Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What It Takes to be a Transportation Security Officer

Many people at TSA are checking out our blog, from security officers on the front line to management here at TSA’s headquarters. Today, we received a post from Mo McGowan, who heads up aviation security operations at TSA:

Since there have been hundreds of comments about our Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) on this blog ranging from "they're great" to "they stink," I thought it might be interesting to take an inside look into what it takes to be an officer and what they do.

So what does it take to be hired as an officer? Applicants are tested before they’re hired, and have quite a bit of required training afterward. Applicants for “screening” jobs take a series of image interpretation tests before they are ever offered a job. (About one in 20 applicants actually becomes an officer.) Even after they’ve been on the job, TSA requires ongoing training throughout the year.

Once hired, officers:
- Participate in more than 120 hours of classroom and on-the-job training before they ever screen a person or a bag;
- Undergo a series of tests before receiving a work assignment;
- Complete even more training if they are going to screen both passengers and baggage (More than half of our officers do this); and
- Complete an annual certification process that includes more written tests, image interpretation tests, and a third party evaluation.

So training is a regular, important part of an officer’s job.

Seven times every day, every checkpoint in the U.S. is tested with ‘fake’ threats to ensure that our officers are on alert. Most of these fake items are very difficult to identify on the computer screen, and most of these items are detected. Unfortunately, we’re all most likely to hear about the few prohibited items that pass through undetected rather than the thousands of items that are identified at the checkpoint.

On a typical day in the U.S., security officers find two guns and around 2,800 knives and blades (of varying sizes) on passengers and in carry-on bags. Those are the most commonly discovered prohibited items, but it’s hard to imagine how many other potential threats are identified on a daily basis.

We at TSA don’t want anything to happen ‘on our watch.’ This means a lot to me when my family flies, or when I fly to see my grandkids. It means that officers want to be thorough even though it might be inconvenient for us sometimes. It means that they take our safety, security, and the threat seriously, and try their best to prevent and deter the individuals who wish to do us harm.

At TSA, we think about one passenger at a time, two million times a day.

Thanks,
Mo

141 comments:

Anonymous said...

How much testing to see if they can deal with the public in a difficult enviroment?

Are they tested to be mentally fit for the job or can they just distinguish blobs of clay and such in baggage?

Anonymous said...

they also undergo background checks too, i hope?

i agree we hear all to often about poor TSO experiences (i love complaining as much as the next person), so i'd like to commend the people behind this blog and for helping to present the other side of the story.

Shawn said...

Whoa!

"On a typical day in the U.S., security officers find two guns and around 2,800 knives and blades (of varying sizes) on passengers and in carry-on bags."

What could people be thinking? Honestly! It blows my mind that people could be so stupid/careless.

new-found respect for TSA...

Anonymous said...

Here's a thought. How about telling us how we can report a TSA employee that is rude or abusive at a checkpoint. One that does not involve getting confronted by every TSA agent at the checkpoint because they get defensive.

As well as providing us with away to make sure that it has been investigated as opposed to mailing a generic form letter for a response.

Lancifer said...

All of this training is all well and good, but we expect some professionalism from every agent. Now, I realize that the people speaking up on this blog are a vocal minority, but I've found that the minority does represent a much higher number of people. Even if we looked at a 1:10 ratio of those that speak up and those that don't, the numbers are still quite alarming. True, it is a tough job, and a fair number of people are rude to TSO's. However, I worked in customer service. I faced the same level of rudeness for the entire day as well. This should never affect how you deal with people. Also, all of the training in the world means nothing if an agent isn't doing their job. I have, personally, witnessed agents at the x-ray monitors diddling around with their cell phones, ogling passersby(not just "keeping an eye out"), and flat out watching everything else but the screen. I have also noticed a high number of questionable people are TSO's. We should never feel like the person in charge of our safety is not fit for the job. Coming from someone who usually gives people the benefit of the doubt, I should never be doubting someone's competency. I suggest a little bit more thorough measures for hiring. If the TSA is going to be a semi-law enforcement agency, it should have similar requirements for both hiring and training. 1:20 applicants getting through might not be stringent enough. I'd rather see fewer professionally trained (i.e.: law enforcement type training) personnel than more "security guard" style trained personnel. After all, they are theoretically dealing with national security.

Anonymous said...

When you pre-hire, do you go through the same kind of process a local, state, or federal law enforcement officer would be subjected to? Specifically I'm referring to things such as:

1) What kind of FBI criminal background checks do you do, and how in depth do you go? Do you require fingerprints of all applicants? What would be disqualifying criteria?

2) How do you screen for mental and emotional stability? Do you look for and screen out certain negative personality traits?

3) What about education? Do you require at least a High School diploma? College degree? Or are GED's "adequate"?

4) Health and fitness? Is there some standard? Some TSO's I've seen could learn to stop eating a few big macs, and get on a treadmill once in a while. Or do is just being able to breathe and waddle down the concourse enough?

5) Drug and alcohol testing? Is employment in the TSA a zero drug tolerance policy?

And what the heck does a series of "series of image interpretation tests" mean? This is a gun (uhhh), this is a knife (uhhh), this is a bullet (uhhh)?

Anonymous said...

How many would-be TSOs fail their training and don't become screeners?

What is the threshhold for successfully completing training vs. failing training?

Anonymous said...

that's great that TSA staff is trained how to identify the "bad" items and we all appreciate that...but i have to wonder about dress code and behavior (their own, not the travelers) training. i fly in and out of o'hare frequently and more often than not these people who are supposed to be protecting me are joking around with each other instead of looking at the x-ray screen, wearing backwards baseball hats, untucked shirts, baggy jeans and appearing otherwise completely unprofessional. shouldn't there be some feeling of authority from these people??

james said...

May I ask why the general pay rate is so low? I don't know exactly what it is region to region but I've heard as low as $12 an hour. Is that true? That may be livable in Tulsa, but not in S.F. or N.Y.

I'd want someone given the task of protecting the security of our borders to make a living wage, which gives them pride and a sense or worth in their jobs.

And just as important not be compromised by nefarious financial gain.

Can you give a broad range of payscale - and if it starts that low are their drastic increases upon proof of employee value?

All the best...

james http://www.futuregringo.com

Dave X the first said...

"On a typical day in the U.S., security officers find two guns and around 2,800 knives and blades (of varying sizes) on passengers and in carry-on bags."

How many do you miss? None?

What happens when you miss them? Nothing?

Flying is safer than driving, and when the inconveniences and fears cause people to drive rather than fly, more people die:
http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/March05/Sept11driving.pdf

TSA is probably responsible for killing more people by causing them to drive than they could hope to save through screening.

Anonymous said...

The lack of comments on this post makes me realize that the TSA is moderating the comments in full force now due to the amount of negativity they received on other posts. My question is, is moderation of this blog legal? Considering that the TSA is a branch of the government, I don't think it has the right to prevent any comments from being posted regardless of the topic. Isn't that what the first amendment is about? The only ones they could hold back would involve national security, no? Thus, they may prevent posts regarding to employees by name but not racially offensive terms, spam, promotion, etc. It seems to me that is government censorship which is a big no no in this country.

Dave X the first said...

Let me try again:

"On a typical day in the U.S., security officers find two guns and around 2,800 knives and blades (of varying sizes) on passengers and in carry-on bags. Those are the most commonly discovered prohibited items, but it’s hard to imagine how many other potential threats are identified on a daily basis."

How many do you miss? None? (I doubt it.)

Of the ones you miss, how many cause planes to fall from the sky? None? (Seems to be.)

It is easy to maximize your performance statistics if your metric is identifying water bottles, bananas, and tweezers as potential threats.

Anonymous said...

Id have to say they do a pretty good job. As a piece in this giant US infrastructure thank you for keeping us safe all these years since your implementation.

If I could offer any advice, while a good majority of your officers represent the operation very well, some look downright un-professional and un-kept as if they either rolled right out of bed or straight out of the hood.

Wrinkled/poor fitting uniforms, un-tucked shirts, ultra baggy pants do-rags...Whether on duty or cruizin' through the terminals, They don't garner much faith in their appearance and professionalism.

ORD and OAK is the worst Ive seen. Not to be a jerk but I think McDonalds controls their employees dress and appearance better then some of your security checkpoints.

But again, thank you for what you all do in helping keep us safe.

Nancy Toby said...

120 hours = 3 work weeks, and then they're good to go?

Doesn't sound so rigorous to me.

Lancifer said...

I have an observation, and then a question. Neither of these are attacks on anyone.

Despite your assurances that TSO's are highly trained, this training does no service if an individual doesn't do their job. I have personally witnessed on a few occassions that some of the screeners are not paying attention to what they are doing. Mind you, on every single one of these occassions I was not even in line to be screened. I have witnessed TSO's on their cell phones, ogling passersby, and generally not paying attention. Now, how does all of that training do any good, if they are not using it? And, don't take this personally, but why do I get the feeling that these responses we get are nothing but BS press releases? All of the initial posts that I have seen fail to answer any of the questions posed. There hasn't been a flight based terrorist attack on US soil in over seven years, because flight based terrorist attacks are extremely rare. Even a look at the statistics obtained from the FAA can prove that.

Let's see if this one doesn't get deleted, since my last post got deleted. I'm sure there are plenty of posts that get deleted despite abiding by the guidelines. It seems to be a common theme.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious what other roles TSA plays besides airport security. I found it interesting that they were running metal detectors at a Barack Obama Rally in Wisconsin.

Jamie said...

I agree with the anonymous poster. I think it's great to talk about how much training agents get and how committed you are to safety and how seven times a day you try to sneak things through, but, how about taking three of those and using them to test your agents' people skills?

I think the big problem with how people see the TSA is less about feeling safe (Though, the showmanship security doesn't help your case there), but the fact that people feel more like cattle than humans when going through TSA checkpoints.

So, yeah, in short: Focusing on safety is good, but make sure you remember that you are protecting /people/ and treat them accordingly.

Laura said...

Mentioned a # of times by other posters here, but I have to agree . . . MANY of the officers 'act' unprofessional - joking, talking on cell phones, eating, not paying attention . . . its very frustrating to see this sort of thing going on, when we are at the MERCY of them.

I wish there was a way to report them.

I am also surprised that the training period is so short . . . shouldn't it be much longer? And more stingent?

PHX TSO said...

To the business man in the dark suit today that yelled at me for rerunning his computer bag for a second time in the x-ray machine and discovered the leatherman tucked in neatly beside the power cord.

No..I did not get a thrill ….or was I purposely trying to make you late for your flight.

My job is very difficult. One of my biggest fears is that I will miss a prohibited item such as a gun or a knife while performing my rotation on the x-ray machine. I definitely don’t want a plane to be taken down by an explosive device while on my watch. I would not survive the heartache.

So…when I take an extended look at a bag in my x-ray machine. I assure you it’s not because I am on a power trip or have a desire to ruin your day. It’s because I don’t ever want to have to say to your relative or someone elses “I’m sorry, I missed the explosive”

Laura Again said...

Oh, though I do want to add . . . i think this is a great idea . . . I like reading this blog and learning more of what is going on with TSA and the choices it makes. Its frustrating that each airport is different . . reading this sort of explains tha for me, a bit.

TSO PHX said...

@Nancy Toby- training is continuous, the first leg is in the classroom, the next leg of training is at the airport with a trainer and takes several weeks to complete. There is mandatory monthly training. We are tested on everything we do several times a year.

PHX TSO said...

@ Dave X- I would think that no planes coming down would be a good thing.

Any liguid, cream, jells, paste or aerosol in containers over 3.4 oz (100ml)are not allowed to be in your carry on or carried into the sterile area.

Tweezers and bananas are not on the prohibited list.

TSA likes to give people options. Driving to your destination is always an "option". Perhaps if the driving rules were as strongly enforced as the rules to get on a plane less people would die driving. :)

CowboyBebop said...

I work at SFO as a trainer and instructor. We are a private company contracted with TSA. Our officers are not allowed to have wrinkled, unprofessional uniforms. If they do, they are sent home. We have a little bit stricter standards than the typical TSA airport. Does that mean everyone we have working there is great? No, not by any stretch. And sadly, yes, it is NOT uncommon to see officers with their attention away from the x-ray monitor when they are on the x-ray.

I really wish I could defend a lot of this. I can't. I'm a bit biased and think that we at SFO tend to do things better than the typical TSA airport, but that's primarily because our company is so afraid of losing their contract that they often take things up a couple of notches.

Our officers, as of Jan 1, 2008, start at $17.76 an hour with full benefits. So we're paid fairly well for the Bay Area.

As far as customer service goes, it works both ways folks. My experience is that a lot of passengers come in thinking they're at their typical retail store, i.e., they think they can get their way if they huff and puff and get rude. That is not to say that a number of TSOs don't take their, admittedly, limited amount of power to the extreme and use it to abuse people. But often times, passengers don't understand the rules (not that they're easy for infrequent fliers to understand, because they aren't) and often don't like the answer they're given.

Hey, I'm with all of you out there when it comes to some of the things that we prohibit. The liquid ban doesn't make any sense, especially when TSA admits on this very blog that it's extremely difficult to mix the so-called liquid explosives to begin with. Or why are metal scissors with 4" or less blades allowed, but a small little pocket knife not? A lot of it doesn't make any sense. A number of the procedures we have to do are moronic as well and TSA doesn't deem us worthy or smart enough to explain to US why WE do some of the stuff WE do!

Is what we do 100%?! God no! But what do you want? The only way it could ever be close to 100% would be if we did a complete pat down on every single passenger and opened up and dumped every single bag that came through. So instead of being in line for 10 to 15 minutes, now you're going to be in line for 2 to 3 hours. Which do you want?

I'll give this credit to TSA: they are trying and never content with keeping things the same just for simplicity sake. They're constantly trying new things and adding new and different procedures to our arsenal to make us safer. It will never be perfect, but we can only strive to improve.

And I do feel for most of you the pain it has become to fly. I wish I had an answer. Well, I do. Unfortunately, my ideas would never be implemented and things would certainly be different if I were in charge, but that of course will never happen.

Anonymous said...

"The lack of comments on this post makes me realize that the TSA is moderating the comments in full force now due to the amount of negativity they received on other posts. My question is, is moderation of this blog legal? Considering that the TSA is a branch of the government, I don't think it has the right to prevent any comments from being posted regardless of the topic. Isn't that what the first amendment is about? The only ones they could hold back would involve national security, no? Thus, they may prevent posts regarding to employees by name but not racially offensive terms, spam, promotion, etc. It seems to me that is government censorship which is a big no no in this country."

Considering the posts are read by humans, and there are only so many Federal Employees tasked to read the blogs (many have a more important job than monitoring a blog", it takes a bit of time for posts to be approved. Consider that.

Anonymous said...

Travel through, or to, Milwaukee sometime. I travel through there quite frequently, and I would say that 95% of the TSA there are friendly, nice, and give you a gentle reprimand if you've forgotten to remove some liquids. I've been a selectee (SSSS) many times (traveling on military orders seems to cause that), and I've never been treated rudely. Of course there are a few bad apples. There always are. But most of the people in Milwaukee are very nice.

Anonymous said...

@phx tso

"TSA likes to give people options. Driving to your destination is always an "option". Perhaps if the driving rules were as strongly enforced as the rules to get on a plane less people would die driving. :)"

Passive aggressive much? You might be a great TSO but the majority of TSA employees I've run into have egos and power trips the size of Alaska (bigger than Texas). I really don't appreciate their attitudes like I'm infringing on their day nor do I enjoy all the randomness of the rules they seem to enforce. My point is that you'd never know most TSOs get training because of their attitudes, presentation, and the way they treat fliers. Perhaps if the TSOs were just a little nicer and stopped taking their aggressions out on me when I'm trying to do everything they ask I wouldn't want to drive everywhere. But I'm sure you have a suggestion for making it all better underneath that lovely chip on your shoulder, eh?

Anonymous said...

Aside from the obvious observation that nearly anyone in even the most rudimentary pseudo-professional setting receives 120 hours of training (employees on my team receive 26 weeks of training) it would be interesting to hear what that training consists of.

In my experience (~220,000 miles in actual miles flown, not bonus miles, annually) the TSOs are often relaxed, hardly paying attention, and on most occasions rude when confronted.

Proof in the pudding: A member of my team has recently travelled with a full 16oz bottle of water in his carry-on just to prove the ineptitude of the officers who screen his bag.

Congratulations, your three-week training course teaches your officers to be coarse and inconvenient, while leaving so much room for the speculative "illusion of security" that those of us who frequent America's airports no longer believe any such security exists.

CowboyBebop said...

I won't make an excuse for officers and their rude attitude, but look at it from our perspective. You just made an announcement that large liquids, etc., are not allowed. Then, the next thing you know, you and some of your co-workers are being called for four bag checks in a row due to large liquids in someone's bag. Now multiply that scenario a couple dozen times in a single shift. How would you feel? I know, it doesn't excuse it, but it's not as though I've had pleasant exchanges with police officers everytime either, and they receive a hell of a lot more training than TSOs do.

Once again, I feel that people are expecting the impossible. It is not excusable, nor is the negligent, casual behavior of TSOs either. It's an imperfect system and when you have to continually hire thousands of employees throughout the year, it makes the recruiting team's task a little close to impossible to try and weed out all of the POSSIBLE bad apples.

And yes, we are fingerprinted and drug tested and subjected to random drug tests as well. We go through a 10 year background check as well.

Anonymous said...

I won't make an excuse for officers and their rude attitude, but look at it from our perspective. You just made an announcement that large liquids, etc., are not allowed. Then, the next thing you know, you and some of your co-workers are being called for four bag checks in a row due to large liquids in someone's bag.

Here's the thing - it's your *job*. Really, you get paid to find these things. You get paid to deal with people who don't know all the rules because they haven't undergone 120 hours of training before flying on an airplane. It's your job to deal with people who are rude and annoying without blowing a gasket.

Think about it the next time you go to the supermarket. How many times has the cashier asked people today if they want to have "Paper or plastic?" How many times has the cashier waited there patiently while somebody fumbles around for their cash or counts out too much or too little. And yet, when your turn in line comes, do you expect the cashier to bark at you "Did you count your money right?" or say something like "Do you want to have your groceries today?" if you question the price on an item?

I live outside the country (Japan) and I fly through SFO several times a year. The security staff there is better than what reading the comments on other airports would lead me to expect. However, I still experienced the security staff barking orders and acting upset for no good reason, lines being rearranged randomly and poor layout of the screening area.

I last flew out in January. I think they were asking to remove cables, etc. from bags and put them separately but I can't remember exactly. I do remember that I tossed something else in the bin with my laptop and the security officer (politely) asked me to put it in another bin. I was happy to do that but the reason that I hadn't originally was that I wound up with 4 bins worth of stuff there at the checkpoint and there was not room to put 4 bins out on the table. More space and some clear signs as to what you should be putting in bins would be helpful. It had been a few months since I had flown so I was trying to watch the monitors and find out if there were any new rules but they appeared to only be in Spanish that day.

I thought that post 9/11 "professionalizing" the screening staff would be a good move. I'm sorry, but I was wrong. Or, perhaps, the staff has not really been professionalized. Instead of shoddy screening by contract workers instead we have shoddy screening by government workers who now have the power to make you miss your flight or subject you to humiliating searches in retaliation for any perceived offense.

The TSA will not have been professionalized until when we hear a story about TSO's stealing people cigar lighters or making mothers drink their breast milk we go "No way, I'd never believe that". For those of you working with the TSA, including Mr Hawley, try flying without your TSA credentials sometime. If you honestly believe that your screeners are professionals your idea of professional does not match with that of the rest of the world.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know how much of those hundreds of hours of training TSA officers go through are about:
1) Customer Service
2) Manners
3) Civil Rights

Anonymous said...

TSA, the first line of defense at the airports in the USA. 3 weeks of basic 'training'. And then OJT before they meet a 'customer'.

US Air Force. Dropping big things on the right people. 6 weeks of 'basic' training and then MOS specialization schools.

US Coast Guard. Protecting our littoral seas. 7.5 weeks of 'basic' training, and then on to specialized training schools.

US Navy. Projecting our national interest from blue water. 8 weeks of 'basic' training, and then on to MOS specialization schools.

US Army, the main force on land when diplomacy fails and after the Marines clean-up, 9 weeks of 'basic' training, and then MOS specialization schools.

US Marines, the first line of soldier-on-the-ground offense for the USA. 19 weeks of 'basic' training, and then MOS specialization schools.

Who do you think I trust to keep me safe?

Dave X the First said...

With TSA recommending passengers arrive an extra hour ahead of time to allow for the added security, times 2,000,000 passengers a day, that's 2,000,000 hours per day of lost time. That's 228 person-years of lifespan, or 1000 person-years of productivity per day that society is spending on TSA.

The inconveniences you visit upon us may seem small as you process us as fast as you can push through your security, but the passengers are paying a big cost for no tangible benefit. The geniuses that armored the cockpit doors did more to keep planes from falling out of the air than TSA can hope to achieve. The heroes of Flight 93 taught us how to deal with people that would brandish knives or guns on a plane.

There are childrens' fables warning us about things like the TSA: "The story of Chicken Little" and "The Little Boy Who Cried 'Wolf'" -- the only difference is that TSA is a government backed bureaucracy.

@PHX TSO said...

@ Dave X- I would think that no planes coming down would be a good thing.

Any liguid, cream, jells, paste or aerosol in containers over 3.4 oz (100ml)are not allowed to be in your carry on or carried into the sterile area.

Tweezers and bananas are not on the prohibited list.

TSA likes to give people options. Driving to your destination is always an "option". Perhaps if the driving rules were as strongly enforced as the rules to get on a plane less people would die driving. :)

********************************

The planes not coming down isn't because of TSA -- it is because of real deterrents like armored cockpit doors, and situationally aware passengers.

Tweezers and bananas aren't on the prohibited items list, but they are indeed confiscated as security threats, just like water bottles. My point in mentioning them, is that they potentially count in the "hard to imagine how many other potential threats are identified on a daily basis" mentioned by Moe.

If we're talking numbers and qualifications, my 10,000 hours of training is in risk assessment, statistics, and systems engineering. And I call foul: Talking about how much you catch without mentioning how much you miss isn't a valid metric for a detection system. Taking credit for a non-event (no planes falling out of the air) on the basis of that isn't credible.

Moe's comment about the 2802 most common prohibited items being knives and guns found is laughable: take a look at that prohibited item trashcan and you'll find far more drink bottle threats than guns. The "few prohibited items" that pass through undetected in your tests, (what is "most"? 51%? 99%?) scaled up by the 2800 knives per day that you do catch, mean that 28 to 2700 knives go flying every single day and don't seem to cause any noteworthy incidents.

