Field Trip!

Old Jan 15, 12, 5:27 pm
  #1  
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Field Trip!

It's dark at 5:30 on a Saturday morning. Still rubbing the crusty remnants of sleep out of my eyes, I step out of my car and into the employee parking lot at Huntsville International Airport. It's really freakin' cold, but that's okay - I'm wearing a duster made out of fifty pounds of black leather, and have my Dead Nazi Scarf around my neck.

Thirty minutes later, my overnight bag is packed into the back of a Government-owned van. Armed with my 2-liter of Mountain Dew, I climb into the plain white van and take up residence on the third bench. I am not alone.

With me on this trip are my stalwart fellows:

The Boy Scout
The Redhead
The Librarian
The Vampire
and The Other Guy. Couldn't think of a nifty, descriptive nickname for him.

With the AIT-ATR machines due to arrive in Huntsville "really soon," I and my companions were handpicked for special training. We're going to be operating the machines when they arrive so that they're not just collecting dust for the first few weeks and, in the end, train the rest of the TSA-HSV staff in how to use them. Since everything about this trip was designed with cheapness in mind, we're not flying. Oh, no. We're driving, baby.

To Atlanta.

To be continued... after dinner.
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Old Jan 15, 12, 6:37 pm
  #2  
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Originally Posted by HSVTSO Dean View Post

Since everything about this trip was designed with cheapness in mind, we're not flying. Oh, no. We're driving, baby.
That's why you get to keep your Mountain Dew. (Good thing you're not a mouse).

Looking forward to the next installment...
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Old Jan 15, 12, 6:50 pm
  #3  
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Originally Posted by HSVTSO Dean View Post
Since everything about this trip was designed with cheapness in mind, we're not flying. Oh, no. We're driving, baby.
If they're so interested in saving money, they should cancel the order from L3 and then they wont even need to do training.

Last edited by Ari; Jan 16, 12 at 9:15 am Reason: minitypo
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Old Jan 15, 12, 7:40 pm
  #4  
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Originally Posted by chollie
That's why you get to keep your Mountain Dew.
Indeed. Otherwise, I'd have been limited to as many 3.4 fluid ounce bottles I could fit into a single quart-size zip-top clear plastic baggie. Doubt that'd have held me as long.

Originally Posted by Ari
If they're so interested in saving money, they should cancel the order from L3 and then they wont even need to do training.
Oh, no. They're coming. Not just here, but everywhere. More on that later, with my own analysis of the details. Incidentally, this will be a topic that covers some practical travel issues, mostly in regards to my experience in Atlanta with the ATR-AITs.
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Old Jan 15, 12, 8:12 pm
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Bummer...my sister lives in Huntsville. I really wish I'd scheduled a trip to see her before the need to opt out there too.

But I'm sure you're right--some form of the machines will be in place everywhere shortly. Sad for those of us who have to travel by plane.
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Old Jan 15, 12, 8:26 pm
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To be continued... after dinner.
Longhorn's. Fire-grilled T-bone. First thing I've had to eat in a few days that didn't come in a wrapper. Yum.

Moving along.

The trip to Atlanta was (mostly) uneventful, save only for a traffic jam just west of the city that seemed to involve an individual in a compact car slamming into the rear end of an 18-wheeler. The 18-wheeler won.

After the two ambulances left and the police swept the road clean of debris, we were on our way again. We arrived at the airport about five minutes before our classroom training was set to begin, so we rolled right on into that. Gotta say, the Atlanta airport? Freakin' huge. Considerably larger than Huntsville - though I'm doubting anyone on here didn't already know that.

The class itself took approximately eight hours to complete, after which all of our faces were ready to melt off. The more interesting tidbits of practical experience with the ATR-AITs happened the next day, and will be discussed in my next post.

The use of whole body imaging technology is, apparently, 'mandated by congress.' Specifically, we were mandated to develop screening procedures and to use screening equipment that detected both metallic, and non-metallic, prohibited items. Why can't we just use the WTMD and ETD/Puffer devices, people have asked? Evidently, it's because these do not detect non-metallic prohibited items. Those words exactly -- "metallic and non-metallic" -- without a specific reference to explosives, which the ETD/Puffer devices would ostensibly be quite capable of detecting. In that frame, the AIT device is the only thing capable of detecting such things, as apparently mandated by congress.

Apparently, I say, because the only thing I was able to find about that was the SAFER AIR Act of 2010, which seemed to go into a committee and die. This particular legislation would have mandated that:

(The quotes got messed up and it wouldn't let me link to that particular bit of text inside the space of a quote, so I had to kind of ghetto-quote it. Just flow with it.)

