Akal Security finds itself in hiring mode

The Albuquerque Tribune
By Sherry Robinson

The Web site of Akal Security Inc. is almost prophetic. Its slogan, "for a changing world," now seems like an understatement.

The company, headquartered at Santa Cruz, near Espa§ola, has been a respected security operation for 21 years. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, Akal has added 500 employees to its existing 7,000, and it's still hiring.

"It's been very, very busy, yes," said Daya Khalsa, senior vice president.

Akal provides security for government and businesses all over the country. As calls come in, the company is trying to respond first to the most critical needs.

For example, Akal (pronounced a-CALL), provides all security except passenger screening for the Honolulu airport. "We've added over 100 security personnel to that contract alone," Khalsa said.

And the cruise-ship industry has new screening requirements for passengers. "We're doing all of that in Hawaii," he said, which meant adding another 50 employees.

Akal provides security to one of the nation's largest rail carriers. "They've added service to increase security levels," he said. He couldn't disclose either the carrier or the locations.

"The largest portion of our work is federal government facilities - courthouses, offices, military, NASA," he said. "Most of those agencies have increased staffing, so we've added several hundred people to those contracts." And because of the time lag in gaining clearances for new employees, existing employees are working long hours, he said.

"This is especially true for the federal courthouse in Manhattan, a few blocks from the World Trade Center," Khalsa said. "We expanded to protect the perimeters. We're working very long hours. There are about 150 court security officers at that courthouse."

Akal, in fact, is the largest court security officer contractor to the U.S. Marshals Service. Recently the company received a five-year, $88.2 million contract to provide federal court security services within the Fifth Judicial Circuit, which includes Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

In New Mexico, Akal provides services at the Santa Fe airport and to railroads and utilities.

Presently the company is fielding a lot of phone calls from organizations wanting to know Akal's capabilities. "We've had people fly to New York, Washington and Los Angeles to look" at potential assignments, Khalsa said.

Fortunately, the company already had a number of new hires in the pipeline before the attacks.

"We're always recruiting and training people," Khalsa said. "Some are law enforcement officers who don't require as much training. They're highly qualified to begin with." As Akal recruits still more people, "we've tried to double our efforts to make sure hires are well screened and well trained."

According to its Web site, Akal also has an elite force, called Phase 4, "known for their effective action in the most volatile situations."

Akal is in demand now, too, because it had also developed, before Sept. 11, one of the nation's most advanced training programs for entry x-ray screening. "That course has become very applicable to the concerns that exist out there," Khalsa said.

The company's mission hasn't changed since the attacks.

"What we're really finding here is that our corporate mission has a spotlight on it," Khalsa said. The mission is to provide the highest quality personnel and to increase the safety of facilities, employees and the public. "That was always our mission, but it's now more important to millions of Americans."

Akal means "undying" in an ancient language of India. Launched in 1980, it's one of many companies operated by Yogi Bhajan's Ministry of Sikh Dharma. (The 500-year-old Sikh religion teaches devotion to God, truthfulness and equality.) While Sikhs have been attacked in other places by vandals who mistake them for Muslims, they haven't been bothered here.

"We're pretty widely known here and in our industry," Khalsa said. "People have a good understanding of who we are and who Sikhs are. I was part of a group of Sikh leaders who met with President Bush. He spent an hour with the group to express his unconditional support for religious freedom and his intolerance for threats to people because of their religious practice or cultural background.

"We've been working hard to educate people to address that concern and be as visible as possible."

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