The little boy who cried wolf doesn't gain credibility by touting all the tooth-like rocks he found, he gains credibility by catching wolves.

tallanvor said...

@PHX TSO:

"I would think that no planes coming down would be a good thing."

How many US planes, originating from a US airport, have been brought down due to terrorism in the last, say, 20 years? I can only think of 4, none of which were brought down with liquids or explosives. --There was one in '87 where a gun was used, so 5 in 21 years.

It seems to me US airports had a pretty good grasp on security before the TSA. And I'm sure there were many fewer complaints about the screeners prior to the creation of the TSA.

So... What exactly have we gained by having the TSA? When you look at the statistics, and the fact that things still get through, it seems we've gained another money guzzling federal agency, many new hassles, and no additional security.

Jay Maynard said...

Sounds like you train and test on everything but courtesy and professionalism.

Anonymous said...

Why is LAX still asking for all electronics to be removed from bags?

http://www.boingboing.net/2008/02/13/tsa-at-lax-still-req.html

Jim Huggins said...

What kind of "customer service" training do TSOs receive (if any)?

I certainly understand the need to train repeatedly on how to find prohibited items. But it seems like training on how to deal with the public (as rude and obnoxious as we can be at times) is also equally important.

We train medical professionals to diagnose and cure medical problems. But we also train them how to deal with people ... because calming down a stressed-out patient can actually help in finding a diagnosis. If TSOs could find ways to calm stressed-out passengers, it might help them to manage the entire screening process more efficiently as well.

Anonymous said...

Its funny how I am a TSO and I know someone who works in Nuclear Security guarding a Nuclear Power Plant and they have no idea what they are looking for on their X-ray machine so I commend TSA on the training they have provided me and how good it feels to be more qualified, and know that the people of the world are safer, however I don't feel comfortable knowing that the training at a Nuclear Power Plant is not even close to ours and yet just as vital.

Anonymous said...

What rights do we have as travellers though? If we are harassed by an Agent or they enforce a rule like the previously commented electronics rule, or are generally mean to us what can we do? Can we report them to someone like we can with police officers?

As long as we are treated like criminals we aren't going to be happy with the system. Agents could at least be courteous.

Dave X the first said...

@ CowboyBebop said...

"Is what we do 100%?! God no! But what do you want? The only way it could ever be close to 100% would be if we did a complete pat down on every single passenger and opened up and dumped every single bag that came through. So instead of being in line for 10 to 15 minutes, now you're going to be in line for 2 to 3 hours. Which do you want?"

...

"Once again, I feel that people are expecting the impossible. It is not excusable, nor is the negligent, casual behavior of TSOs either. It's an imperfect system and when you have to continually hire thousands of employees throughout the year, it makes the recruiting team's task a little close to impossible to try and weed out all of the POSSIBLE bad apples."

******************************

I don't expect the impossible, and I agree that 100% is impossible. What riles me is that the TSA is pretending and presenting itself as doing the impossible. Pretending that the less than 100% TSA does is significantly "more safe" than what we already get from armoring the cockpit doors and relying on the heroics of passengers like those on Flight 93.

You are right to think that 3 hour security waits for 2 million passengers per day are infeasible and unworkable, but our society is not even getting a measureable benefit out of the current 10-15 minutes. (TSA recommends passengers allow an extra hour over the bad-old-days.)

I don't expect the impossible, but I do expect better than to be lied to about the effectiveness of this "Security Theatre".

Anonymous said...

If it's a "Sterile Area", why are people with guns and other weapons allowed in it?

PHX TSO said...

@anonymous.

The sterile area is the area just beyond the checkpoint after a passenger has been screened thru security.

People with guns and dangerous weapons are not allowed in the sterile area. Although, they do try regularly. :(

PHX TSO said...

To anonymous- If you have a grievance with a TSO you have a couple of options. Each checkpoint at the airport, (at least at the airport I work at) has comment cards displayed for everyone to fill out. If you can't locate one yourself. Ask and one will be provided. The card has plenty of room for compliments, grievances or suggestions for improvement. If you want an answer you are going to have to supply your name and address on the card.

If you don't wish to go the comment card route then there is always the supervisor. He or she is usually near a big desk or podium within the checkpoint.

PHX TSO said...

@Shawn- That is only a drop in the bucket. It would take entirely too long to mention everything that people attempt to bring on a plane.

The best thing to do is to call your airlines ahead of time and ask them if you can bring a questionable item on a plane. Many things that you can't bring on the plane is perfectly fine to place in your checked baggage. When in doubt put it in your checked baggage.

TSO PHX said...

@ Lancifer, I agree professionalism is very important. Learning to deal with cranky, tired, and frustrated passengers takes some serious self control. It is a difficult task to master and it doesn't matter how much training you have had in customer service. You are either a person who can let things fly or a person who can't. Everyone has a breaking point. The passenger always get mad first. I have seen passengers throw things at TSOs who were simply trying to explain the options for liquids. Not yelling but simply explaining. "This item is too large to pass thru the checkpoint. Would you like to put this in your checked baggage, put it in your car, call a friend to come get it or mail it back to yourself." ...and wham!!!! the passenger has grabbed something out of their bin and thrown it at the TSO. Or the passenger will start yelling vulgarity and loudly proclaim that TSA sucks.
I have never blown up at a passenger but I have wanted to.
People are always pointing the finger and mentioning customer service. I bet those yelling the loudest about TSA needing better customer service skills wouldn't last a day at a checkpoint. The reasoning is because they are the first to yell foul when a prohibited items is denied entry into the checkpoint.

Anonymous said...

Errr... wait. According to your own job adverts, it's 56-72 hours of in class training and 112-128 hours of on-the-job (screening) training.

TSO PHX said...

To anonymous,

Getting hired by TSA is a very lengthy process. There are several steps involved. Successfully passing one step leads to another. Everyone that is a TSA employee is fingerprinted, a very lengthy background check is done. Good Gosh, I don't ever want to have to fill out another one of those. Everyone receives a lengthy medical exam. All government agencies are zero tolerance. Image test, test your ability to see shapes and colors. It's not as easy as it sounds. TSA looses a lot of prospects at this point. More information about TSA employment and requirements can be found here at the following link.

http://www.tsa.dhs.gov/join/careers/index.shtm

TSO PHX said...

To anonymous- TSA employees, wear a specific uniform. Blue pants, white shirts. We do not wear hats or baggy pants or jeans.

TSA has a strict dress code policy. Sloppy dress is not tolerated.

TSO PHX said...

James- like any other government agency TSA pays it employees using a pay scale. There is always opportunity for advancement. It only takes initiative and the desire to succeed. I believe USA Jobs is advertising starting TSO pay at 24,432.00 to 36,648.00 depending on qualifications. There is also locality pay and that is dependent upon where you live.

Anonymous said...

I beg to differ, I requently see people in the sterile area with weapons, generally in uniform. You missed my point. If something is sterile, there are NO unallowed items, in this case weapons.

If the TSA has done their job properly, there should be no need for people with weapons in the sterile area. An authroized person could be disarmned, this is why guns are not allowed in jails.

Remember, there are bad apples in law enforcement as in any profession. Why take the chance?

Would seem to me a rapid response team would be a safer option.

PHX TSO said...

@ anonymous
There is two weeks of classroom training. The amount of training at the checkpoint varies depending on the individual. We have a minimum number of hours of training we must complete successfully at the checkpoint. Everyone accomplishes the minimum. It takes some people longer than others to feel comfortable with the various training task. Training continues until the TSO has mastered all tasks. Then the testing begins. Not every TSO makes it thru training. The job is truly harder than it looks to the casual viewer.

TSO PHX said...

@ LAura, Welcome to the TSA Blog. :)

Tom said...

Anonymous said...
they also undergo background checks too, i hope?

i agree we hear all to often about poor TSO experiences (i love complaining as much as the next person), so i'd like to commend the people behind this blog and for helping to present the other side of the story.

February 13, 2008 3:42 PM
***********************************
I filled out a 37 page online questionaire that was used to conduct my background check. Asking me everything about my past including a ten year residency history. I had to account for my employement (or unemployment) for the past 10 years as well. I had to give personal and professional references, and they were contacted. Even four months after I was on the job, my references were being checked again! My credit was checked three times, once prior to hiring me, and twice thereafter. I was drug tested prior to employment, and I'm subject to random drug testing while employed. We are also subject to a 5 year re-investiation. Hope this answers your question.

Anonymous said...

To the "Anonymous" brainiac (Feb 14@4:59)who actually suggested that the airport police be disarmed...
I have read a lot of comments on this blog, but your comment has got to be the silliest!! Are you for real? Disarm a police officer??

WOW!

Anonymous said...

James on 13Feb said: "May I ask why the general pay rate is so low? I don't know exactly what it is region to region but I've heard as low as $12 an hour. Is that true? That may be livable in Tulsa, but not in S.F. or N.Y."

Screener pay rate is set by Congress as part of the budgeting process. Most screeners who have been with the organization very long would happily tell you that Congress is determined to avoid adequately compensating us.

Screener Joe said...

James on 13Feb said: "May I ask why the general pay rate is so low? I don't know exactly what it is region to region but I've heard as low as $12 an hour. Is that true? That may be livable in Tulsa, but not in S.F. or N.Y."

Screener pay rate is set by Congress as part of the budgeting process. Most screeners who have been with the organization very long would happily tell you that Congress is determined to avoid adequately compensating us.

Screener Joe said...

Dave x on 14Feb said: "The planes not coming down isn't because of TSA -- it is because of real deterrents like armored cockpit doors, and situationally aware passengers."

You assume that to be so. You know what happens when you assume?

On the one hand you cry foul by saying that TSA cannot claim credit for greater air travel safety, saying we can't prove it. Then you make a simlarly pie-in-the-sky claim about why you think travel is safer, and you can't prove it, either.

I know I will never convince you that you are wrong; I won't try. But, your arguments are rife with double standards, unprovable allegations and bad logic. Other people who read this blog need to be aware of that.

Tom said...

To the poster who asked about
Customer Service
Manners
Civil rights
and the training that we TSO's receive in these areas. We are required by our managment team (supervisors, checkpoint manager, local hr, and Headquarters) to complete training courses in these areas. Civil rights is a biggie, and Customer service is a portion of our performance rating as well. At my airport, if you're demeaning to passengers, it will be addressed by the supervisors. On the other hand, the passenger have no more right to demean us than we do to demean them. And we deal with a whole bunch of crap every single day. Does that give a TSO the right to treat a passenger meanly? NO. We are instructed to contact the supervisor if a passenger gives us a problem that is getting out of hand. As far as regular complaining etc, we deal with it the best we can. I've found that most times, a smile and a "have a nice day, sir" or "I hope it gets better for you" is enough to let the passenger know that we are not the enemy. Are there TSO's out there that are less than professional? You're gonna find that no matter where you go or what aspect of public service you're dealing with. Trust me though, either they weed themselves out, or they get weeded out by management. It may take awhile, but it happens. But what makes my day is the comments like the one I got today. I was checking travel documents, and an elderly couple came through, probably don't travel much (or they may travel all the time), but after I looked at their id and the boarding passes, and they were about to head to the checkpoint, the lady looked at me and said "Thank you for what you do for our country". A few simple words go a long way to make somebody smile and I certainly appreciate comments such as this. So, for every one complaint, there are 4 compliments, same holds true for TSO's for every one "rogue" employee there are 4 of us who care about the job, and the people we see on a daily basis.

bmayer said...

