Mother’s Day Special: All in the family for TSA, DHS

Friday, May 10, 2024
These five family members serve DHS. From left, USCG Petty Officers Adam Timberlake and Samantha Duncan, TSA International Operations Lead Desk Officer Marie Duncan, TSOs Grace Fisher and Sean Duncan. (Photo courtesy of Marie Duncan)

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and it’s an extra special occasion for a TSA mom and four of her kids.

TSA International Operations Asia Pacific Lead Desk Officer Marie Duncan is proud to have a whopping five family members serve TSA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Marie’s daughter, Grace Fisher, is the newest member of the TSA family, joining the agency as a screening officer at Denver International Airport (DEN) in November 2023.

Marie’s stepson, Sean Duncan, is a TSA officer at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), and her stepdaughter, Samantha Duncan, and son-in-law, Adam Timberlake, are proud aviation maintenance technician petty officers for the U.S. Coast Guard.

It’s truly a DHS family affair!

“I am very thrilled and honored that my kids chose to serve others,” Marie proclaimed. “It is very special to be a mom to these fabulous young adults and watch them pave their own journey in their careers and lives.”

One of Marie’s primary roles as lead desk officer with TSA is to mentor and support her desk officer colleagues as well as serve as a conduit of information and communication between the TSA Representative (TSAR) and TSA headquarters. So, you could say she’s a 24/7 mentor since she’s first a guide and inspiration for her children, although she said her kids inspire her every day.

“They each have a unique perspective on the world via their own lens and readily share that perspective, which challenges and broadens all of our perspectives as a family,” she noted.

Marie said she was very surprised to see four members of her immediate family follow in her footsteps within TSA and DHS.

“I didn’t realize how much they listened to my stories and watched me in my career,” she added.

With five family members now with TSA and DHS, Marie’s perspective on Mother’s Day is a little more special.

“My perspective of Mother’s Day is honoring and recognizing not only family members, but also those who helped mold us into who we are – the caretakers, mentors, coaches and counselors who enriched our lives,” she said. “I will always be there for my family, but I shouldn’t be the only person who my kids go to for advice. I hope I instilled in my family that there are so many excellent mentors who are examples of all the career opportunities within and outside of DHS. I hope my kids create their own careers to make DHS an even better place to work and thrive.”

Earlier this year, Marie had the privilege of speaking at Grace’s TSA officer basic training graduation ceremony at TSA Academy East in Glynco, Georgia, calling it “an amazing experience.”

“Truly a highlight of my career with TSA,” emphasized Marie, who launched her own TSA career as a screening officer at IAD a decade ago. “In my speech, I emphasized their job is the most important position in this agency. We can make state-of-the-art equipment and training, but at the end of the day, the TSA officer stops the threat.”

TSO Grace Fisher with mom, Marie Duncan. (TSA Academy East photo)
TSO Grace Fisher with mom, Marie Duncan. (TSA Academy East photo)

Officer Grace Fisher

Tired of her job at Starbucks, Grace wanted a challenge and a new start to her career, and what better way to do that than following her mom at TSA.

DEN TSO Grace Fisher greets a passenger at the TSA checkpoint. (Emmanuel DeLuna-Martinez photo)
DEN TSO Grace Fisher greets a passenger at the TSA checkpoint. (Emmanuel DeLuna-Martinez photo)

“I’m impressed with how far she’s gone with TSA,” said Grace. “She just kept applying herself and putting in effort every day.”

And what a great experience having her mom speak to Grace’s basic training graduation class.

“I was so proud seeing her up there,” Grace said. “She told me she was extremely proud to see my face in the 150 blue uniforms of officers graduating that day.”

The inspiration Marie has had on Grace is evident in Grace’s first six months with TSA.

“She showed me that as long as you keep trying to get better at your job and try new things, you can get far in your career,” said Grace. “Continue to apply for opportunities you wouldn’t normally imagine yourself doing. Get used to being uncomfortable. We talk about achievements, promotions and funny or crazy stories.”

