AntiTerrorism Awareness: OSI’s vigilance mission

  • Published
  • By OSI Public Affairs

August is Antiterrorism (AT) Awareness Month, and serves to remind our military and civilian communities to practice regular vigilance against potential threats.

Within the Department of the Air Force and the broader National Security apparatus, the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) plays a critical role in safeguarding equipment and personnel from terrorist attacks. Both at home and abroad, OSI personnel work to identify and neutralize terrorist actors and organizations.

“This month, we join our brothers and sisters across the DoD in remembering to stay vigilant against terrorism threats,” wrote OSI Vice Commander, Col. Shan B. Nuckols in his message to the Command.  “This month reminds each of us to continue practicing the motto of our Eagle Eyes program: Watch, Report, Protect.”

While all OSI agents receive basic training in counterterrorism investigations and operations, the Command recognizes the needs for special focus on the skillsets required to combat the terrorist threat. To this end, OSI agents have the opportunity to participate in two unique programs focused on AT: The Antiterrorism Specialty Team (AST), and the Force Protection Detachment (FPD) program.

Antiterrorism Specialty Team

As the Cold War Era drew to a close, the United States recognized that terrorist threats emanating from rogue states and actors would represent a new and very prominent threat to the nation’s military. Key historical events, to include the 1979 Iranian Revolution, began to shape OSI’s emerging AT mission. Following the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers, OSI’s first AST was established, charged with providing a rapid-response capability wherever and whenever the Air Force deployed. 

Today’s AST executes full-spectrum counterintelligence, counterterrorism and force protection operations in support of contingency requirements. AST personnel receive specialized training, to include advanced training in vehicle operations, protective service operations and tactics.  AST agents often attend Air Force Special Operations Command courses, and many receive specialized language training. 

In recent years, AST personnel have deployed on short-notice worldwide, supporting Air Force operations in combat theaters in the Middle East, lending counterintelligence and AT expertise to military exercises in Europe and Latin America, and working to enhance partner nation AT capabilities in Africa and the Pacific. AST represents a rapid, agile, and professional AT resource for the Department of the Air Force. 

Force Protection Detachment Program

A foundational aspect of AT strategy is clear communication and coordination between security elements. This was made apparent in the wake of the 2000 USS Cole bombing in Yemen, perpetrated by al Qaeda against a transiting U.S. Navy ship. The attack highlighted the necessity of unity of effort in AT measures, and identified the requirement for special support to military forces abroad operating under Combatant Command authorities.

The answer to this requirement was the establishment of the FPD program. FPDs, staffed by OSI, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and Army Counterintelligence personnel, protect DoD personnel and resources during transitory operations, exercises and deployments. The DoD operates FPDs in 33 embassies worldwide, and OSI has a presence in 17 of them. OSI is the Executive Agency for six locations – Lithuania, Bulgaria, Uganda, Jordan, Curacao and Chile.  OSI further maintains a supporting presence at an additional 11 embassies in Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Georgia, Ghana, Indonesia, Israel, Morocco, Panama and Thailand.

OSI personnel assigned to FPDs work closely with host nation security and intelligence services to identify and mitigate terrorist threats, and are fully-integrated with the Department of State Country Team within the embassy. FPD agents leverage counterintelligence/AT expertise, language skills, and a deep understanding of cross-cutting international dynamics, to safeguard DoD resources abroad.