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New TSA uniforms 'show professionalism' of post 9/11 security

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The Transportation Security Officers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport are wearing new uniforms.

Unveiled on the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C., the uniforms are said to show the professionalism of the force on the frontline, preventing another attack.

Jon Allen, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, said the officers in America's 450 airports are "the most tested and trained" federal employees, and the new uniforms "better represent the type of workforce we have and the type of work the officers do."

The new uniforms are blue, instead of white, and have a metal badge, instead of an embroidered one. The uniforms have shoulder boards, indicating rank, and name tags bearing the officer's rank and last name. The shirts have patches with the logo of the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security, the agency over TSA.

The uniforms were introduced at the Boston airport and a Washington D.C., airport earlier, and then at the airports in Denver, Colo., and St. Paul, Minn., in time for the conventions. All of the nation's international airports, including Hartsfield-Jackson, saw the uniforms on Thursday.

On TSA's official blog -- www.tsa.gov/blog -- one officer writes that the date of the uniform change was significant to him and many like him. "Bob" was motivated to join TSA because of what he saw on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I remember wishing I was still in the Army, so I could do something," he writes. "So when I read about the formation of TSA, I was intrigued. I jumped at the chance to serve my country again. I proudly wore a new uniform, this time the one of a Transportation Security Officer, and serving again on the frontline to prevent another attack. Many other former military folks joined TSA along with me -- today 25 percent of our frontline officers are veterans. Others also jumped at the chance to serve their country."

Before the formation of the TSA, the people screening passengers and baggage, and attempting to stop hijackings and terrorist attacks were called "screeners." According to Allen, the change from "screener" to "officer" has been a process, an evolution. The recently unveiled uniform is the latest step in "maximizing the human element of security," according to the TSA.

"All of them I've talked to, in the first day of wearing them," Allen said, "they're pleased. They're pleased with the appearance and I know some of the comments they've received have been, 'Those look sharp,' and 'those look professional.'"

The change isn't just cosmetic, though, Allen said. In addition to new uniforms, as part of the TSA's touted "evolution," each officer is going through 16 more hours of training to learn advanced ways to detect explosives and ways to engage passengers, keeping everything calm and making antsy, aggravated, would-be terrorists stand out.

"Bob," on the blog, says the old uniforms made him proud, even though they "weren't the greatest." The new uniforms, he writes, "better represent the dedication and professionalism of our officers. They also represent the evolution of our agency. The training, the experience of an officer's work today are far different than the job of a pre-9/11 'screener.'"