It sounds like good technical training is in place. From what I have heard where people have had a problem with TSA, it sounds like many of them could be eliminated with some "customer service" type training.

Thank you for the new found openness. It is good to see.

Lancifer said...

@tso phx,

I agree that it is not an easy job. People throwing things at you is not acceptable behavior. Those people do deserve to be pulled aside, and should be. After working for five years in retail customer service, I've had all kinds of crazy things happen: weapons pulled on me(knives, guns, box cutters, etc.), threatened with lawsuits, stuff thrown at me, and called every name in the book. Crazy people aside, you took the job knowing that a good portion of the people you will see are not in the best of moods. This is something that has been very common for quite some time. I have seen some very professional TSO's, and for the most part, TSO's are fairly good at dealing with people. It's the ones that aren't good at dealing with people that should be either put into a position where dealing with the public isn't a necessity, or let go. I would hope the first option is always available just for the sake of the TSO. My biggest issue is with the x-ray screeners, since that is where I have seen the most problem TSO's. It's not that I have anything against all of them, just the ones that aren't doing their job. I've just seen too many of them fooling around.

I certainly agree with you about the ones that cry loudest about customer service. I've noticed that trend too. Most of those people wouldn't last one shift in any service position.

Anonymous said...

@phx tso - Many things that you can't bring on the plane is perfectly fine to place in your checked baggage. When in doubt put it in your checked baggage.

More accurately: When in doubt, spend the money to FedEx it. Never put anything in a checked bag that you aren't willing to do without, either temporarily or permanently.

I suspect that more and more passengers are going to be spending the money to FedEx their belongings to and from their destinations. That's the only to avoid the unreliability of airline checked bags as well as the frustration of arbitrary and capricious of TSA rules by screeners. FedEx seems the best solution to making air travel slightly less unpleasant.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Hawley,

I'd like you to respond to the article concerning the on-duty activities of one of your highly-trained and highly-professional screeners at O'Hare airport.

To save you the trouble of assigning action items to your staff, here is the link to the article in the Chicago Tribune:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-airport-agent-theft_bothfeb15,1,845467.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

In case the link doesn't work, here are the first couple of paragraphs:

"A federal security agent has been charged with stealing gift cards from a suitcase Dec. 25 while working at O'Hare International Airport, authorities said Thursday.

McIntosh is accused of removing $500 worth of Target and Best Buy gift cards from a bag while screening luggage, Assistant State's Atty. Erin Antonietti said. She said McIntosh spent some of the gift cards himself and gave others to friends."

Not only did Mr. McIntosh violate the public trust by stealing from the very citizens he is sworn to protect, he did this on CHRISTMAS DAY!

You must be very proud, sir.

Sincerely,

David Nelson

Dave X the First said...

Screener Joe: It isn't my job to prove the screening you folks do is worthwhile, that is TSA's job and TSA hasn't done it.

Mo's statistics like "[we] find two guns and around 2800 knives and blades [per day]" means almost nothing without knowing how many are there to be found, how many are missed, or how good you are at detecting things. If TSA gives out only fluff, the only thing people can do is make assumptions.

It a little bit reassuring to know that every checkpoint is tested with fake threats 7 times per day, but the fuzziness of Mo's "most of these items are detected" does not give me the warm furries. Especially when posters here report things like they noticed a tester hold up a bag up for the x-ray tech to see, and then the tech 'discovered' the item in his x-ray. Stories like the ones posted above by anonymous@February 14, 2008 5:55 PM also don't help.

Even if your x-ray folks have a superhuman 99% detection rate while you catch those 2800 knives, that last 1% means there's 28 knives getting by every day. That's basic event detection arithmetic.

And yes, I agree that you are not going to convince me that you folks are the only thing standing between us and flaming death unless you show us detection rates up past the (I again assume impossible) 99% level. Short of that, there are knife-carriers slipping by TSA every day and flying. The passengers, crew, and armored door are what keep those knives from doing harm, not TSA.

On the bright side, if your detection rates are closer to the industry standard of 80%, (that's me assuming again) the statistics of the system imply that when you do inevitably miss, you're much more likely to get a job demerit for missing a test item than causing the crash of a plane. IOW, the odds of a screener being responsible for missing a bomb in carryon that ends up crashing a plane might be about the same as winning the lotto--the screener will lose their job for screwing up on the tests long before they miss a real bomb.

Jimeh said...

2,800 Knives and blades... Thats amazing!

Anonymous said...

not about security...screening is political theater to create climate of fear so we keep paying for spectacle of security.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 10:53 pm. If I'm on personal travel, why should I have to spend even more money? FedEx is expensive. You want to pick up the tab for me?

As far as business, a lot of my travel goes like this: take an airplane, then a taxi, then catch a COD flight to a Navy carrier. How the hell am I going to FedEx something to myself on a boat in the middle of the ocean?

Jay Maynard said...

After reading the TSO comments in this blog, I had an opportunity to try one of their suggestions. I'm sitting in the WorldClub at Newark Liberty International as I type this.

The line as I came through about 7:45 wasn't bad, though it was apparently much longer a couple of hours earlier. Nevertheless, the screener out in front of the metal detector, and to a lesser extent the one waving people through the metal detector and checking boarding passes, were shouting at people, and the guy in front was especially loud and rude - and if you didn't do exactly as he said the instant he said it, he shouted at you even louder.

As I was repacking everything on the sterile side of the checkpoint, I stopped one of the folks and asked to see a supervisor. They made sure I had time to wait for him to finish what he was doing (I did, since my flight is at 11:25), then went and got him. I told him that he might want to explain to the people involved that this isn't boot camp and they're not drill sergeants, and what I'd seen. He agreed that one of the folks I was talking about was getting loud and annoyed, and said he'd speak to them about it. He then thanked me for telling him about it, and said that they wanted to get feedback from the public. I told him that's what I'd seen on this blog, and that was why I'd stopped to tell him.

I don't know if anything will actually happen, but at least the supervisor I talked to made all the right noises.

Anonymous said...

Good job of screening your employees...From today's Chicago Tribune;

TSA baggage screener accused of stealing from suitcases

Tribune staff report
February 15, 2008

COOK COUNTY - A federal security agent has been charged with stealing gift cards from a suitcase Dec. 25 while working at O'Hare International Airport, authorities said Thursday.

Keith McIntosh, 35, an employee with the Transportation Security Administration, was ordered held in lieu of $30,000 bail by Circuit Judge Laura Sullivan. He was arrested Tuesday. His address was not available.

McIntosh is accused of removing $500 worth of Target and Best Buy gift cards from a bag while screening luggage, Assistant State's Atty. Erin Antonietti said. She said McIntosh spent some of the gift cards himself and gave others to friends.

McIntosh faces charges of theft and official misconduct, authorities said.

bwi said...

HaHaHa, airport police shouldn't carry weapons through the sterile area...funny..."there can be some bad apples in law enforcement too" haha..as that is true, so we can let them be armed on the streets, but not in an airport...haha

Anonymous said...

Screener Joe (February 14, 2008 7:05 PM) said:

"Screener pay rate is set by Congress as part of the budgeting process. Most screeners who have been with the organization very long would happily tell you that Congress is determined to avoid adequately compensating us."

I would like to add to this further by saying that the TSA also does not compensate for having a college degree. As a TSO with a college degree, I find that my education is worthless here. When TSA first took over, they started the screeners who were screeners pre-9/11 at a much higher rate than those who were coming in for the first time. Having a college degree does not help you earn at a higher rate, nor does it have any effect on promotions. If TSA would like to attract a higher quality employee, they should provide an incentive to those with college degrees.

Just to add to that, I also think that screeners with military backgrounds deserve pay incentives also.

Dave X the first said...

@Screener Joe: "Screener pay rate is set by Congress as part of the budgeting process. Most screeners who have been with the organization very long would happily tell you that Congress is determined to avoid adequately compensating us."

and @ Anonymous: "I would like to add to this further by saying that the TSA also does not compensate for having a college degree. As a TSO with a college degree, I find that my education is worthless here. ... Just to add to that, I also think that screeners with military backgrounds deserve pay incentives also."

**************

TSO's may feel that they deserve more pay due to their experience and education, but really, welcome to the world. Performance matters. TSA needs to prove some tangible benefit before they deserve more money.

If your detection rates are like 80%, you're only letting 180 guns per year, and and only 700 knives through per day. Who knows how many prohibited 'liquids, gels, or aerosols' actually fly?

If TSA is not actually keeping the prohibited items off of the planes, (something I believe is an impossible task) why should they deserve more? The highly qualified screeners deserve the same pay as well educated, experienced actors -- they are players in the security theatre.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of how US airport security is conducted in general, but after reading all the horror stories on this blog about how rude the TSA's are, I want to report something positive. I have flown between Ft Lauderdale and LaGuardia at least a dozen times in the past year and the TSA's at both airports have been civil and cordial in almost every instance. Many times they smile, ask how passengers are doing, make jokes as appropriate, etc. I've never been treated inappropriately at FLL or LGA, and I appreciate knowing that I will be treated with respect. I have not seen many complaints here about LGA and none at all about FLL, so maybe there's something happening with management at these two airports that others should be looking into...

The Shadow said...

TSA Officers receive the following training:

Participate in more than 120 hours of classroom and on-the-job training before they ever screen a person or a bag;
- Undergo a series of tests before receiving a work assignment;
- Complete even more training if they are going to screen both passengers and baggage (More than half of our officers do this); and
- Complete an annual certification process that includes more written tests, image interpretation tests, and a third party evaluation.

I don't see customer service skills mentioned (although I would assume this is covered somewhere?).

I would think TSA screeners receive training in conflict resolution training as well. If not, this may be something else to add to the training curriculum.

Inconsistency in screening amongst airports is another area that creates frustrations. Suggest part of the training is comparing practices amongst different airports. Look at what works, what doesn't, what needs to be abandoned.

Anonymous said...

TSO cowboybebop said on 2/13@9:40PM... "Or why are metal scissors with 4" or less blades allowed, but a small little pocket knife not? A lot of it doesn't make any sense.A number of the procedures we have to do are moronic...." Please explain the ban on very small knives....if you can.

Fred G. said...

Screener Joe:

Relax. It's not your fault. The Bush Administration and our fear inspired Congress put you guys in the position that you are in right now. While I don't doubt that you are dedicated, and every bit as American as the rest of us, I do know that you are illegally imposing rules upon the rest of us that regularly violate at least the 1st and the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution.

That's bad enough. Now.......is the "security" worth anything? I don't think so. I tend to think that our kids in Iraq are the reason we haven't been zapped.

But you're right, that you haven't impacted security is essentially unprovable. But then again, you can't prove that you have. And more important, neither can your agency, whose website nakes a big deal of catching some counterfeiters and the like (At $6 Billion a year!).

A few years of some combat experience suggest to me that logically no terrorist with half a brain is going to come through your security line, when he can attack us by surprise somewhere else. (Which is a way of saying you're doing a good job.) It's another way of saying, though, that your job is pointless, which though I know you don't want to hear, is not your fault. (Not even Kip Hawley's.)

