AF Special Investigations Academy celebrates 75 Years of history, heritage

  • Published
  • By Robert Vanderpool
  • OSI Historian

Seventy-five years ago, Brig. Gen. Jospeh F. Carroll, OSI’s first commander, authored a memorandum to the Air Force Inspector General’s Office announcing that the first class of a new OSI training school was scheduled to convene two weeks later. 

Per Carroll’s memorandum, the first class was “comprised of the majority of the OSI District Commanders, key field grade officers from OSI Headquarters, and top-level civilian personnel of OSI.”  The date of that memorandum was Jan. 24, 1949, marking the beginning of a function that would evolve over 75 years to become today’s U.S. Air Force Special Investigations Academy.  

On Feb. 9, 1949, the Air Force Inspector’s General Office issued General Order #11 which formally established the OSI Training School.  The order was backdated for the establishment of the academy to have occurred eight days earlier.

Col. Sidney S. Rubenstein was named the school’s first commandant.  Rubenstein was a former Federal Bureau of Investigations and Office of Strategic Services special agent who had also served as the Deputy Director of the U.S. War Crimes Commission following World War II.

The first class, which convened Feb. 7, 1949, at the District of Columbia National Guard Armory, was scheduled to be five weeks in duration with classes held daily between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.; except for Saturdays, when classes were from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  

The initial applicants for the academy were required to be U.S. citizens, be at least 21 years of age, possess a university degree, and have at least two years of qualifying experience in a military, federal, or state or local law enforcement agency. 

The course curriculum consisted largely of information already being taught at the Army’s Counterintelligence Corps School. However, the coursework was further adapted to conform with OSI specific needs and regulations.  Academy instructors included a mix of special agents and staff personnel from OSI headquarters, who were supplemented by additional instructors that were detailed in from other agencies.  FBI subject matter experts were also frequently relied upon as guest lecturers and instructors. 

In his memorandum, Carroll wrote: “The curriculum to be given at the school has been prepared in such a manner that it is designed to equip each OSI Special Agent with sufficient foundation to enable him to handle investigations of a criminal, subversive, or special inquiry type, and will also cover those administrative procedures which are adaptable to a centralized investigative organization such as the OSI.”

With 48 students, Class 49-A was the first class to graduate the OSI Training School, earning their special agent credentials on March 11, 1949.  Subsequent academy classes were immediately lengthened from five weeks to eight weeks. 

During the first few years of the academy’s history, the location of the school moved several times, changing its name twice.  In 1950, the academy moved from the District of Columbia National Guard Armory to the Tempo U Building, which was located at 12th Street and Constitution Avenue, also in Washington D.C.

On June 1, 1952, the OSI Training School was redesignated as the U. S. Air Force Special Investigations School.  Two months later, on Aug. 8, the academy moved again, this time to the Tempo E Building located at 4th Street and Adams Drive, still in Washington D.C.  The academy would stay at this location for nearly 18 years. 

During the early 1950s, class lengths were extended from nine to 10 weeks.  This was done to expand the basic course curriculum, but also to teach additional fundamentals of investigative operations.  The academy was redesignated again on June 1, 1953, this time as the Air Force Special Investigations School.

The 1950s and 1960s saw the academy incorporate several new basic and advanced training programs into its course offerings.  Some examples of these include the addition of a Special Technical Electronic and Optical Equipment Course in 1950.  In 1953, the academy established an ‘on-the-job- training program’ for agent trainees while also implementing a Counterintelligence Supervisors Course. 

In 1954, a Polygraph Operators Refreshers Course was added.  The year 1960 saw the introduction of a specialized Counterintelligence Training Course.  In 1963, in direct response to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a mandatory Distinguished Visitor Protection course was added.  In 1965 the academy added an OSI Staff Officers Course.  Also in 1965, the academy began deploying Mobile Training Teams which provided instruction to military investigative and security personnel in allied countries to include Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan.  In 1968, the academy provided instructors for the Air Force’s Combat Security Police Intelligence School.

In May 1970, the academy moved to the Forrestal Building, which was located on Independence Avenue, adjacent to the National Mall in Washington D.C.  Seven months later, in Dec. 1970, Special Agent Michael Ross was selected to be the first civilian Commandant in academy history. 

In June 1976, the academy received accreditation from the Community College of the Air Force allowing agent trainees for the first time ever to earn college credits for their completion of the basic investigator’s course.  This earned accreditation was made retroactive back to 1958.  In January 1977, time at the academy for basic classes was lengthened to 12 weeks.  In 1980, the academy name was changed yet again this time as the Air Force Special Investigations Academy.

On Oct. 6, 1982, the academy moved to Building 626 on Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C.  The featured speaker for the dedication event was then Lt. Gen. (retired) Joseph F, Carroll, the man whose memorandum was responsible for the academy’s original inception. 

During the ceremony, OSI’s first commander commented: “There’s an old saying that the past is really a prologue, which really signifies that the past is introductory to the future.  Now, some 34 years after the original establishment of OSI, the high hopes I had for the OSI training are finally achieving fruition, and, at long last, it now has a home which is truly worthy of the name academy.” 

Prior to 1990, the academy existed as an informal operating location of OSI Headquarters.  In its records, the Air Force Historical Research Agency refers to the academy as a ‘named activity’ going back to 1978.  The agency has no independent formal records related specifically to academy operations prior to 1978. 

As described by one historian there in 2022, the academy had been “off the radar” and “floating around in the periphery for many years.”  Academy history was included in OSI Headquarters history, but on paper it did not exist on its own as a formal Air Force organization. 

All that changed on June 30, 1990, when the academy was formally constituted and activated as the U.S. Air Force Special Investigations Academy.  Under Air Force organizational standards, today’s academy does not share direct organizational lineage with the original OSI Training School; however, and more importantly, what it does is share is 75 years of history, heritage, and operations that began with Carroll’s memorandum of January 24, 1949.  

On Nov. 8, 1995, the Joseph F. Carroll Building was dedicated at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.  With the opening of this new facility, the academy was moved from Bolling to Andrews, where it remained for the next seven years. 

Discussions on moving the academy to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, or FLETC, began as early as the late-1980s.  The conversations evolved and became more organized and more resource driven as OSI progressed into the 1990s and 2000s. 

Following several months of study, on April 28, 2000, Brig. Gen. Francis X. Taylor, then OSI commander, announced that the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force had given their approval for the academy to be moved to FLETC.  The move was directed to be completed by Oct. 2002.

The primary stated purposes for the move of the academy to FLETC were to consolidate training at a single campus that offered unique facilities, faculty, infrastructure, curriculum and state of the art equipment that would enhance training and mission capabilities; while also recognizing a substantial annual cost savings through reduced per diem requirements, consolidation of academic programming and the elimination of contracted training requirements. 

Further, it was noted that four other military agencies: the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Department of Defense; had already moved much of their law enforcement training operations to FLETC.  The first class of prospective OSI Special Agents to attend the academy at FLETC formally began their instruction on Oct. 14, 2002.

Calendar year 2024 marked the academy’s 22nd year at FLETC, representing the longest continuous period that the school has been based at one location in its history.  The activation of U.S. Air Force Special Investigations Academy, Detachment 1, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix, New Jersey, on Sept. 10, 2003, provided the academy a second location, which is still in operation today.

Since the initial establishment of the OSI Training School in 1949, for 75 years OSI has continuously operated its own training program.  Linked by a common history and heritage with all the schools and programs that came before it, this makes today’s U.S. Air Force Special Investigations Academy one of the oldest career field training schools in the U.S. Air Force.