Although he’s credited with developing countermeasures that helped shape TSA’s standard operating procedures, Alaska Assistant Federal Security Director-Inspections Ed Kittel works quietly, and to a large portion of the agency, anonymously. To TSA subject matter experts and bomb technicians around the world, however, Kittel’s excellence in the field of explosives security is worthy of the spotlight.
The recipient of this year’s coveted Ron Purvis Award from the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators (IABTI), Kittel was recognized for his impressive body of work within the industry.
“Ed’s imprint on TSA is enduring,” said Alaska Federal Security Director (FSD) Peter Duffy. “The unparalleled success of the TSS-E Bomb Appraisal Officer and the multitude of security improvements he championed have forever enhanced TSA’s ability to achieve our critical mission.”
The award was created in memory of Ron Purvis, a Canadian police officer, whose duty was to ensure the safety of bomb technicians. It’s a meaningful honor for Kittel, who credits the IABTI’s founders for giving him career opportunities to develop as a bombing investigator.
“I spent a lot of time in crisis management,” said Kittel. “I responded to suspected bombing cases and developed countermeasures such as removing shoes to detect shoe bombs, the 3-1-1 liquids rule and countering the two underwear bomb plots. Knowing my efforts prevented multiple aircraft bombings is extremely rewarding and motivating.”
Kittel’s career, which spans 48 years, began with the U.S. Navy and was followed by work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as head of the explosives unit. He responded to the World Trade Center on 9/11 and directed the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board emergency actions in New York after the attacks.
“Following 9/11, I was transferred to TSA and worked with the founders helping set up the new organization,” recalled Kittel, who served as the chief of the TSA explosives division until his 2012 move to his current position in Alaska. “I am grateful to the TSA Administrators I served, particularly John Magaw and Kip Hawley who supported and mentored me along the way.”
“Mr. Kittel’s nearly 50-years of critical incident management and leadership experience are second only to his willingness to share it,” remarked Duffy. “I am fortunate and grateful to have worked with Ed and benefited from his wealth of real world experience.”
Looking back on his notable body of work, Kittel reflected on his career journey.
“I am particularly grateful to my teammates in both military EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) and the FAA explosives unit and TSA Explosives Operations Division who executed my vision to create a world class explosives security program,” said Kittel, about the program which now includes over 400 Transportation Explosives Security Specialists.
Now Kittel’s home base is Alaska where he supervises 23 aviation, cargo and canine inspectors based in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Ketchikan. His management style is selfless.
“I put my employees first and believe if you take care of them, they will perform at high levels and be motivated and happy in their careers,” said Kittel, and he advises, “Train your team to take your place. Nobody is indispensable.” He’s an influencer.
“Ed’s leadership mantra is indelibly imprinted on me — take care of your people,” said Duffy. And that’s exactly what he does. I have personally observed Ed’s unwavering commitment to his people, and all employees for that matter, over the past decade. I am a more effective FSD and TSA Alaska is stronger because of Ed.”
By Alexandra Valerio and Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs