Log In

Reset Password

La Plata County TSA agent calls it a career

David Johnson of Durango-La Plata County Airport retired on Wednesday
David Johnson, a Forest Lakes resident, retired from his job as a TSA agent at the Durango-La Plata County Airport. (Courtesy photo)

David Johnson spent his days at Durango-La Plata County Airport security screening lines bringing smiles to passengers’ faces.

He embraced it, because it’s a simple way to help ease the stress that comes with air travel. But now the TSA agent and Forest Lakes resident is calling it a career, officially retiring on Wednesday.

Prior to becoming a TSA agent at DRO on May 13, 2018, Johnson spent 30 years doing architectural woodwork in Los Angeles. Some of his work took place at Los Angeles International Airport.

One infamously tragic day sparked career change

Johnson was working at LAX when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred.

“It’s kind of ironic at that time, I was doing architectural woodwork at LAX. … We watched the whole thing from Terminal 2,” he said. “It was just unreal that when I left that day, they kicked us out of the airport around noon, I believe. There was just jets parked all over the place.”

Parking on the airfield to help escort contractors in and out, he said it was eerie leaving LAX that day after learning what had transpired.

Once the TSA was established on Nov. 19, 2001, he started paying attention to the work being done and became interested in that line of work. He wanted to be a part of that, help keep flights and passengers safe.

He did not start working as a TSA agent until he arrived in Durango because he learned it would be easier to join smaller airports like DRO versus LAX.

“With the size of Los Angeles, you have thousands and thousands of applicants. Whereas here (in Durango) … I could get in, I believe, due to the population,” he said.

He got a pension from his duties in Los Angeles and relocated to Durango.

Johnson had previously spent time hunting in the Durango area and grew to adore it. Upon reaching his 30-year milestone in May 2015, he moved to Durango five months later.

“People here (in Durango) are very nice and friendly,” he said.

Level of ‘intense training’ a surprise

Johnson said there was much more training than he could have imagined.

Aside from going to Denver for a week, he had to spend another week doing Federal Law Enforcement Training in Georgia.

Altogether, he spent two-and-a-half weeks learning how to screen passengers, including determining whether they are pre-checked, if they have a body cast or a disability, and doing tests on certain kinds of food or medicine.

“There’s so many variations there,” he said.

A different kind of TSA agent

Johnson said he liked to have more fun on the job, probably more so than most people, even cracking jokes with passengers.

Getting passengers to smile seemed to help ease nerves related to making a flight on time, issues with boarding passes and other stress factors.

“I’m a pretty good judge of people. And I can usually tell by a look in their face whether there’s fear or they might be sad, somebody died,” he said.

For example, he encountered a woman on Tuesday who had just experienced a death in the family. Asking what to do with her shoes during the security checkpoint, Johnson complimented her footwear and drew laughs.

“She got the biggest kick out of that, and I just made her day,” he said, adding that approach helps passengers proceed through the line more quickly.

The next steps

Johnson will not only spend the coming months working on his home, but also get back into doing woodwork projects and other interior work for friends and relatives.

He also looks to build a cabin-like property in northern Wisconsin, where he spends time with family during the holidays and goes deer hunting.


Reader Comments