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Case Closed: Office of Special Investigation takes top Air Force honors

Special Agent Duran Smith practices collecting evidence with a test kit used to process crime scenes. Special Agent Smith is assigned to Fairchild’s Office of Special Investigation Detachment 322. The unit was recognized as the 2005 Air Force OSI Small Detachment of the Year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Gallahan.)

Special Agent Duran Smith practices collecting evidence with a test kit used to process crime scenes. Special Agent Smith is assigned to Fairchild’s Office of Special Investigation Detachment 322. The unit was recognized as the 2005 Air Force OSI Small Detachment of the Year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Gallahan.)

FAIRCHILD AFB, Wash. -- The Office of Special Investigation here walked away with the “2005 Air Force OSI Small Detachment of the Year” award March 16.

The detachment competed for the award against more than 200 other small detachments world wide.

“The key to our success was our balanced approach to all of our core mission areas,” said Casey Fitzpatrick, Special Agent in Charge, AFOSI Detachment 322.

The detachment’s mission covers many areas to include counter-terrorism, integrated base defense, criminal/fraud investigations and counter-threat operations. They aren’t just managing the programs, they are taking them by the reigns and showing the rest of the Air Mobility Command OSI detachments how to do business.

“We drafted and staffed counter-threat operations for the rest of AMC OSI detachments to follow suit,” said Mr. Fitzpatrick. “These operations are on the leading edge, it’s a new paradigm shift in the fundamental ways we handle business.”

And business was good for the detachment last year, solving “unsolvable” cases such as the high visibility, $17,000 gold and jewelry heist at the Base Exchange.

“That case was briefed to the Secretary of the Air Force as unsolvable,” he said. “We were certain the burglar would be back and knew if he did return, he would be caught. This was truly a textbook team effort between the Security Forces and our office.”

The Base Exchange burglar is only one example of OSI’s felony level reactive operations. The flip side is proactive operations, a side that cannot be talked about much.

The bad guys aren’t always filmed on surveillance cameras or caught red handed. To nab the ones lying low, you have to find them on their home turf, Mr. Fitzpatrick said. “That’s our proactive operations in a nutshell.”

He said that 25 percent of OSI’s 41 felony-level investigations were proactive last year, which accounted for the highest proactivity rate in the unit’s history. Compare that to other OSI detachments two percent, and the scope of Detachment 322 influence within AFOSI takes shape.

“We are very active in our community,” he said with a grin.

Some may feel Fairchild’s community includes Airway Heights, Spokane and other areas within an hour’s drive, but ask an OSI agent which community they tend to and they’ll say everything from the Cascade Mountain Range halfway through the state of Montana.

Detachment 322 is responsible for approximately 60,000 square miles of terrain, and with less than 10 agents that means each one covers an area roughly twice the size of the state of Delaware.

“We stay very busy,” said Mr. Fitzpatrick. “But the [92nd Air Refueling Wing] has been incredibly supportive and has given us a beautifully remodeled $1.9 million facility to work out of and solid annual budget to work with. We have the tools, training and inter-agency cooperation required to fight crime and terrorism anywhere it resides.”