Subject Matter Expert info exchange bolsters Eastern European stability

  • Published
  • By Thomas Brading
  • OSI Public Affairs

The Office of Special Investigations joined military police from multiple nations at a Slovak military installation for a historic two-day information exchange event, April 25-26, aimed at enhancing regional stability by sharing best practices among international allies.

The event, driven for the first time by OSI's Agile Combat Employment, or ACE initiative, was a milestone in joint cooperation, bringing together crime fighters from OSI, Slovak and Czech military police agencies.

“The overall atmosphere was extremely positive,” said Special Agent Joseph Noel, OSI Det. 515 ACE representative and a key event organizer. “I believe it showcased [OSI’s] ability as a unit to work with partner nations and highlighted not only the differences but a lot of the similarities.”

Noel, a 7-year OSI veteran, emphasized the importance of such exchanges for maintaining relationships during crisis situations. He added, "I'm hopeful for the continued efforts, and our host nation partners are extremely hopeful to continue these efforts and have further discussions to bolster each other's organizations.”

"We are happy to have this cooperation between us," said Lt. Col. Marek Hušek, Ministry of Defense of the Slovak Republic director of operations, training and planning. "I hope we continue to support each other, not only with oversight but also with other countries now like the Czech Republic, because we can see what's been going on in the world and this cooperation is generally needed."

During the initial day of the exchange, representatives from each country convened in a classroom to review their operational procedures. The room, usually reserved for military working dog handlers, was decorated with photographs of past handlers and their canine partners.

"We face the same issues all over the world,” said Lt. Dominic Kholivka, a Czech military police investigator, who presented on the first day. “We are sharing the solutions we found, or we improvised at the scene. It's always something to make your perspective broader.”

Det. 515 wasn't the sole OSI representative at the event. Special Agent Emily Leggett, OSI 4th Field Investigative Squadron Forensic Science Consultant, also shared best practices during both days.

"We're all doing the same job," Leggett said, "So it's great to see how we can learn from one another."

For Leggett, collaborating with international counterparts is nothing new. She has been traveling and meeting with allies and partners across the region for similar visits, including recent visits to Italy and Georgia.

As the second day of the event drew to a close, the joint investigators moved from the classroom to engage in hands-on activities. OSI demonstrated a variety of procedures, such as the proper use of lights, crime scene photography and fingerprint dusting, which are essential during the initial stages of a crime scene investigation.

According to Noel, the importance of meeting face-to-face in a peaceful setting cannot be overstated. Establishing personal connections and fostering mutual understanding in a non-combative environment enables the officers to develop enhanced trust and rapport. This improved relationship significantly increases OSI’s ability to collaborate efficiently in the event of a crisis or conflict.

“When we're working together on future exercises, operations, training environments, we will have a basic understanding of how each organization works,” Noel said. “It is critical to maintain these partnerships, but also critical in potential real-world events.”

Lt. Col. Jaroslav Slančík, Ministry of Defense of the Slovak Republic, Director of Police Activity department, was the primary contact between the nations for Noel and agreed with the significance of close cooperation.

"This [event] is needed so we have close cooperation between partners," Slančík said. "It's beneficial for everyone to know the capabilities of our partners [in case there] is a need to use them in real-life activities."

For some participants, like Special Agent Juan Contreras, this event provided his first hands-on experience working with joint partners. Contreras, who is still settling into his initial OSI assignment at Det. 515, has been on station for about six months.

“The Czech and Slovak military police is the first exposure I'm having to this kind of foreign partnership building, and it's an exciting experience,” Contreras said. “It's important because crime is a transnational issue; the issues that are affecting Europe also impact our national security.”

Following this event, preparations are in progress for comparable gatherings in other countries, to broaden the cooperative network and exchange best practices among military police and security forces.

“Working with host nation partners are critical because we cannot do everything on our own,” Noel said. “We need to rely on our allies to be able to accomplish not only U.S. objectives, but also help accomplish the host nation objectives in a collaborative environment.”