“The air marshals’ role is mostly unknown, but these military police members fulfil a vital mission for the Canadian Forces,” said Captain Lee Williams, Commander of the 1 Canadian Air Division VIP Aircraft Security Detail.
The air marshals, members of the VIP Aircraft Security Detail, are responsible for providing security to Canadian Forces aircraft, crew and passengers – passengers who may include the Governor General, the Prime Minister and members of the Royal Family.
The air marshal course recently was expanded and now runs for three weeks. “The main differences were the expansion of the defensive tactics and more scenarios with the different aircraft we work with on a regular basis,” said Master Corporal Jorge Prudencio, who helps train the Detail. “We also use ‘simmunition’ to simulate the kinds of situation the air marshals could face, helping to increase the realism of future tasks.
“Our starting point is to ‘sanitize’ the aircraft, essentially following strict protocols to go through it from top to bottom, to ensure it is safe,” he added.
“We concentrated mostly on team tactics, and shooting skills,” said MCpl Lola Lagler, a recent graduate of the new course. “The course helped to prepare us for the job.”
Air marshals have to meet stringent standards with respect to shooting; their shooting qualification mirrors the RCMP Air Carrier Protective Program. “Air Marshals require surgical shooting skills due to close proximity of vital aircraft components, passengers and crew,” Capt Williams explained.
When new graduates finish their course, they are integrated into a team with three other more experienced air marshals, so they can be mentored. “After several missions, the new air marshals really see the benefits of what they were taught on the course,” said MCpl Prudencio.
“The VIP Aircraft Security Detail has flown more than 100 missions worldwide over the past few years, and I am very confident that our air marshals are the very best at what they do,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Dave Shuster, 1 Canadian Air Division Force Protection and Provost Marshal.
“We are proud of their accomplishments.”