Safer Travels
Volume 144, Number 5, September/October 2010, Page 6
By Lena Anthony
Photography by Tom Sweeney

Beth Iseminger’s job as a supervisor for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has taken her to Alaska during fishing season, to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and to Houston to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. But if you ask her what’s most interesting about her job, she’ll mention the typical day working airport security. “Theoretically the process is the same every day,” she says. “But actually no two days are alike.”
The variety is evident in the wide range of things passengers stuff in their suitcases. “It’s amazing to see what people travel with sometimes,” she says with a laugh.

Changing Directions
Ms. Iseminger has been with the TSA since the agency was formed following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In search of a career change, Ms. Iseminger saw a newspaper article advertising a job at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. “The job description looked intriguing,” says Ms. Iseminger, who previously was the director of a Minnesota-based nonprofit agency for adults with developmental disabilities. “It was a completely different job than I was used to, but I loved to travel, and it sounded like an interesting opportunity.”

In 2007 Ms. Iseminger became a member of TSA’s National Deployment Force, a select group of officers that assists in event- or crisis-related situations requiring additional security support. In many cases, that means deploying to places with more seasonal air traffic, such as Aspen, Colo., during the winter, or destinations on the Eastern Seaboard during the summer. In 2008, Ms. Iseminger lived for three months in Petersburg, Alaska. “It’s in the rain forest area south of Juneau,” she says. “It’s always sweatshirt weather, and it’s just kind of misty all of the time. I’ve never seen so many shades of grays, blues and whites before in my life.”

When she’s not responding to seasonal needs, large-scale events or natural disasters dictate her next posting. Ms. Iseminger was among the 300 TSA officers deployed to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration in January 2009. She and another TSA officer worked with the Secret Service on logistics for screening attendees and participants in the Inauguration Parade and swearing-in ceremony. “People were very well-behaved,” she says. “There were almost 2 million people there, but it wasn’t rowdy, and I don’t think there were any arrests. People followed directions, and they were very respectful. It made me proud to be an American.”

A Different World
Growing up in Iowa, Ms. Iseminger longed to see how the rest of the world lived and wanted to explore ways of serving her country, so she joined the Peace Corps. She was assigned to the Philippines to help develop programs to improve the country’s physical fitness levels. But six weeks after she arrived, the country was placed under martial law. “We had a curfew,” she recalls. “I think I got all of the mail that was sent to me, but sometimes I think it was reviewed or opened, particularly the magazines. They would also detain people without any due process. It wasn’t scary, necessarily, but it really made me appreciate our Bill of Rights.”

Ms. Iseminger, a member of Cedar Falls Chapter, Cedar Falls, Iowa, says she owes her sense of patriotism to her parents. “My father was always a good citizen, working as a clerk on Election Day and always participating in the caucus process,” she says. Her mother was an avid genealogist who even wrote a book about the family’s heritage. “She taught me to always be proud of my genealogy.”


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