In January the TSA began sending its newly hired officers from airports around the country to a consolidated basic training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia, where students collectively learn about TSA's mission and operations as a counterterrorism organization.
"Training is the foundation of mission success and a powerful tool in galvanizing and leading change," TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger said during a speech at the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan forum and think tank in Washington, DC, in July. "It provides consistency, develops a common culture, instills core values, improves morale, and it raises performance."
The program, which costs the federal government $2,400 a student when factoring in travel and lodging, lasts nine days. Students hired to work in various airports across the country live together on the center's campus in dormitories and must abide by certain rules, like quiet hours after 10 p.m.
Eight classes begin each start week, and each class has 24 students and three instructors.
During training, students attend classes where they learn about procedures, customer service, and improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Students get a firsthand look at the IEDs and their explosions during a live demonstration. They act out scenarios at the academy's fully functional mock checkpoint, which features everything from walk-through metal detectors and body scanners to X-ray machines and even the queue signage that you'd see at an airport.
"Always address people as sir or ma'am," Gilbreath said, citing what he learned in training. "Always say 'thank you.' Never assume someone's age. Never make physical contact with a person until you've already cleared it with them that this is what I'm going to do, and do you have any sensitive areas, any sore areas, do you have a broken leg or anything like that?
"And always put yourself in their situation. They've got a place they want to be and they want to get through there fast. Be effective, be fast, be courteous," he said.
Pockett said that with this new training comes consistency.
"We're actually noticing that in airports that have had many people come to our training, the culture changes," said Pockett. "It's getting a more positive spin out there. People are starting to follow the procedures and do the things that they're being trained to do here on a more consistent basis."
To graduate, students must receive passing grades on an image-interpretation test and a job-knowledge test. After graduation, they may begin on-the-job training at their home airports.