Truman Locksmiths Maintain Mission Readiness

Story Number: NNS090703-11Release Date: 7/3/2009 6:03:00 AM
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By Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Jeff Troutman, USS Harry S. Truman Public Affairs

USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Sailors can rest easy knowing the ship's locksmith team has a handle on anything on board with a lock or combination.

Machinery Repairman 2nd Class (SW) Jerome Hill and fellow locksmith Machinery Repairman 3rd Class Matthew Till have the distinctive honor of composing Truman's official locksmith team. Whether it is a safe that needs cracking or a cipher lock on a doorknob in need of replacement, Till said the locksmith team is ready to answer the call.

"We're on call pretty much all the time," said Till. "We'll have two to three pages of trouble calls to attend to on average. We're always pretty busy."

Truman Sailors can request the locksmiths for a job by submitting a trouble call form, located on the ship's intranet home page, to the machine shop below the aft galley.

According to Till, not just anybody can become a locksmith. There is a four-week civilian locksmith school he and Hill had to complete in Kentucky before they became certified locksmiths. Their fingerprints were taken and filed by the FBI, and background checks for all of the school's attendees were mandatory, Till said.

"The civilian locksmith school in Kentucky is one of the best locksmith schools in the United States," said Hill. "They taught me how to pick locks, drill into safes and how to transfer my skills over into a civilian environment. They teach you a lot at the school, but there's a lot you find out in the field, too."

Despite having no prior locksmith experience before the Navy, Hill said the work interested him when the opportunity to attend the school presented itself. Though Till has only been a member of Team Truman for approximately three months, Hill said he's learned a lot from his shipmate. Together, they strive to help those in need of entry to vital work spaces or classified material.

"We have locksmiths on board Truman due to people forgetting combinations or combinations not being turned over properly when changes within departmental personnel occur," said Hill. "Each division is supposed to have a security manager who logs all codes and combinations for that division. That's the best way to prevent a trip to the locksmiths."

However, not every division uses their security manager, thereby keeping Truman's locksmith team gainfully employed with trouble calls. The locksmiths can often finds themselves keeping combination records for many different divisions.

Till said each door code or safe combination is supposed to be written down on a special form and sealed in an envelope by a division's security manager. The envelope is then supposed to be filed away in a safe of its own for future division personnel to reference when needed. If the combinations to locks are not properly catalogued, the responsibility often falls on the locksmiths.

"If a division doesn't have access to the combination, there's no other way to get into the safe unless they come to us," said Till. "For us, there's always a way to get into locks, but there's always some that prove more difficult than others."

The locksmiths rely on a variety of tools to assist them when they head out to a job. Hill said screwdrivers, drills, diamond drill bits and lock-picking kits are the norm when the numbers to a lock or safe are lost. Sometimes they will improvise and make their own tools, depending on the situation, he added.

Hill said any time a lock is drilled with a hole larger than three-eighths inch in diameter, the drawer of the safe, or in some instances the entire container itself, will need to be replaced.

"If the lock is drilled, the whole thing will have to be replaced. The door frame has to be welded and then repainted," said Hill. "It takes a lot of patience to get into some of these safes because it takes awhile to drill."

Till said a job can range from a five-minute combination-resetting to an entire work day drilling into a safe. Because of the classified material contained in many of the safes they crack, the locksmiths can certify different safes to legally contain classified information, he said.

As the Truman locksmith team continues to provide an invaluable service to the ship's crew, Sailors are advised to call the locksmith as soon as a lock or number combination discrepancy is noticed.

"There is a locksmith on board Truman," said Hill. "Call us any time. If you wait to call, it could make our job hours longer than necessary."

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