Some opportunities reveal themselves every four years, and 2020 just so happened to be that fourth year. Many have said the 2020 Presidential Campaign season was one of the most unique in our history, and for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that most certainly has been the case. This was especially true in Michigan, known as a battleground or swing state. This meant that both Democratic and Republican parties placed Michigan on the main stage throughout their campaigns, visiting often and at times staying for days.
As the United States Secret Service (USSS) began to plan for airport rally events throughout Michigan, they relied heavily on TSA, requesting support from screening personnel, National Explosives Detection Canine Teams, Federal Air Marshals, and Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) Teams.
Rising to the challenge of each request was Detroit Explosive Detection Canine Handlers (EDCH) Amanda Labate – K9 partner Mallu, Cara Ropp – K9 partner Marej, and Christopher Eulitz – K9 partner Bobi. The teams provided and assisted in critical screening and security operations at Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR), Muskegon County Airport (MKG), and were prepared to respond to cherry Capital Airport (TVC). The USSS estimated 38,000 people in total attended the three airport rallies. Grand Rapids (GRR) Assistant Federal Security Director of Law Enforcement (AFSD-LE) Tess Hawkins represented TSA and was POC for DET K9 assets throughout Western Michigan. She ensured the teams were well placed within legal and operational parameters, and provided communications between USSS and TSA Leadership.
TSA explosive detection canines have the ability to detect explosives and explosive materials by picking up scents in the environment. TSA canines have been socially and environmentally raised to work in high-flow pedestrian areas. Because of this they can accurately screen hundreds of people passing through an entry point in a nonintrusive way and remain an important layer in security because of their detection capability.
As best stated by Steve McMahon, Resident Agent in Charge, US Secret Service, “I want to express my appreciation to you and your departments for all the hard work during the POTUS and VPOTUS events in Traverse and Grand Rapids. The support you all provide is tremendous and we’re very grateful.”
Success is completed with a vision and the multi-agency coordination between the USSS, TSA, and other Federal, State, and local partners ensured all airport rallies maintained the highest level of security and safety for all in attendance and those working the event.
The support and coordination shown by Federal Security Director’s Roger Dubuc (GRR) and Steve Lorincz (DTW), D-AFSD Harry Dabaja (DTW), and STSS-C Michael Laquiere (DTW) cannot go without notice. The coordination and willingness to assist the USSS in all requests was crucial to the successful outcome of the events.