----
SAFER AIR Act of 2010 - specific citation
...all primary screening of passengers shall be conducted using advanced imaging technology or another advanced technology...
----

This is contrasted by HR2200, passed by the House and chillin' out with the Senate presently, which would, at first glance, prohibit the use of AIT as primary screening. To wit:

----
HR2200 - specific citation
Whole-body imaging technology may not be used as the sole or primary method of screening a passenger under this section. Whole-body imaging technology may not be used to screen a passenger under this section unless another method of screening, such as metal detection, demonstrates cause for preventing such passenger from boarding an aircraft.
----

Which seems to dictate that AIT would be used to screen people in a purely secondary role - after an alarm from the WTMD, for example.

While HR2200 is considerably closer to becoming law than the SAFER AIR Act of 2010, TSA neatly skirts the issue altogether given the definition of "whole body imaging" from HR2200.

----
HR2200 - specific citation
`WHOLE-BODY IMAGING TECHNOLOGY- The term `whole-body imaging technology' means a device, including a device using backscatter x-rays or millimeter waves, used to detect objects carried on individuals and that creates a visual image of the individual's full body, showing the surface of the skin and revealing objects that are on the body.'.
----

With the pertinent text being "...that creates a visual image of the individual's full body, showing the surface of the skin..." the ATR-AIT completely circumvents the impending requirement that advanced imaging technology not be used as primary screening - it creates an avatar, not the surface of the individual's full-body skin. It also doesn't reveal "objects," so much as it indicates areas of algorithmic anomalies via bounding boxes that then require a target pat-down in that area to resolve.

Of course, this is only in regard to the L3 MMW devices. No such ATR device exists for the Backscatter.

Academic and entirely debate-y, for sure, but the true meat of my tale will begin with the next post, when I started my On the Job Training with the ATR-AIT in Atlanta.

To be continued... after the Super Mario Brothers Super Show.





p.s.:
Originally Posted by flitcraft
Bummer...my sister lives in Huntsville. I really wish I'd scheduled a trip to see her before the need to opt out there too.
If you come through during the afternoon, say hi. I love to meet FTers.
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Old Jan 15, 12, 8:31 pm
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Is the redhead hot?

And as to the "other guy", it's a good thing you're not a landing party on the original Star Trek
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Old Jan 15, 12, 8:33 pm
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Originally Posted by goalie
Is the redhead hot?
So-so.

Originally Posted by goalie
And as to the "other guy", it's a good thing you're not a landing party on the original Star Trek
Yeah. He'd totally be the guy wearing a red shirt.
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Old Jan 15, 12, 9:49 pm
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Originally Posted by HSVTSO Dean View Post
So-so.



Yeah. He'd totally be the guy wearing a red shirt.
Scotty, take Spock and Bones and the other guy, him, the one in the red shirt that has never been on the bridge before.




For him though.
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Old Jan 15, 12, 10:58 pm
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Originally Posted by HSVTSO Dean View Post
Since everything about this trip was designed with cheapness in mind, we're not flying. Oh, no. We're driving, baby.

To Atlanta.
Aaaawwwriiight - a checkpoint free road trip! Just watch out for the VIPR teams!
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Old Jan 16, 12, 7:39 am
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To be continued... after the Super Mario Brothers Super Show.
So it turns out I was freakin' exhausted last night. Passed out sometime during the second episode, and my wife put me to bed.

It's dark at 5:30 on a Sunday morning. Still rubbing the crusty remnants of sleep out of my eyes, I step out of the Hyatt Place and into its parking lot in Atlanta. It's cold, but that's okay - it's not nearly as cold as it was the previous morning in Huntsville, and I'm still wearing a duster made out of fifty pounds of black leather, and have my Dead Nazi Scarf around my neck. Unsure of where I'm going to be putting anything when I get to the airport, I elect to stow my duster and the Dead Nazi Scarf in the van when we get there, and walk in with only what I can fit in my pockets: My cigarettes.

For those who know Atlanta, I'm pretty certain I was in the South Terminal. That's the red one, right? I know they're color-coded, one red and one blue, and I was in the red one. They divided the Huntsvillians up amongst the screening lanes there at the main checkpoint.

The Redhead and The Other Guy settle on 22/23 (coming into the checkpoint as a passenger, the far left). The Librarian and The Boy Scout somewhere in the middle, but I didn't catch the number. The Vampire was sent to one of the first lanes of the main checkpoint, 1/2 (coming into the checkpoint as a passenger, the far right). I was to his immediate right - 3/4, somewhere in that neighborhood.

I wanna say 4.

Let me just say that I totally get what a lot of people on FT talk about when they refer to how TSOs act. Compared to how we, collectively, like to do things in HSV and how I, personally, do them as well, the ATL people were, by and large, downright cold toward the passengers. "Barking orders" didn't quite even seem to describe it... though there was a lot of that, too. There were a few that treated passengers well, friendly, and warmly, but most of them were doing the stone-faced G-man thing. More on that later, likely in my next installment.

The frosted-glass room where the AIT operators used to sit -- I believe it's mostly called the peep-show booth or something here -- was still there, and it still had that sign posted to the door about not allowing cell phones or anything inside. I popped the door open and looked inside out of curiosity since I was posted right there. For the record, it's empty now. No longer in use.

