Scene of the crime: Base OSI protects DOD, AF assets, operations

  • Published
  • By Tyler Hemstreet
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Whether it means hitting the streets of cities surrounding the base questioning witnesses, comparing notes with local law enforcement or combing through a crime scene with a fine-toothed comb, McChord's Office of Special Investigations plays a silent role in keeping the base secure.

OSI's official mission is to deliver special investigative services to protect Air Force and Department of Defense people and operations.

Among other things, the mission includes investigating all felony-level crimes -- on or off base -- related to the Air Force, McChord Airmen or general service employees, said Special Agent Betsy Feaster.

"We work to try and eliminate crime and ensure the Air Force mantra of maintaining good order and discipline," she said.

McChord's OSI office averaged between 29 and 30 cases a year from 2001-04, but had 57 cases in 2006, Special Agent Feaster said.

The investigations can include anything from dealing drugs or transporting weapons to assault or murder.

The office is composed of a solid mix of civilian and active duty agents. The combination makes for a versatile force when dealing with different types of investigations involving Airmen, said Special Agent Feaster.

The diversity helps break down the communication barriers involved with rank, as well as common McChord and Air Force measures and procedures encountered during certain investigations, she said. Each agent employs a wide range of skills to support the mission, from processing a crime scene to questioning witnesses and working with local law enforcement.

The job can sometimes even stretch beyond the state border, as the McChord OSI office is responsible for cases in Oregon. Because of the huge jurisdiction the office has to cover, communication with local agencies is key for OSI agents.

"It's a major part of our mission to work with other agencies," Special Agent Feaster said. "They bring things to the table we can't, and we bring things to the table they can't. We make a good investigative team."

That philosophy goes hand-in-hand with McChord's local Eagle Eyes community watch plan, said Special Agent Stacey Crumpton.

By opening the lines of communication with local businesses and residents, McChord OSI agents establish a rapport with the community so concerned residents and business owners can report any suspicious activity near the base or shady characters that might jeopardize the safety of Airmen or local community, Special Agent Crumpton said.

"McChord assets are our number one priority," she said, "whether it's infrastructure, equipment or Airmen."

Outside the gates of the base, agents work to establish a "terrorism neighborhood watch" program, said Detective Rich O'Brien, a 62nd Security Forces Squadron member assigned to McChord's counterterrorism threat team.

Business owners and residents are given brochures with seven indicators to look for when trying to identify suspicious behaviors. If any of the behaviors are observed, they are instructed to call a number, which alerts McChord's law enforcement.

"The majority of the stuff people report is innocuous," Detective O'Brien said. "But we'd much rather check everything than not investigate something that could be the key to something big."