ACTS Offers Gratitude for TDY Volunteers

Mar 4, 2022 | News

For the last three years, the employees of ACTS have demonstrated remarkable dedication to duty and personal sacrifice to assist through meaningful growth and economic challenges by performing Temporary Duty Assignments (TDY), the temporary relocation of a Security Agent from one ACTS station to another to help meet the company’s staffing and contractual requirements within the aviation and airport industry. As ACTS gradually scales back TDY operations, ACTS wishes to extend its appreciation to every employee who participated in TDY.

“On behalf of the Senior Leadership of ACTS and our customers, I’m extremely grateful to the people that were willing to volunteer for TDY and particularly many of the frequent flyers who hit multiple locations for us,” said Damien Flynn, President and Chief Executive Officer of ACTS. “They were absolutely essential to us maintaining and enhancing our reputation as a company and supporting our growth which was really significant in 2021 and has positioned us really well as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Need for TDY

Even before the pandemic, ACTS utilized TDY to support expansion efforts, like with the acquisition of the catering and cargo security screening services with Worldwide Flight Services (WFS) in 2019. TDY continued sporadically, especially within Cargo Screening, to address staffing shortages which resulted from historically low levels of unemployment through that year and the following. In the Summer of 2021, following the surge in travel after the initial wave of vaccinations in the U.S. against COVID-19, the volume of flights increased and produced additional Cargo and Catering Screening requirements in markets like Dallas, Chicago, and the New York area. Despite everyone’s best efforts, the hiring of Security Agents did not keep up with the increase in flight volumes. When Regional and Station Managers with ACTS sought volunteers to take part in TDY and assist other ACTS locations, dozens answered the call, performing 20,000 hours of TDY service.

“TDY helped immensely in the immediate drive to fill our open positions and maintain our services in locations which might have had disruptions to services without TDY,” said Flynn. “It allowed the existing teams in those locations to get some rest and respite because often when we were utilizing TDY, it was coming at the end of a period of high overtime use for the people who were in place. So, it helped give rest to some of the people who’d been working very long hours.”

Increasing Connectivity While Setting the Standard

TDY also enhanced the sense of connectivity across ACTS’ operations. Agents gained exposure to different levels of ACTS management and shared best practices, particularly as the company hired dozens of new employees in the Fall of 2021 through the acquisition of the catering screening services with United Airlines.

“I feel like I was able to set an example of how we, ACTS, work as a team,” said Eli Gutierrez, one of 35 security agents who fulfilled TDY shifts at 18 ACTS stations across the U.S. “When you have transfers from United, they had their own routine. But it’s a whole different company now with different standards. I feel that we were able to set the bar high and say: ‘This is how we do it and expect it to get done. This is the ACTS standard.’”

From his home station at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Gutierrez was deployed to five different markets, including Houston, San Antonio, New Jersey, Cleveland, and Columbus. Each station represented a learning opportunity to see the workings of other stations.

“I’m used to LAX and we’re non-stop. When I got to Columbus, it is nowhere near as busy. So, I’m able to see and work with different managers and see how they handle the volume.”

Despite the surge in flight numbers across the U.S. as the country opened following lengthy COVID-19 restrictions, the security protocols enforced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), ACTS and our customers did not relent. Whether an incumbent agent, TDY agent, or a new hire, everyone was expected to fulfill the same compliance standards.

“I understand what is at stake. I just wanted to be a person who helped out,” says Adrian Thomas, another LAX agent who delivered TDY coverage in San Francisco, New Jersey, Houston, and Chicago. When his manager sought out volunteers for TDY, Thomas quickly committed because as an airline passenger, he had previously experienced lengthy travel delays due to insufficient staffing within the aviation industry. Thomas realized that without proper Cargo and Catering screening, the protocols established by TSA would prevent flights from taking off. He wanted to be part of the solution.

“I know how the workload is and I know how it can be during those rush times,” says Thomas. “And when you don’t have the people during those times, it can be heavy. I like to provide a little assistance where I can.”

