Ralph Gonzales and Lew Merletti have led similar lives and careers. Both served their country honorably in the military, including tours in Vietnam. They met while both were United States Secret Service (USSS) Agents. Lew was appointed Director of the USSS and Ralph was appointed to the Senior Executive Service. Following retirement, they pursued different careers. In 2016, Lew and Ralph reunited and formed Merletti, Gonzales & Associates, an international security consulting firm that is veteran-owned. The following are their stories.
It was in the Secret Service that Lew and Ralph’s relationship grew while protecting the Presidents of our nation. Collectively, Lew and Ralph protected Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush.
Merletti started his career with the U.S. Army, serving in Special Forces, including a tour of duty with the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam. Among several medals, he was awarded the Bronze Star and Parachute Jump Wings.
Merletti served as the agency’s 19th Director. Before becoming Director of the Secret Service, Mr. Merletti served as Assistant Director in the Office of Training for all Secret Service employees. He served in the Presidential Protective Division under three Presidents: Reagan, Bush, and Clinton; and was named as the Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protective Division (PPD), the 22nd agent to hold that position in the history of the Secret Service dating back to 1865. As the Special Agent in Charge of PPD he was ultimately responsible for the physical security of the President and First Family.
NFL Cleveland Browns
Following his retirement from the U.S. Secret Service, Mr. Merletti joined the Cleveland Browns as the Senior Vice President for security. He was responsible for all operations to include disaster recovery, the direction, design and deployment of security for the entire Cleveland Browns operation, including the owners, coaches, players and public safety on game days. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Mr. Merletti was a primary driver in having the U.S. Secret Service designating that year’s Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans as a National Security Special Event (NSSE) resulting in the Secret Service providing the protection plan as well as physical protection. At the request of the NFL, Mr. Merletti was appointed as a newly established NFL Security Advisor and developed security practices at all NFL stadiums.
Gonzales began his career with the US Air Force and served in the 3rd Security Police Squadron in Vietnam. Following his military discharge, he became a Texas State Trooper in the Highway Patrol Division and after 5 years became a Special Agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).
Over the next 20 years, while serving in the USSS, Ralph held numerous positions assigned to various field offices responsible for operations in Mexico, Central and South America. He also served on several Protective Divisions in Washington, DC with an increased level of responsibility. One of his many noteworthy assignments was working alongside Lew Merletti as Special Investigators assigned to the Secretary of Treasury. Their primary focus was reviewing the ATF investigation and raid of the Branch Davidian Compound near Waco, Texas, in 1993. Ralph retired in 2003 as the Special Agent in Charge, Senior Executive Service of the Paris Field Office where he was responsible for regions including Europe, former Russian States, the Middle East, and Africa.
Following his retirement from the Secret Service Mr. Gonzales joined Hunt Oil in 2003 as International Security Director and managed operations in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. Hunt Oil is one of the world’s leading independent energy companies.
During his 13 years with Hunt Oil, Mr. Gonzales was accountable for strategic security issues and was responsible for the development, implementation and coordination of the organization’s security vision, strategy and programs worldwide. He ensured security processes were in place globally to protect people, assets, information and investments, reduce risks, conduct investigations, respond to incidents and limit exposure to liability. This included managing risks in the most challenging environments arising from threats of organised crime, terrorism, information theft and espionage, wars, coups, and revolutions.