QUANTICO, Va. --
I was a 25-year-old with OSI (Office of Special Investigations) at one time. That was almost 35 years ago. So, how did this old guy survive working with all these young professionals?
It’s not lost on me that a majority of the people I work with are younger than my own children and some are closer in age to my grandchildren than they are to my age. The new agents, analysts and pro-staff learned many of the major events of my life in their history classes.
I’ve had successes and made my share of mistakes in my career, but I always pledged to do better. What I found in OSI is our leadership actually expects you to do just that, get better.
One of the tricks I’ve used over the years is to lean on the depth and breadth of experience that you acquire. One of the main benefits of acquiring extensive experience has allowed me to keep contributing in OSI through the years. I have a lot of war stories, and people are willing to listen to them, if some of the time, you're helping them develop their own.
Now the younger crowd is nice and go out of their way to compliment me by saying, “the walking fossil is telling another story,” which inspires me to tell more. When I tell them change is good, I appreciate it when they make comments on my outdated wardrobe, or smile and talk about how really brown my shoes are.
I’ve seen lots of changes over the years and remember when OSI personnel were maybe misunderstood by the Air Force instead of being respected and sought after by Air and Space Force leadership. I fought the Cold War, watched the Berlin Wall and Soviet Empire fall and worked the 9-11 Pentagon Crash Site. When I hear younger Air Force personnel tell me how the Russians and Chinese are our friends, I smile and tell them that’s fascinating.
Within OSI, I’ve witnessed major changes like going from Districts to Investigative Regions, the Academy moving from Washington D.C. to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and seeing headquarters move from Bolling Air Force Base, to Andrews AFB to Marine Corps Base Quantico.
I remember the days of decrypting classified leads obtained from the Base Communications Center. Now, you receive investigative leads on your desktop and unclassified leads on your phones. No longer do agents get the “stink eye” from the detachment commander when they sign out their handguns because we all can carry Personally Own Weapons.
There has been a lot of change to OSI over the years, which reminds me of what (former President) John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life.” Unfortunately, some things don’t change, like OSI members being killed in action in far off places like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. I will always remember those heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice, like my fellow OSI Academy classmate Special Agent Rick Ulbright, and I keep him and all the others in my prayers.
As I enter the final months of my career, I’ve come up with a list of good reasons why it’s good to grow old in OSI, and someday, if I can find where I placed it, I’d be glad to share it with you all.
As a substitute, I offer these thoughts:
1. You tend to value how good your detachment/squadron is after you get re-assigned.
2. Take lots of team action photos; you’ll appreciate both the teams and the photos when you're older.
3. Keep a journal. You will be amazed how much you have done and forgotten over the years…keep it unclassified, a polygraph may be in your future.
4. Remember, OSI is important, but your family and friends love you more!
5. Listen to war stories and ask yourself, “Can I do that at my unit?” and then try it.
6. Always make things better in order to make “The OSI We Need” for the future.
7. When walking into a one-window room with a door, choose to open the window of opportunity and don’t take the easy way out the door, you will grow from it!
8. Many who have retired and gone into the civilian sector or joined other agencies have repeatedly said, “I would take the worst OSI agent over the best of who I’ve got.” Our people are exceptional, so enjoy working with them.
9. I’d take one sharp analyst or pro-staffer over ten agents any day; they're smarter and make all of us look good!
10. Go overseas and experience OSI’s worldwide mission; you won’t regret it.
This Halloween marks the very end of my 41 and a half-year career with the Air Force. My parents pushed me to join the Air Force in November 1978, and I’ve been richly blessed because of it. So, when you hear screaming and yelling it wouldn’t be those young trick-or-treaters running amuck in the streets. Instead, it will be the security guards dragging this old guy out of the Headquarters Building at Quantico, Va.
That said, I’m proud to have served with one of the finest organizations in the world with some of the greatest men and women this nation has ever known. As I step off the line of active agent status, I’ll try to look past the youthful inexperience of those who take my place and wish them the very best of luck as they march toward growing old themselves.