Soldiers to get expedited airport security screenings

Beginning Dec. 20, Soldiers will be eligible for expedited pre-flight screening at airports, meaning they’ll be able to get into the express line where they don’t need to remove their shoes and belts or take laptops out of their baggage.

All service members, including those in the Reserve, National Guard and Coast Guard, will be eligible for TSA Precheck Program, as the program is known. Those in the Guard and Reserve do not need to be in an activated status, and service members do not need to be in uniform, said Mark Howell, Transportation Security Administration spokesman.

Not eligible are personnel in the Individual Ready Reserve, military retirees and Army and Defense Department civilians, he added.

Currently, about 10 airports allow service members to show their Common Access Cards and go into the expedited pre-check line, he said. On Dec. 20, “that’s going away,” Howell said.

Instead, service members will need to enter their CAC identification number into the “Known Traveler” field when booking airline tickets. All airlines have this field on their forms, he said, adding that the Defense Travel System, or DTS, also has a Known Traveler field where the CAC ID number can be added. Soldiers should consult with their DTS representative for more information.

Once the Soldier books his or her airline ticket, the airline sends the CAC ID number and the Soldier’s information to TSA’s Secure Flight office, a program that maintains a criminal and terrorist watch list, he said.

When the Soldier prints out his or her boarding pass at the airport, a “TSA Secure Flight” logo will appear at the top and that informs TSA personnel to allow the Soldier to get into the expedited, pre-flight line, he said.

So essentially, the only thing Soldiers needs to do, he said, is to ensure they enter their CAC number when booking either through DTS or online for non-official travel, he said. TSA does all the behind-the-scenes security legwork.

A caveat to the program, Howell said, is that non-military spouses are not eligible, nor are their children, except for those aged 12 and under.

However, Howell said, TSA will soon offer them and the general public the same TSA Precheck Program benefits service members get, but there will be an $85 fee to be eligible and it’s only good for five years.

TSA is excited about extending the program now to service members, he said, because about 25 percent of TSA’s workforce are military veterans, including Howell, who is an Army veteran.

“In the future, we’d like to facilitate expedited pre-flight screening for more and more Americans,” he said, as TSA is “becoming more like a risk-based, intelligence-driven organization.”

TSA is working on various ways to expedite travelers, but new initiatives are not yet ready to be announced publicly, he said.

“It’s better for us and it’s better for the traveling public, who won’t have to wait as long,” Howell said.

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