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Exceptional Care and Initiative Shown by Award Winning TSOs

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced its National Transportation Security Officers (TSO) of the Year 2021 as Margaret Hanson and Kaitlyn Talley.

There are approximately 40,000 TSOs nationwide. The award recognizes integrity and professionalism as well as contributions made by the TSO to the overall efficiency of the security operations as well as their commitment to TSA, its stakeholders and the traveling public.

Margaret Hanson is a TSO at Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA). Nominated by her coworkers, TSO Hanson capably carries out her core security screening duties while also handling additional assignments that ensure smooth checkpoint operations. She serves as an On-the-Job coach, mentoring new TSOs while also managing the collection and accounting of currency left behind by travelers in the security checkpoint.

TSO Hanson shows exceptional care for her TSA colleagues. Starting with the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing today, she ensures that adequate amounts of PPE have been ordered and are available for use by TSOs working around the public. She also makes sure frequently touched surfaces in the checkpoint are clean and safe to protect the health of the workforce. Her ongoing contributions have allowed TSA operations at IDA to remain mission ready.

“TSO Hanson is one of those people everyone would like to have on their team. She is selfless, hard-working, conscientious and always ready to help others,” said TSA Federal Security Director for Idaho Andy Coose. “Airport operations at IDA have grown very rapidly the past couple of years. Because of her commitment to the job and with the support of the entire TSA team, we have delivered ‘world class’ screening while providing the highest level of security.”

She is committed to customer service in her job. It is what makes her known among travelers as a standout at IDA.

“A friendly greeting, eye contact and focusing on one passenger at a time is key,” said TSO Hanson. “Providing the respect we all deserve goes a long way toward making the passengers’ experience pleasant.”

TSO Kaitlyn Talley says she was honored and shocked to be selected.

One of her significant accomplishments was her development of a ‘how-to’ manual to obtain threat image projection and on-screen alarm resolution protocol data for TSA officers at Colorado’s Grand Junction Regional Airport. Previously, only one supervisor and a manager had the expertise and proficiency to pull this data, but Talley quickly recognized the shortfall and took the initiative to author an easy-to-use manual from scratch.

“Our ‘how-to’ guides were extremely outdated,” said Talley. “I like staying busy, and I wanted to help my team so we didn’t just have to rely on two people. I worked on it in my spare time.”

The impact of her work on the manual was significant.

“I think it was beneficial,” Talley said. “Instead of having to call somebody when they weren’t there to help or potentially submit all of our data late, we had [the updated guide] in our sensitive security information cabinet where [officers] could just open it and follow each step.”

Talley joined TSA in Grand Junction just two-and-a-half years ago but quickly volunteered as a coach and mentor to new hires, completing all training and distinguishing herself through her extensive knowledge of TSA’s screening procedures to become a strong coach.

“It’s been one of my favorite things I have done at TSA,” she noted. “I’ve greatly enjoyed teaching new hires. It gets you back into the standard operating procedures and the job as a whole. We were lacking in that department but getting a bunch of new hires as we tried to beef up our numbers during COVID. So, it was beneficial. I was able to help both our a.m. and p.m. crews.”

Today, Talley serves as a lead TSA officer, only six months after transferring to Denver International Airport.

“[Officer] Talley is a critical component of our overall workforce,” said Colorado Federal Security Director Larry Nau. “She’s a perfect example of what we are trying to cultivate for behaviors in our state. Her commitment, her dedication and her willingness to take on more [responsibilities] is exactly what this agency needs.”

Nau believes the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) of the Year Award perfectly aligns with the agency’s strategic priority “Commit to Our People.”

“Our employees strive to do a good job, in many cases, a great job,” he assessed. “At the end of the day, failing to recognize them for their performance would deflate their motivation. So, being able to take an employee who displays the behaviors we want to recognize is critical to the Administrator’s commitment and his intent to our employees. This is an extremely important honor, and I’m so grateful that Kaitlyn works for us in Colorado.”

Passengers also see Talley’s commitment to them, twice recognizing her for her customer care in 2021.

“It’s part of my job every day to interact with passengers,” she said. “So, the fact they took time to say anything is cool, but it’s my job.”

Even though she’s no longer in Grand Junction, Talley appreciates her former airport team and leadership.

“I want to thank my previous manager, Brad Wayland, for nominating me for this award and being given the honor to accept this award. Thank you very much.”

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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