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Oct. 27 - 31, 2008

Lead art Diversity Day images from headquarters. In the picture are Pat Jackson (left), Diversity Advisory Council program manager, and Jennifer Carmichael, director, Office of Civil Rights and Liberties. Recognized Oct. 29, 2008, Diversity Day is an idea from Houston BDO Jesse Santiago on how TSA can create and sustain a diverse and inclusive workplace. Please return to TSA Weekly next week for Diversity Day coverage from the field.
Photos and art design by Brigitte Dittberner

The TSA Experience

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Evolution banner

New Technology for Calming the Checkpoint, Engaging the Network

Office of Strategic Communications/Public Affairs
An unobtrusive earpiece similar to those used in the pilot.  Photo by Ann Oh.
An unobtrusive earpiece
similar to those used in
the pilot.
Photo by Ann Oh

A security challenge facing officers today is establishing and maintaining a calm environment at our nation's checkpoints, where lots of activity and high noise levels can make that difficult.

To help reduce the noise, the Evolution team recently conducted a pilot program of wireless whisper technology at two airports – Bradley International Airport (Windsor Locks, Conn.) and Norfolk (Va.) International Airport. The pilot concluded Oct. 10 with positive results.

Officers used discrete point-to-point radios and headsets to quietly communicate when requesting a bag check or secondary screening.

"The checkpoint can develop a high-anxiety atmosphere," said Rich Hartman, Evolution wireless whisper program manager. "The wireless technology allowed the officers to speak at normal volume and, as a result, they received a lot of positive comments from the passengers."

While it is no surprise the radios improved communication, the added benefit of supporting the officers' needs to engage and leverage each other's availability and expertise was dramatic. Officers experienced improved communication as a team and noticed a feeling of lower stress for both TSOs and passengers.

"Sometimes as an officer you get focused in on your own job," Hartman said, "but the wireless microphones helped the officers become more aware of their environment and the needs of the team."

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Evolution: In the FSD's Own Words

We have just completed the first ENGAGE and COACH training. This is super stuff. The course is outstanding. The instructors did a super job. Best of all the employees loved it. From TSO to me all came away fired-up.

My hat is off to everyone who designed and implemented this program. It's worth every penny TSA is spending on it. We need to be sure we keep up the momentum.

- Federal Security Director Timothy Decker, Austin-Straubel International Airport (Green Bay, Wisc.)

Engage the Evolution team with your questions and suggestions at

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Crisis Response Canines Train With Help of California TSOs

Cheryl Paine, stakeholder/customer service manager, John Wayne Airport (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Photo of Angel with her handler Stacy Wolf at a John Wayne Airport checkpoint. Photo courtesy of TSA John Wayne.
Angel with her handler Stacy Wolf at
a John Wayne Airport checkpoint.
Photo courtesy of TSA John Wayne

Dogs can bring comfort to people in response to emotionally unsettling crises or disasters, but only after they have been properly trained. And with the assistance of TSOs from John Wayne Airport, a group of canine teams recently conducted part of their annual training workshop at the airport.

On Oct. 11, HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response (HOPE AACR) gave their canine teams the experience of going through the TSA screening process. This exercise helped the handlers understand the challenges of air travel so that they can be prepared in case the teams pass through airports when deployed.

"Our training was excellent," said HOPE AACR President Dave Valantine. "Fear responses are our biggest concern when desensitizing our dogs. But for this training, fear or anxiety wasn't elicited from any of the dogs."

Twelve teams with eight trainers went through the exercise, with the goal of becoming certified for animal-assisted therapy. An example of HOPE AACR's work includes responding to the recent Metrolink train crash in Chatsworth, Calif. The teams provided comfort to families that had loved ones on the train.

During such events, emotions range from shock and grief to anger. The job of the canines is to be with people affected by the event and be a calming influence on them.

"TSM James Laux and the entire TSA staff were very helpful [during the training], helping to make the screening process safe and not at all stressful for our teams," said Valantine. "Some of our teams are already working at the evacuation shelters for the current fires in LA County."

