Sometimes screening checked baggage can be “like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’ll get (see).” That’s what happened to TSA Officer Jacob Flores after starting his rotation in the checked baggage screening area at Boise Airport (BOI).
It all began when a Southwest Airlines passenger checked in an army-style duffel bag. As the bag moved through the baggage explosive detection system, it alarmed. Flores looked at the X-ray monitor, reviewed the image and couldn’t quite believe his eyes.
“It looked like some kind of rocket,” recalled Flores. “Like a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).”
Following the SOP and using his resources, Flores called Supervisory TSA Officer Tony Finfrock to take a look at the image.
“Jake called me over and said, ‘I think I got a rocket-propelled grenade.’ Yeah, right,” replied a disbelieving Finfrock. “Well, that’s what it looks like to me, too,” said a still not quite convinced Finfrock after a closer inspection.
Finfrock cleared the checked baggage screening area and immediately notified TSA Security Specialist-Explosives John Dziok. After quickly responding and viewing the image, Dziok determined it indeed looked like an RPG, but with his training and experience, Dziok was able to conclude it was an inert (dummy/training) round.
Finfrock and Dziok rescreened the bag and confirmed it was a realistic replica of an M31 without its stabilizing fins, sometimes called the M31 HEAT, that was launched from an M1 Garand military rifle.
Dziok notified the Boise Police Department (BDP) and asked for an immediate response. Fortunately, Finfrock and a police officer were able to locate the passenger who was still working her way through the checkpoint.
The passenger said she and her husband were going to their son’s wedding, and the son had asked for some of his belongings from home that had been stored in an old shed for the past several years.
The mom hurriedly packed up the son’s belongings and remembered seeing the device in the bottom of an old suitcase but never gave it a second thought.
“I thought I was doing everything right, packing up everything and bringing it to him,” commented the flustered mother.
The BDP officer gave the passenger the option to take the item to her car to store, which she did. The couple was then cleared to catch their flight.
Flores’ extensive knowledge and X-ray imagery identification of prohibited items along with immediate calls for assistance prevented a possible deadly item from getting on to a flight.
By Wayne Carey, Strategic Communications & Public Affairs