AFOSI's 'unsung heroes' shine in 2018

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • AFOSI Public Affairs

It’s no surprise the Air Force Office of Special Investigations is replete with exceptional performers. Its ranks of special agents and professional staff members have exhibited the competence and confidence to handle any situation to a successful conclusion throughout the command’s storied 70-year history.


One particular group who work behind the scenes, but play a vital role in enabling and supporting OSI field agents all day, every day, are the AFOSI Investigations Collections Operations Nexus Center Global Watch Controllers here.  


“The Watch Controllers are our unsung heroes,” wrote SA Aaron Yardley, AFOSI ICON Center director to OSI leadership. “They truly believe in the Air Force and taking care of fellow Airmen. We are fortunate to have them on our OSI team!”


Watch Controllers are responsible for:


*Immediate and factual command/control in support of global criminal and counterintelligence operations,


*Initiating checklists and conducting investigative inquiries in response to crisis situations worldwide,


*Maintaining and implementing AFOSI operating instructions and recall/duty rosters for emergency situations,


*Coordinating casualty notifications worldwide and acting as the communication nucleus for AFOSI leadership.


Early in 2018 watch controllers Tech. Sgt. Zachary Koeller, Staff Sgt. Colin Gaytan and Staff Sgt. Jeannette Touma went above and beyond their duty descriptions to save lives.


On Jan. 16 Koeller and Gaytan were involved in separate life-saving scenarios.


Koeller received an urgent request for assistance from OSI Detachment 206, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., regarding an Airman threatening to commit suicide. He immediately contacted the Nellis command post requesting a health and wellness check for the distressed Airman.


The Airman’s First Sergeant immediately responded to the Airman’s residence where he found her unresponsive next to an empty prescription pill bottle. The Airman was taken to the local hospital where life-saving measures ensured her recovery.


While his prompt actions and concern for his fellow Wingman were instrumental in saving the Airman’s life, a modest Koeller felt he did not do anything above and beyond.


“Responding to a phone call from someone worried about a friend was my duty, both as an OSI Global Watch Controller and an Airman,” said Koeller. “I just used the tools available to me to get the Airman found before anything permanent happened. I am glad the OSI Special Agent who saw her Facebook posts took them seriously, and used the Watch to get help. I hope the Airman got help and makes it through whatever trouble she was experiencing. We only have one life, and I would hate for hers, or anyone else’s, to needlessly end prematurely.”


Meanwhile, Gaytan received an urgent request for assistance from a concerned woman who reported her ex-boyfriend, an Airman, intended to kill himself. Gaytan isolated the Airman’s location based on the information she provided.


He took immediate action by contacting the local Security Forces Squadron requesting a health and wellness check on the Airman who was found in a highly distressed state, but still alive. The Airman’s First Sergeant took him to receive medical care and evaluation.


His quick actions and humanitarian regard for fellow Wingmen aside, Gaytan felt privileged to be working that night so he could assist.


“The first step was to locate the Airman through a series of checks,” Gaytan said. “I passed the address to the law enforcement desk at their duty station who stopped the Airman before he followed through with his plans. Knowing he gets a second chance is inspiring and humbling. Bystanders can change a person’s life if we’re vigilant enough to recognize when someone needs help. Airmen are not alone. I hope they realize there are many people willing to help relieve whatever burden is causing their pain and sorrow.”


Fast forward to March 6, when Touma fielded an urgent request from OSI Det. 327, Little Rock AFB, Ark., to help locate a distressed Airman who planned on killing himself. The Airman was involved in an extramarital affair resulting in an unplanned pregnancy. Following an altercation with his wife, he stormed out of the house with plans to commit suicide.


Touma rallied the joint forces within the Watch floor to simultaneously engage the veteran Affairs Crisis Line, the local Jacksonville, Ark., police department and the Airman’s cell phone provider to conduct an urgent search to locate him. Touma coordinated the joint response and after several cell phone attempts walked the local authorities and detachment agents to the troubled Airman, who was headed back to the base looking for his First Sergeant. The local police and agents safely took the Airman into custody at the base gate and escorted to the hospital where he was placed under observation and a 72-hour hold.


Touma’s poise and leveraging ability kept the situation from turning into a tragedy.


“As soon as I answered the call from Little Rock, I could feel the urgency in the agent’s tone and felt how greatly my assistance was needed,” Touma said. “I remember thinking, ‘from this moment every move I make could determine whether an Airman lives or dies.’”


This particular situation did not have pre-set procedures in place to guide her.


“My limits were tested and I was forced to think outside the box,” she said. “I was relieved when the Airman was found safe and grateful I was working that evening. I was privileged to render aid to our field agents which gave me pride in my job and in OSI.”


Touma added she gained a new perspective on what it means to be a Wingman and believes no matter what someone’s role is in the mission, it plays a vital part in the big picture.