Federal Air Marshals are armed Federal law enforcement officers who are deployed on passenger flights internationally to protect passengers and crew against criminal and terrorist acts. They are under the direction of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and may also work with the FBI Counterterrorism Task-Force and other Federal anti-terrorism initiatives.
The Federal Aviation Administration began a Sky Marshal program in 1968. Eventually, the program became the Federal Air Marshal Service as the increase in commercial passenger flights dictated a greater need for in-flight security personnel. Air Marshal careers are much different from typical law enforcement jobs, as are the Air Marshal requirements, educational standards, and salary & benefit packages.
Air Marshal Requirements
Candidates must complete an application process that includes a preliminary screening and suitability assessment, mental health and psychological suitability screening, a panel interview, drug test, background investigation, medical and fitness evaluation.
Applicants must be under 37 years of age though there are exceptions made for veterans or those with significant past experience in a related field. You must be a U.S. citizen and resident of the U.S.
Air Marshal Education and Training
The Air Marshal training is a two-phase fifteen-week program. Phase One is the FLETC basic Police Training Program. In Phase Two, students are instructed in international law, arrest procedures, communications, aircraft safety procedures, defensive measures, aviation first-aid and advanced firearm tactics.
Air marshal’s must achieve and maintain the highest pistol qualification score among all enforcement agencies.
Following successful completion of training, new air marshals may be assigned to any of 21 field offices located in the U.S. where intensive training continues.
Air Marshal Salary
The salary for Air Marshals begins at approximately $40,000 per year. The salaries were raised after 9/11 when the TSA increased the number of Air Marshals to cover more domestic commercial flights. Air Marshals are entitled to the Federal employee benefit program.
TSA, unlike other government agencies, does not use the GS system as a pay scale but uses a band system instead. Proposals have been made that would convert all TSA positions to the GS salary system but the cost of the changeover may be too high.
Air Marshal Career Opportunities
Air Marshals have an expanding role in homeland security as the primary law enforcement arm within the Transportation Security Administration.
As a Federal Air Marshal you must operate without backup and blend in with passengers. This is a unique position in law enforcement. Air Marshals may pose as airline passengers on flights for hours each day and up to 50 hours per week and yet must be capable of taking immediate action to protect the flight and passengers at a moment’s notice.
Federal Air Marshals usually travel in pairs. The majority of work hours are spent in flight without incident but Air Marshals rely on investigative techniques, terrorist behavior recognition, close quarters self defense skills and handgun accuracy to ensure the safety of airline passengers and the public.
Promotional opportunities are available that include transfers into intelligence, administrative mission support and technology.
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