But whether it's human or not to react negatively to these posts, the essential problem is that TSA in its present form is essentially an "un-American" institution, bullying perfectly benign and innocent Americans at the rate of 2 million a day through a process that they don't like.

Ignore that fact, and you'll all be out of work in a few years......terrorists or not. If you're not, we might as well shrug our shoulders and take up Mein Kampfe for bedtime reading.

Fred G.

c37cbtairborne said...

Here is the problem ...number one , the people they hire to staff the airports are what you get when you only pay 14 bucks an hour and only hire part time. That is right , they only hire PART TIME!!!! So consider that when you rant and rave about who you see NOT doing what they are supposed to. I don't know about the rest of the country but 14 an hour is NOT enough to live on in NYC. So that attitude you get when you bring your yuppie water through and say you forgot... you deserve it for not electing a president or a congress to better secure this country.

c37cbtairborne said...

I would like to point out that most of the TSA employees are veterans and reservists. Who else would put up with this job but the best of the best.

c37cbtairborne said...

The way the public whines and moans about security is a damn shame. Most of you people are convinced America destroyed the twin towers on purpose. It is really sad what has become of this once great country. I am a veteran and I am deeply saddened by all of this. You folks should be thanking these people for doing what they do. I seriously think you all would be happier with Sharia law and Islamic death squads running the country. Grow up people , we are at war and these folks are soldiers in that fight. They have a right to be stern with you.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that throughout these threads that TSA employees seem to expect citizens to respect them automatically.

Anyone with even entry level leadership training will have learned that respect is not given but earned. The TSO's actions will determine the degree of respect they will enjoy if any.

Surely with an extensive 120 hour training program this information is well covered.

Jay Maynard said...

c37cbtairborne: Thank you for your service. That goes for all of the active duty, reserve, and retired military people reading this, too.

I have no illusions about who destroyed the Twin Towers. I know darned good and well that it was Islamic terrorists trying to force America to change to their way of life. I've got no love for them, and haven't since I saw them dancing in the streets on 9/11.

However, that does not in any way justify our helping them! That's exactly what the TSA is: a surrender, in part, to their threats. They want nothing more than to change how we live, and everything we change in response to them is a victory for them.

We ar defined, as a people, by our freedoms. To voluntarily surrender them, no matter what the provocation, is too much to ask, and yet that's exactly what the TSA says we must do.

Anonymous said...

"...2 guns and around 2800 knives and blades...."? Wow! Now tell us how many highjackings you prevented.

Dave X the first said...

@Anonymous said...

"...2 guns and around 2800 knives and blades...."? Wow! Now tell us how many highjackings you prevented.

February 18, 2008 12:47 PM

*****************

Don't forget the dangerous 20,000 shampoo, 40,000 water bottle, and 100,000 soda threats every day.

If their detection system is anything like the industry standard, they discovered 80% of them, so if TSA wasn't there, we'd see 5 times as many events in the news.

Anonymous said...

Relax. It's not your fault. The Bush Administration and our fear inspired Congress put you guys in the position that you are in right now. While I don't doubt that you are dedicated, and every bit as American as the rest of us, I do know that you are illegally imposing rules upon the rest of us that regularly violate at least the 1st and the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution.
___________________________________
Please explain the basis of this comment and what source of information you used to reach this conclusion? You see, "proprietary searches" or "administrative searches" do not fall under the scope of the US Constitution or any amendment thereof. TSA is an appointed administration that is given full authority to determine rules for boarding an aircraft and items that are prohibited on board an aircraft for the safety of "all passengers" on that flight not just one, or a few or those who pay more than others. Stop crying about your rights, and remember! REMEMBER SEPTEMBER 11, 2001? Does that date ring a bell to you? I'm getting really tired of all the crying and moaning and expetive deleted! For once, just use the brain that was given to you, stop trying to create some kind of conspiracy theory and REMEMBER what happened! If people prepared themselves for air travel, if they took time to visit the tsa site to see what they could bring, like they do to post on this blog, there wouldn't be problems in the lines, or with the TSA officers. If people remembered to take out the shot gun shells, before they left the house, and leave those items home, they wouldn't be detained by airport police. If they left their pocket knife that has been in their family for 150 years at home, they wouldn't have to surrender it at the airport. Listen people: STOP CRYING about the rules, because I guarantee you, if TSA were removed from all US airports, in a very short time, another major domestic tragedy would occur and the same people who complain on this blog and at the airport would be wondering what the Government was going to do about it! It happened, we were all shocked, our President acted, and as a result we have TSA and RULES, and PROHIBITED ITEMS. Welcome to the 21st Century people.

Anonymous said...

RE the point about TSO's needing to earn respect -- amen to that.

By default, I would treat a TSO respectfully, as I would any other individual. HOWEVER, when I walk up to a screening point, and the TSO's are treating the passengers badly, my respect for them takes a nose dive, and I am far less inclined to give them the benefit of a doubt.

The TSO's are the ones in the position of authority, and thus, they set the tone of the interaction. If they chose to be negative in their manner to the flying public, and treat passengers with contempt, they will not be respected.

As my Dad told a jerk of a Major during his Army days long ago, "Sir, you can make me obey you, but you can't make me respect you. Respect has to be earned."

It's bad enough that many of the TSA's policies have made no sense at all (such as the long time ban on nail clippers and eyeglass repair kits, as well as denying boarding to toddlers whose names appear on a watch list). When the TSO's disrespect the very people they are paid to serve but expect respect in return, what have they been smoking?

Anonymous said...

What kind of customer service training do they get?

As a foreigner living in the US, I've often wondered why many other countries seem to have screeners who manage to get the job done without barking at you.

Anonymous said...

Dave X the first said...
" Flying is safer than driving, and when the inconveniences and fears cause people to drive rather than fly, more people die:
http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/March05/Sept11driving.pdf

TSA is probably responsible for killing more people by causing them to drive than they could hope to save through screening.

February 13, 2008 5:06 PM

As pointed out in the past Dave, your logic is flawed. You claim TSA is responsible for an additional 242 deaths a month due to increased traffic fatalities. The report you cited (yes, I read it) mainly focuses on the months of October 2001 through December 2001. TSA was not in existense at that time. Further analysis of the information that the report used, and obtained for dates after the reports was published, show that air travel has surpassed levels of travel prior to 9/11. Is this due to the "secure" feeling travelers have due to TSA being on the job? Your assertion that "TSA is probably responsible for killing more people by causing them to drive than they could hope to save through screening." is ludicrous and over looks the fact that terrorists influenced the trend towards surface transportation over air travel as indicated in the report you sited. You must be a politician based on the way you twists facts and information to suit "your" needs.

Jay said...

anonymous said...
"I've noticed that throughout these threads that TSA employees seem to expect citizens to respect them automatically. Anyone with even entry level leadership training will have learned that respect is not given but earned.".

Actually, TSA's entry level customer service training emphasizes our Officers treat everyone with respect. The concept "Respect is Earned" as a part of entry level leadership training was discontinued decades ago.

Anonymous said...

Every time I swear in a new group of TSOs I tell them how to even be at this point they are in the 10% group. The other 90% didn't make it this far. After swearing in they are assigned a mentor go through the entire OJT process and then are tested in one form or another every day they work. Many would rather work in baggage because they don't have to deal with the pressures of a busy check point. I know travelers are stressed because they may be running late or had a bad day. I also know the TSO has just a few seconds to look at and "get to know" the passenger. They do not have the benifit of "getting to know and trust", they have a responsibility to every person getting on that aircraft to insure they are safe and they take it serious. They do all of this while trying to be customer friendly. I know it isn't perfect but please know we try, we care, and we hold our persons accountable when they are out of line. I just had a new hire TSO resign. The reason she stated was she didn't realize how much responsibility the job really had and she just didn't feel she wanted it. So I know they are the butt of jokes and I know many say they appriciate the work they do. I close by saying it is a damn hard job, the current technology has shortfalls and sometimes they get stressed. But...in their minds they can not be wrong even once.

Anonymous said...

As far as the test screenings. My understanding is that the TSA facilities that are going to be tested are made aware of the day that test if going to take place? Is that correct? I would much prefer that TSA facilities have no clue how or in what form they are going to be tested.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of physical/mental challenges that occur with this job on a daily basis. It takes a lot of stamina to deal with ignorant passengers that do not feel that our presence is necessary for their safety. If we weren't here, there would still be the potential for planes to be hijacked. We are necessary and it takes a lot more than knowing how to identify blobs of clay in baggage. Shawn is right when he said that we find numerous amounts of dangerous items daily. Get real, this is not an unnecessary job. We are very necessary.

Anonymous said...

It is a travel day. Most of us really don't find much pleasure in travel. Professional travels just want to get from point A to point B with all of their belongings intact, on time, and with an uneventful trip.

I arrive at the airport, get a ticket, get luggage checked in, then go stand in the line for security. I pass off both the ticket and driver's license to a TSA hireling and wonder if he/she is going to give me grief over the edges of the license being worn/frayed from being moved in and out of my wallet. My ticket gets marked and then begins the process. Change, keys, cell phone go into either the jacket or laptop bag. Belt gets removed in preparation for it being placed into a bin. Get to the roller tables then grab two bins. One for shoes, belt, glasses, and coat. The other bin gets the laptop and only the laptop. Laptop bag follows up the two bins. After that the Pelican case goes down the rollers into the x-ray machine. When I see the Pelican case enter into the x-ray machine I walk through the metal detector and try to get put back together again. The Pelican case gets additional screening-always. TSA employees are usually responsive when I tell them "I get very excited when separated from my belongings" and wait for me to gather up the rest of the stuff. Over to the swabbing process I ask that the contents of the Pelican case get put back into the same place they were before the inspection process began. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't get put items back properly.

At this point I don't want to engage in light conversation with any TSA inspector. I want to get on with the travels-nothing more and nothing less. I don't smile because I don't find this process enjoyable because all it would take for it to go from merely unpleasant to confrontational would be for a TSA inspector to either damage something or to confiscate some of my computer equipment over some percieved 'threat'.

I cooperate with TSA, expect some consistancy in what we can fly with and what we can't fly with, and hope that they understand that some people really don't want to engage in idle chatter with TSA and find the entire process unpleasant as a visit to a proctologist.

Anonymous said...

re: "It takes a lot of stamina to deal with ignorant passengers that do not feel that our presence is necessary for their safety. If we weren't here, there would still be the potential for planes to be hijacked."

Happy to know that you regard travelers as ignorant.

Says something about you, doesn't it?

So with TSA there is no potentail for an aircraft to be hijacked. You guys aren't that good!

Fred G. said...

Dear Anonymous:

(I can't address you by name, since you, like most others on this blog, refuse to even create a call sign for yourself.)

You sound like a TSA screener, and my original post was addressed to "Screener Joe," so assuming that, I will respond accordingly.

The "basis" for my post about violations of the first and fourth Amendment is the treatment I frequently get when I ask a lot of TSA officers perfectly simple questions, and the responses I get, which range from hostile stares and non-response, to threats ranging from going to the back of the line to "the special room" threat. So much for the First Amendment. As for the Fourth....you think that's it's all reasonable, I don't. Soon the Supreme Court will have to weigh in. There are simply too many people involved, and too much at stake.

As for "the information?" That's simple: The Constitution of the United States of America. Welcome to the Eighteenth Century, people. And it's worked for over two hundred years! You should read it - might change your mind. (Or at least soften your attitude.)

