Veteran Employee Story – “Rebecca Anderson”

Transportation Security Administration  |

Training, Leadership, Teamwork  |

Published in the November/December 2012 issue of print Search & Employ®  |

“Rebecca Anderson” [we are not using her real name because of the sensitive nature of her work] is a Federal Air Marshal and a military veteran. “I joined the Army in 1989 and attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina,” she said. “As an Electronic Warfare Signals Intelligence Analyst, I first had to attend language training at the Presidio in Monterey, California, and intelligence training at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. I received a Certificate of Achievement for maintaining outstanding grades throughout the training.

“I worked in the Collection Management and Dissemination section, tasking various assets that were involved with the TROJAN systems in accomplishing their missions in support of the Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM).”

From there, Anderson’s intelligence work increased in importance. “I served as a subject-matter expert with a working knowledge of the geography and culture in my area of responsibility in which the intercepted communication originated,” she said. “I gathered, sorted, scanned, and analyzed these intercepted signals and messages. Additionally, I established and maintained a working relationship with my counterpart in the National Security Agency (NSA). I prepared charts, reports, and weekly briefings; and presented technical and intelligence analysis to the Command Staff and visiting dignitaries.”

After leaving the Army, Anderson joined TSA and became a Federal Air Marshal. “For the first five years, I flew covertly on U.S.-based civil air carriers in order to detect, deter, and defeat hostile or criminal acts which target airports, passengers, and aircrew; and served as International Team Member on overseas flights,” she said.

TSA then chose Anderson as a preliminary Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response team member. During the rollout, she initiated contact and established relationships with many senior federal, state, and local law enforcement decision-makers in the transportation arena. In this capacity, she deployed in support of Period of Heightened Awareness (POHA) and national deployments including a presidential inauguration, a G-20 gathering, an NBA All-Star Game, and the national emergency in New Orleans due to the 2008 hurricane Gustav. She was selected as a liaison to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), senior Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) Management, Joint Operations Center, and ground operations.

But the work didn’t stop there. “I was selected as one of the first FAM canine handlers in the country and named Distinguished Honor Graduate from the National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program during our training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio,” she said. “In this capacity, I certified with 100 percent proficiency in each and every certification. As such, I was instrumental in the acceptance/continued success of the TSA Canine Program by establishing relationships and continuously training with federal, state, and local canine handlers from reputable departments throughout our region. I augmented security details for President Obama, President Clinton, and FBI Director Mueller, and represented the TSA as a K-9 presenter at the Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE) Conference, providing an overview of the FAMS Canine program.” This was a pilot program developed to support improved efficiencies within the agency.

Working hard and not taking anything for granted has helped Anderson succeed with the TSA. “In my nine-plus years with the Federal Air Marshal Service, I have been given many opportunities to shine, but never took those chances for granted,” she said. “Through hard work and dedication, I have gained the respect of instructors, my peers, and supervisors. During my initial phase of training in Artesia, New Mexico, I was selected by my peers to serve as our class president and was recognized with the Director’s Award at graduation. Most recently, I was chosen by management to participate in the 2012 Mid-level Leadership Development Program (MLDP).”

Anderson believes that the confidence her Army experience gave her has paid dividends in her post-military career. I don’t think it was one particular experience, but the military experience as a whole that has helped me with civilian job opportunities,” she said. “While in the military, I was constantly exposed to new and unfamiliar situations and had to learn to adapt, overcome, and succeed in the new environment. I have taken employment chances with the confidence I gained while serving in the military.”

She also believes that foreign language skills are beneficial. “I was fortunate enough to receive full-time foreign language resident training at the Presidio,” Anderson said. “Although I pursued other career avenues, many of my classmates used these language skills to gain civilian employment. Several work overseas for major corporations, and have worked as government translators, or are employed by Customs and Border Protection, while one is a foreign language teacher in a local high school.”

