Tourism is the second largest industry in Rhode Island. Many of these tourists fly into the state on commercial airlines. Of the six airports in Rhode Island, the TF Green State Airport in Warwick is by far the largest. Over 3.6 million passengers passed through this airport in 2012 alone, all of which flew under the protection of federal air marshals who ensure security on domestic and international flights.
While most of the flights that move through this airport are domestic, there are direct flights to and from Toronto. Given the recent history of terrorist activity from north of the border directed at targets in the U.S., air traffic from Toronto poses a concern to U.S. national security. The TSA trains its federal air marshals in behavioral analysis techniques to help them identify potential terrorists by being alert to suspicious behavior.
Requirements to Join the Federal Air Marshal Service
Residents of Rhode Island who seek jobs as federal air marshals must first meet the general requirements for becoming a federal law enforcement officer. This includes being a U.S. citizen between 21 and 36 years old. Older people may still be able to apply if they are veterans of the military or of federal law enforcement service.
Candidates for federal air marshal jobs are required to have either a bachelor’s degree in any field or have three years of progressively responsible experience that satisfies certain conditions. These include having strong planning, organizational, problem-solving, and communication skills. The agency will accept candidates who have a mix of education and experience.
Training to Become a Federal Air Marshal
Recruits for federal air marshal positions go through intensive training before they start their careers. First, they are taught in the basics of law enforcement at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. After seven weeks at this center, they receive training tailored to their specific roles in law enforcement. This takes place at the William J. Hughes Technical Center.
Becoming highly proficient in firearms is a major part of their air marshal training. Federal air marshals are held to very high standards of marksmanship, since firing weapons on a plane can be highly dangerous. Recruits are also trained in behavioral analysis to help them spot individuals who are acting suspiciously and might pose a threat to the safety of the flight.
The Role of Federal Air Marshals in Rhode Island
The federal government has expressed concern about the safety of air travelers in Rhode Island, and the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) spent about $3.2 million to upgrade security at T.F. Green Airport starting in 2009. With Providence’s popularity as a tourist site, over 76,000 planes flew in or out of this airport in 2012.
While there have not yet been any serious incidents on flights in Rhode Island, federal air marshals act proactively when there have been other incidents in the country. The TSA keeps these professionals informed about all potential threats that could affect flights. For example, federal air marshals in Rhode Island went on high alert after the shoe bomber made his attempt in 2010.