On November 19, TSA will celebrate its 20th anniversary. To recognize this milestone, we asked TSA employees to share their memories from the past 20 years.
As an immediate result of 9/11, my twenty-year aviation career in aviation industry ended.
The airline industry was shuttered almost overnight. Thousands of air transport industry employees were laid off, fired, retired or severed, with no recourse, within days. Not just an industry emergency, but a true national and international economic emergency followed on the heels of the direct terrorist attack on our nation. No one was safe; most were scared and many were terrified.
When President Bush announced the creation of a new government agency inside to address security weaknesses, many of us were given hope and thrown a “lifeline” and given an opportunity to fight back. That fight started with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the Department of Transportation.
I applied; it was chaotic, complicated, confusing, contradictory and cumbersome. A British company was contracted to handle the early intake process. What? Well, I made the first cut and was flown to New Orleans for a long process of tests to include an in-person interview. I received a job offer at the end of the day and flew back home excited about this new opportunity.
I had mixed emotions of sadness, anger, anxiety and frustration; I still hadn’t completely comprehended what happened and why? All these feelings and emotions created this desire of wanting to do something for our country. I soon recognized that the department was being stood up by Americans of every background, race, and religion. All of us wanted to help.
I was hired and sent to the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma for training. Our instructors were individuals from the Secret Service, Department of Agriculture and Customs and Border Patrol. I was in the first TSA graduating class and am proud to still have the TSA Secretary’s initial email announcing the swearing in of “the first 300” on March 24, 2002.
The SWAT Team!
On my return to my assigned airport, FAA special agents were in place until our airport was federalized. We had a small team working long hours hiring screeners, setting up the screening checkpoints, conducting briefings and creating schedules while phasing out the existing screening contractors as we federalized one checkpoint at a time. Things finally seemed to fall into place as our mission became more focused, our objectives united and the TSA became a real organization committed to the protection of our aviation industry. TSA restored order and trust to air travel.
My colleagues came from the private sector, law enforcement, the Secret Service, the FAA, DOT and thankfully, the military. My first and, by far, my most influential mentor was U.S. Army Col. Rick Sacket, a fantastic leader who instilled respect, discipline, professional courtesy, a mission focus and teamwork to a very diverse group. I attribute our ongoing success to his vision and leadership.
Myriam T. Berio
Assistant Federal Security Director-Mission Support