Throughout history, it's been well documented that training is essential for effective performance. For the 17 immigration enforcement agents and their supervisors assigned to the Air Operations Division within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Enforcement Removal Operations (ERO), it's a must.
Day in and day out, these tireless ERO agents escort criminal aliens as they are deported to their country of origin or moved domestically. The Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, which is the research group for the Federal Aviation Administration located in Oklahoma City, readies these agents to handle unforeseen circumstances during those flights. All Air Operations personnel must attend the training.
"The course provides the agents with the basic skills in the event of an aviation emergency," said Steve Lino, section chief, of the Kansas City, Mo., based Air Operations Division. "Since they are flying nearly every day of their working lives, they need to be ready to react. The familiarization and hands-on situations they experience during the training gives them an aviation perspective they might not otherwise ever encounter in their careers."
During the four-day course, classroom study is coupled with real-life simulated exercises to teach students how to safely react to a range of unpredictable scenarios. From recognizing fire in the cabin to emergency landings and evacuations, the scenarios run the gamut. Additionally, they undergo aviation physiology training to learn the signs of hypoxia and the effects that flying has on the body. Once out of the classroom and in a flight simulator, they take part in an emergency ground landing, as well as a water landing, using a pool and life rafts. The immigration enforcement agents also experience what it is like to be a restrained passenger during an emergency and train on how to effectively evacuate and manage those passengers.
"Because they are working with restrained criminal aliens, some of whom are uncooperative and in an adverse environment, teamwork and safety are paramount during each flight," said Lino. "This training teaches them how to communicate during stressful situations where visibility may be nonexistent or the surroundings that may formidable; lives may depend on everyone understanding their roles and coming together as a team."
Additionally with the sheer volume of weekly transports – an average that sometimes exceeds 6,000 – the training is invaluable, according to Lino.
Utilizing eight contracted aircraft, ICE Air Operations is the principal mass air transportation and removal coordinating entity within ERO.