Contrary to your assertion, this great document does indeed dictate how you may or may not conduct "proprietary searches," administrative searches," how you walk, how you talk, and how you breathe. Everything we do "falls under the scope" of the Constitution: which is to say, considerable freedoms in certain areas, and not much in others.

The greatest "domestic tragedy" of all, would be to steamroll our way of life and our civil liberties, all of which are protected under the Constitution. That's why this discussion can never be trivialized by accusations of "whining." If you don't agree, that opinion is protected too. But just remember, it takes an overwhelming majority of the Congress to change it. So good luck.

Fred G.

Ambassablogmaster said...

Sometimes it's the little things that count. At San Diego International Airport, an employee blogger (www.ambassablog.com) has a post titled "TSA has a heart" about a surprise encounter with a TSA agent there around Valentine's Day.

Anonymous said...

#"On a typical day in the U.S., security officers find two guns and around 2,800 knives and blades (of varying sizes) on passengers and in carry-on bags."

How many do you miss? None?

What happens when you miss them? Nothing?

Flying is safer than driving, and when the inconveniences and fears cause people to drive rather than fly, more people die:

TSA is probably responsible for killing more people by causing them to drive than they could hope to save through screening.
***********************************
To you mister Dave X The First: I guess you are just one of those people who like to blame everything on TSA. Especially to those who die of driving. We just do our *job*. And for some people who really believe that we don't, I guess some of them don't. Let's stop generalizing TSA screeners. Some TSA Screeners take pride in doing their job and helping out people and it's very depressing to read this blog and see comments from some who are not happy about the screening process or I can say TSA. I didn't build TSA. I work for TSA. I didn't make the rules, whoever did, they are the ones who made the rules and keep changing for security purposes... Reading the negative stuff... it's very much hateful with nothing good to say... To all those who write negative stuff.. I guess writing negative stuff makes you happy and content and fulfilled.

Anonymous said...

In the time since 9/11, I've seen TSA screeners asleep on the job, talking on cell phones, chatting with one another, and allowing people to pass through screenings without following rules because the passengers didn't speak English.

I'm just throwing this out there, but maybe the reason people think the TSA doesn't do a very good job is because... the TSA doesn't do a very good job.

***********************************
Thank you for the comment that TSA doesn't do a good job. What do you think should we do in order to solve this problem? Do we need to change all the rules the way Mr. Anonymous want it or some passengers want it? Sure by all means if you have any suggestions, please let those "who are up there" know and share your wisdom. It seems like you are very good in identifying security threats and also good in customer service and solving the problem of TSA. Please do apply for the job you seem to be competent enough to perform the task.

Anonymous said...

I think TSA does a pretty good job overall. I fly in & out of various airports frequently & have witnessed numerous situations between flyer & TSA personnel. The flyer is almost always at fault. It doesnt take too much time to read the regulations & to pack accordingly & its certainly not an inconvenience in comparison to what might happen without any TSA screening

Anonymous said...

Please note TSA screeners are tested repeatedly.They f0rgo regirious training and testing!!! And have to pass in order to keep their jobs.Unfortunetly the publice has seemed to have forgotten the 9-1-1 attack and dont appreciate what the screener do. As of today they are trying to make our flying quite a bit safer.I have seen some bevery appreciatetive of what they do--walking away making the screener feel aLL THE MORE SATISFIED WITH THEIR JOBS.And then there are the ones who dont care and find the screeners annoying.I am glad I can get on the plane feeling safe--so hats off to the screeners who make it all possible!They are there to do their jobs enforced by the government--and are following their directives.TSA didnt make our world what it is today--they are only there to improve it!
Neither do they make the rules-- the government does--they just have to enforce it!!!You want to put the blame on someone make sure it isnt the screener but those they got us here ib this poisition in the first place!!!!

Anonymous said...

I've been trying to find out why the security people in Zurich Switzerland took the tops of my carry on medication, stuffed paper in so the pills wouldn't fall out, and threw the tops away. They couldn't tell me why, but simply said it was a standard procedure.
I'd sincerely appreciate an answer on this/

Andy said...

Training on how to behave professionally would be a good addition.

I was at the Birmingham, Alabama airport a few weeks ago, and as you are going through the line getting your bags x-rayed, the TSA staff was making jokes like "aha, a belt! That's a $5 fine!" And then they ridiculed passengers who didnt understand it was a joke.

If we are not allowed to joke about certain things, TSA staff should not either.

Ayn R. Key said...

Ok, it includes tests and training.

How difficult is the testing? How rigorous the training?

You might want to give us more details here. Testing might be as simple as "2+2="

Ayn R. Key said...

To Anonymous who wrote "[b]REMEMBER SEPTEMBER 11, 2001?[/b]":

You are not the only person in the country to learn the lessons of 9/11, but have you yet learned the lessons of 9/12? Do you know what the lesson of 9/12 is? That life goes on. We are not frozen in time, except at the TSA. We have had time to cool down and think things through, except at the TSA.

Dallas TSO said...

Oh my goodness! Do any of you even KNOW what you want from security? I'm appalled that anyone could honestly say that airport security was under control before 9/11. It was not. It was run by private companies that paid nearly minimum wage to questionable people who barely spoke English half of the time! That is under control? STUPID!!!!

I really don't care to see one more post about "rude" or "abusive" TSOs. Yes, there are some real jerks who work for us - yes, us, I've been with TSA almost 6 years - but they really are the exception, not the rule. Which would you rather have - super nice security or or effective security? I've worked with officers that can identify absolutely everything in a bag, down to the brand of computer/CPAP, etc that have less than stellar people skills. I wouldn't trade them for "customer service" EVER. It would be counter-productive. I've known "customer oriented" officers that have "niced" themselves right out of a job by being too sensitive to passengers presenting themselves as too old/too young/too ordinary to be a terrorist when they were really trying to sneak stuff in.

Some of the rules are stupid. Most of them are not. Either way, until the rules change, we have to enforce them no matter what YOU or we think of them!

Competent or nice? Safety or a warm fuzzy feeling at the airport? Pretty uniform or great at detecting IEDs, knives and guns? It really shouldn't be that hard to choose.

Oh yeah. It is really disgusting to hand an officer a slightly damp and glistening boarding pass that sat in your mouth for 2 minutes while you were looking for your ID. YUCK!

Sam said...

To Anonymous who posted on 02/13/08 @ 4:22 PM

Here is abit of info on your questions:

1) What kind of FBI criminal background checks do you do, and how in depth do you go?
-* We go through the same as any other Federal employee. (Credit, criminal, military/work history, residence verification, reference checks, etc). While we don't hold a Secret or higher Security Clearance, we are still screened very carefully. If the office or individual doesn't feel we are trust worthy for the position (for what ever reason), they can and will withdraw the offer of employment.

Do you require fingerprints of all applicants?
-* Yes. Each and every one of us, from the TSA Administer down to the new Officer at your local airport.

What would be disqualifying criteria?
-* I would assume, bad credit, lying on your application, not passing the pre-hire evaluations. The logical stuff, and I am sure stuff that HR and the Security Office looks for.

2) How do you screen for mental and emotional stability? Do you look for and screen out certain negative personality traits?
-* This one, I am not so sure. I would assume that during the evaluation period (pre- and post- hire) the scenarios that are presented to you would help the hiring official make a determination. Also if you get offered a job, your Supervisor and Leads watch the new TSO's and offer them help and guidance. Having worked at a large airport (LAS) I do know that some slip through and make it to the floor. Once there, you see how the Officers work and interact. If they don't 'Get it' we try to re-train, some just aren't a fit, and as unfortunate as it is, we have to let them go. The TSO Job description says the look for the following: Mental Abilities (e.g., visual observation, x-ray interpretation);• Personal Characteristics and Skills (e.g., customer service, dependability, integrity). Not sure exactly who they weed them out, but they do.

3) What about education? Do you require at least a High School diploma? College degree? Or are GED's "adequate"?
-* For a front line TSO position: "Have a high school diploma, GED or equivalent OR Have at least one year of full-time work experience in security work, aviation screener work, or X-ray technician work." - straight from the TSO Application page on USAjobs.gov So if you have a HS Diploma or equivalent, you can test for a TSA position. If you were prior airport security, but not a HS grad, you still qualify, but have to prove it with what ever HR asks for.

4) Health and fitness? Is there some standard?
- It has been tossed back and forth for a while, and as of now I have not heard if it is or not, however (from the TSO Job application): TSO's are required to have adequate joint mobility, dexterity and range of motion, strength, and stability to repeatedly lift and carry up to 70 pounds (AND more!), also the job requires repeatedly lifting and carrying bending, reaching, stooping, squatting, standing, and walking (+/- 2 miles or more depending on location and job function).

5) Drug and alcohol testing?
-Yes. Before you are hired and then again randomly tested by an outside entity once you are hired. You (the Officer) are called to the Duty Office and escorted for your test. Your do an alcohol test first then the drug test. In my personal experience and observation, if you refuse to take the drug/alcohol test, you are released from employment.. on the spot, or if this the pre-employment testing, you are told you are no-longer being considered for the position. Drug/alcohol testing is a Condition of Employment.

Is employment in the TSA a zero drug tolerance policy?
- Very much so. If you get tested and you test positive, better hope you have a prescription for what ever is ion your system. If your supervisor/manager things there might be impairment, they can request a drug/alcohol test.

And what the heck does a series of "series of image interpretation tests" mean?
- Well this one, I can't answer. Sorry, trade secrets. But as the statement reads "series of image interpretation tests", that is what it is. Take it as you will.

A good place to look at what it take to get hired is www.usajobs.gov and do a Basic Search for 'TSO' and click on any of the 100+ 'TRANSPORTATION SECURITY OFFICER (TSO) (Screener)' results. that will give you a good idea of our pre-employment requirements and what not. Hope it helped a bit.

**Note to Mod - No SSI disclosed**
===================================

to Anonymous who posted on February 02/13/08 @ 4:00 PM

How about telling us how we can report a TSA employee that is rude or abusive at a checkpoint.
- I would ask for the name of the TSA Stakeholder Manager or TSA Managers name. Personally, I would go to my gate and ask the attending airline agent for the info. If they don't know a managers for TSA, ask them to call the checkpoint. An other avenue could be going here: http://contact.tsa.dhs.gov/default.aspx

As well as providing us with away to make sure that it has been investigated as opposed to mailing a generic form letter for a response.
-That one, I would ask for a signed letter. Personally when I send out letters, they are 'form letters' in terms of the set up, but not the content. I sign and assign a reference number for my use and the passengers reference. Other than that, not sure. Hope it helped a bit.

**Note to Mod - No SSI disclosed**

Anonymous said...

Maybe the public (the passangers) would love to see no security at all. How safe would you feel then? Not so safe. Let us do our jobs to help keep you safe. We are here for a reason weather you like it or not. If you don't like what we do than take a bus or drive. It's that simple. If you have to take a plane, than please stop bickering about how we do our jobs and how inconsistant we are or whatever your complaint may be. We are a young organization who is still learning as we go. It may not be perfect, but it's gonna be damn close. Bear with us as we have to bear with you.

Anonymous said...

I recently attempted to secure a job as a TSO. It is a lengthy process, often taking months.

After the TSA completes thorough background checks (criminal record, credit history, job history, personal references, medical history, etc) then they invite you to interview. You are also tested on your aptitude for the job skills at that time, including reading comprehension and X-Ray image interpretation. If you pass that, then you undergo a complete medical evaluation and drug test.

