Region 8 growth supports evolving space mission

  • Published
  • By Dr. Deborah Kidwell
  • OSI Command Historian
On October 1, 2015, OSI's Region 8 gained three new detachments at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Dyess AFB, Texas, and Ellsworth AFB, S.D., as these installations transitioned to align under Air Force Global Strike Command. This growth, along with the recent gains of Det. 207 (Whiteman AFB, Mo.), Det. 219 (Barksdale AFB, La.), and Det. 228 (Minot AFB, N.D.) make Region 8 the fourth largest region in OSI.

OSI's roots in supporting the space mission extend back to a staff office created at Peterson AFB, Colo., to support Space Command in 1984. Since then, OSI's support to the Air Force space effort has gone through several changes in organization and focus, but support to the mission has been constant.

In 1993, the staff office became an operating location of Region 4 (4 FIR OLSpace), later became a squadron (43rd FIS) and, finally, Region 8. Along the way, OSI's support of the space mission was manned and led by many able agents including then Lt. Cols. Bob Broeking, Steve Shirley and Dana Simmons. OSI's current Region 4 Commander Col. Kristine Burnett, was a lieutenant assigned to OL-Space and current Vice Commander Col. Kristine Blackwell recently served as the Region 8 commander. In addition, OSI has adapted its agent skill sets to meet the changing needs of the Air Force.

The growth of Air Force Space Command and, later, the addition of Air Force Global Strike Command, along with the professional reputation of OSI agents, was responsible for the successful integration of OSI's support to these two major commands. Air Force Space Command (an Air Force major command), was created in 1982 to provide focused space and cyberspace capabilities to the joint warfighting team. The organization includes two Numbered Air Forces (14th AF, Vandenberg AFB, Calif., and 24th AF, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas); the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles AFB, Calif.; the Air Force Network Integration Center, Scott AFB, Ill.; and, the Air Force Spectrum Management Office, Fort Meade, Md.

The command provides space and cyberspace capabilities supported by a robust system of worldwide resources which includes OSI agents. In 2009, the Air Force activated the Air Force Global Strike Command as an additional major command with headquarters at Barksdale AFB, La. OSI detachments and region leadership support commanders and Airmen assigned at these major commands' worldwide locations.

OSI's relationship with Space Command began in 1984 with an operating location (a staff office, OL-Space), located at Peterson and assigned to headquarters OSI. Prior to the stand-up of 4 FIR OL-SPACE in 1993, the local detachment, Det. 413, at Peterson, (which also changed during that timeframe from Det. 1401 to Det. 413 under the District to Region reorganization) often provided support to CINCSPACE (then Gen. Charles A. Horner). Horner was the Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command, the U.S. Space Command and Air Force Space Command, headquartered at Peterson during 1992-1993.

From 1993 until 1999, OSI aligned Region 4 to support both Air Education and Training Command (AETC) and AFSPC, until the creation of Region 8 in 1999. Several of OSI's future leaders have supported this crucial mission. In 1993, Lt. Col. Ron Bliss was replaced by Lt. Col. Bob Broeking who dual hatted as Director, 4 FIR OL-Space and the counterintelligence staff officer to USSPACECOM in an office of four, including (then Lt.) Col. Burnett. Broeking recalled that the mission of the operating location was truly worldwide in scope, as he and Region 6 Commander Toby Sullivan traveled to Australia in 1994 to evaluate threats to
Woomera Air Base, in just one example of OSI's global reach.

For Burnett, OL-Space was a one-year, special-duty assignment. She was dual-hatted as both a counterintelligence advisor to the J2 and as staff officer to both MAJCOM and Unified staffs. In Broeking's absence, Burnett represented both the OSI and the Region 4 commanders to AF Space Command, CINCNORAD and USCINSPACE. Burnett recalled a tasking to conduct a vulnerability assessment for General Horner. The two agents assigned arrived at the general's house, and as part of the survey, had his staff trip the duress alarm. Unfortunately, the staff didn't know the process or how to respond to the security police call back. As a result, the security police locked down the gates just as personnel were leaving base at the end of the day. SPs responded to the location and ordered everyone out and on the ground until they resolved the incident.

The relationships began under Broeking, Burnett, and others became more routine when Lt. Col. Steve Shirley arrived at the location in 1995. At that time, eight detachments provided mission support to Space Command, and agents worked to establish processes, support AFSPC exercises and create supervisory roles. Under Shirley's command, 4 FIR OL-Space transitioned to the 43rd Field Investigations Squadron. Shirley also remained dual-hatted as the Counterintelligence Support Officer reporting in this capacity to Rear Admiral R.J. Nibe, the USSPACECOM/J2.

