Air traffic is a big part of South Carolina’s robust tourist industry with over 2.3 million Americans flying into the state a year. In addition, over 150,000 foreign visitors travel by air to visit South Carolina each year.
While South Carolina avidly seeks visitors, this level of traffic requires the presence of the Federal Air Marshals Service. These professionals are tasked with using their behavioral training to identify individuals who are acting suspiciously before they commit acts of terrorism or violence.
Over two thirds of the flights taken in South Carolina in 2012 departed from one of the following airports:
- Charleston International Airport
- Greenville Spartanburg International Airport
- Myrtle Beach International Airport
South Carolina has some tempting targets for terrorists, including one of the largest U.S. military bases—Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter. Federal air marshals work under the threat of personal physical violence and wider terrorist attacks. In 2012 alone, TSA agents found three firearms at checkpoints at the Charleston International Airport and in 2011 a man from South Carolina was arrested for assaulting a federal air marshal aboard a domestic flight.
Steps to Becoming a Federal Air Marshal in South Carolina
Residents of South Carolina must meet a number of requirements to join the Federal Air Marshal Service. They must meet the government’s requirements for becoming a federal agent and the more stringent requirements of the Federal Air Marshal Service.
Basic Requirements – Applicants must be U.S. citizens. They must be over 21 years old and younger than 37, although some people may be exempt from the upper age requirement. This can include veterans of the military and those who have served as federal law enforcement officers.
Air Marshal Requirements – Those seeking air marshal jobs must either have a bachelor’s degree or have three years of suitable experience. Applicants are qualified to apply with a bachelor’s degree in any field of study.
If they are applying on the basis of experience, these applicants must have three years of experience in which their responsibilities increased over the course of the job. The agency requires them to have a degree of the following skills:
A mix of education and experience can also be used to apply for federal air marshal jobs.
Federal Air Marshal Training Programs
Once they have passed through the agency’s stringent hiring process that includes a thorough background check, candidates go through two phases of training.
Basic Law Enforcement – The first phase of training involves seven weeks at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). Candidates study basic law enforcement techniques with those from other agencies.
Air Marshal Skills – After they have passed the basic training course, candidates go to the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center in New Jersey where they further develop the skills they learned at the FLETC. They train for sixteen weeks in the Federal Air Marshal Service Training Program II.
While becoming proficient with firearms is required for all federal agents, it is particularly important for federal air marshals, since they may have to fire within the confines of an airplane. Other parts of the training include learning to analyze behavior to be able to identify suspicious activity before it escalates to violence.