Finally, you are allowed to attend two weeks of intensive training, culminating in written tests, practical demonstrations, and X-Ray tests. In our class of 17 people, 3 of us (myself included) failed X-Ray image interpretation testing twice and were forced to resign from the program.

I have a college degree (with honors) and have always excelled in any competitive activity when I apply myself. Failing the X-Ray image test came as a shock to me, but it was reassuring to know that TSA will not accept people who just don't have the knack for this important aspect of passenger screening.

Nonetheless, they passed up a chance to employ someone who has the ability to learn and who would have been a dedicated, attentive, and professional TSO.

It was a bitter pill to be rejected by the TSA, and I may reapply in 6 months.

Alex said...

@ Anonymous - March 3, 2008 1:40 PM

"Nonetheless, they passed up a chance to employ someone who has the ability to learn and who would have been a dedicated, attentive, and professional TSO.

It was a bitter pill to be rejected by the TSA, and I may reapply in 6 months."

It’s like life, for some it’s very easy to pick up, for some it’s very hard to pick up.
However, I can assure you the TSA is looking for..."someone who has the ability to learn and who would have been a dedicated, attentive, and professional TSO."

I applaud you for your vigilance and wish you the best of luck next time around.

Paul said...

There seems to be a huge divide between training and "common sense".

I recently travelled thru St. Louis airport returning from Active Duty and was in uniform (ACU's) and presented the initial TSA screener with my boarding pass and Military ID. I was amused when I was informed I had been "selected for an additional security search", because its us army guys who are the the threat right?
So after I managed to knock the readings off the scale for explosive residue and when asked by the screener if "I had handled any chemicals recently that might explain the reason for the high reading, I informed him "Well, C-4 Explosive"
Next thing I know, there is a supervisor and two security lecturing me about "making jokes about bombs in airports" being federal offenses.
Please please tell me that the TSA person should figure out that a person IN UNFORM, with ARMY ID and returning from a THEATER OF COMBAT, might just have been not joking about C-4 explosive. (and that stuff REALLY gets under your fingernails)

Anonymous said...

Reading the comment about rude TSOs and them being defensive, I agree that I have at times witnessed such things, though not for quite some time. But outside of training and background checks I can tell you as a female TSO I find it astounding that while I was quietly searching man's bag, that this man spent the entire time screaming at me, the ills of the entire U.S. Government and all the while spitting in my face as he raved on. I've had objects thrown at me for asking for shoes and metal to be removed, including a man's shoe which missed my face by a hair's breath. I have had people curse right at me, in my face because 'they came in too late' to check in at the airline counter, having checked in online 'w/o baggage' and had to leave a load of liquids behind to enter security with on online ticket. But I am there smiling every day, for the mission, along with my co-workers when they come back the next time.

Anonymous said...

In the aftermath of 9/11 I wrote these verses.

Inspired by the ‘Heroes’ of 9/11 and all those that went before them

The Heart Of An American Patriot
The Heart of an American Patriot is one that will:

Endure the shedding of his blood for the sake of his loved ones
Give up his life to fight the known or unknown
Partake in the last line of defense of his homeland
Stand in the way of the enemy, -to honor, protect and defend
Sacrifice his last breath to ensure the future of those who are yet to be born
Let his own body shelter another in the path of destruction
Offer up his very life to preserve a nation that is precious and free
Trade his own future to guarantee the liberty of those who’ll live on
Shed flesh and blood and bone and breath, to perpetuate the cause of his forefathers
Because the heart of an American Patriot beats to a drum of love, created by God, wedded to family, and in love with a great country, -which was sought and blood bought and raised up, by his forefathers to found ‘the land of the free’!

In memory of those who called their loved ones to say goodbye,
In thanks to all those who lost their lives to spare and to help others,
In gratitude to all the first responders,
In appreciation to my veteran husband, his father, and
all the military men and women, before them or beside them.

By Lori, I am a TSO and all those who took on this mission after 9/11 are what it takes to be a TSA TSO.

ORDSuper said...

1st off I would like to know where in o'hare are the TSO's wearing jeans and baseball caps on a checkpoint? maybee not on duty?

2nd the education factor I know for a fact that we have TSO's to Managers that have from a Doctorate degree to specialized Law enforcement training. We even have a few like around a 100 or so that are retired or auxiliary Police.
But even at the youngest level the TSO's have more training than you're average armed security officer.
And so far as customer service goes just how long do you think you could be yelled at and cursed at before you no longer were "nice and sweet" !! I have had 11 yrs flying before 9/11 and trust me every Officer I have worked with treats the PAX better than most airlines!

Anonymous said...

Here's a thought.....fire all of the TSA's and TSO's and put our National Guard troops there. They will at least be 1. In a sharp crisp uniform, 2. Be polite to people (the military has strict EEO/sexual harrasmant policies punishable under the UCMJ), 3. Be LEGALLY armed, and 4. If caught with a bomb, will be authorized to put a bullet in your head!
This would fix this whole airport mis-treatment thing and get the thugs back to working at McDonalds where they were in the first place!

wisconsin said...

"Anonymous said...
Here's a thought.....fire all of the TSA's and TSO's and put our National Guard troops there. They will at least be 1. In a sharp crisp uniform, 2. Be polite to people (the military has strict EEO/sexual harrasmant policies punishable under the UCMJ), 3. Be LEGALLY armed, and 4. If caught with a bomb, will be authorized to put a bullet in your head!"
...so, what your saying is you'd rather have a military presence enforcing the same things as public servants? So, all the rules that you say are stupid, rediculous, non-sensical, etc. would suddenly become clear if TSO's carried weapons and enlisted in the military? Make up your mind. I find it hard to believe a gun will calm anger and erase ignorance.

Anonymous said...

What does type of drug tests are given for this position? Is it a urine drug test or a hair drug test?

fafano said...

Where's I can find information to apply and join with TSA as employees.Does this job possible for imigran people but already being US citizen? Thanks

Anonymous said...

Word from a TSO (Transportation Security Officer)

Let me start by saying that the system is no where near perfect. The article mentions that TSA trains and tests its employees on a regular basis, but it forgets to mention that the X-Ray machines that are currently in placed at the airports, have been in existence for at least two decades. These machines cant tell the difference between a magazine or a thin sheet of explosive material (especially when most passengers cram so many items on top of each other). With the current technology in place, it is very easy to sneak a knife or a threatening item onto an aircraft. Yes, TSA is making improvements and adjustments, but I dont think it will ever be perfect. In order for the system to be perfect, passengers would probably be prohibited from having any carry-ons or TSA will have to require every passenger to unload every single object from all their carry-ons.

The minimum requirement for TSOs is a high school diploma. Yes, the majority of the individuals do have a college background, but understand that the starting salary for a TSO is 25,000. The majority of the TSOs hired, only became TSOs for the opportunity to transfer to other departments of the federal government: Customs, DEA, ICE etc.
The majority of TSOs are not in this position as a lifetime career. Why? Because there is not many options for TSO to move up or improve their status. The next rank in TSA is a position called a LEAD(assistant to the supervisor), which only pays about 30,000 (a position that is given to TSOs that have probably been in TSA for at least 3-5 years). Above a LEAD is the Supervisor and Manager, a position that ranges between $35-45K and a position that is filled by individuals that probably should not be in the position.

As a TSO, we dont have a choice in the items that are prohibited from going in your carry-on...we only follow the rules. So, the next time a you personally get mad because a TSO took out your laptop or took your 12oz Coke out of your bag, understand that we are not the policy makers. We are merely doing our job.

Understand that every day, we have to deal with
* passengers that are not familiar with rules.
* passengers that try to question every rule and procedure.
* passengers that speak a foreign language.
* machines and equipment that are helpful but not perfect.
* test bags with threat items that look like every other bag that comes through X-ray.
* passengers that stuff so many items into their bags, which make it very difficult to distinguish one item from another when going through the X-ray.
* co-workers that are lazy.
* Leads, supervisors and managers that have no business holding the position of having any power over others.

Reasons for our rules:

Why take off shoes?

We are looking for explosive devices or carbon-fiber knives that will not set-off the metal detector. There have been parents that have tried to sneak a prohibited items in their children's shoes. This is why we require every shoe to go through the X-ray.

Why take out your laptop?

Please understand that the X-ray can not tell the difference between a book or a block of explosive material shaped into a block. The different colors on the X-ray screen signify the difference in density. The bag around your laptop will be the same color of a explosive material hidden in a laptop or dvd-player. We are merely making sure that no one is try to sneak any explosive material through their laptop or large electronic. When we look at the X-ray screen we use color and shape recognition. Guns are easily recognizable when laying down, but imagine what a gun or knife looks like when it's standing up and there other metal objects around it.

Why do we restrict liquids? This policy was implemented after the failed bombings in London. The terrorist were trying to bring liquid explosives onto an aircraft. Most airports do have the technology to test an individual liquid for exemptions that we make (medicine, baby formula, liquids for diabetics) but each individual liquid would take about 30seconds. We do not have the resources to test every single liquid in a passengers bag. If we ever did, it would take an additional 10minutes to check each passenger, not including the added waiting time that a passenger would wait in line. All liquids that you purchase passed a security point have already been pre-screened, which take about 24hours to do.


Personal items stolen or lost-

Theft is a problem everywhere. It not only applies to TSA. Theft will always be a problem. But I can tell you that the majority of the individuals that claim that a TSA officer stole their items, probably forgot it at the security check point or another passenger mistakingly took their laptop. At every airport, there is a department that was opened just for the registration of lost items. On a daily basis, just at our checkpoint (large airports can have upto 10 checkpoints) and just on our shift, we will probably turn in at least 5 laptops, 2 wallets, 10 cellphones, literally 20 jewelry pieces into the lost & found department.

My suggestion is to take all your valuables (rings, cell phone, wallet, jewelry, loose change) and place them in a plastic bag and place the plastic bag into your carry-on...before you even approach the security check point. As far as large items, make sure that you take out any large electronics out of your bag. When we re-run an item through the X-ray, because they left their laptop in the bag, many individuals assume that we put their laptop back in the bag, when in reality, their laptop has been separated into a separate bin which is right next to the bag.

Also, when packing your bag, be conscious about how your items look through an X-ray machine, especially when items are stuffed into a small area and items are layered on top of each other. If we can not recognized an item in your bag and it looks threatening, thats when your bag has been selected for additional screening.

We as TSOs would rather not have to waist our time to open your bag, only because you forgot to take out your laptop or forgot to throw away your Pepsi bottle. The more we have to repeat our selves about everybody needing to take out their laptop and remind you to take off your shoes, the more we become tired and our professionalism begins to deteriorate.


At our checkpoint with 3-4 lanes open, on a decent day, we can screen about two flights with about 35-50 passengers per flight in about 5-8 minutes. Next time you're stuck waiting in line, remember that it is probably because we had to stop and remind your fellow passengers that their shoes must come off, pat-down a passenger because he/she decides to wear a large amount of metal on their body when traveling, or because we have to re-run a bag when a laptop was left in the bag.

Next time you personally travel, if we ever have to say anything other than "Hello, How are you or Have a good day" you have just held up the line of passengers behind you.


Your Fellow TSO at O'Hare International Airport
:O)

Anonymous said...

contrary to what you might believe TSA officers are not federal law enforcement officers. They are primarily baggage checkers and screeners. They do not have any powers of arrest.

Anonymous said...