During this period, force protection issues emerged as an increased concern to both AFSPC and USSPACECOM missions, particularly in the wake of the Oklahoma City and Khobar Towers bombings. Lt. Col. (later Brig. Gen. and OSI Commander) Dana Simmons served as commander of the 43th FIS from 1997-1999; Col. Gary M. Triplett was the last commander of the unit.

On Oct. 1, 1999, OSI deactivated the 43rd FIS and stood up Region 8 with Col. Triplett in command. As the first region created since the 1991 OSI reorganization (from districts into regions), Region 8's mission was to provide investigative services to AFSPC, NORAD/United States Space Command, the Air Force Academy and in support of assigned personnel and resources worldwide.

The new region consisted of eight detachments and two operating locations which were strategically located to serve AFSPC bases--in total, a staff of 21 agents and support personnel. One of the first orders of business for the new region was to define its identity and role in supporting AFSPC. Region personnel established and chaired the AFSPC Threat Working Group. They supported a year-long planning effort and several pre-visit activities of Russians for the Shared Early Warning System operation that became operational in December 1999. Region leadership also designated a two-letter directorate [AFSPC/IV], to coordinate AFOSI investigations and operations at the MAJCOM level.

Region 8 provides investigative and counterintelligence support to the Air Force Academy. Det. 808 is the only OSI unit to support a four-year academic institution. Col. Amy Bumgarner was OSI's first liaison to the Academy Response Team, created after allegations of sexual assault surfaced in 2003. More recently, OSI has dealt with an informant program, cheating scandals and other investigations at the academy.

In recent years, the Region 8 mission has grown to include another Air Force major command. When the Air Force stood up Global Strike Command in 2009, OSI aligned resources to support the major command's efforts to develop and provide combat-ready forces for nuclear deterrence and global-strike operations to support the President and Combatant Commanders. From their headquarters at Barksdale AFB, La., AFGSC is responsible for the nation's three intercontinental ballistic missile wings, the two B-52 wings and one B-2 wing.

In all, Global Strike Command includes more than 25,000 personnel assigned to six wings, two geographically separated squadrons and one U.S. detachment and deployed locations around the globe; which adds up to quite a responsibility for OSI.

In early January 2014, Special Agents from Det. 806 were searching a subject's cell phone in support of a narcotics investigation, when they discovered what they suspected to be monthly missileer proficiency test exam answers. Agents searched more than 250 digital devices and implicated 96 officers involved in the cheating scandal. This investigation, one of the largest and most significant in OSI history, sparked the Force Improvement Program and resulted in several disciplinary actions and the resignation of the 341st Missile Wing Commander.

In 2010, OSI began providing federal law-enforcement support to the nuclear-convoy mission of the three Air Force intercontinental ballistic missile wings. Special Agent Allen Beall, a veteran agent assigned to the convoy operations in 2012, noted that "The startup of the program has been a huge success."

Civilian convoy agents from Detachments 805, 806 and 813 seamlessly integrated with their security forces, helicopter and maintainer counterparts from the 90th Missile Wing, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., the 341st Missile Wing, Malmstrom AFB, Mont., and the 91st Missile Wing, Minot AFB, N.D. The Road Warrior series of exercises have become a rite of passage for every base's convoy forces.

On August 13, 2014, SA Steve Collins and SA Beall were supporting a 90th Missile Wing nuclear convoy. During the mission, SA Collins observed a tractor trailer rapidly approaching the convoy by illegally passing multiple vehicles. SA Collins immediately identified the potential threat and radioed SA Beall to join him in the rear of the convoy. The agents activated their emergency lights and sirens on their marked law-enforcement vehicles - to no effect. In response, the convoy commander ordered the convoy to speed up and gunners into their turrets as the tractor trailer approached the convoy. During the next 18 miles, the tractor trailer made contact with SA Collins' bumper on two occasions. Gradually the truck slowed and finally stopped as the Wyoming Highway Patrol arrived to assist. The driver of the vehicle was removed and arrested by the highway patrol for reckless driving, eluding and assault on a peace officer. This was the first arrest involving a nuclear convoy in the history of the ICBM program. The convoy reached its destination safely and delivered a critical national resource to its destination.

(Editor's Note: This story first appeared in the Fall 2015 Global Reliance Magazine.)