Four in Houston earn national TSA Employee of the Year honors

Thursday, March 31, 2022
Larry Smith photo

Coming off back-to-back national Airport of the Year Awards in 2019 and 2020, Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) took home several awards during the 2021 TSA Honorary Awards ceremony this month.

Four IAH team members earned the Employee of the Year distinction – Lead TSA Officer (LTSO) of the Year Larry Smith, Transportation Security Specialist - Explosives (TSS-E) of the Year Matt Langner, Transportation Security Inspector (TSI) of the Year Gary Sprinkle, and Deputy Federal Security Director (DFSD) of the Year Kurt Jordan.

Proud of TSA IAH employees and their achievements, Houston Federal Security Director Juan M. Sanchez Jr. said, “I am humbled and honored that four of our employees took the top spot in their categories this year. Upon assuming my duties in 2018, I provided my intent to the workforce, and that is to become the ‘airport of choice’ and to maintain it.” 

Larry Smith (LTSO of the Year)

Smith, who is dual-certified in checkpoint and baggage screening operations, got his start with TSA in 2002.

He is known to go above and beyond, often acting on behalf of his supervisor due to the unique staffing situation at Terminal B. Because of supervisory schedules, required training and leave use, Terminal B often found itself with just one supervisor available to cover the checkpoint and baggage screening areas. 

Smith routinely assumes the role of acting supervisor, and based on his experience and critical thinking abilities, frequently coordinated baggage contingency plans with United Airlines personnel during peak passenger volume periods. He also took proactive measures when planning staffing, such as recruiting employees for overtime to make sure available slots were filled for each shift. 

Through his dedication and commitment, Smith allocated a significant portion of his time ensuring successful screening operations, earning him IAH LTSO of the Quarter in the first and third quarters of 2021. This also contributed to TSA recognizing him as the 2021 LTSO of the Year nationally.

TSS-E Langner
Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport Transportation Security Specialist - Explosives Matt Langner – TSA’s TSS-E of the Year (Photo by Darren McKinney)

Matt Langner (TSS-E of the Year)

Langner joined TSA in 2010 and is a member of the local Threat Assessment Program with a focus on explosives assessment and workforce training. 

In 2021, Langner led IAH’s Security Effectiveness Team in identifying screening vulnerabilities from local and TSA headquarters test results, and recommended corrective actions to senior leadership. He authored a monthly threat detection workforce briefing on the test results and offered ideas to improve screening operations. 

Langner provided critical feedback and insight to screening managers, supervisors, and officers on screening equipment, methods and inconsistencies to make sure everyone complied with standard operating procedures. All of this helped him establish a strong rapport with the screening workforce.

TSI Sprinkle photo
Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport Transportation Security Inspector Gary Sprinkle – TSA’s TSI of the Year (Photo by Darren McKinney)

Gary Sprinkle (TSI of the Year)

Sprinkle is a supervisory member of the IAH Compliance Team and joined TSA in 2002. 

He is TSA’s only certified tri-modal inspector. Sprinkle is qualified to teach all modes as a compliance instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Using his experience and subject matter expertise, Sprinkle also trains and mentors new TSIs throughout the country.

He also conducts aviation and cargo inspections and investigations at IAH, making sure IAH achieves 100% compliance with its national work plan requirements.  

Despite his extremely busy schedule, Sprinkle still makes time to be the local third party explosives detection canine (3PK9) coordinator, working directly with the San Antonio Lackland Canine Training Center to assist with TSA 3PK9 audits.

DFSD Jordan photo
Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport Deputy Federal Security Director Kurt Jordan – TSA’s DFSD of the Year (Photo by Darren McKinney)

Kurt Jordan (DFSD of the Year)

Jordan, like Smith and Sprinkle, is a 20-year TSA veteran, beginning his career with the mobile screening force in March 2002. 

In late fiscal year 2021, the airport authority in Houston closed down the Terminal E checkpoint at IAH to make way for modern airport improvements, including the consolidation of Terminals D, E, and Federal Inspection Services into a single, 17-lane checkpoint. 

Throughout the year, Jordan worked closely with United Airlines and the airport authority to meticulously plan and prepare for the terminal’s closure and the rerouting of traffic (planes and passengers) to terminals with excess capacity.

“At IAH, we view challenges as opportunities for improvement,” said Sanchez.

With hundreds of thousands of travelers to be routed to other terminals, Jordan worked the behind-the-scenes logistics to support the screening capacity at Terminal C to absorb its increase in traffic. He was instrumental in the plans to install six mid-sized automated screening lanes at the Terminal C checkpoints to increase the processing capacity. 

“We always strive as individuals, workgroups and as a large team to meet agency objectives and to service the needs of the traveling public and our partners,” Sanchez noted. “It’s never easy and it shouldn’t be. We need to be on our toes at all times, because that’s what’s expected of us in our line of work. Whether being honored as a team or as individuals, ownership in what we do is embedded in each of our employees.”

By Team IAH and TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs