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Amparo Bertram

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12:14 pm: Beagles, bags, and bioterror
Wednesday I spent all morning with the Beagle Brigade, watching them do their weekly sniff test on bags that the handlers packed. They have to keep testing the dogs' ability to sniff out what they're searching for without having the dogs pick objects that the dogs happen to like (such as chocolate or muffins or dried fish). The dogs have to maintain a success rate of 80%. If I want to become a canine handler, I have to work at least a year before I can apply, but they said they'd keep my interest in mind.

I also learned that I have far more training ahead than I expected. I have the 10 weeks in Maryland coming up, of course, during which I will learn how to interpret the rulebook on what must be confiscated and how to identify insects. When I get back from that, I'll have 9 weeks of training with incoming passengers. After that, I get put on a waitlist for another 9 weeks of training with cargo and mail.

Thursday and Friday I spent all day completing online lessons about such topics as immigration law, precautions against avian flu, and how to recognize instruments that can be used for terrorism. There were things that never would have occurred to me. For example, someone transporting animal cages could be a bioterrorist; the cages could be intended to contain animal hosts for viruses. Don't even get started on white powder...it could not only be drugs, but also a biological weapon or an explosive. Yeesh. The most fascinating lesson was about all the rules that an officer has to follow when searching passengers. As a passenger, I always just figured that they had the authority to do whatever they felt necessary, but there are layers of consultations with supervisors and legal professionals and even medical professionals, depending on the type of search. (I won't be doing that, as an agriculture specialist, but it was interesting nonetheless.)



[User Picture]
Date:September 27th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
Wow, another whole new program of education. No wonder they are eager to get more people hired since it'll probably be close to a year before they actually get the benefit of each new hire.

The white powder challenge seems fascinating. I already have enough of a problem determining my corn starch from baking powder. I hate the taste test, but I can always figure out if it's baking soda.

Good luck on your training.

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