Alaska’s Mike Duffy makes rare career progression

Thursday, July 11, 2019
FSD Mike Duffy with TSOs

TSA offers multiple career progression opportunities for employees, but one advancement that’s rare is a Transportation Security Officer being promoted to the role of Federal Security Director. Alaska’s Pete Duffy joined TSA in 2002 shortly after 9/11 and is one of three current FSDs who moved through the ranks from TSO to FSD.

“I separated from the military to attend school six weeks before 9/11,” said Duffy. “From that moment, I had a hunger to be back in uniform serving my country. The opportunity to join TSA at the ground level was perfect.”

Now, he oversees 19 airports after being named Alaska’s FSD in late spring.

“To be among the first to rise from a frontline TSO to FSD is a bit surreal to me,” Duffy said. “I am thankful. I recognize my selection was not simply a function of my commitment and performance. I know others are just as committed. So why am I the lucky one? First and foremost, I didn’t do it alone.”

Duffy was a member of the first TSA training class in Alaska and was the first uniformed officer to report for duty at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. “While some officers struggled with the early days of ambiguity and turmoil, I found the nearly blank slate TSA represented to be exciting and motivating,” Duffy recalled. “We had to fly; failure was not an option.”

“After the first few months, it became evident TSA offered unparalleled advancement opportunity, and I was confident that if I performed well, maintained a positive attitude and focused on the mission, I would be competitive for advancement,” he explained. “As I progressed through the ranks, I came to the realization that one day I could achieve the FSD position.”

“I was genuinely shocked when I got the call I was selected,” Duffy said. “A dream come true for me.”

Jared Babin and Tim Berroyer are the only other two current FSDs who started as TSOs. Babin is now at Texas’ El Paso International Airport after beginning his career as a TSO at South Carolina’s Charleston International Airport. Berroyer, Arkansas’ FSD, started as a TSO at Memphis International Airport. Duffy is the first known to have begun his TSA career as a TSO and advance to FSD at the same airport.

FSD Mike Duffy (left) with TSO Patrick Howell

To have a chance of becoming FSD, Duffy thought he would have to leave Alaska, which he didn’t want to do despite some of the state’s geographical and weather challenges. Some of Alaska’s airports are separated by more than 1,200 miles, and 16 of the state’s 19 airports are not on the highway system. He admits it’s difficult to hire and retain officers at Alaska’s more remote locations but is happy TSA established retention incentives for officers.

While challenging at times, Duffy believes living and working in Alaska creates opportunities available nowhere else – opportunities to travel, grow professionally and personally, and opportunities for adventure.

If you are a TSO who may be wondering if there’s any chance to advance to a leadership position like FSD, Duffy said, “The future favors the prepared. Apply for the available development programs, seek a professional mentor, volunteer for the many initiatives. If you are hungry and focused, you will move up the ranks. We are doing a better job preparing and developing our workforce, but you must take an active role in your development. If you want it, go get it.”