As several people have pointed out in regard to the images that Blogger Bob posted of the ATR screen -- yes. There is a separate screening button for males and females. That is because males and females are biologically built differently, and it makes a difference when it comes to the unique algorithms put into the scan. But what happens in the case of a male-to-female transgendered person, someone asked? Or someone who self-identifies as a male even though they're born biologically female? Do we put them through the humiliation of pushing the blue male button even though they're working a pair of four-inch pumps...?

...No. We do the same thing that's always happened: They're screened as the gender that they present themselves to be. It will probably cause some anomalies that have to be resolved, but we'll be professional and courteous enough to acknowledge them for what they purport themselves to be.

I spent the first four hours or so of my OJT shift as the one pushing the buttons on the screening monitor attached to the machine itself. Duties included demonstrating the position that the passengers needed to assume (it turns out that it actually does matter if the elbows are bent or not, and the specific location of the hands), and the occasional targeted pat-down to resolve anomalies. This specific position is called the SO, which if I recollect, means "Screening Officer." A pair works in tandem, male and female, hopping in and out as required (if I'm pushing the button and a male has anomalies, I step back and the female steps forward to push the button for the next person while I'm doing the targeted pat-down). After about ten minutes, it became a really smooth process.

I say 'occasionally' because most people only got the green OK screen. If I had to put a number to it, I'd say of the... oh... hundred-fifty, two hundred or so people that came through in my four hours as the SO, I only performed about eight-to-ten targeted pat-downs, with comparable numbers performed by my female counterpart.

As Bob said once upon a time and I'm confirming now - the targeted pat-down is performed only in the area(s) of the anomaly, and only if it's even necessary. Short-sleeved shirt and an anomaly on the wrist, and they're wearing a watch? Visual inspection, and call it a day.

For the record also, the gloves do not need to be changed for a targeted pat-down. Only the standard pat-down and a modified standard pat-down. The only time we'd change gloves on a targeted pat-down is if the passenger requests it.

After the passenger assumes the correct pose and the button is pushed, the entirety of the scan takes about two seconds, then the passenger steps out. Some of them just looked straight ahead, but most turned around at that point to look at the screen with me - it's not SSI - and waited for the results. That, too, took about two seconds. All told, it's nowhere near the 12-20 seconds for the scan that I've heard people talk about here on FT. It's possible that the AIT itself took that long because the operator in the back room had to personally review the images to look for anomalies, but the computer algorithms do it considerably faster. Most people were out and back to the x-ray belt before their stuff even got out of the x-ray tunnel, which was good for at least one fellow who decided to put about $200 in loose bills in the bin instead of carrying it through in his hand (which, even if it caused an anomaly, could have been cleared with a quick visual inspection anyway).

After a break - and an epic journey on my part to find the smoking area in T-concourse, I might add - I returned to that screening lane and took up the position of Divestiture Officer. The DO is the one standing up in front of the machines out in the public area, talking to the passengers.

I'll talk about that in my next post.

To be continued... sometime later today.
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Old Jan 16, 12, 7:42 am
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Just a quick update on something I said in an earlier post:

Originally Posted by Me
The use of whole body imaging technology is, apparently, 'mandated by congress.'
Originally Posted by Me
Apparently, I say, because the only thing I was able to find about that was the SAFER AIR Act of 2010, which seemed to go into a committee and die. This particular legislation would have mandated that:
Annnnd after a little more research, I came up with 49 U.S.C. § 44925, specifically section (a), as follows, with the bolding of the one word done by myself:

(a) Weapons and Explosives. - The Secretary of Homeland Security
shall give a high priority to developing, testing, improving, and
deploying, at airport screening checkpoints, equipment that detects
nonmetallic, chemical, biological, and radiological weapons, and
explosives, in all forms, on individuals and in their personal
property...
So there it is, I guess, the congressional mandate.
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Old Jan 16, 12, 9:22 am
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What a great thread!

Thanks HSVTSODean!
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Old Jan 16, 12, 9:53 am
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Originally Posted by HSVTSO Dean View Post
So it turns out I was freakin' exhausted last night. Passed out sometime during the second episode, and my wife put me to bed.
Did I read that right ?

Nothing personal Dean, but you got to take your wife along on the TSA's (well our) dollar ? Don't seem right to me.
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Old Jan 16, 12, 10:13 am
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Originally Posted by Wally Bird
Did I read that right ?

Nothing personal Dean, but you got to take your wife along on the TSA's (well our) dollar ? Don't seem right to me.
No, you misunderstand -- I'm back home now. I'm recounting the events of this weekend. Here's how that timeline went:

Saturday morning, drive to ATL. Have classes. Spend Saturday night in a hotel room.
Sunday morning, work the OJT shift in ATL, immediately drive back home. Sunday night I'm back in my own bed, after passing out on my couch.

Last edited by HSVTSO Dean; Jan 16, 12 at 10:46 am
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