BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
Every day there are men and women who wake up, put on their suits, strap on their badges and adorn the title of special agent.
Crime and threats to the mission are not confined to the walls of a base, and neither are these special agents from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Their purpose is to protect Air Force personnel, facilities and resources when someone threatens to harm them.
“Primarily we conduct felony-level criminal investigations and counter-intelligence services that support the Air Force, Barksdale and the surrounding area specifically for Detachment 812,” said Special Agent Joseph L. Proxmire, AFOSI Detachment 812. “Our area of responsibility is roughly 81 counties and parishes throughout Western Louisiana and Eastern Texas. If anything happens that directly relates to our military personnel within that AOR, we go out and take the investigative steps within that area.”
Founded in 1948, AFOSI was modeled after the Federal Bureau of Investigations. They are an independent organization that reports to the Inspector General’s office.
“Our investigations are normally ones that could end in one-year confinement or more. Under one-year confinement is normally dealt with by security forces. Minor ethic violations, abuse of power and general waste, fraud and abuse type investigations are dealt with by the IG,” Proxmire said.
A common misconception with AFOSI is that their sole purpose in the Air Force is to sneak around and build cases against people.
“An allegation or claim is what starts the chain of events. Once that takes place, it’s our job to go find the facts,” Proxmire said. “We are the fact collectors. Our investigations can include anything from terrorism to contract fraud to homicides and sexual assaults. We are not the bad guys. It’s our job to find them.”
In order to collect facts for allegations, AFOSI strives to have good relationships with base personnel and leadership.
“We attend meetings with the offices of first sergeants, commanders, the wing itself, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator’s office, the drug demand office and many others to keep us informed,” Proxmire said. “We want to be in the loop and we also want everyone to be comfortable enough to come to us if need be.”
Keeping up that rapport is a full time job.
“This career field takes a lot of your time away from family,” said Special Agent Danielle Vizzone, AFOSI Detachment 812. “OSI always has a never-ending to-do list and sometimes it feels as if you can't even make a dent in what you need to accomplish. And on top of that, hearing the painful and traumatic things victim's go through can be difficult, but for me, it only strengthens the desire to be able to help them in any way I can.”
Despite those aspects, AFOSI still consists of individuals who are passionate about what they do.
“I love this job, I love trying to figure things out and I love helping people,” Vizzone said. “It is the most meaningful part of the job for me and makes all of it worth it.”
Special agents consist of active duty, reserve and Department of Defense civilian personnel. AFOSI is not a typical career field that is assigned upon completion of basic military training. Direct accessions for officers are available, but still must be carried through the appropriate channels. The application process varies based on the individual.
Once accepted the individual goes through 11 1/2 weeks of a federal agent criminal investigation training program and then seven weeks of the Basic Special Investigators Course. Some aspects of training include basic investigative skills, interviewing techniques, how to testify in court, Constitutional Law, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, AFOSI specific regulations and investigation techniques.
“I didn’t know what OSI was until I met an agent. I started looking into the career field and fell in love with it,” Vizzone said. “Get all the information you can and if this is a job that sparks your interest, go for it. If you like being in the business of helping victims and protecting Air Force assets, this is the career field for you.”
For more information on how to become a part of the AFOSI team visit www.osi.af.mil/vacancy/.