Colorado TSA officer earns top award

Wednesday, March 16, 2022
TSO Talley photo

“I was pretty shocked. Honored, but more so, just shocked.”

That was Kaitlyn Talley’s reaction after learning she was selected as one of two TSA Officers of the Year. Talley was honored during the 2021 Honorary Awards Ceremony.

Talley was recognized in 2021 for several achievements and awards due to her leadership, professionalism and expertise – traits she displays daily.

Officer Talley on X-ray photo
Lead Officer Kaitlyn Talley on X-ray at Denver International Airport. (Photo courtesy of TSA DEN)

One of her significant accomplishments was her development of a ‘how-to’ manual to obtain threat image projection and on-screen alarm resolution protocol data for TSA officers at Colorado’s Grand Junction Regional Airport. Previously, only one supervisor and a manager had the expertise and proficiency to pull this data, but Talley quickly recognized the shortfall and took the initiative to author an easy-to-use manual from scratch.

“Our ‘how-to’ guides were extremely outdated,” said Talley. “I like staying busy, and I wanted to help my team so we didn’t just have to rely on two people. I worked on it in my spare time.”

The impact of her work on the manual was significant.

“I think it was beneficial,” Talley said. “Instead of having to call somebody when they weren’t there to help or potentially submit all of our data late, we had [the updated guide] in our sensitive security information cabinet where [officers] could just open it and follow each step.”

Kaitlyn Talley photo
Kaitlyn Talley, one of two winners of the 2021 TSA Honorary Awards TSA Officer of the Year. (Photo courtesy of TSA DEN)

Talley joined TSA in Grand Junction just two-and-a-half years ago but quickly volunteered as a coach and mentor to new hires, completing all training and distinguishing herself through her extensive knowledge of TSA’s screening procedures to become a strong coach.

“It’s been one of my favorite things I have done at TSA,” she noted. “I’ve greatly enjoyed teaching new hires. It gets you back into the standard operating procedures and the job as a whole. We were lacking in that department but getting a bunch of new hires as we tried to beef up our numbers during COVID. So, it was beneficial. I was able to help both our a.m. and p.m. crews.”

Today, Talley serves as a lead TSA officer, only six months after transferring to Denver International Airport.

“[Officer] Talley is a critical component of our overall workforce,” said Colorado Federal Security Director Larry Nau. “She’s a perfect example of what we are trying to cultivate for behaviors in our state. Her commitment, her dedication and her willingness to take on more [responsibilities] is exactly what this agency needs.”

Nau believes the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) of the Year Award perfectly aligns with the agency’s strategic priority “Commit to Our People.”

“Our employees strive to do a good job, in many cases, a great job,” he assessed. “At the end of the day, failing to recognize them for their performance would deflate their motivation. So, being able to take an employee who displays the behaviors we want to recognize is critical to the Administrator’s commitment and his intent to our employees. This is an extremely important honor, and I’m so grateful that Kaitlyn works for us in Colorado.”

Passengers also see Talley’s commitment to them, twice recognizing her for her customer care in 2021.

“It’s part of my job every day to interact with passengers,” she said. “So, the fact they took time to say anything is cool, but it’s my job.”

Even though she’s no longer in Grand Junction, Talley appreciates her former airport team and leadership.

“I want to thank my previous manager, Brad Wayland, for nominating me for this award and being given the honor to accept this award. Thank you very much.”

TSA also named Idaho Falls Regional Airport’s Margaret Hanson TSO of the Year. Stay tuned for a special feature story on Hanson coming soon.

By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs