The mission of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations is to identify, exploit and neutralize criminal, intelligence and terrorist threats to the Air Force, Department of Defense and the US Government. OSI was created in 1948 and is patterned after the FBI. They currently have over 2,000 military and civilian agents working across the globe.

“John Smith” (not his real name) served 13 years in the OSI. He originally started in Air Rescue and Recovery supporting the Titan II missile silos at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Smith found himself “without a job” when the Titan II program was discontinued.  He had developed a relationship with an OSI Agent who suggested he apply but warned him “We NEVER take first term airmen.” Smith applied and because of linguistic and other skills, was accepted. He made sspecial investigationsure to invite that original OSI agent to his ceremony.

As a Spanish speaker, his first overseas assignment was to Panama doing counter-intelligence work.  When it was decided that Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega would be charged with drug trafficking, his focus became more concentrated.

One of his best sources, a “little old grandmother” just outside of Panama City had good information that was always corroborated by the Intel personnel from other branches. But soon they learned that they all had the same “source”. Future meetings with the grandmother took place in a group.

Another situation involved a Russian defector. When Smith notified the State Department of what they had, he was given an envelope full of hundred dollar bills for the defector and told to place him on a plane to the United States immediately.

One of his proudest moments of his Special Investigations career was when his intelligence was used in the invasion of Panama. The saddest case was at Nellis Air Force Base when an Airman facing her third deployment in a year took her own life.

TAKEAWAY: “If you look at all the defectors over our history, they all worked pretty cheap.”