As well over 1 million people converged on Washington’s National Mall Tuesday, TSA was an integral part of the largest inaugural security operation in history, protecting President Barack Obama as he took the Oath of Office.
TSA joined 57 other federal, state and local agencies that worked together to protect the president and those attending the ceremony. While our officers are best known for their work in U.S. airports, TSA was called upon to lend its expertise to help screen roughly 240,000 ticketed spectators at the swearing-in ceremony, plus hundreds of thousands more at checkpoints that stretched west down the Mall from the Capitol.
About 300 transportation security officers (TSOs) were among the many TSA security personnel who supported the U.S. Secret Service, the lead federal agency responsible for the overall Inauguration security plan. “We greatly appreciate the partnership and support TSA provided throughout the campaign and at the Inauguration,” said Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan. “Their officers’ screening expertise played a vital role in securing the President and the American public during these historic events.”
In addition to officers helping to screen participants on the Mall, TSA’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams also worked seamlessly with local law enforcement to provide deterrent presence and detection capabilities, and an unpredictable layer of security at Washington’s Union Station, mass transit Metro stops and other locations. The VIPR teams – made up of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, behavior detection officers and explosives detection canine teams as well as TSOs – helped create a calm atmosphere and sense of overall protection by their overt presence and coordination.
“I’m very impressed at what I’ve seen at Union Station,” said George Papantoniou, deputy assistant director of the Federal Air Marshal Service. “It’s very positive to see everyone working so well to assure the safety and security of the crowd today.”
From the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, TSOs found honor and excitement in their mission of securing President Obama and the American public at the Inauguration. “I’m very excited to participate in the security of this once-in-a-lifetime event,” said TSO Randy Holmes, who traveled from his home base at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
TSO Patricia Nunez of Corpus Christi (Texas) International Airport echoed that sentiment. “I’m very happy to be here for the people and our President,” she said. “That is why I wanted to volunteer my help.”
TSA also deployed more than three dozen canine teams at the request of Secret Service to provide a mobile, explosive-detection capability to augment their efforts. These teams searched cars, packages and other items.
Inauguration spectators reciprocated with “thank you for being there” as they exited the Mall for the inaugural parade. “It was truly an honor to hear the spectators thank us,” said TSO Edward Woodall of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. “It was remarkable to see spectators and security working so well with one another.” Screening on the Mall during the inaugural ceremony was the culmination of years of partnership with the Secret Service. During the last presidential campaign, TSA officers supported their efforts at dozens of campaign stops and at both national conventions.
At D.C. area-airports, air travelers passing through security checkpoints on their way home from the Inauguration may well see some of the same officers who had been on the Mall, still working tirelessly to keep the public safe.