After successfully completing checkpoint screening at Boise Airport (BOI), a passenger experiencing unusual and extreme anxiety requested to speak with someone, preferably a person with a military background.
Absent a veteran on checkpoint, but knowing that BOI Transportation Security Officer (TSO) Jeff Dahlstrom was a retired law enforcement officer (LEO), Supervisory TSO Jacob Beason briefed him of the request. For the next 20 minutes, Dahlstrom talked with the passenger and deescalated his anxiety.
At Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, TSO Samuel Campos was on duty when he came up on a crowd and saw someone performing CPR on an individual. Campos, a former New York City emergency medical technician (EMT), relieved the tired good Samaritan and took over chest compressions until Broward County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene.
Dahlstrom and Campos – former first responders – had the skill, empathy and compassion to step up in their TSO roles and change what could have been tragic situations, into life giving and life affirming events.
It’s not surprising that former first responders make excellent TSA officers. Upholding the TSA vision and mission requires teamwork, compassion, patience and situational awareness, something Dahlstrom and Campos learned early in their careers.
“LEO's handle situations on a daily basis where their safety and the safety of others are at risk, and throughout these situations a LEO must maintain his or her composure the entire time,” said Dahlstrom. “As a LEO, you must work as a team with your fellow officers in order to be successful in your mission.”
“Working [as an EMT] teaches you to be always alert and aware of your surroundings,” said Campos. “Communication with my fellow coworkers and superiors helps us work together in order to get a better outcome of any situation.”
The appeal of not working a desk job attracts many to the checkpoint. Growing restless not long after retirement and looking for a second career, Dahlstrom “liked the fact that [a TSO job] wasn’t an office environment, you wore a uniform and it was in the security field.”
They are both very similar duties,” said Campos of his EMT and TSA careers. Past EMT experience “taught me how to work with a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and also how to listen and understand my fellow co-workers.”
Initially, Campos explored a different career path. “I originally pursued an electronics career and trained to be an engineer, but that didn’t take off,” recalled Campos. “I was guided into the EMT field by friends and family who thought that would be a better fit for me.” Campos and his wife relocated to Florida in 2008 and he jumped at the chance to join TSA in 2017. He looks forward to advancing his career. “TSA will be my home for a long while,” said Campos.
Dahlstrom remembers becoming interested in law enforcement as a middle school student when LEO Phil Ortez came to his house to a file a stolen bike report. “I saw how professional and caring he was. This short encounter really had an impact on me.”
“I look back on my career as a LEO and I find the acquired skill set I developed over those 26 years has helped me in my career with TSA,” said Dahlstrom. Patience is one of those skills, especially when encountering first-time travelers who might not be checkpoint savvy or families with young children. “That is when you, besides being patient, become an educator, and at the same time, show kindness and understanding.”
“A TSO can have all these qualities and still be successful with our mission, as safety and security of the traveling public and our personnel are priority number one,” continued Dahlstrom. “And, in the case with the passenger with anxiety, I was compassionate and understanding with his situation and I'm glad I was able to help.”
Are you interested in becoming a TSO? TSA is hiring full and part-time TSOs nationwide. Join us and support a mission that matters. Visit tsa.gov/TSO to learn more and search open positions.