Anderson has one regret from her time in the Army – not using the military’s tuition assistance while on active duty. “With online learning, taking a class or two a semester is possible for most military members,” she said. “Tuition assistance is a military benefit that will pay up to 100 percent for tuition and some fees. With the increase in college tuition, this would allow the GI Bill to go further upon separation from the military.”

The skills she developed in the Army have been useful with the TSA. “The physical training and weapons familiarization skills have been invaluable as a Federal Air Marshal,” Anderson said. “And I believe working and living in an environment that fosters cultural diversity have allowed me to understand the cultures of the countries in which we travel and establish solid working relationships with TSA /Office of Security Operations personnel, flight crews, and many senior federal, state, and local law enforcement throughout our region.”

Anderson believes veterans make ideal hires for just about every organization. “They bring unique training, leadership, and teamwork qualities to the workforce,” she said. “Veterans have been shown to lead by example through direction, delegation, motivation, and inspiration. They perform under pressure and have the ingenuity to operate under tight schedules and limited resources. Veterans make great team players, as they understand that authentic teamwork fosters responsibility to one’s colleagues. The military units are made up of a diverse blend of individuals from different specialties; additionally, these groups themselves are a diverse blend. Thus, veterans have successfully learned to work side-by-side with individuals regardless of diverse race, gender, geographic origin, ethnic background, religion, and economic status. The culture of inclusion is a valuable quality to gain from military life.”

Anderson said that any law-enforcement agency would benefit from hiring veterans. “They are a drug-free workforce that is cognizant of maintaining personal health and fitness,” she said. “Hard work wouldn’t scare any veteran. In the military, most work holidays, shift work, and in adverse conditions. Prospective employers can take advantage of a track record of integrity.”

She also believes that veterans make great air marshals. “The Federal Air Marshal Service would also benefit from hiring a veteran, as this integrity translates into a sincere and trustworthy employee, often including prior security clearances, which is also needed in the FAM hiring process,” Anderson said. “Additionally, because of their experiences in the service, veterans are usually aware of international and technical trends pertinent to safety and security. They can bring the kind of global outlook and technological savvy that the FAM Service needs to have continued success.

“Most important though, it is the ability to triumph over adversity that would make a veteran a great Federal Air Marshal. At 30,000 feet in the air, a FAM team is the last line of defense. Veterans are used to dealing positively with the typical issues of personal maturity, and have frequently triumphed over great adversity. They have proven their courage in mission-critical situations demanding endurance, stamina, and flexibility. They may have overcome personal disabilities through strengths and determination. These are qualities of a Federal Air Marshal.”

Anderson advises that servicemembers take their search for their first post-military job seriously. “A great deal of homework and a determined, disciplined effort will be required,” she said. “The job search will likely last between three and nine months, sometimes longer for a federal position. Military personnel should begin planning a year before their departure dates, investigating relocation, occupational aptitude, additional training, and education. I would advise the military personnel to take advantage of career development and job-search courses from the Family Service Center or the Veterans Affairs Office and read publications such as the book What Color Is Your Parachute to learn networking skills, resume-writing skills, and interviewing skills. Additionally, certain websites can help military personnel learn how their military skills equate to civilian skills.”

An internship might also help. “With more and more people doing internships, employers are coming to expect to see them listed on the resumes of potential employees,” Anderson said. “Internships often turn into a job offer, which is all the more reason to do an internship and to take the job very seriously. Also, an internship is a great way to get an inside glimpse of a company, an industry, and a particular occupation. It can help you discover if the career you are considering is right for you.”

As for working at TSA, Anderson preaches patience. “Start early,” she said. “To land a position with any federal agency takes time. Take the necessary time required to fully research the position, attend job fairs, and work on your resume and application. I would encourage those interested in a position with the Federal Air Marshal Service to fully research the position and contact their local recruiter. The hiring process requires successful completion of a written application, panel interview, assessment, credit check, medical examination, physical training assessment, complete background investigation, and the ability to qualify for and maintain a top secret security clearance before a final hiring decision is made.”


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About the Author

This article was written by Jay Myers