I’ve noticed many comments from concerned passengers as to why we screen soldiers and veterans at our checkpoints. Some folks find this shameful while others (including most soldiers and vets) realize it’s a necessity.
Let me preface this post by saying I have the utmost respect for our men and women in uniform. My Grandfather who I never met was a Combat Medic in an 82nd Airborne Glider Battalion during WWII. He lost his life during a practice rescue mission while serving in Alaska in 1949. I grew up hearing stories about his military career, which helped foster my fascination and respect for the military. My father was in the National Guard for 10 years. I was raised to respect soldiers and spent many a Sunday morning on the couch with Dad watching war documentaries and John Wayne movies. I eventually joined the Army myself and became a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Decontamination Specialist with the 3rd Armored Division. I served in Desert Storm and spent 3 years in the Army before being honorably discharged and starting college. While in the Army, I met some of the best people I’ll ever meet. Hardworking, loyal, trustworthy, respectable… It is natural to see one of our soldiers in uniform and instantly put them up on a pedestal. We should… they deserve respect for their service to our country. They sacrifice much of their freedom to protect ours. However, let me caution you that simply because somebody wears a uniform, it does not warrant blind trust.
Did you know that we’ve had soldiers bring grenades with them to the airport? Chances are there was no ill intent, but a grenade on a plane is a grenade on a plane. It just shouldn’t be there. (Kind of like snakes on a plane) We’ve also caught passengers impersonating soldiers thinking they would be able to bypass the screening process. Go to any Army/Navy store in America and for less than $50 dollars you too can look just like an active duty soldier, sailor, airman or marine.
The fact that any soldier serves is honorable, but soldiers and veterans are just as capable of committing unspeakable acts as any other human being. In Kuwait in 2003, US Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar killed two 101st Airborne officers and wounded 14 when he lobbed two grenades into a command tent. John Allen Muhammad (The DC Beltway Sniper) was a Sergeant in the Army and served for 16 years. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (Oklahoma City Bombing) were both Army Veterans. My roommate of 2 years in the Army stole weapons from an armory and died in a shootout with police after killing two officers. My first year on the job with the TSA, a young man serving in the U.S. Air Force told me he was going to blow up the plane he was about to depart on. These are just a few examples of many. Would we need military prisons if all of our soldiers were the spotless squeaky-clean individuals we believe them to be?
The TSA gives Soldiers special accomodations , but just like any other passenger, if they alarm the walk through metal detector, or have something in their bag we need to look at, they will undergo secondary screening. We owe that to the safety of all passengers to resolve any alarm we receive. In fact, the same thing happens to a TSA employee when they are traveling. If they alarm, they get screened.
Lastly, I just want to touch on the amount of respect TSA employees have for our members of the Armed Forces both current and veterans. Many in our ranks are prior military. Some of us served for a couple of years and others retired with 20 plus years under their belts. Some during times of peace and others during war. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a TSO stop to shake a service members hand and thank them for their service. Some of our employees even have family members and friends serving in Iraq or Afghanistan right now. At my airport and I’m sure many others, we have written letters and sent care packages to soldiers. In fact, some of us have adopted platoons and send items regularly. I’ve also screened many soldiers and veterans who have thanked me for screening them including a Battle of Bulge vet who limped due to frostbite from the war.
Read about the experience a Lead TSO had with a Medal of Honor Recipient this past summer.
Evolution Blog Team