QUANTICO, Va. --
For the first time in its 73-year history, the Office of Special Investigations hosted the most senior enlisted service member, by position, in the United States Armed Forces.
SEAC Ramon Colon-Lopez, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited OSI headquarters, Oct. 1, 2021, to learn about OSI capabilities and take part in National Hispanic Heritage Month conversations.
The SEAC position was originally written as a two-year term to mirror the Chairman's term. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 amended the Chairman's term to a single four-year term. The SEAC’s position is still written as a two-year term. However, the Chairman extended him to mirror his term.
In 2019, “SEAC” became the official rank and term of address for those who hold the position, regardless of what military branch they come from. Colon-Lopez is the first Air Force member to hold the position of the four who have been the SEAC.
The Colon-Lopez OSI immersion began with an overall mission briefing followed by presentations on the Insider Threat Branch, Domestic Violence Extremism, Partner Engagement, Procurement Fraud, Special Projects, Offensive Counterintelligence, Cyber and more.
The SEAC then recognized three OSI members as outstanding performers.
During the lunch break with members of the OSI Rising Six enlisted group, the SEAC was asked why he didn’t go into OSI instead of cross-training into the Pararescue (PJ) field.
“I would have, but I didn’t even know what OSI was at the time,” he said. “It’s definitely something that would have interested me. Pararescue found me first.”
The afternoon began with a tour of the OSI Hall of Heroes, which permanently memorializes the command’s 16 Fallen through the years. Next, was a tour of the OSI Center Watch, which is the Air Force’s sole investigative, counterintelligence and terrorism threat-reporting integration mechanism.
The SEAC visit was punctuated by a combination in-person and virtual All-Call with OSI members command-wide.
During the session the SEAC candidly discussed how he rose through the ranks to the present day.
“As my career went on we talked about diversity, inclusion and meritocracy*,” he said. “A lot of people said I wasn’t going to make it because I couldn’t do this, or because I could barely speak English, and so on. When someone made fun of my accent, I said, OK, how many languages do you speak? I never had a chip on my shoulder, but, I always chose the side of opportunity."
The SEAC visit came at the halfway point of National Hispanic Heritage Month. The observance itself began in 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed Hispanic Heritage Week. Twenty years later, the week was expanded to a 30-day period (Sept. 15 - Oct. 15) by President Ronald Reagan and enacted into law on Aug. 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.
“Don’t let anyone tell you, that you cannot do anything. Instead, you show them what you can do and see what happens,” Colon-Lopez said. “That is my Hispanic heritage!”
The SEAC also had a strategic message for his audience.
“When we look at each other or look in the mirror and see our diversity, it’s the strength of this nation, it’s an advantage,” he added. “It’s a collective effort to affect the war powers of this nation."
As a PJ, Colon-Lopez adopted a mantra that has served him well for his nearly 31 years on active duty.
“It’s been a fun career so far, and it’s been filled with adversity,” he recalled. “But, there was something taught to me as a young pararescueman that’s carried me through every scenario, and those are the words, NEVER QUIT.”
Colon-Lopez's farewell thoughts summarized how he appreciates his hosts.
“Thanks to the Office of Special Investigations team for giving me the honor to spend time with you all,” he said. “It’s obvious that OSI’s diverse mission, experience and skills are going to be a critical component to whatever future conflicts we may be facing as a nation. I’m proud to serve with each of you and proud to be your SEAC.”
Editor’s Note: Meritocracy refers to individuals selected on the basis of talent, effort, achievement and performance, rather than wealth or social class.