Archive for Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Military should guard airports

December 4, 2002


No one with whom I have spoken about airline travel over the last six months or so, or the last four months, or the last few weeks, is particularly impressed by the security at airports.

I have not been impressed either, primarily because what I have seen is the same old, same old that I was accustomed to before that murderous September day that split our history in half with the same degree of shock that the Kennedy assassination had.

What I have seen is the familiar level of lackadaisical work, women gossiping with each other about their boyfriends, backup men not scrupulous enough, and not quite enough attention paid to the X-ray machines.

I have believed for months - and even more now - that airline security should not be handled by civilians. The military should take it over.

Of course, when one says anything of that sort, we can expect to hear all the shrieks about Big Brother and Big Brother's Twin Brother and whatever kind of talk is supposed to convince us that we are losing the very freedoms that have so distinguished our nation.

But I do not think the Bill of Rights is being tampered with if we actually do better in our homeland security at airports by making those jobs military jobs.

There are good reasons for this. One of them is money. It would be much less expensive if we had a new division of our armed forces devoted to airline security. The salaries would be much lower, of course; we would surely get at least as good a job done, and the military track would emphasize the importance of the job.

Those assigned to airline security would have had their basic training and would then be assigned to working at our airports.

There, dressed not in military gear but perhaps in blue jackets, white shirts and gray pants, they would check tickets, work the X-ray machines, check baggage with the necessary dogs and provide armed backup.

As many as four would ride on each plane, guarding the cockpit - even though I think it would be nearly impossible now for terrorists to try to take a plane and expect the passengers to sit there cooperatively waiting for their slaughter.

What this all amounts to is a variation on guard duty. To keep the airline security people alert, jobs could be rotated - three weeks checking tickets, then three working the X-ray machines, guarding the cockpits and so on.

We would all be better off with security personnel trained in hand-to-hand combat and the use of firearms. If trouble were to arise, they would be much better at handling it than those we see meandering through their jobs at our airports. Any who had vowed to do damage through our airlines would have a much harder row to hoe.

Were homeland security to include this restructuring, we would be much further ahead than we presently are, and we might even provide yet another model for those places in the world that haven't already gotten on board.

- Stanley Crouch's e-mail address is

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