A Day In The Life Of A Military Locksmith

My name is Tyrone Fendall, 26. I’ve been a locksmith for over six years now. I am currently the locksmith for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Every day I enjoy coming to work. Whether it’s fixing a patient bathroom door lock or troubleshooting the access control system for the presidents’ suite, everyday is exciting.

I handle all aspects of Physical Security and advanced locksmithing on the base. Safes, locks, GSA containers, electronic access control systems -- you name it and I do it, while maintaining all of the country’s most severe rules and building codes, ADA requirements, federal mandated acts, fire and life safety codes as well as specific state and local regulations. You can imagine the type of complex and sensitive security issues I have to resolve everyday while working on a high security military base that often occupies appearances from the country’s greatest celebrities and executive political advisors including the President of the United States of America.

At approximately 2 million square feet, WRNMMC is the largest most sophisticated uniformed medical facility in the world. WRNMMC is the flagship medical center for the President of the United States as well as our Armed Forces. Very few medical centers have seen the volume and the complexity of the patients that are treated here. For example, the autopsy of President John F Kennedy was done here at WRNMMC.

When Locksmith Ledger expressed interest in doing this article on me, I was ecstatic! My brain immediately started to wonder, trying to think of which story to tell. However, working on a high security military base, I am literally not permitted to discuss many of the most interesting stories. I can’t count the number of times I was eating lunch at the warrior café and looked up to see Dallas Cowboy cheer leaders or celebrities like Bradley Cooper or even Vice President Biden taking pictures with soldiers. But with the recent Washington Navy Yard and Capitol Hill tragedies, I was almost at a yield of which situations I could actually share LSL without disclosing sensitive/classified information.

However, there was one funny story that I can talk about which stuck out in my mind. Around 6 a.m. on a Friday morning, I received a trouble call for one of our wounded warrior buildings. The task order read, “Personnel locked-out of room.” Immediately, I’m thinking ‘okay someone left their keys at home.’

Upon arrival I realized this wasn’t going to be an ordinary lock out. The front door lever was completely missing and nowhere to be found. The lock on the door was a Yale storeroom function mortise lock with a Medeco SFIC. Due to the sensitivity of the room, the cylinder was keyed off of the master key, so I was left with very few options to gain entry. I could attempt to pick the lock, but with a high security cylinder, but that could take all day. Choices were call the fire department and borrow their hydraulic ram or drill the cylinder and manually retract the latch.

Although ramming the door would be a lot more exciting, I decided to go with the standard boring drill method. Once I gained entry to the room, I realized the spindle and lever had been broken long enough for the staff sergeant, who occupied the space, to install a prosthetic amputee foot as a makeshift handle. This lockout had me smiling for a few days. Every time I pass the area now there are always a “hey need a hand?” or the old “foot in the mouth” joke being mumbled.