- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 10, 2002

The Hilton Crystal City Hotel yesterday was on the front lines of the Transportation Security Administration's catch-up effort to hire a federal work force of airport screeners.
Dozens of people showed up at a job fair to apply for some of the roughly 30,000 airport screener positions Congress demands the TSA fill by Nov. 19. The screeners are supposed to be the nation's first line of defense against terrorists at 424 commercial airports.
So far, 16 airports are completely federalized. The first and only local one is Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Congress has criticized the TSA's apparent slow pace and is considering extending the deadline. Nevertheless, said TSA spokesman Greg Warren, "We're right on track to meet the deadline."
The applicants many of them former military or law enforcement personnel were more interested in pay scales and job interviews than congressional deadlines.
"It's a good position. It's a federal job," said Shay Ellis, 23, who last month finished a five-year military stint that included work as an airframe technician on Marine One, the president's helicopter.
In addition to a starting annual salary between $23,000 and $35,000, Mr. Ellis said, he had motivations "to stop the next thing that could happen. After September 11, anything is possible."
Successful applicants will take jobs as screeners or supervisors at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport or Washington Dulles International Airport. No date has been announced for the switch from private security guards to federalized screeners at the two airports.
Many expressed reasons for applying that varied between money and idealism.
Davonne Cunningham, 19, a Tess Technical College student, said she applied for "the pay. I need a job."
Clayton LeBoo, a retired D.C. police officer, said he was trying to pay for his daughter's college education and wanted a job that would be less stressful than a cop's.
"I spent 22 years as a Marine. I figured this would be another good way to help out the country and get a paycheck at the same time," said Mark Joyce, a retired Marine master sergeant from Stafford County, Va.
The applicants completed identification forms and took an online test. Those who passed the test made appointments for interviews before leaving the hotel.
"The days of the 98-year-old watchman sitting in the corner are over," said retired Army Capt. Tim Thornton, who was applying for a job as a screener supervisor. The pay scale ranges from $38,000 to $62,000, based on qualifications and experience.
The job fair took place the same day a Long Island, N.Y., woman complained in the media that overzealous private screeners ordered her to drink her own breast milk at John F. Kennedy International Airport. She was trying to board an airplane with her infant daughter while carrying breast milk in her baggage. The screeners wanted to ensure the fluid was not toxic.
"That's going to change," said one of the TSA representatives who was handing out applications at the hotel. The federal screeners will be "really nice, really sharp."

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