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"Transportation Security Administration a secure career path"

Monday, December 25, 2006

Transportation Security Administration a secure career path
The Great Falls (MT) Tribune

Retired Navy man Wayne Olson joined the Transportation Security
Administration more than four years ago when the organization was a
fledgling agency.

"I started in Missoula and we had no office," he recalled. "We literally sat
in chairs in the airport lobby."
Fast forward to 2006. 

Airline passengers are now accustomed to the tighter security measures
implemented after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The TSA handles
screening duties once handled by private contractors hired by airlines.

That's not all that's changed.

Today the TSA offers endless career opportunities, good salaries, incentives
and a chance to serve with country, Olson says.

"This is a great organization offering world class security and customer
service," he said.

Olson left the top TSA post at the Great Falls International Airport last
week. He's now a program analyst working at TSA headquarters in Washington,

"I'll be writing standard operating procedures for screening at this
nation's 450 airports," Olson said.

The promotion gives Olson a chance to indulge his history buff passion in
the nation's capital.

"It's also nice that the agency chose someone with practical experience in
the field for this assignment," he said.

Ask him about working for TSA and Olson begins to sound like a recruiter.

"Officers, who used to be called screeners, begin in Montana at $14 an
hour," he said. "Once you are hired in the position, you can transfer within
the federal government to other officer positions."

The TSA employs 31 people at the Great Falls International Airport. Of
those, 60 percent are full time.

"Nationwide, the TSA has 45,000 employees with about a 20 percent turnover,"
Olson said. "We have a much lower turnover in Great Falls, so the
advancement opportunities are limited. That's not the case within the
agency, however."

TSA officers need to be flexible, Olson said.

"At smaller airports, officer have to work split shifts," he said. "They
have to work overtime. Work hours change when there are weather delays. But
the pay and benefits make it worth while."

TSA provides an annual cost-of-living raise and has a bonus program.

"If officers pass their annual re-certification test, they get a $500
bonus," Olson said. "There are performance bonuses. I also received a
separate budget for awards based on how officers present themselves at the
check points, their willingness to volunteer for duties, the way they
interact with other officers."

Art Hernandez is the deputy acting security manager for the TSA in Great
Falls. He joined the agency two and a half years ago after retiring from the
U.S. Air Force.

"I wanted to be associated with an organization other than the military that
contributes to this nation's defense," he said.

His current career allows him to use the skills he gained in his previous
one with the Air Force security force.

"But with this organization, I get to work with people and have a direct
impact on their safety and experience," Hernandez said.

Security is an expanding field, he said.

"The TSA is opening new ground; now there will be officers in the rail
system," he said. "There are plenty of opportunities in this agency to grow
and move forward."

Attached Photo:

Art Hernandez is the acting director of the local TSA at the Great Falls
International Airport.


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