My first visit to England? The customs officers asked direct questions about my visit but were polite and helpful. When I returned to the US, the customs officer said " Hey you, wake up and get over here" as I picked up my bag to walk to the desk. Not too professional in my book.

Good manners cost nothing, gets the job done, and leaves a favourable impression.

kingian said...

My friend is a TSA at McCarren in Vegas and boy does he have some good stories to tell on occassion - like the lady that took off ALL her clothes and laid down on the floor to go to sleep - LOL.

http://www.howtoregistertovote.com

car review said...

I have had people curse right at me, in my face because 'they came in too late' to check in at the airline counter, having checked in online 'w/o baggage' and had to leave a load of liquids behind to enter security with on online ticket. But I am there smiling every day, for the mission, along with my co-workers when they come back the next time.

Anonymous said...

As an ex TSA worker whom is still fighting for his job for failing his annual certification process is this process still administered to employees?

Anonymous said...

No matter where we go there will be rude people to deal with. I have seen them at the grocery store, at Ross, at the mall and even at the hospital. So there are bad apples, I've traveled a lot through the MCO airport and have never had an issue. Are the TSO's snippy? Yes. Can they have an attitude sometimes? Yes. Have I been running late through the airport with two small children by myself, 3 carry ons, sneakers on everyone, belts on everyone and jackets during the winter season? Yes. But that's what I get for arriving late.

They have silly rules and most don't make sense, but you know what it has been ok'd my our government, TSA doesn't make up the rules they just enforce them. I live in Orlando and work for Disney and let me tell you there are RUDE cast members there as well.

The whole point is to know the rules before you get there, suck it up, go through the line and get on your way. Why stress about it? It's not going to get you anywhere but frustrated.

The application process to become a TSO in Orlando is as follows:
Application with a 10 year history
2 hour computer competency test including image testing. This test shows you a picture of an item. Then puts it into a mix of things where you have 20 seconds to find it. At the end of this test you pass or fail. Once you pass this test its a thorough medical exam, federal background screening, credit screening, fingerprints and then a wait. Once you have completed all of that you move onto training. You have 3 weeks of classroom training. Then you have another 3 weeks of on the job training. After this you have weekly training sessions, random drug screenings, credit checks every once in awhile, annual certification exams as well as random fake testing (it is unknown when these happen). There is pay starting from $24k - $36k with a locality pay. You must have a high school diploma minimum and required US Citizenship.

I hope that this answers your questions. My mother is a TSO and I know several in the MCO airport. Again I guarantee you that no matter where you go there will be bad apples, some that really irk you, but there are a lot of good apples. TSO, sales managers, AT&T customer service or even at the local McD's you will find them everywhere.

What can I say? Find out what is and isn't allowed, go through the line, be harassed, but don't get mad @ all of them. Its the one... move on and appreciate that there is someone out there looking for these items. They may not catch them every time, but that's one less gun, one less knife and one less of a chance that some psycho is going to get on her ex-boyfriends flight and shoot it down. Its not only about terrorists, the way the economy is today someone can lose it easily. Just the other day a woman shot herself and her son in the Wal-Mart parking lot because she didn't get paid. It's everywhere people so just deal with it, we are all going through it some more than others. This is not an excuse to treat people badly but I am sure that ALL OF YOU have gone off on someone at one point in your lives and it wasn't on purpose.

Jessica
(No I didn't feel like registering sorry!)

Anonymous said...

The liquid issue is that you mix two liquids together that may seem harmless (like water) and can cause an explosion. The books and magazines are searched because inside they have found a paste that looks like clay and this can be put together to act as dynamite. Another point is a battery, a wire, a timer (like a watch) and a couple of other components in a bag can be put together into a bomb. These are simple household items. A laptop can be gutted out in the middle and be created into a bomb so not looking inside the laptop could be an issue. These are just a few of the issues and that is why TSA is in place. The shoes can be tampered with in the soles and have a bomb inside or can have different items stored to create a bomb on the plane.

As you can see these are just a few of the items that the agents are looking for in order to make sure that we as citizens are protected from crazy people.

So their attitudes perhaps are poor however, in the long run everyone has an attitude, the people going through the line who don't want to be there and the agents who are annoyed with the other people who have given them grief. It's not an excuse but an understanding that there is nothing that can be done about it but to move on and enjoy the rest of the trip. These people are just an annoyance just as in a traffic jam, a long grocery line or the bank teller giving you grief about your ID. I am sure that the TSA agent is not the only person that you encounter in your everyday life that is rude and inconsiderate. Everyone is doing their job, I would just take it and forget about it. This is how we get old.... Stressing about it.

HR said...

I am currently trying to get a job as a TSO. I don't know why these TSO's currently employed would resort to sleeping and acting childish on the job.

It's going to be a long process of applying for the job and then testing, drug testing, medical testing, interview, and training.

I have never even thought of sleeping at any job. If I see any of this stuff that people are writing about TSO's conduct while on the job I will surely be reporting this to the nearest supervisor or his/her supervisor.

However, normally people who would do a good job don't normally get hired but if I do I will do the best I can and strive to better everyday.

Andre Boykin said...

The training provided by TSA is very good. The hiring and selection process that was outlined here shows that TSA has a good approach to selecting the right person for the job. What may be beneficial is to break down the different jobs at TSA into more categories. For example, there are different skill required to check the ID and boarding pass than to check the luggage for potential threats. Identifying the skills based on the positions could ensure a better "match" rather than a one size fits all.

Anonymous said...

I wish people would stop complaining so much and just deal with what we have. Anybody who's ever worked in customer service knows its hard to be polite to every person you come across. The tsa's primary job is to stop threats from pass through the checkpoints. IF you want someone to be nice to you try be nice to others. Why do people act so selfish, its not all about you, millions of people pass those checkpoints a day. Look at the bigger picture and get over your self

Anonymous said...

I believe the tso's should be not rude but firm with passengers. It should'nt be all smiles when you walk up to a checkpoint. After all the first step in stopping a possible attack is security presents. This job is Transportation Security Officer not a greeter when you walk into wal-mart. Please dont be so obtuse, put yourself in there shoes.

Alex said...

This is the first to have known that the TSA officers performs such rigorous precautionary measures. Tested with those fake threats must somehow be frustrating or say a waste of time on their part but still they are taking the events seriously. Conducting trainings for TSA officers must be tough cause every single officer must be tested and pushed to their limits. I mean to undergo the kind of training they have are not meant for weak people. I somehow find their discipline similar to military officers and that for sure is one thing to admire of them. On a side note the closing line is really striking, indeed the passengers are rest assured that they are kept a hundred percent in good hands. With that, the TSA is well deserving of the recognitions and salutations they have had acquired.

Alex said...

"On a typical day in the U.S., security officers find two guns and around 2,800 knives and blades..."

Oh wow. It just blows me away. This is why I always am proud of these people who work hard to keep us safe. I don't usually complain at airports, even if they make me take everything out of my carry on bags and whatnot. It's also for my security, too.

Anonymous said...

It baffles me that people gripe and complain about "poor seurity officers" and the things we can't take on planes is rediculous.

You don't like it - THEN DRIVE!!!

These policies and procedures are put in place for YOUR safety!

Anonymous said...

We dont live in a free country
We have big brother who wants to tell you what you can and cannot
say about the TSA or anything else . I thought there was something in our constitution
about free speach . Very sad
state of being . Dont post here
Waste of time and space .

A real American .

Anonymous said...

The prerequisites and training that TSA screeners go through is thorough enough. I'm sure. But they don't get paid enough. I agree with that. Someone said that we should get paid more because we are dealing with national security, you know? A person expected to uphold the nation's security SHOULD make a living wage. And I don't know about everyone else, but the screeners at Baltimore Washington International airport are very professional. I know, I'm there.

Anonymous said...

I applied for a guard job at private bus company and thye made me take some kind of security inspection aptitude test. They said my score was low and didnt have the aptitude to be a transportation security officer. I thinks these tests are no good.

Mike said...

Personally I am glad we have TSA only due to the fact that it seems the more restrictions wee have on flying the more people seem to want to just get crazy on a plane. Though like all other forms of authority there need to be checks and balances.

-M

Anonymous said...

I say "Thanks TSA."

To all of you who complain, I say don't fly. I'm sure it's not an easy job and 100% fool proof but I'd hate to think of the alternative. I'm willing to subject myself to whatever screening is needed to be safe. So my advice? Don't be a big jerk. Stop complaining. Give yourself extra time. Be cooperative. Prepare to be screened. Be prepared to give up a tiny bit of your civil rights in order for all involved to have a safe flight. If you are innocent and you have nothing to hide, you will be on your merry way.

Anonymous said...

An interesting argument would be whether we could step up profiling, like at Israel's International Airport and forgo the 'full-body patdowns' that currently cause such an uproar. I, for one, would be ok with giving the government more detailed information about myself if it meant not exposing myself to (however small) radiation and/or the horrific pat-down every time I need to fly.

Mark Gordon said...

I just flew out of DCA on Tuesday and the gaggle of TSA agents at Terminal A around 7:00 pm were having a good old time, like Saturday morning at the barbershop. And the laughter was all directed at ... you guessed it: passengers. Specifically, passengers going through the full body scanner. People were humiliated, and these "professionals" were falling out all over the place, hooting it up real good. Absolutely NO professionalism whatsoever. And in our nation's capital. Disgusting.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how many people on here post as Anonymous and have negative things to say. TSA is like anything else, the police, the government, or whatever. People bitch and moan about it, say they violate everyone's civil rights and act rude and uncivilized. Yet, those very same people DEMAND these agencies be there FOR THEM as soon as they need something. You can't have it both ways. If you don't want to be subject to screening, Go Greyhound. It's as simple as that. If you need to go international, take a boat. No one is forcing you to fly.

Anonymous said...

In the last 6 years I've been to about 15 airports within the United States as a traveler. Not once has an employee been rude to me nor have they 'carelessly' looked at my items. Perhaps it is because I treat them with respect and understand that their presence does make every flight safer for me. So I'm just going to play devil's advocate and say instead of all this whining why don't travelers treat the employees respectfully and they may treat travelers equally well? Also for a moment consider that if TSA was not there, on average every day 2 guns and 2,800 blades would be on an airplane. Would you feel safe if that easily agitated and clearly unintelligent passenger next to you had a gun in his carryon when traveling in an enclosed airplane?

Linet Dsouza said...

karnataka examination authority address:recently i had travelled thru St. Louis airport returning from Active Duty and was in uniform (ACU's) and presented the initial TSA screener with my boarding pass and Military ID. I was amused when I was informed I had been "selected for an additional security search", because its us army guys who are the the threat right?
So after I managed to knock the readings off the scale for explosive residue and when asked by the screener if "I had handled any chemicals recently that might explain the reason for the high reading, I informed him "Well, C-4 Explosive"
Next thing I know, there is a supervisor and two security lecturing me about "making jokes about bombs in airports" being federal offenses.
Please please tell me that the TSA person should figure out that a person IN UNFORM, with ARMY ID and returning from a THEATER OF COMBAT, might just have been not joking about C-4 explosive. (and that stuff REALLY gets under your fingernails)

Anonymous said...

one hired do they do randomly drug test thier employees

Danny said...

I got feel are the TSA people trained under various conditions and situations to handle pressure. Even after educating all norms sometimes they fail to follow and they become rude over the passengers, how we can report a TSA employee on these occasions?