Seven inducted into OSI Hall of Fame following 5-year hiatus

  • Published
  • By Thomas Brading
  • OSI Public Affairs

After a five-year pause, the Office of Special Investigations Hall of Fame reconvened Sept. 9 to induct seven of its own legends.

This year's inductees, previously nominated but delayed in joining the Hall of Fame due to COVID-19 disruptions, included Steven F. Minger and Martin L. Pitt from the Class of 2018; Joe R. Worley and Rene G. Pichard from the Class of 2020; and Gale D. Ahern, Kelly D. Harrison, Sr., and Richard D. Womble from the Class of 2022.

The event drew a crowd of over 200, from both OSI's past and present. Among them were many of the inductees, their families and past OSI senior leaders, including six previously inducted OSI hall of famers. Currently serving leaders included Col. Amy Bumgarner and Chief Master Sgt. Gregg Gow, OSI’s command chief. 

“All seven inductees started their careers as enlisted, and that speaks highly of our enlisted corps,” Bumgarner said, in her opening remarks. 

Class of 2018

Starting his Air Force career in 1966, Minger initially served with the Air Police. By 1971, he transitioned to OSI as a Special Agent. Although he retired as a master sergeant in 1986, Minger swiftly returned to the fold, serving as a civilian Special Agent for an additional 27 years.

Recognized for his ability to recruit informants, Minger played a crucial role in successful counter-drug operations across Europe during the 1970s to the 1990s. Beyond operations, he also molded aspiring Special Agents as a training officer. 

Over his tenure, which took him from Texas to Germany, Minger devoted 42 years to OSI before retiring in 2013.

“I had the great fortunate to work with most of the Hall of Famers and for the most part I learned who I was from those guys,” Minger said, during the ceremony. “There are guys in the audience who I owe a great deal of gratitude to, because without them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I did.”

Similarly, Pitt, another Class of 2018 inductee, began his service with the Air Force in 1962. He first joined the Air Police, and by 1971, he embraced a role with OSI as a Special Agent. Although he retired as a chief master sergeant in 1992, his association with OSI continued in a civilian capacity for 16 more years. 

His expertise extended to source operations, with duties ranging from criminal investigations to Chief of Organizational Development. Having served in varied locations, including Oregon, Germany and Washington, D.C., Pitt dedicated 37 years to OSI and 47 years to the Department of the Air Force before his retirement in 2009.

“When I was notified of this award, I was taken back considerably,” he said, during the ceremony. “But I recognize it wasn’t just me, it was the coalition of the best agents of a generation, and I accept this award on behalf of them.” 

Class of 2020

Following the careers of the Class of 2018 inductees, the spotlight shifted to the next generation of OSI trailblazers. The Class of 2020 started with Worley, whose commitment to the Air Force began in 1955, where he initially served in the Air Police domain. 

Throughout his tenure, Worley earned a reputation for innovation, pioneering joint task force investigations that consistently yielded successful prosecutions and recoveries. Among his notable achievements, he twice spearheaded the largest fraud probes in OSI's history at that time. 

He went on to serve in multiple capacities, from criminal investigator to detachment commander. He concluded his career in 1978 as a chief master sergeant, having dedicated 23 years to active duty and 17 of those to OSI.

In his acceptance speech, Worley, now 87, said being recruited into OSI was one of the highlights of his life. Hailing from Williamsburg, Kentucky, he joked that before joining OSI, he had barely ventured outside his hometown. 

But as Worley's service took him across varied terrains, another hall of famer had already etched his mark on OSI history. Born in France in 1922, Pichard began his service with the French navy, later participating in the French resistance during World War II.

Post-war in 1945, Pichard migrated to the U.S., before he joined the National Guard. Four years later, he was on active duty and served during the Korean War, and by 1959, he embraced the role of an OSI Special Agent.

His deep connections to France cemented his place with OSI, where he represented the organization in Paris for three decades. According to ret. Col. Toby Sullivan, who helped nominate him, Pichard “knew Paris like the back of his hand,” he said. 

