Security Enterprise Services / Security Leadership and Management / Physical Security

Leading the Troops at TSA

June 1, 2010
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Keith C. Blowe spent 28 years serving this Nation in the U.S. Army, culminating his military career in a key leadership role as the chief law enforcement and force protection manager/advisor to the Commanding General of a Major Army Command, which consisted of 16 affiliated military installations across the United States. Blowe had direct oversight of the mission assurance/force protection program elements, including antiterrorism (AT), AT/criminal intelligence, physical security, law enforcement, some parts of the chemical surety program and the military working dog program.

Once he decided to retire from the military, one of his first steps was to obtain his CPP certification, as he knew that it would help him make the transition from military security to work in the civilian security industry.
Blowe currently serves as a deployment manager for the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) electronic baggage screening Program (EBSP), and he has been enthusiastic about educating other military security professionals about his transition and how certification helped in the process. Blowe earned his CPP while still in the military, which was all the better for transitioning to work in the civilian world.


What did you enjoy about your military career?

The military has some of the most highly trained professionals in any area, and I am very proud of that. The amount of continuous training, the real world experience that we receive and the leadership skill sets developed; that we bring to the table in any area is gratifying. I have found that things are different in the civilian world. Many people have technical expertise and access to leadership programs, but without offending, the management, leadership and training that the military offers is second to none.

Why did you retire from the military?

It was time. For many military personnel, 30 or 40 years is the standard time to retire. But I always vowed to myself that I would never stay past my time. The time was right, especially for my family, who didn’t want to move again. Unfortunately, too many folks decide to stay beyond their time (no longer fun or interesting) and make life miserable for all those around them just to reach a specific milestone mark in years.

What attracted you to the position with the TSA?

One aspect was the opportunity not to immediately have to move again. I have many professional relationships across the country, and I am fortunate that if I wanted to pack up and move to California, for example, I could find a great professional situation. But after 18 moves in 28 years, we wanted to settle for good, which made finding a position a bit more difficult. So it took me a bit longer to find a new position with my very specific requirements. But I am fortunate to have found this position with the TSA, because it is exciting and very challenging. My team and I deploy TSA’s most advance baggage screening technology to keep the traveling public safe. Although this can be stressful at times, this is a thrilling time to be involved in this type of work.

How do you start and end your work day? Is there a typical day?

I start my day around 5:00 am and by 7:00 am I am answering e-mails as I commute on the train. Some days I’m still answering emails at 10:00 pm. I see the constant barrage of emails as an issue. Growing up in the military, we exerted our leadership and management by walking around and with face to face interaction. Yet, I also understand that there’s no way that the TSA could function effectively without maximizing use of electronic media.

Have you experienced any surprises in your security career?

Outside of TSA, one of the biggest surprises I’ve seen on the civilian side of the security industry is an occasional lacking of leadership and management experience. This subject has come up amongst security professional across the country — security experts with only technical expertise but lacking in overall management and leadership skill sets. Certainly, there is widespread agreement that experts are expected to be technically proficient but far too often a good number of security professionals do not have the leadership and management skill sets required. The military has solved the challenge of obtaining both, but many believe it is still a major issue within the civilian community. When individuals are surrounded by the best and the brightest, it gives employees the tools necessary to achieve organizational and individual goals. There is no substitute for charismatic, demanding and integrity-based leadership skills. Being self confident in leadership and management is a major component of success, and fosters a supportive, cooperative, collegiate and demanding atmosphere here at TSA.

How do you spend your free time?

We live on a farm in suburban Virginia, so I spend my time there with my wife and grandchildren doing low-key things around the house and in the wide open space that we have. It’s nice to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city. My wife is a clinical psychologist who is also in seminary now, so we don’t travel while she is in school. So our time together is about staying home, playing a little golf and enjoying our farm and other community activities.

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