Feds take over security measures at Sardy Field | AspenTimes.com

Feds take over security measures at Sardy Field

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Security screener Rick Williams with the Transportation Security Administration, center, places a passengers items in a tub for screening as Cary Parrish, left, and Elizabeth Lacy examine the x-ray of a backpack as it passes through the security checkpoint of Sardy Field Monday afternoon October 21, 2002. The three are part of a mobile screening force says screening manager Sandy Graetz. "The team is temporary until Aspen is fully staffed," she says, "the permanent screeners are currently in training in Denver and will be ready by the November 19th deadline." Paul Conrad photo.

The third-busiest airport in Colorado saw a changing of the guard Monday as the first wave of federal security screeners took over operations at the Aspen airport.

Ten security screeners dispatched by the Transportation Security Administration were on hand for the first flight of the day. The TSA employees, stationed at the airport’s sole departure gate, scanned carry-on luggage and patted down travelers as the new federal organization officially took control of screening procedures for Sardy Field.

A mandate made shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made all airport security in the United States a federal responsibility.

Aspen airport and TSA officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday morning to recognize the first federalized terminal in the region. Ray Krebs, former assistant director at Sardy Field, was at the ceremony to represent his new employer. Krebs now serves as the TSA federal security director for five Colorado airports: Aspen, Eagle, Fort Collins, Rifle and Steamboat Springs. (He actually cut short his involvement in Monday’s ceremony to conduct similar observations at the other airports he oversees.)

His permanent office will be in Eagle to allow easy access to TSA meetings in Denver and Washington, he said.

Krebs likened the airport’s security accomplishments to “a victorious military encounter” ? achieved through cooperation between federal employees, airport personnel and representatives of the airport’s three airlines, America West, Northwest and United Express. Each organization was working toward the same goals, Krebs said.

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“Really, the striving force behind this are two areas: security and customer service,” he said.

Guy De Luca, the airport’s deputy federal security director, was also on hand to field questions about the changeover. De Luca, previously stationed in Germany while working for U.S. Army airport security, will be a permanent feature in Aspen, acting as Kreb’s second-in-command.

Though the airport’s current group of security personnel is made up of accredited TSA employees, they are merely temporary screeners on loan from larger airports, De Luca said. This “mobile security force” will be replaced by Aspen-based TSA employees as soon as they complete their two-week training course in Denver.

The arrival of these employees should be well ahead of the Nov. 19 deadline set by the federal government.

However, the hiring process is ongoing for the TSA, De Luca said.

“We’re hiring in increments as we build up to the ski season,” he said.

The TSA will eventually hire 18 federally sanctioned screeners to man the Sardy Field gates as part of the organization’s “first wave” of security improvements. The second wave of hires, which must be completed by Dec. 31 per federal regulations, will include screeners for all baggage checked at the ticket counter, as well.

At full force, De Luca expects the TSA’s Aspen staff to consist of 60 people.

When the transition is complete, the Aspen airport will have met the TSA’s objective, Krebs said ? top-notch security, with a minimal amount of inconvenience for air travelers.

“Our goal is that, whether you check in at Aspen or check in at JFK [Airport in New York City], the procedures are the same,” Krebs said.

[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is jenniferd@aspentimes.com]

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