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May 14, 2006

Heh. The TSA strikes.

First thing up in the mailbox this morning. My first reaction? Exactly the one of my emailer: WTF?

MSIG/OPREP-3 SIR/21-06/1STMARDIV//

SUBJ/SERIOUS INCIDENT REPORT 21-06//

REF/A/MCO 5740.2F//

NARR/REF A IS MCO ON SIRS//

POC/SGT CASTILLO/1STMARDIV CASOC/DSN 365-5006//

RMKS/1. AT APPROXIMATELY 1200 20060503, WHILE ESCORTING THE BODY OF SGT MILLS, LEA R. (OIF 05-07 USMC DECEASED) FROM DOVER AFB TO THE FINAL RESTING PLACE IN GULFPORT, MS, SGT STOCK, CPL BIGALK, CPL SCHADEBURG WERE STOPPED BY TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION (TSA) IN THE PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AND TAKEN INTO SMALL ROOMS SET ASIDE FOR SEARCHES.

THEY WERE FORCED TO REMOVE THEIR BLUE DRESS UNIFORM BLOUSES, BELTS, AND SHOES. THE SECURITY PERSONEL SCANNED ALL THE ITEMS AND ALSO PATTED DOWN THE MARINES. TSA ALSO TOOK SGT STOCK'S SHOES OUT TO THE X-RAY MACHINE AND THEN DIDN'T RETURN THEM; HE WAS INSTEAD REQUIRED TO FIND THEM HIMSELF.

ALL THE MARINES SAID THEY FELT HUMILIATED BY THIS TREATMENT. THE MARINES HAD ORDERS IN HAND THAT TASKED THEM TO SERVE AS OFFICIAL CASUALTY ESCORTS. SGT STOCK WAS CARRYING SGT MILLS PERSONNEL EFFECTS, AND CPL SCHADEBURG WAS CARRYING THE FLAG FROM SGT MILLS' CASKET. THESE ITEMS WERE IN HAND AND IN PLAIN VIEW.

2. MAJ SHAFFER, KEITH E., STAFF SECRETARY, 1STMARDIV

3. VICTIMS

A. SGT

A. CPL

A. CPL

B. STOCK, JOHN C.

B. BIGALK, AARON J.

B. SCHADEBURG, JASON A.

C. XXX XX XXXX [SSN Deleted]

C. XXX XX XXXX [SSN Deleted]

C. XXX XX XXXX [SSN Deleted]

D. 3RD AABN. 1ST MARDIV

E. WHITE/MALE/XXXXXXXX [DOB deleted]

E. WHITE/MALE/XXXXXXXX [DOB deleted]

E. WHITE/MALE/XXXXXXXX [DOB deleted]

F. GULFPORT, MS

4. N/A

5. PAO HAS BEEN NOTIFIED. LOCAL & NATIONAL MEDIA COVERAGE POSSIBLE BUT NOT ANTICIPATED.

6. NO.

7. INVESTIGATION IN PROGESS. SUBSEQUENT REPORTS WILL BE PROVIDED AS REQUIRED.

8. SGT. STOCK, CPL. BIGALK, AND CPL. SCHADEBURG HAVE NOT DEPLOYED ISO OIF.

Now, bare of information, that just begs questions. So, what'd I do? First up, I called Pendleton PAO. That's dumb, it's Sunday, they're not open. I could call the duty spokesman, but, let's do some checking, first. So, now that the coffee is really down the hatch and processed, I check the dates. Okay - over a week old. I'm probably pretty late to this and others are *all* over it. So, while I'm in the cyber-area, I check the DTIC Press Release site and see if the casualty name is legit. It is. Off to Google. "TSA Mills Marine" that ought to do it. And what pops up on that? The middle of the Blogosphere. Not the big buys, but the middlin' to small ones - you know, guys like us.

Such as, Beth of MVRWC, Liberty Post, TSA-Screeners (bandwidth exceeded at the moment), Woman Honor Thyself, The Sierra Times, Lone Star Times, The Academic Submariner at Unconsidered Trifles...

