SA trio excels during challenging times

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • OSI Public Affairs

The ability to adapt and overcome has been an integral part of the Office of Special Investigations since its inception more than 70 years ago. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has put that command flexibility to a lengthy test.

For three special agents assigned to Detachment 812, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., it’s meant not only assimilating to the “new normal,” but exceling personally and professionally during it.

Special Agent Aramis Quinones-Tirado graduated from the United States Air Force Special Investigations Academy in February 2020, and was to be assigned to Det. 531, Aviano Air Base, Italy. While at Barksdale, he learned COVID-19 restricted his travel overseas.

But it didn’t restrict his work ethic. The rookie SA managed two agent suitability Investigations, three substantive investigations and supported four other investigations via interviews, surveillance operations and by booking perpetrators. 

“Professionally, the advent of COVID-19 caused me to adapt non-traditional methods and innovative ways to accomplish activities with regards to interviews, the remote collection of statements and the utilization of force multiplication to reach potential victims during lockdown status,” SA Quinones-Tirado said. “The pandemic has challenged me personally by having to make individual sacrifices such as being separated from my family in order to meet mission requirements.” 

SA Quinones-Tirado also maximized his time at Det. 812 to jump-start his probationary training by getting certified on more than 40 percent of his core task requirements and completing both E-Funds and Basic Extension Program courses. Plus, he used his newly acquired Academy  knowledge to train detachment personnel.

As details of his Aviano assignment are ironed out, SA Quinones-Tirado continues to forge ahead by building his investigative toolkit, thus ensuring he’ll be prepared when he finally arrives in Italy.

SA Hunter Young serves as Det. 812’s Base Level Fraud program manager. During the COVID-19 crisis, restricted movement and an inability to make contact with contracting representatives hampered his ability to proactively ferret out crime.

Undaunted, SA Young used his time to better himself on and off the job. Not only did he successfully complete the Economic Crimes Basic Extension Program course, he also completed his second Community College of the Air Force degree, continued pursuit of his Master of Business Administration degree and completed courses towards the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners certification. 

SA Young’s motivation is fueled by the knowledge an MBA will help him better understand government contracting requirements, complex laws and ultimately set him up to obtain a PhD. 

Aside from his normal case load, SA Young used his newly acquired knowledge to develop three proactive fraud investigations, ensuring criminals didn’t take advantage of the Air Force during difficult times. 

“COVID-19 has challenged and transformed me to create innovative approaches to maintain investigative sufficiency and timeliness,” SA Young said.

In October 2019, SA Danielle Vizzone, left for what she expected to be a six-month deployment to Bagram, Afghanistan. As she neared the end of her tour, she and several of her team members learned their return date was reset to “indefinite,” due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

“As someone who values family time, it was difficult for me and my family to see the light at the end of the tunnel disappear,” SA Vizzone said. “Catching the couple hours a day where the time difference lined up and we could FaceTime was crucial.”

Undeterred by the negative news, SA Vizzone stepped up to fill a leadership gap serving as the interim commander for Expeditionary Detachment 2405. When the previous DetCo redeployed, she assisted the superintendent. She continued executing counterterrorism operations, maintained unit compliance, trained newer agents, maintained unit security measures and pursued her Master’s Degree in Psychology. 

“It was challenging to remain positive,” she admitted. “I knew I needed to stay engaged to ensure the best transition. I’ve always thought of myself as a determined and resilient person, but through this experience I have definitely become more so.”

Although her six-month deployment turned into nine months, SA Vizzone persevered by taking care of herself, setting the example, gapping an unpredicted leadership vacancy and taking care of her fellow Airmen.

It’s been especially gratifying for the commander of the 8th Field Investigations Region to have troops who can adapt and overcome the challenges of COVID-19.

“Since the middle of March, the Region 8 Team, like others, has adapted to a myriad of challenges and curve balls brought on by COVID-19,” noted 8 FIR Commander Col. John R. Barnett.  “I’ve talked to almost every single rock star in the Region and it’s inspiring to listen to how they’ve creatively established great communications at each unit, energetically sorted through various investigative hurdles, and pursued new professional and personal goals on top of all else. The team has a great outlook on where OSI is today and where we’re going. Our R8 warriors energize and inspire me every day and it’s tremendous to be part of such a positive, force-for-good team!”