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New weapons policy affords viable option

A Sig Sauer P290RS, above, and a Glock 43 were two of 10 weapons on display Dec. 10 at Air Force Office of Special Investigations headquarters to showcase some of the options available to Special Agents who want to carry a privately owned weapon in accordance with new OSI Weapons Program policy guidance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michael Hastings)

A Sig Sauer P290RS, above, and a Glock 43 were two of 10 weapons on display Dec. 10 at Air Force Office of Special Investigations headquarters to showcase some of the options available to Special Agents who want to carry a privately owned weapon in accordance with new OSI Weapons Program policy guidance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michael Hastings)

Air Force Office of Special Investigations members check out a display table of privately owned weapons Dec. 10 at OSI headquarters. The 10 guns showcased some of the options available to Special Agents who want to carry a POW in accordance with new OSI Weapons Program policy guidance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michael Hastings)

Air Force Office of Special Investigations members check out a display table of privately owned weapons Dec. 10 at OSI headquarters. The 10 guns showcased some of the options available to Special Agents who want to carry a POW in accordance with new OSI Weapons Program policy guidance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michael Hastings)

QUANTICO, Va. -- Driven by real world needs, agents assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations are now permitted to carry an approved privately owned weapon and ammunition on duty.

The change brings OSI investigators in line with their counterparts at many federal, state and local law enforcement agencies which allow their investigators to carry a POW on duty.

"I'm excited to announce yet another significant milestone for OSI's weapons program," wrote Brig. Gen. Keith M. Givens, OSI Commander, in his email to the command Nov. 16, following the Secretary of the Air Force signing a memorandum the previous week authorizing OSI Special Agents to carry POWs and ammo while performing official duties in the U.S., its territories and possessions.

"One of the main driving forces behind this change was the desire to provide each agent the option to employ a weapon that best suits their individual body type and hand size for preference and concealment concerns," Gen. Givens said. "Now, OSI Special Agents will have that flexibility."

A change to allow OSI Special Agents to carry POWs has been considered since 2010. OSI Strategic Programs and Requirements (XR) examined agencies with similar missions that allowed their investigators to carry POWs.

"Based on our analysis we determined the best way to move forward to implement the process within OSI," said Special Agent Waldemar Torres, OSI Weapons Program Manager. "The lessons learned were vital to our POW proposal to the OSI commander and ultimately lead to his final decision to implement our initiative."

To take advantage of their new weapons option, Special Agents must meet the recently-published guidance outlined in Interim Change-7 to AFOSI Manual 71-113, Firearms, Use of Force, and Tactics requiring them to:

* Select a 9mm POW from the extensive Headquarters-approved list
* Obtain written approval from their leadership
* Procure and maintain their POW and associated gear
* Ensure any personnel ammunition used in the POW meets law enforcement standards
* Proficiency Fire with their POW prior to arming for duty
* Qualify with the M-11 and remain current on arming specific training

The standard issue government M-11 pistol is no longer manufactured. That, coupled with the fact the M-11 did not work for all investigators or for every aspect of OSI law enforcement and counterintelligence missions, helped fuel OSI's policy initiative.

"The agency considered a policy change to address the one-size-fits-all weapon challenges for a long time," Waldemar said. "The growing concern with active shooter violence and general threats to our military heightened the need for need for investigators to arm on and off duty with weapons they're comfortable shooting and carrying. The policy change was a vital piece to encourage on and off duty arming throughout the agency."

The policy enables OSI investigators to choose among 27 different handguns currently approved for duty.

The XR team displayed 10 of the most popular models Dec. 10 in the OSI Commander's Conference Room. They're owned by agents who purchased them under the newly approved program and who allowed interested agents to handle them, compare specifications and ask questions.

As of Dec. 15 there have been 159 various POWs registered with OSI. The number changes in the field daily.

"The majority of the feedback has been positive," Waldemar said. "Among the questions were inquiries about the tone and finish of approved weapons, but the standard to avoid reflection had to be strictly enforced."

The continuing evolution of the OSI Weapons Program is Special Agent driven, a point of emphasis with Gen. Givens.

"From the lighter load arming requirements, to alternate holsters, and now the POW - these changes and ideas came directly from you (SAs)," the commander said. "This authority is a testament to the trust our Air Force senior leaders and I have in you. It serves to further elevate our status as a federal investigative agency."