First Atlanta officers graduate from TSA education program

The first group of transportation security officers in Atlanta were recently recognized for completing their courses through a higher education program funded by the Transportation Security Administration, said a spokesman for the agency.

Jon Allen said 31 officers received TSA Homeland Security certificates during a ceremony at the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta.

The officers, he said, had to successfully complete three courses to receive the certificate, and one course was taken per semester. Georgia Perimeter College offers the courses, entitled “Introduction to Homeland Security,” “Intelligence Analysis & Security Technology,” and “Transportation and Border Security,” he said.

“I think that a greater understanding of knowledge about Homeland Security can only benefit the officers,” said Mary Leftridge Byrd, TSA federal security director for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Byrd said the program is optional, and not a requirement for transportation security officers.

She said TSA invests $3.2 million, annually, on a national scale for the program. “I think it’s a very wise investment,” she said.

Byrd said TSA made sure the courses could be worked around the officers’ schedules, and encouraged them to attend their classes. Officers working to achieve a certificate were able to take the courses inside the training room at Hartsfield-Jackson.

She said the education program allows employees to fully understand their jobs from a different perspective. “Homeland security is more than just screening,” she said.

“The training, which is very rich training for our officers, focuses on technical aspects of security equipment and processes,” she said. “This [education program] provides a larger backdrop.”

Spokesman Allen said TSA pays for the first three courses of the program. If officers wish to continue their education toward an associate degree in Homeland Security, they would be responsible for the costs, he said.

Nanette Burkett, TSA supervisory security coordination center officer at Hartsfield-Jackson, said she was part of the first group that received their certificates in Atlanta.

“It was an exhilarating sense of accomplishment,” she said. Participating in the program was convenient, she said, because she would finish her shift and go to school — all in one facility.

“I’ve always been interested in going to college and getting a degree,” she said, adding that she is proud of herself for getting her certificate, but her eye is set on an associate degree.

“I am not quitting,” said Burkett.

Federal Security Director Byrd said the program began in 2010 in 22 states, including Atlanta, Ga. This spring, it will be available in all 50 states, she said.