do and you stand on your feet when you’re wearing a gun, radio, handcuffs, and all the batons and everything else, all this extra weight added to your body…
F.F. About what? About ten, fifteen pounds?
C.B. Oh, about twenty something pounds. I mean, after a while, if you’re not in good shape, it will wear you down. You’ll start having lower back problems, you’ll start having leg problems, so you need to stay in shape in order to survive, and our job is very much physically intense. It is also stressful sometimes and this is more in the protective realm. In the investigative realm it is as well because anyone knows anyone in law enforcement, they’re putting their life on the line every time they go out onto the street and try to work a deal. Nowadays everybody has a gun.
F.F. Do you run a lot?
C.B. I don’t any more. I get on a treadmill and everything, but I used to run quite a bit. We try to run a couple miles two to three times a week.
F.F. Would you want your kids…You have two children, don’t you?
F.F. How old?
C.B. I have one at the University of Illinois, my son, and he’s a junior. And I have a daughter at Issaquah High School. She’s getting ready to graduate and she’s been accepted at the University of Washington.
F.F. You mean your kids are not going to Florida State where you…
C.B. Well, I went to Florida State and I certainly support their football team. I think they’re a great team and the coach is a great man, a great coach, and you can’t tell I’m prejudiced at all, can you?
C.B. But I think the kids ought to go their own way and get their own education in the school that they want to attend.
F.F. All right. But if they wanted to be Special Agents?
C.B. Well, I think…
F.F. That would be okay with you?
C.B. Yeah, that would be okay with me. I…uh…I’ll see…
F.F. You’d have a long talk with them first.
C.B. I’ll see. It’s a good career in a good profession and you know the Secret Service is a family. You know, a year ago this month, we had the bombing in — or two years ago, I guess it was — in Oklahoma City. We lost six agents and administrative people there in Oklahoma City. And we had an agent drown down in Los Angeles just recently in a boating accident and everything and, you know, we reach out, we take care of one another. It’s a small agency; we take care of one another. It’s a good agency, it’s an honorable career, a very good career, and it is something that is challenging. We investigate computer crimes as well. And being in the Northwest up here where computers are like your right hand or your left hand…
F.F. Oh, they’re everywhere.
C.B. We’re in the right area…
F.F. We’ve had some problems here.
C.B. We’re in the right area. But we investigate computer fraud and, I mean, when you…It’s a challenge, and we’re trying to go — we’re on the cutting edge, trying to be on the cutting edge. Sometimes, you know…My son’s on the cutting edge; I’m on the burned out edge, actually. [chuckles]
F.F. You have to know the computer language.
C.B You have to, a little bit…
F.F. You’re pretty conversant in that.
C.B. I’m conversant in getting on my email and telling my secretary, “What does this mean?” [chuckles]
F.F. How about…You speak other languages?
C.B. No, I don’t. But we emphasize that — in fact, we have immersion courses for agents and everything, especially working the street, maybe in high Hispanic areas, learning Spanish — because you need to communicate. Communications is half of your job. The success of solving a major case: The important thing is the interview and being able to communicate. And dealing undercover, you know you need to also be able to communicate in that nature.
F.F. …We’re such a gateway to the Orient, we have so many Asian people here. Do you have people in your office that speak some of the Asian languages?
C.B. We don’t in Seattle right now. In fact, I’m trying to recruit in that area and everything because it’s important and we do have another office near here and…
F.F. You served in the Vietnam war.
C.B. Yes, I was in the Air Force.
F.F. What did you do? What was your role?
C.B. I was an aircraft hydraulic repair man. And I graduated from high school down in Pensacola, Florida, in ‘63 and my best friend said, “Come on, let’s go join the Air Force on the Buddy Plan.” And I’d had an argument with my girlfriend and all of a sudden I was in the Air Force. And it was good because I think, really, God had his hand on me and had protected me. It was early on in the Vietnam conflict and I was assigned after my normal training in a couple of years over to Udorn, Thailand, so I was in and around the Vietnam campaign theater but not necessarily in the midst of a battle.
F.F. Chuck Brewster, I like stories. What is perhaps the wildest, maddest assignment you’ve ever had, the craziest assignment that turned out to be unpredictable…uh…would that be the Democratic National Convention in New York City? Political things can be — I didn’t mean that as “Democratic” or “Republican” or whatever — but they can be wild. What is one of the most unusual assignments you’ve ever had?
C.B. You know, my whole career has been an unusual assignment. I sometimes am in awe of the history that surrounds me. When I was assigned to the White House the first time, I went over to Egypt and did an advance over there for…I was there for about six weeks in Cairo. And it was when President Carter was shuttling back and forth between Begin and Sadat, trying to get together that Middle East Accord. And being in the midst of history and having this twelve-lane highway and all the generals and colonels of the Egyptian armies telling me…I’m worried about this convertible that President Carter is going to be standing in with Sadat going down this big highway and seeing all these houses up there and going, “But what about these houses?” And they kept saying, “No problem.” And I…
F.F. And yet, Sadat himself later was murdered.
C.B. Later was murdered. But, see, they have different rules over there and I think there was no problem. They emptied those houses. They had agents in every one of those houses. But it was a truly monumental task in doing the advance because it was…you’re on edge. Those were times when you had a lot of terrorism and things of that nature. And then we had a train trip from there to Alexandria. The last time they’d had that advance President Nixon had made it and like three people got run over by the train and killed. Well, I didn’t want that and I was responsible for that train trip. So I mean my whole career is riddled with little stories like that that make good anecdotes that we don’t really share that much in depth because that’s why we’re called the Secret Service: We can keep a secret.
