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Meet the guard you may have been chatting with for years

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By G. ANTHONIE RIIS

Michael Regan has been with the Directorate of Emergency Services as an access control gate guard since the guards were first utilized shortly after 9/11.

All-in-all, Regan
has served the U.S.
government in some capacity for more than 40 years.

“I quit school in the 11th grade, and I joined the Army in 1966 when I was 17 years old,” Regan said. “I went to Vietnam the first time just after my 18th birthday.”

It was a quick transition, but for Regan the Army promised something he didn’t find in school.

“In school, I stuttered badly. I was dysfunctional. I couldn’t even answer the telephone, so I quit school and joined up,” Regan said. “When I finished basic training, I didn’t stutter anymore. I think the problem might have been with my self-esteem.”

Whatever the problem, whatever the fix, Regan felt he had to test the result.

“In Vietnam, I volunteered to give the incoming brief to all the new Soldiers coming into country,” he said. “I needed to put myself in a position to talk to people. I needed to validate that I was cured from stuttering.”

Regan said the remedy stuck and he’s been a talker ever since.

“I was the second child of four, and my mother said that
[my speech impediment] came because with all the talking,
I couldn’t get in a word edgewise,” Regan said. “Now, I’m just trying
to make up those 17 years when I couldn’t talk.”

After a tour to Vietnam, Regan returned to the states to find divorce papers waiting for him.

“I went right back in [to the Army] and never looked back,” Regan said. “I told the recruiter that if he’d send me back to Vietnam, I’d sign the paper that day. I didn’t even return to my brother’s apartment. The recruiter gave me a ticket and in 36 hours, I was in Saigon.”

Regan served 10 years as a military policeman and his final 13 in armor. Regan retired in 1990 and moved back to Kentucky to be near
his second wife’s family. He attended school
and worked an assortment of jobs, from factory worker to car salesman.

“After 9/11 happened, I was hired on [at Fort Knox] that November. I was the second wave of new hires in 2001 and I’ve been here ever since,” Regan said. “I’ve served my country most of my life. I’m just one of those who thinks he should give to his country for all his country has given to him.”

Regan said the job was a good fit that felt like a welcome home.

“I’m military-minded. I’m comfortable around the military, and I missed that brotherhood,” he said. “I enjoy the camaraderie I have with the great people I work with and the people I meet at the gate. It’s an important job. We protect the people who live, work and play on Fort Knox.

“We are security, but we are also in the customer service business too,” Regan continued, “and occasionally we give directions.”

Regan explained that in some ways the gate guards are the face of Fort Knox.

“We are the first people customers see when they come to the gate, and we give them their first and lasting impression of the post,” Regan said. “We have to keep that balance — to try to keep the customer happy while keeping the bad guys out.”

Regan admits that while checking motorists through the access control points takes time, it is a necessary nuisance to keep his customers safe.

“There have been a lot of bad people who have tried to get onto the installation. They don’t make it. Without a proper ID, we must run a criminal background check, and they are sent away. If they have a warrant, we detain them and we call the authorities,” Regan said. “Some people are upset, and some guards may come across as too gruff; they’re doing their job.”

Regan’s gift for gab and personal style seems to provide a measure of grace in a workplace where others with places to go need to wait on you.

“I try to have a good time doing my job, and I try and make it enjoyable for others, too,” Regan said. “I tend to be a calming effect in hostile situations. If I need to, I can be firm with someone, but I find I’m more of a diffuser,” Regan said. “I tell them the truth, ‘Hey, I need you to go see that Soldier, and we’re gonna take 10 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back, but it’s for a good cause.’ For some reason, the response I normally get is a ‘thank you’ and a wave as they leave.”

Regan said his success can be attributed to the rapport he’s built with customers over the years.

“It’s the way I talk to people. I try to keep it brief, but I stoop to their eye level and look into their faces. Maybe people get a kick outta that sorta thing,” Regan said. “Sometimes it gets to me when I ask, ‘Is there anyone else in the vehicle?’ and I get, ‘No, just my kids.’ I typically say, ‘Well, let the window down so I can see just your kids.’ I tell the kids to respect their parents and work hard in school. ‘This is your chance.’ They love it, and I can’t tell you the times parents come through my lane because their children want to see me.”

To Regan, the job becomes more than guarding a post for eight hours.

“I try to always be standing when you get there,” Regan said. “I want you to know it’s not just a toll booth on the highway where you throw your money in a chute. This is my care factor.”