The Federal Air Marshal Service is tasked with ensuring the safe passage of American air travelers. Air marshals are on the front lines of the battle to protect the flying public from terrorist threats and other dangers that may threaten airports and aircraft. In New Mexico, air marshals may find themselves stationed at one of the state’s four major airports.
- Albuquerque International Sunport Airport is New Mexico’s largest airport, servicing nearly six million travelers per year.
- Santa Fe International Airport is a rapidly growing regional airport now serving approximately 50,000 travelers annually.
- In addition to serving 40,000 passengers each year, Roswell International Air Center is a testing site for braking performance for Boeing jetliners.
- Four Corners Airport in Farmington is served by Great Lakes Airlines, which provides turboprop service from New Mexico to destinations in Colorado.
Technically, air marshals are law enforcement agents, operating as the public safety branch of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). As such, they are trained to detect potential terrorist activity and defend passengers and crew with physical force within the closed space of an aircraft. Air marshals, in New Mexico as elsewhere, are highly trained professionals who must master firearm accuracy and one-on-one combat and self-defense tactics in high-stress situations.
Qualifications for Air Marshal Jobs in New Mexico
Age Requirement – Candidates for air marshal jobs in New Mexico should be at least 21, but no older than 37. Successful applicants will not be appointed to federal air marshal candidates beyond the age of 37. Given the rigorous application process and the lengthy training required of air marshals, candidates should apply as much in advance of their 37th birthday as possible. An exemption from the upper age limit for federal marshals may be available to individuals who have already served some years in some branch of federal law enforcement.
Education and Experience Requirement – The successful applicant for air marshal jobs in New Mexico will also meet certain education and professional criteria. An applicant can demonstrate the necessary educational and work credentials by meeting ONE of the following:
- At least three years of service in the federal government, with at least one of those years being spent in a position equal to the F Band (grade level GS-4 grade level) or higher, or in an entry-level position with a non-federal government agency.
- Successful completion of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. The degree may be in any field.
- A combination of educational credentials and work history that demonstrate the candidate has the experience and judgment, as well as the critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills, required to serve effectively as a federal air marshal.
Physical and Psychological Requirements – Once they have met these basic requirements, candidates for positions as air marshals in New Mexico must also fulfill additional criteria related to skill New Hampshire air marshals must also meet certain standards with respect to skill, ability, and personal behavior:
- A federal air marshal receives a Top Secret Security clearance. Candidates for New Mexico air marshal positions must submit to a thorough background investigation to determine whether they qualify for such a clearance.
- Federal air marshals must have the strength and stamina to pursue and physically subdue terrorist suspects if necessary. Accordingly, candidates for air marshal positions must demonstrate certain levels of physical fitness and overall health by undergoing physical testing and medical examination.
- The Federal Air Marshal Service boasts one of the highest standards for handgun accuracy among federal law enforcement agencies. Air marshals must develop and maintain extremely high marksmanship skills.
Training Requirements – Applicants who meet the requirements and are chosen to be air marshals in New Mexico must still complete two seven-week residential training courses before assuming an actual air marshal position.
The first of these two training sessions focuses on general law enforcement skills including investigation techniques, behavior observation, defensive tactics, constitutional law, and basic medical assistance. Candidates will also train to develop their marksmanship and physical fitness skills. This first training session is held at a federal law enforcement training academy in Artesia, New Mexico.
The second course focuses on marksmanship and other skills necessary in the event of direct confrontation with hostile individuals or threats. The second training session takes place in New Jersey.
TSA PreCheck at Albuquerque International Sunport Airport
As TSA employees, federal air marshals include among their duties assisting TSA screeners and coordinating with local law enforcement officials. This may include assisting with or observing security checks of airline passengers. As of February 2014, the TSA has announced that it will soon make its PreCheck program available to travelers who fly out of Albuquerque International Sunport.
PreCheck provides expedited screening for passengers who undergo an interview and background check at a TSA office. Passengers pre-qualified through PreCheck need not remove their shoes, jackets, or belts during the screening process and need not take laptops out for inspection. They may also keep liquids in their bags.
By expediting known passengers who do not pose a threat, air marshals and other TSA employees may focus their efforts on those individuals who represent genuine threats to airline security.