Pichard's respect from the French wasn't just an acknowledgment of his wartime contributions; his unparalleled investigative and liaison capabilities set him apart. This was evident in 1966, when France requested foreign military entities to depart. However, only OSI --- courtesy of Pichard's influence --- maintained its presence.

Pichard's career also included escorting dignitaries, including multiple U.S. presidents and members of the Kennedy family. He retired in 1975 as a senior master sergeant, only to rejoin as a civilian Special Agent, before finally bowing out in 1990. During his retirement, he was honored with French medals typically reserved for only presidents and royalty, Sullivan said, underscoring Pichard’s impact on France. 

Sullivan, accepting on Pichard’s behalf, said Pichard’s impact is still evident from conversations with French contacts and embassy members to this day. After recognizing the inductees from previous years, the OSI Hall of Fame shifted to the most recent hall of famers in OSI community.

Class of 2022

Ahern's journey into OSI was unique. Beginning his Air Force career as a jet mechanic in 1968, he made an unconventional leap to join OSI as a Special Agent by 1974. Although he retired from active duty in 1988, his dedication kept going. Like many of his Hall of Fame peers, he stepped back into OSI as a civilian Special Agent. 

He earned a legendary status in the realm of polygraph examinations, many regarded Ahern as one of the Department of Defense's foremost experts. In fact, his court-martial testimonies and leadership significantly elevated the professionalism of Air Force polygraph offices. 

Beyond his expertise, Ahern also spearheaded the revision of crucial polygraph regulations, which shaped OSI's wartime policies. Throughout his career, Ahern wore many hats, from a criminal investigator to OSI's inspector general, ultimately concluding his service in 2011 after a 43-year tenure with the agency. 

Scott Ahern, his son, accepted the induction on his father’s behalf. “If my father were standing here today, he would have been proud and received this award with honor,” Scott said. “But he would have deflected all his own praise to the people he worked with.”

Another polygraph expert was recognized in the Class of 2022. Harrison’s career first took flight in 1959, guarding bombers during the days of the Cold War. 

Although he stepped away from active duty, his proficiency and commitment drew him back, and by 1970, he had firmly established himself within the OSI, and like Ahern, cemented his reputation as a polygraph expert. 

Harrison’s dedication to polygraph examination led him to author essential "how-to" guides and teach pivotal investigative strategies. 

“Nobody does anything on their own -- you must have help,” Harrison said, during his acceptance speech. “I am honored to receive the Hall of Fame award, but I accept it on behalf of the hundreds -- or thousands -- of agents who made my job easy.” 

Lastly, Womble began his Air Force tenure in 1970 within the Security Police career field. By 1981, he transitioned to OSI. Entrusted with intricate cases, Womble played an instrumental role in a major joint federal task force that exposed vast fraudulent charges against the government. 

For him, running fraud investigations was exciting, he said, highlighting multiple examples. 

His groundbreaking computer techniques became benchmarks for several commands, including the Defense Logistics Agency. During his career, Womble received the Outstanding Enlisted Special Agent of the Year Award in 1985, and his assignments ranged from criminal investigations to leading joint task forces. 

"I am here for all those who have supported [me] over the years," Womble said, echoing the sentiments of many other recipients by dedicating his induction to those he worked alongside over his decades of service. 

As the evening ended, these stories of service, resilience, and innovation resonated deeply, serving as a reminder of the sacrifices and tireless efforts OSI has made to protect the nation.

“OSI’s Hall of Fame isn’t just a testament to the dedication and excellence of these seven exceptional members,” Bumgarner said. “Their induction is also a reflection of OSI's legacy, because they epitomize the commitment, tenacity and innovation that have defined OSI for the past 75 years.”

Bumgarner added that the collective histories of the recent inductees will only strengthen the future of OSI. 

“With the current challenges faced by OSI and its counterparts, celebrating these OSI legends moves our agency forward into its next chapter, because they will continue to inspire future generations of Special Agents,” she said. 

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