Aug. 14, 2002
Many of Claire Hurley Everett's relatives have served in the military. On Saturday Aug. 10, the Springfield resident and Post Office employee took a first step in following their example.
Everett was one of dozens of people who turned out at recruiting drives Aug. 9 and 10 held by the Transportation Security Administration at the Crystal City Hilton.
The TSA is holding events such as this one in cities across the country to hire some of the first federal baggage sreeners. The baggage screeners will be federal employees who will take over from private security companies and examine luggage at the nation's airports.
"I believe in transportation security right now highly," said Everett. "It is an important job."
Everett added that she was particularly interested in getting a position as a training coordinator where she could use the training experience she acquired with the Post Office.
"THE GOAL here is to build a world-class screener workforce in all transportation modes, not just aviation," said TSA Public Information Officer Carol Worth. "It is an enormous task."
The TSA was created last November in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 to ensure safety in all methods of transportation. The administration's first task is to take over airport security, which it must accomplish by the end of the year. The agency has said it needs to find 30,000 employees to screen passengers and hand luggage by Nov. 19 and 20,000 employees to screen checked and bulky baggage by Dec. 31.
A little more than 13,000 screeners have already been hired and approximately 750,000 applications have been received. The TSA has already started staffing security chekpoints at 32 airports including Baltimore Washington International Airport.
"We've met all of our goals thus far," said Scott McHugh, TSA federal security director who will oversee security at all Washington area airports. "We believe we will meet the Nov. 19 deadline."
McHugh said he did not know when the TSA would be able to take over security for all other methods of transportation.
"There's no deadline that's been imposed for those other modes of transportation," he said. "At this point my focus is on aviation security and the aviation industry."
McHugh, who took over his present position last week, said he sees the new public agency as partnering with the airline industry to ensure safety.
"We are not here to wield a big stick," he said. "We are here to be a full member of the aviation community."
According to David Steigman, a spokesperson for the TSA, about 600 screeners are needed at Reagan National Airport and 730 at Dulles International Airport.
Many of the screeners will come from communities around the airports, McHugh said, which will provide jobs and fuel the economic growth in the region.
"Dulles and Reagan National are an engine driving the growth and development of Northern Virginia and the D.C. area," he said. "If we are not successful in implementing a partnership that will negatively affect us all."
JOB SEEKERS at the recruiting fairs said they were interested in the salaries and federal benefits the baggage screener jobs offered. Washington D.C. resident Charo Flemmings said a baggage screener job would pay more than her current job as a front desk agent at a Mariott hotel.
"I want to get out in the field of something related to hospitality," she said.
The salary for baggage screeners would range from $23,600 to $35,400 depending on experience.
Applicants for the positions at last week's event filled out online applications which told them whether they qualified for the second round in the hiring process.
Qualified applicants must be U.S. citizens and either have a high school diploma or GED or have at least one year of full-time security or aviation screening experience. During the next round of the application process, applicants will have to show physical abilities necessary to lifting baggage and demonstrate their ability to read, speak and write English. The TSA will also perform background checks and examine credit reports. Once hired, screeners will go through 40 hours of classroom training and 60 hours of on-the-job training before becoming certified baggage screeners.
People interested in the positions can call 1-877-631-JOBS (5627) or go to www.tsa.dot.gov.