First in the nation! Friends launch SSA program at TSA

Thursday, May 5, 2022
SSA program

Long-time friends Austin Marx and Jalen Flemons came to TSA together to launch new careers and a brand new chapter for the agency.

Marx and Flemons, both 20 years old, brought their six-year friendship to the security checkpoint at Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The duo was among TSA’s first security support assistants (SSAs) who came onboard in April.

New SSA Jalen Flemons
New SSA Jalen Flemons on the public address system at Gerald R. Ford International Airport. (Photo courtesy of TSA GRR)

As SSAs, Marx and Flemons support the airport’s TSA screening officers by performing routine tasks which don’t require immediate certification.

“My roles and responsibilities include saying hello to passengers, providing them with divesting advisements and making sure bins are stocked and ready for passengers at the front of the line,” said Marx.

“I’m also helping stock checkpoint supplies and even making announcements for lost or abandoned items over the [public address] system,” Flemons added.

After 30 days on the job, they’ll both be eligible to complete the computerized test and medical evaluation to transition to permanent screening officers. The new initiative is designed to significantly reduce the time it takes for TSA to hire officers and give potential new officers the opportunity to determine if the job is right for them.

“I’ve been friends with Austin since our freshman year in high school and thought this would be a good opportunity to begin a career with a federal agency,” said Flemons.

SAA Program
Jalen Flemons, one of TSA’s first security support assistants, on the job at Gerald R. Ford International Airport. (Photo courtesy of TSA GRR)

“It’s pretty cool to be [TSA’s] first security support assistants,” Marx said. “It’s very rare to be the first at something new. Coming into this job [with Jalen] made the transition easier than if we had to do it alone. I view it as a career due to all the different options and positions you can get throughout the organization.”

Michigan Assistant Federal Security Director for Screening Jamie Aitken conducted the swearing-in ceremony for Marx and Flemons, saying, “It was truly gratifying for me to be a part of it.”

Marx said the TSA team at GRR welcomed the two with open arms.

“The team at GRR is friendly and helpful, letting you know what you have to do and the best ways to do it,” Marx noted. “They’ve treated me like I’ve been working here as long as them.”

SSA Program
New SSA Jalen Flemons on the public address system at Gerald R. Ford International Airport. (Photo courtesy of TSA GRR)

Both young men plan to spend the rest of their careers in federal government, thanks to this door-opening opportunity.

“My career goals are to work my way up in the organization, become a [Lead TSA officer] or possibly switch to a

different branch and work somewhere else in the federal government,” Marx explained. “I hope this position leads to a lot of opportunities in the future, like the Secret Service or Federal Air Marshal Service.”

“With TSA, I see the way forward to better pay,” added Flemons, “the ability to save for later investments like a house and really get my life started as an adult.”

By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs