For veterans, working for TSA great fit, smooth transition

Wednesday, November 10, 2021
FSD Wood photo

Veterans working for the Transportation Security Administration bring invaluable skills like teamwork, character and a great work ethic – all qualities necessary to achieve the agency’s mission.

TSA is fortunate that approximately 11,000 employees, or nearly one in five, are veterans. Members of TSA’s workforce who are veterans say they are proud to help keep travelers safe.

“It’s no surprise veterans are a great match for TSA,” said Administrator David Pekoske. “Our core values of integrity, respect and commitment are consistent with those of the armed forces. Our entire organization benefits greatly from the experience, leadership and values veterans bring to accomplishing our mission.” and recently named TSA as one of the Ten Best Employers and Companies that Hire Veterans. TSA came in ninth on the list. One of the criteria used in the survey was the ability to not only attract veterans but also retain them. and also cited TSA’s veteran support services, such as employee resource groups, tools to match military skills with jobs, and partnerships with veteran family organizations.

TSA asked several veterans why they decided to work for TSA and what they would say to veterans who are considering working for the agency. Veterans say working for TSA has many similarities to serving in the armed forces.

For example, frontline employees need to follow standard operating procedures and work well under pressure. Much of TSA’s structure parallels military requirements. And above all, veterans who work for TSA say they’re proud to continue to serve and protect our country.

Stephen Wood, a 24-year military veteran, is a federal security director for six airports in Tennessee.

As a colonel in the Army, Wood served as director of operations, Joint Command Network Warfare for the National Security Agency. He sees similarities between being a veteran and working for TSA. What would he tell veterans who are considering joining the agency?

“Understand the opportunities you can create from the experiences and skills you gained and lessons you learned during service,” Wood said. “You can apply that same commitment to mission, and continue to protect American values and defend the nation at TSA.”

Rich Damron has worked as a TSA officer at Missoula Montana Airport since 2002. As a carpentry and masonry specialist in the Montana National Guard, he joined TSA when the agency was created after 9/11 and worked his way up to a supervisory officer. Damron said veterans are a great match for TSA.

“Members of the military are ideal hires for TSA, because they have relevant experience, attention to detail, flexibility, and are good at dealing with change,” Damron said.

Amber Chrobak photo
Amber Chrobak is a canine handler specializing in explosives detection at Washington Dulles International Airport. (Photo courtesy of TSA)

Veterans featured in this story felt the need to do something meaningful after leaving military service. Amber Chrobak joined the Army at 17. She served in Germany, deployed to Iraq and trained as a military working dog handler. After graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Chrobak joined TSA as a canine handler specializing in explosives detection at Washington Dulles International Airport.

“I need to feel like I’m doing something that matters,” said Chrobak. “TSA is one of the only agencies that hires canine handlers directly from the military. It gave me the opportunity to jump right back into familiar territory.”

Marcus Sams was able to fulfill his military duties as a member of the Army Reserve while working as an officer at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Now a supervisory officer, Sams said doing things the right way is important.

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport TSA Supervisory Officer Marcus Sams (Photo courtesy of TSA)

“A position with TSA gives you the opportunity to do the right thing while making a difference every day,” he said.

Sams said he enjoys working for TSA and believes veterans are a good fit for the agency. “The training, structure, and overall operation is familiar to veterans, as we come to TSA with similar experience and values,” he said. “I have met amazing people, and I work with a great team of individuals who share the same values and work ethic I do. This creates a family-oriented environment and offers great opportunities for friendship and networking.”

Burlington (Vermont) International Airport HR Specialist Maureen Evans served more than 29 years in the Vermont Air National Guard in logistics, personnel, and planning. She was deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and rose to the rank of colonel. Evans finished her military career as the strategic planning officer for the Vermont Air National Guard. She joined TSA in 2011 while she was still serving.

HR Specialist Evans photo
Burlington (Vermont) International Airport TSA HR Specialist Maureen Evans (Photo courtesy of TSA)

“TSA provided a great way to continue to serve my country during my time in the National Guard and after I retired. My management was super supportive of my service and appreciated the training and leadership experience I brought to our team,” Evans said. “I enjoy many veterans benefits including earning [through] the Federal Employees Retirement System and adding to my Thrift Savings Plan. I work with many veterans, and we've all found the transition here smooth and the work challenging and fulfilling.”

TSA offers a number of programs and benefits for veterans. They can count military service as part of their tenure at TSA, which can increase total annual leave and retirement benefits. Veterans’ preference gives eligible veterans an advantage during the hiring process. 

Disabled veteran leave supports veterans undergoing medical treatment for disabilities that are the result of their service. And through TSA Cares, injured or wounded service members and veterans can receive special help with the security screening process at airports.

Perhaps the greatest benefit veterans get by working at TSA is the satisfaction that by helping keep passengers safe and secure, they continue to serve their country.

“My fellow TSOs are great people,” Damron said. “We joined TSA for the same reason many people also join the military: To keep our country safe.”