GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Federal documents reveal Jaelyn Young told an undercover FBI agent online about her plan to leave from a small airport in Columbus with little security to go to Syria. The document states Young planned to tell terrorists about what is in her opinion a weakness in the United States.
"Small town airports have poor funding and less educated staff so it is easier to get through," Young wrote.
Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport officials said Young's comments reflect a common misconception about small airports having a lack of adequate security. They said this way of thinking actually gives smaller operations an advantage in fighting terrorism.
While Gulfport-Biloxi International may not have as high a volume of passengers as airports in large cities do, officials said that doesn't mean they play by different rules when it comes to security standards.
"TSA regulates what airports do security wise on their property," said Casey Lyons, Director of Operations and Maintenance. "A lot of those rules are very similar, if not the same from a small airport to a large airport. We're doing the same things here in Gulfport that a larger airport is doing to ensure a safe environment for the public."
Working alongside TSA agents are Gulfport police officers through a contract the airport has with the police department.
"We provide 24-hour security. We have a scheduled staff. They don't dictate exactly what we do as police," said Lt. Carl Gangemi. "They let us police as police do, but there are certain requirements that they need us to do that we meet for them. We cover the entire complex. We do have help from the military. They also do perimeter checks as they're going through to make sure everything is still secured on their part, too."
Airport officials said people tend to assume bigger is always better when it comes to airport security.
"I think it's a false perception. We deal with a lot of complaints a lot of times from just being around the public. They say, 'I'm scrutinized here more than I am at some of the larger airports,'" said Gangemi. "Smaller, not as rushed. So we have more time to be a little more thorough. I believe there is a strength in that. A lot of people see that as a weakness, and them thinking that actually makes us even stronger."
Airport officials say another important part of security is the public alerting them to any suspicious activity.
Airport security officials say their staff also takes added classes on top of their routine training.