Grace, though, said she really enjoys working with the people at TSA DEN, helping each other reach the same goal every day.

IAD TSO Sean Duncan (Kyle Martin photo)
IAD TSO Sean Duncan (Kyle Martin photo)

Officer Sean Duncan

Having joined TSA in March 2022 and now having a sister on the screening force, Sean calls having five members in the DHS family “pretty cool.”

“I can pretty much freely talk with my sister and stepmother about anything that’s going on with work,” said Sean. “I decided to join TSA when I was talking with my stepmom about it one day. I joined because of her and to get my foot in the door of the federal government.”

Sean said Marie gave him good advice about the job and to remain calm while on the TSA checkpoint. And he said family reunions often include TSA/DHS talk.

“When I get together with the family, I’ll usually fill them in on what has been happening on the job, without giving away sensitive security information, and that I’m enjoying it more than any job I’ve had,” said Sean, whose goal is for one day to be promoted to headquarters.

U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Maintenance Technician Samantha Duncan (USCG photo)
U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Maintenance Technician Samantha Duncan (USCG photo)

Coast Guard Officers Samantha Duncan, Adam Timberlake

Marie’s family extends past TSA into another DHS component – the Coast Guard.

Her stepdaughter, Samantha, and son-in-law, Adam, are both aviation maintenance technician petty officers at the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama.

“Knowing that four of my family members are dedicated to protecting the country and keeping its citizens safe, while serving the Department of Homeland Security, brings me a strong sense of pride,” said Samantha. “It also creates a great sense of unity and shared purpose within the family.”

She joined the Coast Guard a year after graduating from high school and serving as a paramedic in her community. Now, she performs routine and unscheduled maintenance on U.S. aircraft.

“I am constantly inspired by Marie’s kindness, resilience and unwavering love for our family,” Samantha said. “She has always been there for me, supporting and guiding me with her wisdom and compassion. Her ability to balance work, family and personal wellbeing is something I strive to emulate.”

  Aviation Maintenance Technician Adam Timberlake (USCG photo)
Aviation Maintenance Technician Adam Timberlake (USCG photo)

Samantha said her stepmom, being in DHS, has shared some valuable advice – stay true to yourself and values, work hard and never give up, always be prepared and proactive, and take care of yourself.

“We love to share stories, challenges and achievements in our respective fields,” added Samantha.

Adam said it’s incredible to see how each family member’s values align with their dedication to ensure the safety and security of our country.

“Marie has inspired me by showing how possible it really is, with hard work, to go from an entry-level position and truly work your way up into a great career,” said Adam, who is a qualified flight mechanic. “She says to always embrace opportunities for growth and learning.”

He enjoys every opportunity he gets to spend time with his family and relax with people who understand the job in one way or another.

“It’s always interesting to hear the stories of what has happened on the job since we last spoke,” Adam recalled. “Even though we are all part of DHS, the jobs are quite different, especially between the Coast Guard’s military posture and TSA’s training, but trust me, you can’t sneak an extra dessert past the TSA side of the family!”

When the discussion turns to TSA at family reunions, Marie said it’s the other family members, who aren’t with DHS, who entertain with their TSA stories of a pat-down at the checkpoint, losing a pocketknife, or the homemade jelly they couldn’t take in their carry-on.

“So, we educate (open-source information, of course) on the whys they couldn’t take their jar of homemade jelly in their carry-on bag,” described Marie, whose two other daughters serve others outside the federal government, one as a nurse and the other in raw materials distribution.

“I’m very grateful for my career at TSA,” she said. “It is an enriching experience that apparently spilled over and influenced my family. I hope my kids have an equally enriching career in DHS and thrive beyond expectation!

“I also want to thank my husband, who unwaveringly shuttled kids to and from school and sporting events and made evening dinners while I worked late night shifts at the airport. Without him, my career and the careers of our kids wouldn’t be what they are today.”

By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs