The Charleston metro area is home to more than 45 federal agencies and roughly 12,000 federal employees all working together to keep people safe and the communities of South Carolina thriving.
They don different uniforms, work all hours, and travel across state lines and sometimes internationally to provide a vast array of critical government services that uphold the vital integrity of our public transportation systems, supply chains, cyber networks, harbors, hospitals and natural resources.
And they do this important work largely behind-the-scenes in federal facilities, laboratories, air craft, ships, terminals and military offices scattered across the state’s 32,000 square-miles.
To synchronize efforts and streamline federal collaboration — particularly in emergency situations — the organizations have formed an all-volunteer committee which brings federal executives and military leaders across the state together on a routine basis. Known as the Federal Executive Association, the organization provides agencies with a forum to share important news, solve problems and work together on issues that matter most to local communities.
One of the unique ways FEA encourages federal teamwork is through calls for volunteer support.
This spring, the local Transportation Security Administration office issued a request for volunteers to help train government canines providing security at the Charleston International Airport. The airport relies on the working dogs’ acute sense of smell to identify fatal hazards and explosive material on a passenger or in their luggage or carry-on.
Glenn Jeffries, corporate communications chief, and Molly Holt, civil engineer — two employees with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District — responded to the call and paid a special trip to the airport.
As part of the exercise, TSA officers gave Jeffries and Holt carefully-secured hazards to place in their baggage and instructed them to go through security lines unannounced. The exercise is meant to test both the working dogs’ and dog handlers’ ability to identify the dangerous substances.
In both visits, the working dogs immediately picked-up the scent of the planted hazard. In fact, Jeffries had barely entered the line before the working dog on-duty picked up the scent, pulling the handler across cordoned lines, tail stiffened, nose guiding, to the affected carry on.
“When one of our federal partners asks for support, you roll up your sleeves and help,” said Jeffries, who also serves as the FEA civilian chairman. “Whether it’s responding to a hurricane, a global pandemic or something as simple as spending a few minutes of your day to help another agency improve its services.”
The federal agencies in the Charleston-area FEA include the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Social Security Administration, National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Veteran Affairs, Joint Base Charleston, the Coast Guard, Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic and many more.