Service Through Sacrifice

“We provide a safety net,” says Mercedes Rodriguez, a Security Agent based at Miami International Airport (MIA) who provided TDY in Chicago, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Dallas, Tampa, and recently in Houston. “That someone from inside our organization is there to make sure that everything is complied with, safety is first, and we’re keeping up with the volume.”

Rodriguez has participated in the TDY program for the last four years, covering every shift, including for an agent on Family Medical Leave (FMLA). Given her veteran status, she assisted in interviewing prospective candidates to join ACTS as a Senior Lead. While she is grateful for the chance to utilize her knowledge and make new connections across ACTS, leaving the comforts of home behind for weeks at a time was tough. Like all the TDY agents, Rodriguez had to adjust to new neighborhoods, grow accustomed to living in a hotel, and miss the Holidays with family and friends. But she is proud and grateful to represent the East Region which has sufficient staffing levels to be able to help other markets.

“It’s a sign of the times,” says Rodriguez. “I did what I had to do. It was my duty. You don’t want to leave them hanging. Each unit has their needs. You’ve made an impact and left that station in a better situation.” 

Befrick Alvarez-Bade, a Security Agent also headquartered at LAX, was deployed to Chicago, Denver, and New York. He acknowledges the challenges of varying schedules which included 15-hour shifts over six-day work weeks. But he cherished the chance to meet new colleagues, each with different backgrounds collaborating toward a common goal.

“I really learned to understand how people are the same,” says Alvarez-Bade. “No matter where you go. You make friendships. It is nice to see how people in different locations do the job. You just meet different personalities, and everybody has the same rules in terms of the protocol of how to inspect and the way we’re trained to do our job. So, everyone is on the same page.”

Alvarez-Bade started with ACTS in 2001 and briefly left due to family circumstances before returning in 2008. He almost passed on the chance to work TDY because he was enrolled in school, training to become an aircraft mechanic. After taking his last exam and without any personal restrictions, he decided to try out TDY starting in August 2021. The deployment allowed him to see ACTS from a different perspective; not just an employer but as an organization demonstrating gratitude for his sacrifice during a challenging period.

“I’m glad that I was part of something that during this pandemic, when there wasn’t a lot of people willing to work hard to make that dollar, I feel good that I worked hard, and I feel good that ACTS appreciates all the TDYs for what we’ve done.”

Commitment to the Company

Like Alvarez-Bade, Thomas almost turned down TDY due to personal conflicts. However, past TDY experiences helped to change his mind. In 2019, Thomas completed a TDY deployment in San Francisco and subsequently New Jersey and Houston. Impressed with Thomas’ work ethic and energy, Flynn, ACTS’ CEO, requested Thomas’ help in Chicago.

“I didn’t want to say ‘No’ when someone requested me. He needed help out there. I guess he just wanted to commend me for my efforts, which was pretty nice. I felt honored.”

“The TDY agents were all very committed to ACTS,” says Flynn.

That sacrifice enabled ACTS to succeed through a time when other organizations faltered. And while ACTS plans to decrease its reliance on TDY by the Spring of 2022, Flynn acknowledges TDY is not gone forever.

“There inevitably will be future needs,” says Flynn. “We’re continuing to grow the business and there will be future start-ups with staffing shortages, and we may have to activate TDY again. If people find TDY appealing, they should share that with their supervisors, so we know of the people who are interested.”

For Thomas, TDY provided benefits beyond increased compensation, interaction with other markets, and service to ACTS. During his time in Houston, he reconnected with family who had recently relocated from Los Angeles. TDY also enabled him to travel beyond the West Coast for the first time in his life. Seeing the East Coast exposed him to a whole new world of future opportunities, both personal and professional.

“To all those people doing TDY out there, I would say: ‘Thank you for taking your time and being away from your families to help and do what’s best for the company. When they say ACTS is #1, that’s because we are. We’re the best security company and even though we do things even past TSA standards, it is because we’re #1 at what we do.”