Why I Serve: Agent Tom Locke of the FBI
From the time I was a young teenager, I wanted to be an FBI Agent.
Things really took a turn when I traveled to Washington, D.C., in 1965, and took a tour of the FBI. By the time I got to the firearms demonstration at the end of the tour, I knew that was what I wanted to do.
When I returned home, I was introduced by a mutual friend to a recently-retired Agent, Jim Tennant. Jim would regale me with Bureau stories every day, and it cemented my resolve. I planned to go to Washington, work for the FBI, and do my college studies at night.
I had the “burning desire” that Jim had told me was so necessary to get in. But then he sent me to meet the Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven division, Charlie Weeks. Charlie talked to me and then listened as I told him about that “burning desire.” I remember he smiled and said, “Tom, go to college. It will be the best four years of your life. The job will be waiting for you when you get out.”
Both Jim and Charlie were two of the nicest people I had ever met. I thought that if the Bureau was made up of people like that, then that is where I would want to be. (As it turned out, it pretty much was!) As a tribute to Jim Tennant, the man who got me started, my younger son is named James Tennant Locke.
I spent 32 years in the Bureau, and if I could, I’d do it all over again. You’ll never get rich in any area of law enforcement. When I was in the New York Office in 1975, city garbage collectors made more than FBI Agents. But what you will experience are all the human emotions: the unbelievable joy at rescuing a child or saving a hostage, or stopping a killer; the tedious boredom of a long surveillance followed by about three minutes of adrenaline, excitement and mayhem as the arrest is made; the horror of 9/11; the almost unbearable sadness at the loss of a helpless victim or a fellow law enforcement officer; and the blessed friendships, enduring bonds past the arrests, gunfights and car chases.
In what other job, save the military, do you get the opportunity to work with heroes every day? These are the heroes who, when faced with danger, run to the chaos, who run to the gunfire, who run to the burning flames. These are the ones who have reminded me every day of my professional life that I was so blessed to walk the “blue line,” and that we still live in the greatest nation on earth.