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Exposed to a little of everything, OSI career not for the faint of heart

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Being an Air Force Office of Special Investigations agent is not an easy feat, nor is it for the faint of heart. But, officials said for the dedicated, it is a worthwhile endeavor.

Founded in 1948, AFOSI is the Air Force's felony-level investigative service. Tinker's AFOSI Detachment 114 has 22 special agents who investigate felony-level crimes on behalf of base commanders and the Air Force. Per the mission statement, AFOSI "detects threats and provide early warning of identified threats to the Air Force and Department of Defense resources. They identify and resolve crime impacting the Air Force, combat threats to the Air Force information systems and technologies and detect and deter fraud affecting the Air Force and DOD, and can investigate anything that has an Air Force nexus that affects active duty and civilian employees."

"We are a small group of people that do extraordinary work -- not everyone can man a child-pornography investigation or interview someone allegedly accused of sexually assaulting another person. Not everyone can walk up to senior leadership and brief them and make sure the right information gets through," said Special Agent Jeffrey Johnson, AFOSI Det. 114 commander. "It takes a special person to do this job."

Tinker's agents have an average of three-and-a-half to five years of experience. They typically work an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule, though that can change at a moments' notice and agents can easily find themselves working an 18-hour day.

"We work the job, not the clock," said Special Agent Manrrique "Manny" Rojas, AFOSI Det. 114 superintendent. "You have to always expect the unexpected."

Depending on the case, number of obstacles and outside federal agencies involved, an investigation may last a week, or it may take years. And, agents have to be prepared for manning issues due to deployments, reassignments and leaves, which may result in a larger or more demanding caseload.

"Agents have to want to do this job, otherwise they're going to be miserable," Agent Johnson said. "They have to be able to problem-solve and we like people who don't have to be micromanaged, who are self starters with leadership and followership characteristics."

Most importantly, agents have to understand the importance of being thorough. Agent Johnson said oftentimes commanders will want immediate results, not realizing interviews often lead to new discoveries and developments. Furthermore, an agent cannot simply interview one person and close the case. They must also deal with the challenges of working with uncooperative victims and suspects.

"You have to understand the ripple effect that happens with every decision you make. The ripple effect isn't just in that moment, it's the things that happen afterward and the lives you touch every day," said Agent Johnson. "We provide unbiased reports to commanders. We are not involved in the disciplinary side of what happens to people. We testify, but we're not the judge, the jury or commanders."

Agents Johnson and Rojas said the detachment frequently recruits new agents. Traditionally, they interview civilians with a four-year college degree, staff and technical sergeants and officers in the rank of captain and below.

For more information, go to www.osi.andrews.af.mil.