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Did You Know? TSA Warehouse Operations

From the Office of Property Management
Photo of the Office of Property Management (OPM) warehouse located at the General Services Administration's complex in Springfield, Va.
Photo courtesy of the Office of Property Management

Did you know that the Office of Property Management (OPM) operates a 50,000 square foot warehouse located at the General Services Administration's complex in Springfield, Va.? The warehouse provides multiple services in support of the TSA mission.

The warehouse is available to all programs and operations. Warehouse staff stages the equipment and ships items to meet TSA's schedule and business needs. Advance notification of shipments is requested and can be done by telephone at (703) 313-7868 or by e-mail at

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Editor's Note: Each month a TSO has been spending a day at headquarters with Mo McGowan, who until recently was assistant administrator for Security Operations.

A Day at TSA Headquarters

By Corinne Gamino, lead TSO, Fresno (Calif.) Yosemite International Airport
Photo of Corinne Gamino, lead TSO, Fresno (Calif.) Yosemite International Airport, taking time during her headquarters visit to pose with Mo McGowan, former assistant administrator for Security Operations.
Corinne Gamino, lead TSO, Fresno (Calif.) Yosemite
International Airport, takes time during her
headquarters visit to pose with Mo McGowan, former
assistant administrator for Security Operations.
Photo by Mike Simons

Sept. 11, 2001, holds a special place for all of us and this year I was fortunate enough to spend the day at TSA headquarters. As part of the Shadow Program, I was invited to follow Morris "Mo" McGowan and witness his daily work schedule. Truthfully, I could barely keep up.

Like many of you I was under the misconception that administrators at TSA spent their time shuffling paperwork all day, but nothing could be further from the truth.

My day started with an emotional commencement paying tribute to the memory of Sept. 11, 2001. A senior leadership panel shared many memories of the agency's beginning, and gave honest views on the future of TSA and how this agency will continue to play a part in the nation's transportation security. Leadership and officers were awarded the new five-year commemorative pin. Mo took an opportunity to introduce the new uniforms and badges.

From that point on, the day was filled with teleconferences and meetings, with the hottest topic being Hurricane Ike and the airports in its path. The first was a teleconference with the Houston airport and the airlines providing service. An impressive collaborative effort was under way to account for relocating current officers and using volunteer officers as needed. There was extensive communication on how to handle the manpower after the hurricane.

With Mo in several classified briefings, I spent time with his special assistant, Frances Maldonado, who introduced me to friendly faces from many headquarters departments. They thanked me and the workforce for all we do out on the front lines.

In my one-on-one time with Mo, I learned a decision was soon to be made on new polo shirts and sweaters. I asked about checked baggage and if it was changing. He does not foresee any changes in that area. We discussed the current threat level and he mentioned we may see possible changes. I appreciated Mo's candor and honesty. This agency is personal to him and it is obvious – shown by his genuine dedication to it.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in a variety of meetings – Black Diamond; shift trades and possible problems; CrewPASS; and Hurricane Ike. As a participant of the meetings, I was asked my opinion and thoughts.

Witnessing the behind-the-scenes work at TSA was a positive experience. It allowed me to meet the experienced individuals who make the decisions which affect our daily jobs. I appreciate their dedication to the workforce and look forward to the changes that will lead our agency into the future of national security.

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IdeaFactory Winning Idea: It's All About We

Photo of Anna Jenkins and Mo McGowan
Photo by Rigina Pietrowski

TSM Anna Jenkin, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, talks to then Assistant Administrator Mo McGowan about her idea, "It's All About We." Jenkin met several senior leadership team members, including McGowan and Administrator Kip Hawley, at headquarters after winning the IdeaFactory challenge that asked TSA employees for ways that frontline managers could use to communicate better with officers.

Jenkin's idea is to include TSOs in the security managers' briefings. "The most important part of my job, in my opinion, is communicating with employees on the front line of airport security," Jenkin said. "I was honored to share my experience with everyone at headquarters."

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Bringing People Together, Meeting Future Challenges

By Stephen Gadziola, senior assistant ombudsman, Office of the Ombudsman

Being a senior assistant ombudsman means helping TSA employees resolve all sorts of problems and challenges at airports throughout the country. The job is only as varied as the people who call the Ombudsman's office – which means the variations are endless.

A TSA Ombudsman wears many hats. Frequently we are called upon to answer specific policy questions, confirm information already given, help an employee understand an administrative process, and sometimes intervene to move that process along.

