The multipurpose tool of the security team

Thorsten Gleim joined Lufthansa Cargo in 1992 and has long been the security department’s “multipurpose tool”. 


It’s shortly before 6 a.m. He still has his coat on and hasn’t even booted up his PC yet, but he’s already caught up in that day’s work. He is ambushed by his shift supervisor, “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to take over the coordination first.” A colleague has been given time off to visit the doctor. Thorsten Gleim takes it with humour, sits down on the chair in front of the big video wall with 30 individual images from cameras trained on various entrances and pedestrian turnstiles and replies in a very relaxed manner, “Ok, it’s Friday, after all, even if it’s not the 13th.”


Actually, this is what the 43-year-old so loves about his job at the security department’s operations centre at Lufthansa Cargo: “No two days are ever the same; you never know what it’s going to be like.” However, what he can be sure of is the alarm going off at 3:30 a.m. when he is on the early shift. First things first, he gets the coffee machine going, then turns on the television for the news before heading out with his Rhodesian Ridgeback. Gleim takes the dog for his walk on his own in the mornings, but is usually accompanied by his sons Steven (13) and Mike (9) at lunchtime. They can stay lying in bed this morning, as can their mum, while their dad quietly pulls the house door closed, takes the first commuter train to Frankfurt, arrives at the airport station at 5:25 a.m., ascends to the bus stop, clocks in on the ramp and starts the early shift at 5:45 a.m.


“We are Lufthansa Cargo’s internal security police”, says shift leader Theodor Kalogiros of the range of activities performed by the 46-strong security team. Their duties include mobile patrols on the apron as well as ID and driving licence inspections, issuing day passes, drawing up theft and traffic accident reports, monitoring entry portals and turnstiles, speed checks and x-raying large packages. When Thorsten Gleim is replaced at the coordination desk shortly before 8 a.m., the shift leader asks him to go out on the road. Drivers are once again increasingly breaking the 30 kilometre per hour speed limit in place throughout the entire airport. Those found breaking the limit are cautioned in a friendly but assertive manner. “We can’t hand out speeding tickets, just wag our finger”, explained Gleim. But sometimes the threat of a ban on access is far more effective than a 20 or 30 euros fine.


Then he goes with Michael Müller of service provider IWS to ID control in the large hall. Gleim and Müller take a look at the driving licences of the forklift drivers and check while passing whether the escape routes are unobstructed. Thorsten Gleim began his career with Cargo in 1990 as a palletiser and changed two years later to the gate and reception services. When the LCC in Frankfurt was converted into a security hub, he was taken on by the newly established security department. He completed numerous internal and external training courses. Now, as a qualified security specialist and aviation security officer, he is one of the few “multi-purpose tools” in the security department.


When a pile of “non-secured cargo” is delivered around 1 o’clock and there are not enough personnel for the large x-ray machines, shift leader Kalogiros doesn’t have to ask his colleague twice. Gleim mans the x-ray machines for an hour, deciding from the coloured images what can pass as “secure” and what needs additional checks as an “unidentified object”. Dietmar Gemmer, Chief of Operational Security at the LCC, emphasises, “We don’t compromise on safety and won’t in the future either, especially as the team is expecting new challenges in terms of operational security in 2014. Both the interim operation, including construction site traffic, and further increased security regulations from the EU and US will place additional burdens on us. We will only be able to cope with these if we have a well-trained security team.”


As Gemmer says this, Thorsten Gleim has long clocked off and is on the commuter train heading for Rodgau. His family awaits him and his Rhodesian Ridgeback is already getting excited. He won’t be late to bed this evening. The family man has an early shift again the next day. His alarm clock goes off at 3:30 a.m.