North Carolina National Guard troops were replaced by police officers at a special ceremony Friday morning at RDU International. The National Guardsmen had been on duty at the airport since Oct. 6, 2001 as part of Operation Noble Hawk.
"I applaud you for the job you have done," said Maj. Gen. William Ingram during the ceremony. "The service you and the other National Guard soldiers and airmen across the country have done during this time is truly noteworthy."
The transition from National Guard troops to sworn police officers started at smaller airports on Wednesday. Now, it is RDU's turn. The airport says the only differences travelers will notice are a different uniform and a smaller gun.
"The changes actually are very seamless. Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority police officers are now going to provide a security presence at the security checkpoints that the National Guardsmen were providing," said RDU International spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin.
Police officers from Durham, Apex and Morrisville and deputies from Durham County will man screening stations at RDU as a part-time job with RDU police.
The airport said the officers will wear the RDU police uniform and carry a pistol instead of the National Guard-issued M-16 rifle.
RDU police officers will do the exact same job as the National Guard. In fact, the RDU police force responded to incidents at the checkpoints when when the guard was in charge.
"I think if the local police kind of beef up security here, then I feel confident in their ability to protect us as well as the armed guard. As long as there's someone down there. I think that we need a presence," said traveler Kimberlea Osman.
While some passengers think police officers are just as good or better than the guard at protecting checkpoints, some passengers believe they will feel less secure without the guard.
"I think the National Guard is probably better trained for these kinds of things, but if police do it, it's also fine as long as the training's correct. The key thing is training," said traveler Percy Rajani.
The RDU police officers will be trained by the federal government. The airport police will be replaced later this year by federal law enforcement officers.