News: Service members, civilians attend TSA training
Story by Kristen Wong
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - Nearly 30 service members and civilians from various organizations around the island attended training provided by the Transportation Security Administration at the post office aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Nov. 15, 2013.
A dozen representatives from the training office of TSA’s Honolulu branch gave a two-hour presentation with time available for questions. Attendees included workers from Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor and Headquarters Pacific Air Forces Air Postal Squadron.
“The purpose of today’s training was basically just to make sure that our education levels (are the highest as possible in terms of) force protection and threat conditions when scanning the mail that comes to Marine Corps Base Hawaii aboard Kaneohe Bay and Camp H.M. Smith every day,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joseph Banks, installation postal officer and official mail manager for the base. “Most of our training’s been on the job training ... so we have certified experts come up here to give us some insight on what we’re doing and how we can adjust our procedures to make (us more efficient) in detecting threats in the mail.”
The instructors covered topics including safety when using screening equipment and tips on how to better identify potentially hazardous or dangerous objects in the mail. The instructors encouraged the group to practice screening procedures during down time and even working with hazardous material teams and explosive ordnance disposal teams at their respective locations to improve their performance.
“We need to be able to recognize what comes in the mail, such as bombs, (or) illegal (items),” said Staff Sgt. Michelle Milan, the custodian of postal effects at the base post office and native of San Francisco. “(Banks) is well trained and he wants everybody on the same level.”
Banks said the training also enabled service members from various branches and civilians in the field to get to know each other and establish contacts.
“Everybody got to ask questions, participate and learn from it,” Banks said.
The goal of the training is to give those in the military postal community an opportunity to improve their work skills, according to TSA spokesman Nico Melendez.
“If our expertise in X-ray interpretation is useful to another agency, (whether) state, local or federal, and we have the ability to provide it, we are certainly willing to help,” Melendez said.
Melendez said this training has been requested in the past and conducted at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Camp H.M. Smith.
“This was the first time TSA conducted training at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and by far, with 28 attendees, the largest training event with the military that has been completed by our team,” he said.
“I thought it was all informative,” said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Poli, a postal clerk at the base post office and native of Pine Hill, N.J. “It’s all very important, very helpful (and is) going to help the job going forward and I definitely recommend it to anyone else in the same field.”
Participants received handouts illustrating various aspects of the security screening process. The class also included demonstrations with the base post office’s X-ray machine and visual aids.
“We want to keep everybody safe,” said Cpl. Mario Merlos, 23, a postal clerk and native of Los Angeles.
Merlos said all of the Marines should be trained in these procedures, regardless of rank or age.
“Everybody needs to know the proper procedures in case of an emergency,” Merlos said. “I’m really grateful for this training. This is the first kind of training (for the new Marines since) they just came from their (military occupational specialty) school. The more they know, the better I feel about working here. In case something happens they will be able to step it up and take charge.”
According to Banks, this was the first of several training ventures the base post office Marines will attend. The staff plans to coordinate more training in the future at other venues.
“(The training) motivates the Marines, sailors, soldiers and everybody who comes here,” Banks said. “It gives them a different perspective and at the same time it educates us, makes us better, makes us more proficient at our jobs.”