F.F. I’m going to ask you this question. You can answer it when we come back. You served in the White House under two presidents, one was Carter, the other one was Reagan?
C.B. Well, yeah, Reagan, and then I went over…after Las Vegas, went back as the supervisor on the Vice President’s detail with Bush when he was running for President, and then Dan Quayle.
F.F. All right. You’re listening to “Talkine,” Frosty Fowler, 820 KGNW. [Call] 443-9214, toll-free 1-800-955-8200, should you have a question. When I come back, I’m going to ask him: During those long hours of being in the halls of the White House at night, did you ever pray to God? Coming back in a moment.
F.F. Let’s go back to our friend here, Chuck Brewster, and talk to him about his work in the Secret Service. And I ask you about the long hours you spent in the White House halls at night covering those three shifts. Did you just sometimes feel, “Oh, I’d like to go home and go to bed?”
C.B. [chuckles] Well, you said something about whether or not I prayed in the halls of the White House and I jokingly told you when we were off the air that, yeah, I’d pray the shift would be over so I could go home and rest my legs. Standing on marble sometimes can wear on you. And it’s so nice, they’ve come out with shoes now that have the softer soles that look like dress shoes. But I spent many hours in those hallowed halls of the White House and…
F.F. Did it touch you sometimes?
C.B. You know, there’s a lot of history…
F.F. “Here I am in this historical place…”
C.B. There’s a lot of history and you sit there and you think about “Who has been there before you?” And I can see where President Nixon at one point — when the press was saying he was talking to the pictures or whatever — but, I mean, you can see the history around you. It’s not something you read in a book; it was right there in front of you. The second time I was back in Washington I was at the Naval Observatory with the Vice President and assigned as a supervisor back there. And again we’re back and forth to the White House or up to Congress and everything, because the Vice President has the Senate and everything. So, you know, you see all the history around you, but it takes a toll on you because you’re consumed…
F.F. As all work does…
C.B. Yeah. And you can’t let your work consume you so much that you leave your family behind or God behind.
F.F. You…your family all know the Lord?
C.B. Yes, they do.
F.F. Are quite a few of the agents believers?
C.B. Oh, yes. And you know…
F.F. Is it allowed to be…uh…
C.B. Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s allowed just as much as any other profession in the country. I think, you know, we…I can’t speak for anyone else in the Secret Service; I can only speak for me. When I left Birmingham, Alabama, in the ‘70s and was a born-again Christian, a new born-again Christian, I went to the White House and I was traveling eighty percent of the time around the world with the President and I didn’t have time to go to church, and it wasn’t until really God kind of brought me to Los Angeles and then over to Las Vegas and in the middle of the desert that he touched my heart in a deeper way that said, “Hello, here I am…”
F.F. Chuck Brewster, we have about three minutes left. Has God forgotten this country? We’re in a deep pit of sin. Our moral character has slipped quite a bit…Does God still…? He still remembers us.
C.B. You know what I see as an outpouring of God’s spirit all over this country? I see it in the Promise Keepers movement; I see it in men. I have a heart for men’s ministry. And I know that when I retire from the Secret Service that that’s what I’m going to be doing. But I see an outpouring of God’s spirit in such a way that this nation — as 2nd Chronicles says — needs to get on its knees and humble itself. And a lot of the families…It doesn’t start…It’s not the nation: It’s each home, each family. You know, crime in this country would disintegrate if fathers…
F.F. If each one of us…
C.B. If each one of us would get on our knees and just give it up and repent and get rid of the sin that binds us right now and take on God’s forgiveness.…
F.F. Would you do me a favor? How much time do we have? [speaking to control booth]. We have two minutes left. Would you give a brief, maybe thirty to forty-second prayer for America?
C.B. Sure….Father, we thank you Lord. We thank you for our mighty country. We thank you for this nation, Lord, that has been yours, Father. We thank you, Lord, for the families, all the families in this country, Lord. And we ask you, Father, that as you pour out your spirit on the men across this country, Lord, that they would go into their homes and start healing the hurt. Father, that they’d start healing the divisiveness in families, Lord Jesus, that they’d start reaching out in their communities, Father, and being the priests of their homes, and reaching out to the families and friends around them, Father. That only when we turn from our wicked ways will our country be healed. And we ask you, Father, just to touch us. Touch us in a way that we will be able to operate with your spirit guiding everything that we do. Not letting our pride get in our way, Father, but giving ourself up to you, that we would be able to know you in a deeper way. And, Father, obeying your Word, because, Father, we know that you are coming. And, Jesus, we just know that you are our head, you are our Lord, and you have given us everything, and we thank you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
F.F. Chuck, nice to have you on duty down there. Nice to know that we’ll breathe easy and sleep easy tonight knowing there’s a man of God in charge of your office here in Seattle.
C.B. Thank you, Frosty, for having me.
F.F. And again, if you want to get an application, want to think about joining the Secret Service, hey, take a shot at it. Phone number is:
C.B. (206) 220-6800 [phone number has changed].
F.F. And that’s the number and they will tell you the address, etc., and just call ‘em. And what else do we say? Well, I know, Chuck, you want to get home and do a few pushups to say in shape there [chuckles].
C.B. [chuckles] Yes.
F.F. Nice to have you with us.
C.B. Thank you very much.
(This interview was transcribed by C.E. Chambers June 2011.)
Read Charles Brewster’s bio: www.championsofhonor.com.
Read Frosty Fowler’s bio: http://www.seattlepi.com/ae/tv/article/On-Radio-Frosty-Fowler-relives-his-wild-rides-1209290.php