Inside Look: Crew Member Self Defense


A poke to the eyes! A slap to the ears! A kick to the groin! At a Federal Air Marshal field office near Washington, instructor Scott Armstrong is teaching
aggressive self-defense tactics – some of which aren’t on the air marshals’
approved curriculum. Because these students aren’t air marshals. They’re airline flight attendants. Since 2004, several thousand
flight attendants and pilots have received TSA’s Crew Member
Self-Defense Training. Well this training was incredible. It’s empowering. It gives confidence I think to flight attendants. And, we learn it through videos, some of these
tactics and techniques, but nothing takes the place of hands on training, and practice
and feedback, such as is provided in this class. Lessons are tailored to the cabin of a
commercial airplane. You don’t want to get in a long, drawn-out fight. When you’re at altitude in an aircraft,
where’s that aircraft pressurized at? About 8-thousand feet. Any of you ever done a run in Denver? (Yes!) OK… you can see how it can wear you out. Flight attendant Gina Hernlem
knows the threat is real. Oh yes. It just happened last week. (laughs). It was that demeanor, that cold stare, the
getting into personal space. Moving the shoulder in. It never escalated; in the end we suspected
it was probably drugs. By the end of the class, flight attendants
have learned how to fight back. The flight attendants describe the
training as fun. But the real reason for the classes
is never far from the surface. If it comes to fighting or fleeing…. I’ll fight. Absolutely. On board the aircraft, you don’t
have a choice. Like many flight attendants, Sara Nelson also has
powerful memories of September 11, 2001. I’m a Boston-based flight attendant. I was based in Boston on September 11th. I often flew flight 175, which ended up in
New York. And those were my friends. So for me it’s intensely personal. And, ah, it’s real, every single day when
we go to work. And I don’t think it’s just for me, who
personally knew people. This is something that every single flight
attendant in the industry can relate to. This is something that we take personally,
we take seriously, and this training relates to filling our role
today in a post-9/11 world.

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