You have a flight to catch. As you are traveling to the airport, you are hoping for short checkpoint lines and a fast screening process, not focused on the reasons behind these security measures.
For many travelers, convenience of air travel is more important than the levels of security in place, but for the TSA Agents that keep LaGuardia Airport safe, security is their most vital responsibility.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a unique department that operates under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, created in response to the September 11th terror attacks. For many TSA agents, taking the job was a way to give back to their country.
In 2016 alone, LaGuardia Airport handled 29.8 million passengers, 369,987 plane movements and 7,586 tons of air cargo, and the TSA is committed to keeping travelers safe 24/7.
Security begins as soon as a flyer purchases an airline ticket. The TSA immediately goes to work, checking each individual passenger’s travel history, country of origin, and whether or not they have had any previous issues with security or interaction with terrorist organizations.
The LaGuardia Airport TSA is headquartered in the Bulova Center in East Elmhurst. It is there that Joe Madden, head of the Screening Department, manages the everyday challenges of working at LaGuardia.
Madden, a former NYPD Sergeant, retired from the force just before 9/11. He lost friends, some of whom were firefighters, which led him into a career with TSA, where he began as a floor supervisor but was quickly promoted to manager. “This is why I’m here, this is why I do what I do,” he said.
Lead Officer O’Neil King has been with TSA for 13 years. Every day at LaGuardia, King and his team monitor the checkpoint baggage location, screen passengers, and handle luggage.
“Working at the TSA can be a major stepping stone for any individual wanting to pursue a career in a government agency,” said King, a former employee of the Post Office and Board of Education. “Since TSA functions throughout every state in the US, transfers are easy for officers looking to move across state lines. Seniority is carried over to the next airport, so there is no starting over.”
John Mollura has been with TSA at LaGuardia for 12 years. Mollura is on the playbook team, which runs different types of scenarios to make sure that passengers and employees alike are protected from potential disaster. He has assisted in security operations with the NYPD and Secret Service.
“You must be alert at all times, the job is never boring,” said Mollura, who left behind a job in the film industry. “I always focus on improving my skills on the job. “
Aruna Gohel is a TSA security manager. Before TSA, Gohel worked at the World Trade Center and was present on 9/11. After surviving the attack, Gohel joined the TSA to make a difference. She oversees checkpoints by assuring that no deadly objects are getting onto the aircraft.
“Managerial responsibility also requires teamwork, as managers network with others, reaching out to other departments because one person cannot make decisions,” Gohel said. “Managers have to monitor if all the staff is adequate and if they come in on time.”
The TSA offers various employment opportunities. Transportation security officers, armed federal air marshals, and mobile K-9 teams are just a few of the position. Starting pay is $18 per hour, but can quickly grow to $30 per hour depending on the position and career path. Health and dental coverage, retirement plans, and college loan assistance are among the benefits. For more information or to apply for a career at the TSA, call (877) 872.7990 or visit hraccess.tsa.dhs.gov.