As a major international tourist destination, Florida saw an estimated 89.3 million visitors in 2012 alone. This included more than 10 million visitors from overseas. This level of traffic presents a unique challenge to the Federal Air Marshals charged with protecting Florida’s complex and massive civil aviation system from the threat of terrorism.
Florida is home to several international airports that serve as access points to the United States for millions of international travelers each year. Air Marshals are there to ensure that the huge volume of air traffic that enters Florida each year can never be used to make the U.S. vulnerable to attack. Though they are deployed from field offices in Orlando and Miami, Air Marshals in Florida spend their days in the terminals, concourses and on-board airliners that arrive and depart from some of the busiest international airports in the world:
- Miami International Airport, ranked the 12th busiest airport in the United States, is a major international travel hub between the US and Latin America
- Orlando International Airport follows closely behind as the 13th busiest airport in the US and serves as a gateway to the area’s many major tourist attractions
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is a major transportation hub for travelers headed for the Caribbean
Meeting the Requirements for Employment with the Federal Air Marshal Service
Candidates interested in becoming Federal Air Marshals must be between the ages of 21 and 36 or have prior federal civilian law enforcement experience. In addition, candidates must also possess one of the following:
- A bachelor’s degree in any field from an accredited university; OR
- Progressively responsible general experience for three years that includes the demonstrable problem solving ability, planning and organizational skills, and effective communication; OR
- A combination of education and experience in these areas
Individuals who meet these qualifications and who are selected for pre-employment screening can expect to undergo several assessments, including:
- Top security clearance and background check
- Psychological analysis
- Extensive drug and alcohol screening
- Physical examination by medical staff
- FAMS Assessment Battery test
- Panel Interview
If selected for training, Federal Air Marshals undergo a rigorous 16-week tactical training program that prepares them for both the psychological and physical demands of the job.
Federal Air Marshals in Florida can expect to train at a state-of-the-art facility that allows the use of a mock plane simulator and shooting range to prepare for a variety of in-air scenarios that could occur.
Florida’s Air Marshals at Work – Beyond Aviation Security
Federal Air Marshals in Florida often provide protective services for other modes of transportation throughout the state, including Florida’s extensive train system. Federal Air Marshals also provide security at stadiums, landmarks, and other public events.
The Florida Air Marshal Program hosts VIPR teams that work with local law enforcement agencies to provide increased security for large events. These VIPR teams have been utilized by the city of Fort Lauderdale on numerous occasions to help relieve the pressures facing local law enforcement.
Federal Air Marshals in Florida also partner with the Miami-Dade police department in an effort to train officers who perform extraditions on safety issues revolving around flying while armed. The advanced training that Federal Air Marshals receive puts them in a unique place to provide guidance to other law enforcement officers who can benefit from their expert knowledge.