Both Nashville and Memphis have international airports. It’s no coincidence that the federal government has designated both of these cities as potential targets for terrorists. More than 85% of the 9.5 million people who boarded flights in Tennessee in 2012 did so at the Nashville and Memphis International Airports. Federal air marshals fly out of these airports on dozens of flights daily with their eyes wide to intercept and deter potential hijackers and terrorists.
Requirements to Become a Federal Air Marshal in Tennessee
While the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) has very specific requirements for those who seek jobs as federal air marshals, these applicants must also meet the general requirements to become a federal law enforcement officer.
Basic Requirements – Applicants for all federal jobs as law enforcement officers must be US citizens who are between 21 and 36 years old. The government will consider older applicants if they are veterans or have served as federal law enforcement officers.
Federal Air Marshal Service Requirements – To become a federal air marshal, the FAMS requires that its applicants have a bachelor’s degree (no subject area specified) or three years of work experience that has involved a progressive increase in the level of responsibility.
The agency seeks applicants whose former work responsibilities show evidence of strong problem-solving, communication, planning, and organizational skills. Applicants can also meet these requirements with a combination of education and experience.
Training Programs for Federal Air Marshals
To ensure that its federal air marshals are highly trained to protect the public, candidates go through two phases of training. First, they are trained in basic law enforcement skills at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. They spend 7 weeks learning these skills with candidates from other agencies.
The FAMS provides more specific training for the skills required to become a federal air marshal at its facility by the Atlantic City airport. Candidates spend 16 weeks in the agency’s Federal Air Marshal Service Training Program II. The FAMS trains them in techniques that are applicable to law enforcement work on airplanes. Agents learn the following:
- To use behavioral techniques to identify suspicious behavior
- To become extremely proficient in the use of firearms
- To conduct combat in close quarters
- To disarm attackers
- Specific cockpit controls
Additional Roles of Federal Air Marshals in Tennessee
In addition to their role on airplanes, federal air marshals protect the public in other ways. Intelligence findings indicate that efforts to prevent terrorism should focus on highway traffic in addition to air traffic, and in Minnesota, this has been put into practice.
In 2011, Tennessee was the first state to deploy VIPR teams simultaneously at weigh and bus stations across the state in an effort to detect potential terrorist attacks on the transportation system. Federal air marshals are an integral part of these Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Teams.
In addition, federal air marshals are part of the Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF), which is headed by the FBI. There are three JTTFs in Tennessee in the following cities: