Legacy leaders rekindle memories, look to future at reunion

  • Published
  • By Thomas Brading
  • OSI Public Affairs

Fourteen former top leaders of the Office of Special Investigations gathered at OSI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia, Oct. 12, 2022, to celebrate the command’s history and point toward its future.

“Having this extraordinary combination of former OSI leaders in one place, with their collective insights, knowledge and experience, was incredible,” said Brig. Gen. Terry Bullard, OSI’s commander. “Through their experiences at OSI, we gained insight into why our agency today stands on such a firm foundation - and their thoughts on how to help make our evolution into the future was priceless.”

But the reunion wasn’t just a trip down memory lane, Bullard also led a discussion on the agency’s current mission, as well as how the agency has adapted over the years. 

Retired Brig. Gen. Francis R. Dillon, OSI’s 11th commander from 1988 to 1993, was looking forward to hearing how OSI stays current with national security needs.

“I retired in 1993, and I would be disappointed if OSI was doing things the way [they did back then],” he said. “OSI has to stay relevant to the needs of the [Department of the] Air Force and I’m proud to see that’s what they are doing.”

“Every decade, OSI has adapted to the needs of the [DAF] and nation,” said Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Jacobsen, OSI’s 16th commander from 2010 to 2014. “I am humbled to be part of a law enforcement mission so diverse.”

Among the former leaders was Timothy Deerr, a 26-year OSI veteran who joined in 1975, rising from rookie agent to its second executive director from 1996 to 2001. For Deerr, revisiting the agency gave him a chance to see how the decisions he made contributed to the agency's success today.

This led the group to a roundtable discussion on the future of OSI, with input on decisions that brought the agency to its current position.

There were several topics discussed during the early hours of the visit, including roundtable discussions on framing OSI growth and lessons learned through the lens of past leaders. 

“To take their lessons learned and going forward, apply them in support of all the people in the command who continue to make new history every day is beyond invaluable,” said Robert Vanderpool, OSI command historian.

Vanderpool met with the leaders to discuss key investigations and legacy operations for his ongoing historical research. 

“The opportunity to interact on a face-to-face level and establish personal connections with those who at the most senior levels of our command had such a direct and influential link to our past was simply amazing,” Vanderpool said. 

The retired leaders were given a better understanding of today's OSI that afternoon by discussing more current topics. DAF insider threat and threat response were addressed as hot-button issues.

A briefing by Col. A.J. Brasseur, OSI Academy director, underscored the importance of modernized training to the visitors, while also discussing both OSI's past and future.

Although the leaders all had war stories and experiences to share from their decades of service, in the end, regardless of era it seemed like one aspect of OSI has never changed: what matters most is its people.

“What matters most are the people I worked with,” said (Ret.) Chief Master Sgt. David Priest, OSI’s ninth command chief from 1996-1998, and later director of staff. “They are what makes a difference and I had the chance to work with a lot of them.”

The final stop of the event was OSI's Hall of Heroes, where the mood grew more somber. The Hall of Heroes is a memorial dedicated to the 13 fallen OSI special agents, two Security Forces defenders and a professional staff member who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the command.

"The visit by our former [OSI] commanders, directors and command chiefs gave us unmatched perspective on where we need to take the command to meet our nations needs in the future,” said Chief Master Sgt. Gregg Gow, OSI’s command chief.  “It was humbling being able to showcase the Hall of Heroes and to allow our past leaders reflect on those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and the law enforcement profession. I could tell it meant a lot to them to have that time."

The former leaders all seemed to look back on their time fondly, saying they would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

“If I could turn back the hands of time, I’d do it all over again,” Jacobsen said, adding that OSI gave him countless opportunities that led to many experiences and adventures all over the world.