WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, last evening Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, took to the Senate floor to highlight the work of two Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Elizabeth “Beth” Leski and Carol Richel. The speech was part of Sen. Carper’s ongoing efforts to highlight the exemplary work of a DHS employee each month.
His speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
“Mr. President, I rise today to recognize the efforts of the men and women who serve their neighbors every day as federal, state, county, or municipal workers. In 1985, the Public Service Roundtable, with support from Congress, started the first Public Service Recognition Week to honor the hard work public employees do on our behalf and the sacrifices they often make in doing so. Since then, the first week of May has been officially designated by Congress as Public Service Recognition Week. This week is its 30th anniversary and a perfect opportunity for each of us to show our appreciation to the millions of public servants in our communities and across the country.
“Over the past few months, I have been coming to the Senate floor to highlight the important work being done by public employees at Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in particular. Over 200,000 men and women work at DHS. While their jobs are diverse, they share one common mission: to keep our country a safe, secure and resilient place where the American way of life can thrive. Whether they are patrolling our borders, responding to natural disasters, or bolstering our defenses in cyber space, these public servants touch the lives of Americans every day.
“Today, I rise to recognize two more outstanding public servants at DHS, this time from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
“As you may recall, TSA was established after the devastating September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks with the mission to better protect our nation’s transportation systems. Today, TSA employs 47,000 Transportation Security Officers at over 440 airports nationwide. Each year, those officers screen about 660 million travelers and nearly one and a half billion bags. TSA is also the lead agency in securing our surface transportation networks, including our roads, bridges, tunnels, railroads, and maritime ports.
“If you have ever taken a flight – or maybe the Amtrak from Delaware to D.C. – chances are you’ve seen the men and women of TSA in action. And if you haven’t seen them, you’ve certainly enjoyed the benefit of the important work they often do behind the scenes to keep us safe. I’d like to take a moment today, Mr. President, to recognize one of those TSA employees who is keeping our skies safe. Her name is Ms. Elizabeth ‘Beth’ Leski.
“Beth is one of those TSA employees who’s usually out of sight, but whose work is vital. She is a Secure Flight Program analyst in the TSA Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Originally from Michigan, she has lived in Severn, Maryland for the last two decades with her husband, David. After graduating with a B.S. in Aviation Management, Beth worked in the airline industry for 21 years before joining the Secure Flight Program.
“Over the past four years, Beth has worked at TSA as a Customer Service Agent, Customer Service Supervisor and now as a Program Analyst at the Secure Flight Operations Center.
“Secure Flight is a program that enhances aviation security by running the names of passengers against the government’s watch list of known or suspected terrorists. In other words, Beth helps keep bad people off of planes by ensuring that those who receive boarding passes are not on our government’s list of individuals prohibited from flying.
“According to her colleagues, Beth works tirelessly to synchronize all the moving parts at her operations center. They say that Beth always goes above and beyond the call of duty. She strives to make life easier for her fellow analysts, developing checklists, spreadsheets, and calendar invitations to keep individuals accountable and organized. Her colleague, James Billups, says that Beth ‘inspires everyone around her, and truly brings the best out of people.’ I can see why.
“In addition to her positive energy in the workplace, she’s been widely recognized at TSA and the Department for always lending a helping hand at employee morale events. She’s also known for welcoming new recruits to the Capital Region with a unique, ‘Welcome Aboard Package.’ Its actions like these that show that Beth has truly embodied TSA’s core value of team spirit.
“In 2014, Beth received the Secretary’s Award for Exemplary Service for her steadfast and outstanding assistance to the entire team in the Secure Flight Operations Center.
“When she’s not securing our skies, Beth likes to run and travel the world – pursuits we share in common. We also have another very important thing in common – the United States Navy. Beth is a retired Yeoman Chief Petty Officer with 21 years of service with the U.S. Navy Reserves. On behalf of the United States Senate and really all Americans, thank you for your exemplary service to our country, Beth.
“Before I close Mr. President, I would like to take a few minutes to recognize the service and sacrifice of another TSA employee, Ms. Carol Richel.
“You see, Mr. President, even though TSA is often the target of criticism and frustration, their mission at the end of the day is to save lives. Our lives. Carol reminded us of this mission just a couple of months ago when a man wielding a machete attacked her and her colleagues at the Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans.
“A native of St. Ignace, Michigan, Carol has worked as a TSA officer at the New Orleans airport since October 2003, and has been a TSA supervisory officer since October 2005. She’s known by her colleagues to ‘step up’ on a moment’s notice. This latest incident was no exception.
“As many of us remember, in March, a deranged man began to attack a number of TSA agents at a security checkpoint at the New Orleans’ airport. The man sprayed insect repellent in the face of an officer, pulled a machete from the waistband of his pants, and began swinging the weapon in the direction of other TSA officers. Watching from her post, Carol yelled at the passengers in the area to run.
“But her warning also attracted the attention of the attacker, and at that moment he started to run toward Carol. As the man got closer to her, Lieutenant Heather Sylve of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office began firing at him. Lieutenant Sylve shot the assailant three times, wounding and incapacitating him on site. He later died as a result of those wounds. Unfortunately, one of those shots also hit Carol in the arm. Injured but undeterred, she reported to her post the very next day, ready to work. Not the next week. Not the next month. The next day!
“When asked about her work by the St. Ignace News, she said, ‘I enjoy my job, and I feel what we do is a necessary thing…This is an example of why it’s necessary.’
“According to her colleagues, Carol is known for her hard work, her dedication to TSA’s mission, and her sincere interest in the wellbeing of the entire team. When she’s not at work, Carol enjoys caring for her animals and dedicating herself to Bible studies.
“Carol’s bravery and commitment to her colleagues and the public she serves truly exemplify TSA’s core values of integrity, innovation and team spirit.
“To Beth and Carol, let me say this: Every day you go to work, you help to ensure the safety of your fellow Americans and the security of our transportation systems which serves us all. Thank you both for tireless dedication and invaluable service to our nation and its people.
“And to all of the public servants across this country and beyond our borders who give us 110 percent every day, let me close by saying this: I want you to know that what you do every day is important to me and to all of my colleagues in the U.S. Senate. I hope your work and your service fills your life with meaning and with happiness. On behalf of the people that we serve together, thank you for what you do. May God continue to bless each of you and the country we love.”