Agents make sacrifice, secure AF assets

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Diana M. Cossaboom
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The many dedicated hours spent to ensure the safety of Airmen and the local community by eradicating individuals who wish to do them harm may seem like a sacrifice to some, but to the agents assigned to OSI Detachment 212 at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, it is an honor to commit their time as peace-keepers of the Air Force.

OSI agents strive to identify, exploit and neutralize criminal, terrorist and intelligence threats to the Air Force, Department of Defense, and U.S. Government on a daily basis.

Making a difference to serve their country is something the Air Force Office of Special Investigations Airmen embrace as not just a career, but a lifestyle.

"It's the best job I've had in my entire life," said Special Agent Nina Leggett, OSI Det. 212 superintendent. "And I am very fortunate to have been selected."

In addition to being stationed across the entire U.S., OSI agents are stationed in more than 40 overseas locations to include areas in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.

"As OSI agents, we are the protection of the Air Force and its assets across the globe," said Special Agent Robert Davis, OSI Det. 212 commander. "Which includes making sure any kind of felony or serious crimes in the Air Force are investigated because it contributes to the good order and discipline of the service."

It is the duty of the 1,700 special agents and 800 professional staffers who make up OSI to protect secrets and detect threats, conduct investigations, provide specialized services, engage foreign threats, and investigate cyber-crimes.

"We ensure foreign and domestic adversaries aren't obtaining information on Air Force actions or personnel and stop any kind of intrusions into our information, networks and operations," said Davis.

The Airmen that make up the agency include active duty officers and enlisted personnel, civilians, and reservists.

All agents are trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia, where they learn an array of skills to include firearms and defensive tactics, forensics, specialized investigative techniques, and surveillance and surveillance detection to name a few.

"You get to learn so much and meet so many different people from different organizations who go through the same training," said Leggett.

Joining OSI as a special agent is not for the faint-of-heart. The tasks agents encounter take a special type of personality to deal with, said Davis.

"You have to have the ability to deal with some very horrific and shocking stuff," said Davis. "There are no limits to the nature of human depravity."

Some attributes needed in a special agent, according to Davis, are determination, hard work, the ability to act and work independently, and an inquisitive mindset.

"It's a very dynamic and challenging job all the way around," said Davis. "It's not for people who like simple tasks and nine to five work hours."

Applicants must be committed to this lifestyle. The agents do their best to give applicants a realistic perspective of the job, said Leggett.

OSI special agents investigate all major crimes regarding Air Force personnel to include homicides, missing personnel, sexual assault, and drug-related crimes.

In fact, earlier this year a Shaw Airman, Capt. Robby Williams III, went absent without leave and it was OSI's job to find him. Many man-hours went into locating Williams, and he was successfully apprehended, said Davis.

OSI agents deal with an adverse amount of investigations, some not as pretty as others.

Recently, an Airman was charged and convicted in a USAF Courts-Martial of criminal solicitation of a minor, fraudulent enlistment, indecent language with a child, and rape of a child who has not reached the age of 12. 

The judge sentenced him to confinement for life, which was reduced to 35 years due to a pre-trial agreement, reduction to the grade of E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and a dishonorable discharge.

The OSI agents were responsible for not only the initial investigation and apprehension of the Airman, but investigating further into the Airman's past and coordination with the judge advocate office to ensure justice is properly handed out.

The Air Force has strict values and emphasizes integrity; however like the general population, there are people who commit crimes. It's OSI's job to ensure those people are brought to justice, said Davis.

Though there are difficulties that agents have to face, there are also rewarding aspects of the job.

"My favorite part of the job is that there is something different every day," said Leggett. "No two situations are alike. We really get to work as a team and pool our minds together to effectively work the mission."

The majority of people who join OSI want to have a major impact on the Air Force and local communities. Becoming an agent provides a great opportunity to meet, liaison and network with people who have similar ambitions, said Leggett.

To qualify for OSI, applicants must be U.S. citizens, eligible for worldwide duty, healthy and physically fit, and of outstanding character and integrity.

Even though the Air Force relies on its special agents to eliminate threats and bring justice, they cannot be everywhere, which is why they ask every Airman to be vigilant and report anything that seems suspicious.

"One of the things we like to stress is the Eagle Eyes program," said Davis. "If you see suspicious behavior, report it."

The Eagle Eyes program was created by AFOSI to enlist the help of Airmen and U.S. citizens as eyes and ears to help fight the war against terrorism.

"Every Airman is a sensor," said Davis. "People don't realize how important they can be. Every Airman, no matter what their job is, has the opportunity to contribute to the protection of Air Force assets and personnel."

Through their selfless service, OSI agents protect the Air Force's personnel and assets while maintaining a high level of integrity. Those selfless acts provide Airmen with the safety needed to continue the Air Force mission stateside and overseas.