• United States



by Diann Daniel

Cowboys Against Terrorism

Dec 01, 20042 mins
Critical Infrastructure

AIRPORT SECURITY Texas lore is filled with cowboys and rugged individualism, but the state is also home to patriotism and community spirit. Just witness Houston’s Airport Rangers. About 700 volunteers, including off-duty police officers, are approved to mount their horses and patrol the perimeter area of the 11,000-acre George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Faced with post-9/11 perimeter intrusion concerns and obligations to create a shoulder- mounted missile mitigation plan, airport security put equestrians to good use. Although shoulder-mounted missile attacks on airplanes have not occurred in the United States, incidences in other countries have been widely publicized. Concerns of intrusion into the area are great since much of the airport land is heavily wooded and isolated. “We’ve made a very unpopulated area much more populated,” says Mark Mancuso, deputy director of aviation for the Houston Airport System’s division of public safety and technology.

The Texas program is similar to the program at Logan International Airport in Boston, where clam diggers assist airport security efforts on nearby beaches.

Volunteers must undergo criminal background checks, as well as training. Once approved for duty, they are given ID badges and license to ride during the day. They must carry a cell phone, call into a dispatch center to check in, and report suspicious activity. Mancuso considers it a win-win situation. Although some have criticized the program as inadequate, Mancuso says, “I believe in layered solutions for security. This is not the only way to secure the perimeter; this is just one of our programs.”

But there’s no denying the volunteers’ contributions. Airport Rangers have alerted authorities to evidence of hunters, as well as to potential vulnerabilities, such as holes in the fences. “It may be unusual to some, but to us it was an opportunity to incorporate the community into our security program,” Mancuso says. So much so that during a peer review of New York’s JFK Airport perimeter intrusion system, Mancuso encouraged involving the yachting and fishing community in security efforts.