The result of a telephone call two days before Christmas between TSA leadership at opposite ends of the country showed just how agile the agency is.
Due to a combination of unexpected employee moves, Vermont’s Burlington International Airport (BTV) was in dire need of training instructors.
“Our training specialist retired in early December, the master security training instructor (MSTI) left for another agency and the expert security training instructor (ESTI) turned in notice effective January 7, but stayed on part-time to finish some trainee certifications,” said Vermont Supervisory Program Specialist Monte Jensen.
Among the many training needs, five new employees were coming on board in mid-January and required phase one of basic training.
Looking to fill training vacancies, Jensen made a call to Spokane International Airport (GEG) Supervisory Training Specialist Apryl Daniel, who was listed as a reference for an applicant interested in transferring to BTV. During the call, Jensen explained the temporary hole in which BTV found themselves.
“She 100% proactively volunteered assistance and offered to conduct virtual (training),” an elated Jensen recalled.
“Having utilized TSA’s transfer portal several times in my 20 years, I think it’s just instinctive to not view TSA as just my airport,” said Daniel about her offer. “I use my network daily for questions and help so it didn’t seem that much of a reach.”
Naming the ad hoc group “Team Coast to Coast,” GEG Master Security Instructor Amanda Burger, tapped by Daniel to lead the course, immediately jumped in and prepped for the training.
“Stepping into the gap posed a new challenge to help develop new skill sets and help another airport,” said Burger. “I call that a win.”
The bicoastal team worked closely, coordinating and tending to all the administrative tasks invisible except to trainers and their supervisors.
“I had to get certified to be a test administrator in the agency online learning center (OLC) and assign the various courses,” said Jensen. “Apryl then took control of the new hire OLC for the duration of training, then submitted a ticket to turn it back over to me. She also assisted in getting the new hires enrolled in (phase two of the training) at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), the location for the TSA Academy (in Glynco, Georgia).”
“Prior to the pandemic, conducting this class virtually probably would have never crossed my mind,” said Daniel. “Do I miss more in person classes? Absolutely, but we have learned how to stretch resources and think outside of the box, which I think is great.”
“The BTV new hires were great,” said Burger. “We had running jokes that some could even transfer over our way. They showed up on time each day, engaged, participated and helped one another when it was necessary. They’ll be great teammates for BTV.”
New hires Zachary Guthrie and Sabriyah Sharp had great things to say about their initial training experience.
“The training was not what was expected,” said Guthrie, who is looking forward to being certified in other roles. “It was more on par with a one-to-one training environment.”
“What we learned in the virtual training class helped a lot with what we’re doing on the job,” added Sharp. “I’m really liking the job and agree the training was more like one-on-one experience.”
“All five of the new hires passed their phase one test on the first attempt,” said Jensen. “They are all now in on-the-job training and will travel to the TSA Academy for phase two.”
Well on the way to getting training staffing restored at BTV, Jensen reported, “We went from nothing to something literally overnight. The new MSTI is teaching (basic training) on her first day here.” But he acknowledged that without GEG’s help, the new hire contribution levels and education would have been delayed while he scrambled for a solution.
“The collaboration within the training community at TSA is unparalleled,” said Vermont Federal Security Director Chuck Woyat. “When BTV had a need, many came to our aid, including the amazing training team in Spokane!
“Faced with a situation that left BTV with no MSTI, ESTI or training specialist on staff and an upcoming new hire class that desperately needed phase one training, the team in Spokane stepped up and delivered an amazing virtual phase one experience for our new officers.”
By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs