Training for the Federal Air Marshal Service

The Federal Air Marshal Service was established to protect the general flying public by thwarting terrorist attacks and criminal occurrences on U.S. civilian aircraft. Although the Federal Air Marshal program was established back in 1968 to stop Cuban hijackings occurring on U.S. airlines, this program experienced a resurgence following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

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The Federal Air Marshal Service consists of specially trained and armed aviation security specialists—Air Marshals—who are deployed both domestically and internationally. The selection and training for U.S. Air Marshals is rigorous and thorough, thus producing an elite corps of professionals. Only those individuals who can pass this federal agency’s stringent training program can call themselves Air Marshals.

New hires must complete a two-part tactical training program, called the Federal Air Marshal Training Program (FAMTP), in order to become Air Marshals with the Federal Air Marshal Service, which includes:

  • A 35-day basic training program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Artesia, New Mexico
  • A 43-day training program at the Federal Air Marshal Service Training Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey

Additional training for U.S. Air Marshals takes place at undisclosed locations throughout the country. All graduates of the FAMTP possess adequate cardiovascular fitness, arm-hand strength and steadiness, and upper and lower body strength. Students of the FAMTP should expect to take place in rigorous, daily physical training during their training period. This includes:

  • Strength training – Weight training, calisthenics, and sit-ups, pull-ups, and push-ups
  • Flexibility training – Stretching the legs, shoulders, arms, neck, lower back, and hips
  • Agility training – Tactical conditioning courses
  • Cardiovascular training – Running courses (both fast and slow) over both flat and cross-country terrain
  • Defense measures training – Boxing, tactical ground defense, confrontational cuffing, control holds, blocking and delivering blows, firearms retention, and weapons disarming

Some of the training programs within the FAMTP include:

FAMTP Firearms Training Program

The FAMTP Firearms Training Program provides training in the safe operation and handling of all authorized weapons by the Air Marshals. All federal Air Marshals are required to carry their firearm on duty and be able to use it to protect themselves or citizens. Therefore, they must be able to draw and fire their firearms under extreme pressure and time constraints. Firearm training includes 155 hours of lectures and shooting.

The FAMTP Firearms Training Program includes the Practice Pistol Course (PPC), which takes place after basic firearms training is completed. The course involves firing 60 rounds at a distance of up to 25 yards. All trainees must be able to successfully fire their weapons at close distances at intermediate distances, at long distances, and in barricade positions. They must also be able to manipulate the trigger for single and multiple round strings of fire, and they must be able to fire the weapon using their right and left hands.

Practical Exercise Performance Requirements (PEPR)

PEPR refers to physical activities related to law enforcement tasks, such as conducting searches or making arrests. All trainees must complete the PEPR to successfully complete the training program. PEPR components include:

Defensive Tactics – Trainees must be able to use rapid and coordinated body movements to defend against a physical attack or control an individual. As such, their joints must be flexible and able to withstand force during non-lethal control techniques, Trainees must be able to perform in all course requirements, which may include being thrown, placed in restraints, being taken down. They must also be able to repeatedly strike a hand-held bag using their elbows, knees, hands, and feet.

Aircraft Tactical Training – Aircraft tactical training requires trainees to move quickly and deftly maneuver inside a commercial aircraft. The training period involves controlling an individual during takedowns and with restraint techniques within a commercial aircraft.

All trainees must be able to successfully maintain a kneeling barricade position at least 10 to 15 times during a two-hour session. They must also display strength and full range of motion of both their arms and shoulders as to properly search, handcuff and restrain an individual.

Firearms Training – All trainees must be able to stand for at least one hour, kneel on one knee, and hold a handgun with both hands, arms extended at eye level, for at least 7 seconds. They must also be able to assume a kneeling position within 2 seconds; extract their handgun from a tight-fitting holster in one second or less and hold a handgun with arms extended for at least 24 seconds; pull the trigger of a handgun in double action mode two times in 4 seconds, for a total of 54 trigger pulls in 2 minutes; pull the trigger in double action mode with the weak hand 6 times; and have sufficient hand and finger dexterity to safety load, unload, and handle the handgun.

About the Federal Air Marshal Tactical Training Facility

The Federal Air Marshal tactical training facility is located at the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The facilities of the training center include:

  • A 360-degree live-fire shoot house with computer-controlled targets
  • A close-quarters countermeasures/personal defense training room
  • A retired B-727 narrow-body aircraft
  • A retired L-1011 wide-body aircraft
  • Fitness facility
  • Inactive, 5-story air traffic control tower
  • Judgment pistol shooting interactive training room
  • Modern classrooms
  • Operations center
  • Three outdoor ranges with moving targets

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