From left, Ryan Robertson, Paul Nebel, Melissa Marshall and Ryan McCamley are part of the Capitol Police First Responder Unit. The elite group of more than 150 officers is charged with protecting members, staffers, journalists and visitors on the Capitol grounds.
Physical discipline is essential to maintaining the stamina required to endure eight hours under the baking mid-July sun or in the blistering cold December winds that stir the branches of the Capitol Christmas tree on the West Lawn.
“There are not too many days that we stand out there and it’s 70 and sunny,” Nebel said. “You’re either going to be sweating or you’re going to be freezing.” He’s committed himself to a daily 3 a.m. wake-up call to squeeze in a two-hour workout before the duties of the first shift. It’s not the easiest schedule for a married man with two sons, ages 10 and 14.
“I commit to it and take it seriously because those guys are looking to me as an example of doing the right thing even when no one is watching,” he said.
McCamley’s commitment to the physical demands of the job led him to krav maga, a self-defense system based on boxing, wrestling and street-fighting that was brought to the United States from Israel in the mid-1980s. He began taking classes in 2006 at a center in Columbia, Md., and now trains civilians on the side and conducts offsite law enforcement trainings for local, state and FBI officers. He also leads pre-deployment courses for CIA, National Security Agency and special forces groups.
Robertson sums up the highly motivated group of officers like this: “99 percent of us are a type-A personality. ... We’re the first protection of the U.S. Capitol. We’re the first ones you’re going to meet when you come to the square and this square is ours. Anything that happens inside, we’re going to deal with.”