PHILADELPHIA – Twenty-four Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers from Philadelphia International Airport and four explosives detection canine teams played a vital role in supporting security measures for the 59th Presidential Inauguration.
Volunteers from the TSA workforce in Philadelphia traveled to the National Capital Region to work alongside U.S. Secret Service officers and hundreds of other TSA personnel from around the country at designated security checkpoints throughout Washington, D.C.
During the deployment, TSA officers conducted physical screening of individuals who appeared at checkpoints near The White House and near the inaugural parade route. People who were screened included reporters who were covering the event, individuals who worked in the area and local residents. The TSA group from Philadelphia split up to work at three different checkpoints established by the Secret Service to screen backpacks, duffle bags, handbags and other personal items before allowing people into the secure zones.
The TSA officers came across a few people carrying prohibited items including handcuffs, knives, gas masks, pepper spray, box cutters, night-sticks, selfie sticks and even a riot helmet. Most of the individuals turned around instead of surrendering their prohibited items.
The four TSA explosive detection canine teams from Philadelphia were all working at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) from Jan. 19 to 22, providing additional security throughout the terminal in collaboration with the canine teams that work at DCA on a regular basis.
Working at the Inauguration meant that “we were on a big stage with the eyes of world on Washington and there was a great feeling of pride that our team performed our duties on such a national stage,” said TSA Manager Charles Ziegenfus, who headed the group from Philadelphia. “Our officers knew how significant the event was and we were proud to be standing alongside the U.S. Secret Service protecting the event.”
The officers stayed at a conference center about an hour’s drive outside of Washington, D.C., and were bused into the city with a police escort at 2:30 a.m. on Inauguration Day. Upon arriving in the city, both officers and buses had to be screened, before arriving to their designated checkpoint locations. Their long day wrapped up at 7 p.m.
TSA officer Patricia Piazza, who has worked for TSA in Philadelphia for eight years, said that the individuals who came to her checkpoint were respectful to the officers as they searched through all of the items that people carried with them.
The officers all volunteered months prior to be deployed to Washington, before the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and what they noticed upon arriving to the nation’s capital was “the massive law enforcement turnout to keep the President, Vice President and other VIPs safe,” Piazza said. “There were so many checkpoints, it was like a fortress.”
TSA officer Meshia-Ann Mullings was glad she had the opportunity to work at the Inauguration. “Sometimes you just have to be a part of history and witness it,” she said. Mullings was stationed near the Inaugural Parade route. She said that she saw law enforcement officers from across the country who had arrived to assist with security. “They were lined up along the street six feet apart along with the National Guard. It was impressive,” she said.
TSA officer Joseph Broughton said that being at the Inauguration was “a life-changing experience.” He was impressed at how TSA officers had the opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder with other Federal agencies. “We were all there for one united cause. It was the first time I’d ever had the opportunity to truly see so many Federal agencies working together with the one goal in mind.” He also was appreciative of the gratitude that people exhibited at his checkpoint. “They were thanking us for being there.”
“The Philadelphia team that deployed to assist with security at the Inauguration took their mission seriously,” said Gerardo Spero, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Philadelphia International Airport. “They all volunteered and after the events of Jan. 6th at the Capitol, they may have been apprehensive, but at the same time, they knew that their skills were absolutely necessary to help ensure the security and safety of the President, Vice President and other elected officials and invited guests in attendance at the Inauguration. I’m extremely proud of their dedication to the mission.”