Air Marshal Job Requirements in California

In California, newly hired air marshals are routinely assigned to the Los Angeles Air Marshal Field Office or the El Toro headquarters immediately after completing their initial training. California’s defunct El Toro Marine Base was recently renovated to become the Southern California regional headquarters for air marshal operations, marking a major expansion of the agency’s presence in the state.

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Federal air marshals are very active in California where a strong presence is needed to ensure security on thousands of flights that transit through some of the nation’s busiest airports everyday. This was never clearer than in September of 2006 when a federal air marshal subdued a man who tried to open the exit door on a flight from LAX to Washington. The United flight landed on schedule and the air marshal escorted the individual from the plane before turning him over to the FBI for questioning.

Educational Requirements for Becoming an Air Marshal in California

Candidates for federal air marshal jobs are required to qualify through education, experience, or a combination of the two. They must have at least three years of relevant experience or a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a relevant field such as criminal justice, airport management, homeland security, public safety, or law enforcement. Individuals with a master’s degree, or any graduate studies under their belt can qualify to become an air marshal at a higher rank and pay grade.

Basic job requirements include:

  • Three years relevant experience
  • U.S. citizen not older than 37
  • In good health and  physical condition
  • Able to successful pass a background investigation, drug screening, suitability assessment, panel interview, medical/psychological examinations and a physical fitness test

Training requirements for air marshal jobs include:

Air marshal recruits must successfully complete two training programs: 35 days at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, NM and 43 days at the Federal Air Marshal’s Training Center in Atlantic City, NJ.

The first program focuses on general law enforcement training, investigative techniques, physical fitness, federal/California/constitutional laws and marksmanship. The second program emphasizes specialized air marshal techniques such as close-quarter self-defense and airline-specific tactics.

Major Airports in California

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) – Located 16 miles from downtown Los Angeles, LAX had 30,528,737 passenger boardings in 2010 and is the third busiest airport in the U.S. and the sixth busiest in the world. It has an average of 1,500 flights a day to 87 domestic and 69 international destinations. LAX has four runways and nine terminals with 25,000 square feet of duty-free shopping. It is a hub airport for Alaska, American and United Airlines and shares its space with a U.S. Coast Guard base.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) – Located 13 miles south of downtown San Francisco, SFO had 20,038,679 passenger boardings in 2010 and its four runways handle 60 arriving flights every hour. It has four terminals and is the main base of operations for Virgin Airlines.

On September 11, 2001, United Flight 93 left San Francisco intending to fly nonstop to Newark, NJ. Al Qaeda terrorists who planned to fly it into the White House hijacked the plane. Heroic passengers overtook the terrorists and forced them to crash in Shanksville, PA, killing all aboard. At the time there were only 33 air marshals and none of them were on domestic flights. The 9/11 attacks prompted a dramatic increase in airline security and the newly formed Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) hiring of 4,000 air marshals.

San Diego International Airport (SAN) – Also known as Lindbergh Field, SAN is located three miles northwest of downtown San Diego. It is the busiest single-runway airport in the nation with approximately 500 daily departures and arrivals. SAN had 8,430,509 passenger boardings in 2010. International destinations include Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan. There are three terminals and the southeast corner of the airfield is occupied by the U.S. Coast Guard air station

Oakland International Airport (OAK) – Located five miles south of downtown Oakland, the four-runway airport had 4,674,427 passenger boardings in 2010 and averages approximately 740 aircraft operations each day.  It has two terminals and is home to three flight schools.

There other airports in California with more than four million passenger boardings in 2010 are: Sacramento International Airport, John Wayne International Airport (Santa Ana, CA) and San Jose International Airport.

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