Often by the time someone calls me they are convinced they are "right" and the manager is "wrong." Strong emotions have a tendency to tempt us into painting scenarios with little nuance. The situation is black and white, with the good guys and bad guys easily distinguishable.

Along with a strong emotional attachment to "being right," many people are just more familiar with an adversarial approach to resolving problems.

How do you help people attack the problem instead of each other; to motivate individuals to focus on the future rather than remain stuck in the past; and to help those familiar with fighting and assigning blame to become more solution-oriented?

The first thing I do is listen. Just listen. Frequently I can grasp the essential facts of the situation very quickly. Experience has taught me that it is important not to interrupt, even when a full and complete picture has emerged. Many times just by asking the right questions I can help callers determine what is important to them and the steps to achieve their goals.

Sometimes coaching callers and helping them develop a plan of action works. This can be as simple as providing tips on when it would be a good time to approach a supervisor about a concern. Or, it may be appropriate for me to make a preliminary call to the manager to help facilitate a dialogue. Often when I call, the manager is familiar with the situation and eager to give me their side of the story.

Sometimes I stay connected with both parties, even doing over-the-phone mediation. It is all about doing just enough to enable the parties to create an environment where problem solving can occur.

I know I have succeeded when both parties can focus on the future and acknowledge that the other person has some valid concerns. The end result is a process that solves the original problem in a manner that does not designate "winners" and "losers" yet leaves the individuals in a better position to work together to solve future challenges.

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Kudos & Clips

Are Restrictions on Liquids Coming to an End?
By Christina Talcott, The Washington Post, Oct. 28, 2008

The Transportation Security Administration announced in its blog on Friday its plans to ultimately do away with the restrictions on liquids in carry-on luggage.
Read more.

Homeland Security Plans for New Airline Passenger Screening System
By Bryon Okada, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Oct. 27, 2008

Terrorist watch lists used by the Transportation Security Administration may not be as large as previously surmised, the Homeland Security Department’s top official said.
Read more.

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The TSA Experience

Safety Team Raises TSA's Profile at O'Hare Expo

By Michael J. Thomas, TSO, Chicago O'Hare International Airport
Pictured is the TSA O'Hare Safety Action Team (from left): TSOs Michael Thomas, Gregory Gregory, Pankaj Shah and Tameka Anderson; Supervisory TSO Ken Zuchel; and TSOs Barbara Brown and April Perez
Photo courtesy of TSA O'Hare

The TSA O'Hare Safety Action Team made quite a splash at the 14th Annual O'Hare Airport Safety Awards Expo on Oct. 15. It was the first time the TSA team has had a table at the Expo, displaying 12 posters and offering more than 10 handouts. At least four collateral duty safety officers manned the table in their new blue uniforms. Passer-bys were challenged by a custom-made safety quiz and encouraged to play a card game in which common safety labels were learned and used.

Pictured is the TSA O'Hare Safety Action Team (from left): TSOs Michael Thomas, Gregory Gregory, Pankaj Shah and Tameka Anderson; Supervisory TSO Ken Zuchel; and TSOs Barbara Brown and April Perez.

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TSA Wisconsin Collects School Supplies for Iraqi Students

By John Carlson, assistant FSD, Austin-Straubel International Airport, Green Bay, Wis.
Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Leon (standing, center) with Iraqi soldiers and students at the Al Awaas Mixed Primary School in Baghdad. Photo courtesy of the Army
Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Leon (standing, center) with
Iraqi soldiers and students at the Al Awaas Mixed
Primary School in Baghdad. Photo courtesy of the Army

The hub and spoke Employee Council at Austin-Straubel International Airport sponsored a school supplies drive to provide backpacks for more than 500 elementary school children in Baghdad, Iraq.

Council members collected and packaged the backpacks for shipment to Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Patrick Leon from the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion, Green Bay, who is deployed to Iraq. Leon and his counterparts in the 11th Iraqi Army Division distributed the supplies on Oct. 7.

"The distribution was a long-planned, worthwhile endeavor that was truly appreciated by the school's students and faculty," said Leon.

Besides Austin Straubel, participating airports included Outagamie County, Central Wisconsin Regional and Rhinelander-Oneida County.

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