Washington State TSA officers help develop COVID-19 procedures while on detail

Friday, October 23, 2020
TSM Vasquez

2020 has been a year of change and challenge at TSA because of the COVID-19 pandemic. After the risks of the virus were identified, the agency responded quickly to develop and implement procedures to ensure the health and safety of employees.

Meanwhile, TSA employees have been flexible and versatile. Temporary reassignments have enabled employees across he agency to gain valuable work experience, develop new skills, and enhance career development while ensuring the traveling public remains safe.

The change in workload brought about by COVID-19 provided an unexpected opportunity for two field employees from Bellingham International Airport (BLI) in Washington State to have a direct impact on how TSA performs screening operations.

When TSA headquarters Screening Procedures Manager Brenna Murphy approached security manager Alberto Vasquez and supervisory officer Teresa Jacobs about working with her team part-time, they jumped at the chance.

TSO Jacobs photo
Bellingham International Airport Supervisory Transportation Security Officer Teresa Jacobs (Photo by Tracy Fiechtner)

Vasquez and Jacobs started the virtual detail in May and immediately began contributing field perspectives to the TSA headquarters Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Team, as the team developed new COVID-19 procedures and supported the development of several other SOPs. 

“The current field perspective Alberto and Teresa bring to the team is invaluable in developing and fine-tuning procedures and programs that are realistic and capture what’s needed in the operation,” said Dan Lee of the Screening Procedures Team, who mentors the detailees on the team’s work, culture and processes.

Vasquez and Jacobs say they are really enjoying the experience. On their detail, they have increased their skill sets and gained great insight in how screening procedures are developed at headquarters. The experience has been a win-win situation for all involved.

To provide similar opportunities to other frontline employees, Vasquez and Jacobs have been developing a virtual detail program for TSA’s Requirements and Capabilities office. Working closely with TSA headquarters offices, Vasquez and Jacobs are developing an application and selection process, integrating a mentoring aspect, and establishing recognition processes for completing the detail.

“Working on this program has been quite the learning experience,” Vasquez said. “I hope it grows across the agency so other field employees get the same opportunity. This program can be another mechanism used to narrow the communication gap between headquarters and field employees.”

Jacobs added, “I enjoy the opportunity to work with screening procedures subject matter experts who have been able to give me a new and fresh perspective on how our agency addresses urgent needs as in the development of the COVID-19 SOP.”