Supervisory Transportation Security Officer Elizabeth Tillman stood at the other end of the long conveyor belt that stretched through the entrance of the East Concourse. She observed as various Transportation Security Officers checked the airline passengers through security in the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport.
The travellers flashed their ID’s/boarding passes, pulled off their shoes, unbuckled their belts, and slowly made their way through the x-ray machines as carry-on items were examined.
“There are about 1,500-1,700 people that pass through this airport daily,” Tillman said. TSA’s Assistant Federal Security Director Kent Banks admitted that despite the stereotypes associated with TSA, it is multimodal, and there is a lot more that goes into TSA than forcing people to take off their shoes.
“The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created to strengthen the security of the nation’s transportation systems and ensure the freedom of movement for people and commerce,” said Federal Security Director Steven Corey.
Corey explained that the responsibilities of TSA are trifold: TSA heads up the office of law enforcement, which is responsible for investigations and the management of air marshals; TSA regulates air craft carriers and air cargo, ensuring that nothing will disrupt the security of aviation; and finally TSA organizes security operations in general. “The Jackson airport has a total of 24 layers of security,” said Corey.
As the Assistant Federal Security Director, Banks is in command of law enforcement. He explained that TSA, customs and border protection, the U.S. secret service, and federal air marshals fall under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security.
He works closely with the FBI and secret service, communicates with federal air marshals, and also functions as a liaison in order to develop relationships with the police and other enforcers of the law should a crisis occur.
“TSA is a great stepping stone for other government jobs,” said Banks. The AFSD has committed 29 years to government service. After getting his four-year degree, Banks worked for the U.S. border patrol for five years in Rio Grande, Texas.
“Back in my day, you either had to be a lawyer or an accountant to get in with the FBI or the government,” he said.
After over 20 years of service, Banks had worked his way up to a great salary with desirable benefits. He seemed shocked to say, “What took me 15 years to achieve in salary took my son only three and a half. Today, the government takes a four-year degree a lot more seriously than when I was younger.”
Banks also explained that those who have careers in law enforcement are compensated for the difficulties that come with the job and risks that it puts them in.
“Once you’ve been accepted to work for the government, you’re in,” Banks said. He revealed that one of the most desirable aspects of working for the government is the job security it offers.
Gerald Coleman, TSA’s Human Resources Specialist, agreed that there is a lot of room for internal growth within the organization.
“Many people fresh out of college often look for a job where you can reach earning potential fast, but they’re few and far between. Someone looking for federal employment should strive for an entry-level position with TSA,” he recommended.
Entry-level positions fall under two categories: Transportation Security Officer (TSO) and Managerial Administration Professional (MAP). Attaining a position as a TSO only requires a high school degree and little work experience. Depending on how well a TSO displays loyalty, leadership skills, and performance, an officer could almost double his/her starting salary in four years.
At the same time, Coleman said that, “You have to be willing to relocate if you want to get promoted faster.”
MAP positions include careers that involve purchasing, human resources, or property management. Accounting majors have a good chance of being hired as well.
Coleman said that often times those who apply “have the knowledge capacity but not the experience. In the federal government, it’s important to start with an entry-level position. And depending on how mobile you are, there are more opportunities.”
Banks explained that attaining a career in law enforcement is highly competitive. His advice to college graduates who are interested in this field is to first, stay clean.
Oftentimes the government will interview an applicant’s neighbors, college roommates, and family members to see if they’ve done anything incriminating. Banks emphasized that, “One slip of judgment can be a lifetime of burning bridges and today’s consequences have future implications.”
He said that seeing a DUI or an MIP on someone’s record in recent years could work against him/her in getting hired.
“Don’t get stupid in college and do things that can be career-limiting for you,” said Banks. The AFSD’s second piece of advice is to watch what you post on social media. “This generation’s blind spot is the social media. It’s definitely a double-edged sword,” said Banks.
The government will often check applicants’ Twitter feeds, Facebook walls, Instagram posts and blogs, “which tell a lot about a person,” said Banks. His advice would be to avoid posting anything on social media that would be difficult to verbalize to your Mom or Dad.
Erika Roberts, the Executive Assistant to the Federal Security Director, emphasized that, “There are numerous opportunities within TSA and the Department of Homeland Security.”
She encourages college graduates to visit www.usajobs.gov in order to research the federal employment market for jobs. At the same time, the TSA human resources department recommended that those interested in internship or career opportunities with TSA go to www.tsa.gov and search the careers listed.
– Ashley Cozzolino, Contributing Writer