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A Day in the Life of an … Air Force OSI agent

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mindy Bloem
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
To have the chance to spend the day with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations felt like a dream come true for me. I grew up watching shows like the "X-Files," and while that show had nothing to do with reality, it sparked a curiosity in me about federal agents. 
I was always intrigued by their mysterious lifestyle and couldn't wait for my day with the Air Force's own federal agents. 

I had already met with Special Agent Nathan Sessler the day before I was set to actually follow him around, which helped me locate the AFOSI building the following day. The AFOSI building is relatively nondescript; I was surprised to find I had driven by it almost daily without ever noticing who it belonged to. 

When I arrived at the AFOSI building that next morning, I was led into Agent Sessler's office where he was busy taking care of some paperwork regarding a case he was working on. Agent Sessler explained to me that paperwork was a large part of their job and it was not at all uncommon to spend 16 hours at work. 

As I waited for him to finish, I looked around his office and noticed another desk and computer sitting in the corner. Initially, I thought it belonged to another agent but soon learned it was the computer he used for classified intelligence information. 

I was amazed to learn of the exceptional work our agents perform in supporting our mission and safeguarding our people and assets at certain overseas locations. They go into these locations, oftentimes alone or with minimal support like a two-person team, gain the respect and trust of the locals and find out vital information to combat the evil deeds of our country's most dreaded enemies. Their accomplishments have been astounding, and I was proud to hear how the Air Force excels in these missions; they are an indispensable source of our nation's freedom. The interesting thing to me is how much these agents do for our country, yet seldom get the public recognition other servicemembers get simply due to the nature of their mission. They put their lives in the most precarious situations, performing incredible counter intelligence and counter insurgency efforts. Their efforts are not without results either. Since the beginning of Operations IRAQI and ENDURING Freedom, they have performed more than 18,143 interviews and interrogations leading to more than 1,518 referrals for prosecution, 379 convictions (many receiving life imprisonment or death penalty), more than 12,000 threats to Air Force personnel and resources identified, more than 1,000 target packages provided to direct action units, and discovery and destruction of more than 20,000 tons of explosives and weapons. Gen. Gary North made the statement about our AFOSI members which describes perfectly how invaluable they are. 

He said, "Pound for pound, AFOSI agents are my most lethal weapon system." 

After learning about some of their amazing deployment efforts, I was given the opportunity to attend a training briefing conducted by AFOSI Special Agent in charge Wendell Palmer and members of the 43rd Operations Support Squadron's intelligence flight. The briefing lasted nearly three hours, but I was not bored at all. 

Once again I was amazed by what all these people do behind the scenes to fight terrorism. There are so many threats to our freedom on a constant basis, and while this fact did frighten me, I felt grateful that these silent guardians are always ready. 

These agents are often away from home, spending long hours at the office or performing some mission, calling on the understanding of their loved ones. Many times their marriages and relationships suffer or don't last due to the stress of the job. Agent Sessler told me that an agent has to be truly committed to make it because if they are not completely committed to what they do, they won't be able to last long-term in that career field. 

After the briefing, we went to lunch with the 43rd OSS members. From an outside perspective, it was comforting to watch these two groups form a team which could serve only to advance the mission needs. 

When lunch ended, I went with Agent Sessler to the Fayetteville Police Department's Office of Special Information building. I was pleasantly surprised to learn how closely local law enforcement and the AFOSI agents work together. From the moment Agent Sessler walked in and the friendly banter began, I could sense a special bond that must have been formed from spending so much time together. 

Agent Sessler and the Fayetteville PD explained it was important to work together because sharing information leads to the goal of getting bad people off the street.
While I was in their office, I noticed a lot of gang-related pictures and items hanging on the walls. I learned that one of the prime concerns for these local law enforcement officers and also Agent Sessler is gangs. Gangs are a growing concern in our military and Agent Sessler is committed to stopping this problem. 

When we got back to his office, Agent Sessler showed me numerous slides and videos involving gangs. He said he was going to show me everything I did and did not want to know about gangs. That statement certainly turned out to be true. 

I was so shocked to learn about the growing influence the gang culture is having on our young people, and how it has seeped its way into the military. Thankfully, the Air Force has no tolerance for this behavior and is doing everything it can do eradicate its existence. While the Air Force has a small statistical amount of its people involved in gangs, it is nothing compared to the numbers in some of the other branches of service. I definitely learned more about this lifestyle and feel better for having learned of it. I would warn both parents and children to become educated about this growing subculture before it is too late. 

After my lesson in gang activity, I had the chance to speak with some of the other AFOSI agents. Each was working on cases that were weighing heavy on their hearts, but each seemed hopeful our justice system would prevail. In their 60-year history, AFOSI agents have helped to recover more than $4 billion dollars in fraud, performed more than 300,000 investigations, convicted more than 53,000 Airmen and have been a part of having more than 80,000 Airmen removed from the Air Force. I for one am glad we have these agents on the side of truth fighting to keep our Air Force strong and pure. 

I spent the latter part of the evening with Agent Sessler as he worked with one of his operational contacts. I would love to go into more detail regarding some of these events but am unable to do so. Just believe that when I finally left their building at 10:30 at night, I felt, as an Air Force member, like our country was in very capable hands.