People applying to be a Federal Air Marshal (FAM) must meet several requirements. Each applicant must be a US citizen and under the age of forty when they apply. One must have three years of general experience or a bachelor's degree in any professional, technical, or investigative field. Also, one year of experience in law enforcement such as criminal investigation or aviation security is required. Finally, a candidate must undergo psychological testing and meet strict fitness guidelines.
The FAM training program has two parts. First, is seven-week officer training program at the Federal Law Enforcement Center in Artesia, New Mexico. Air marshal students learn law, marksmanship, and physical fitness. They study defense tactics and emergency medical techniques. Also, they concentrate on law enforcement practices.
The second phase takes place at the FAMS Training Academy in Atlantic City, New Jersey. FAM trainees learn to defend passengers against people who threaten the passengers while in flight. The trainees learn to observe people's behavior and to watch for actions that can be dangerous to others.
FAMs are trained on a mock-up aircraft that looks like somewhat like a movie set. The plane is filled with mannequins instead of people. Trainees work with guns and live ammunition.
Training also happens in a real large jet with an especially wide body. The jet is like a laboratory where FAMs study ways to overcome hijackers. They go through role-playing sessions and use paintball style ammunition. Likewise, they must learn how to deal with violent passengers in the cockpit or cabin of an aircraft.
FAM candidates must learn to operate the latest firearms. They need excellent marksmanship skills. These trainees must be more accurate with a handgun than officers of any other law enforcement agency because they work in such a small space. They must be able to hit the terrorist or hijacker while missing the innocent people.
It is important for FAMs to learn to handle emergencies such as terrorist hijackings on several types of aircraft, from a wide-body jet to a plane with just one aisle. You cannot lose your cool. They must know what they are legally allowed to do to keep travelers safe while controlling an unruly passenger. FAM skills with firearms are tested every three months.
After graduation from the training program FAMs are ready to begin flying missions. Marshals have no backup while in flight and they cannot call for assistance from other law enforcement personnel. They must rely only on their instincts and training.
Some plan for a career with the TSA as early as high school. The TSA offers several opportunities for young people to learn about its mission and to decide which jobs interest them the most. Likewise, the TSA the DHS helps high school and college students gain experience in the homeland security field. Volunteer and part time jobs are created to fit into one's class schedule. It is at this point where the planning begins.
Keep in mind that the TSA and any other government agencies want to know certain things about their applicants. The TSA checks applicants' background to ensure they do not have a criminal record. Their hiring staff are also concerned with past drug use and those who apply must pass a drug screening test.