The one "MSM-equivalent?" The Marine Corps Times, which has a pretty even write-up.

The trio had to go through the terminal’s security in order to reach their flight that would take them to Houston and make sure that Mills’ body was properly placed on the airplane. While their uniforms likely would trigger the metal detector, they had figured they would be able to zip through the screening process and get on with their business.

“Wearing the blues, the metal detector is going to go off,” said Sgt. John Stock, a mechanic, who was accompanied by Cpls. Aaron Bigalk and Jason Schadeburg.

But as the Marines went through the initial screener in their dress blues, they were stopped by several TSA agents. Each was told to remove their dress uniform blouse, belt and black dress shoes, which were scanned by the detector, as the agents scanned them with hand-held detecting wands.

“They had me take off my shoes and ran them through the screening,” Stock said, speaking by phone May 5 from Gulfport, where the men are helping with Mills’ family and funeral support. “We all got searched.”

Then they were taken to a nearby room, where TSA workers patted them down.

At one point, Stock’s shoes disappeared, leaving him to frantically search for them and retrieve them from a TSA agent. Separated from their belongings, which included the flag that they bore that would drape Mills’ casket for the rest of the journey home, they worried about getting to the gate in time to ensure his safe placement in the airplane.

Time, it seemed like a half-hour, clicked by. “I was like, hey, we need to be on the tarmac,” Stock recalled. “It just took longer than it should have had to take.”

The agents said nothing to explain why all three were singled out for additional search and the Marines didn’t protest. “We were just trying to get there as quick as we could,” he added.

In all, it was a humiliating experience that left them angry.

It looks like over-zealous following-of-rules, with a lack of judgement on the part of individuals. I've said this before to hoots of derision, and this case is similar to one we covered last month, Leave No Man Behind, Ever, but the fact is, TSA *shouldn't* have auto-exclude groups of passengers. Just as they *should* have auto-include groups of passengers, as they do - just perhaps not inclusive enough.

The TSA is obviously aware of the remains that are passing through the transportation system. There are in fact, procedures in place to facilitate the movement of remains and escort teams. I would bet, based on what I've dug up, the Marines (and hopefully, by extension, *all* the services) are now working on some form (if it doesn't exist already) of expediting credential that is hard to fake, because troops in Class A uniforms and low-quarter shoes aren't going to get through the metal detectors without setting them off.

Say what you like about the utility of searching little girls and grandmothers - but the fact is that the bad guys are watching. And they've shown themselves completely capable of using innocents as bombs-carriers. And well before the current unpleasantness. Remember this? The point being, the bad guys will flex and adapt. And if they thought they could use a casket... that would be a big bang. My point is not that TSA is doing a great job or not - evidence indicates plenty of problems, and they really shouldn't trumpet their successes - but that the processes need to be under constant modification and change - if they are to have any deterrent effect at all.

Nature of who I am and what I was, I watch the screening process at airports - for the precise mental exercise of "How would I test that, in order to try to defeat it." I am pleased that now and again, changes have been made that would have caught me, were I to try something like that. Guess what - that's what terrorists do, when intel gathering on a target. Which is why truly random and seemingly random changes, though they inconvenience the people who pass through, are good. Lemme tell ya, it's a real pain when they do a 100% ID vehicle check at the Fort, especially on the Monday after I went shooting Saturday and still have ammo, though no weapons, in the trunk. They note it, ask some questions, note that everything else is in order, and let me go. As it should be.

What's my point? The TSA should explain the reasons and make a public statement (if only on their website). They have, rather, chosen to ignore it and hope that it will go away.

No, they shouldn't tell us (nor should the Marines) what, if any, changes are being made. They should just make them. And slap that inspector in Philly on the back of the head.

Apparently there are some in the Midwest who could use a cluebat, too. Let Bloodspite draw his sounds on your screen.

John | Permalink | Comments (11) | Pugnacious Stupidity
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