What does it take to become a military investigator? The answer depends greatly on which investigative agency you are interested in joining.
There are major differences among agencies, which include the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AF OSI), and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command (formerly known as Army CID).
These agencies have specific functions including criminal investigations, contending with terrorist threats, issues related to the internet and cyberspace, and dealing with criminal activity within the ranks.
Each agency has its own criteria for selecting military investigators, agents, and other roles within the organization. What follows are some general and specific examples of what it takes to land a job as a military investigator or an adjacent type of work.
Different Types Of Military Investigators
There are multiple levels of law enforcement opportunities within the United States military. There are the local or base-level security forces responsible for controlling access to the installation, there are those at the Inspectors General level who do work adjacent to law enforcement but not specifically IN law enforcement.
There are also the service-level investigative organizations like NCIS and AF OSI.
The Air Force Office Of Special Investigations
AF OSI began in 1948 and features both military and civilian “federally credentialed special agents,” according to the official site. There are 2,000 military and civilian agents. AF OSI is also supported by roughly 400 Air Force Reserve members.
OSI agents may serve within the jurisdiction of any major command, but AF OSI operations are separate and independent from such commands. The chain of command for OSI in these circumstances goes directly to OSI headquarters and NOT to the major command.
OSI agents are tasked with a variety of duties including:
Threat Detection including both internal threats and terrorism.
Criminal Investigations into a variety of issues including assault, major burglaries, drug use, drug trafficking, sex offenses, arson, promotion test compromise, and black marketeering.
Economic Crime Investigations including issues related to contractors or contracting, appropriated and non-appropriated fund activities, computer systems, pay and allowance matters, environmental issues, and “major administrative irregularities”
Specialized Services such as polygraphs, behavioral science, and forensics.
What does it take to become an OSI investigator? From the Air Force official site, we learn that all new OSI special agents (civilian or military) are required to attend entry-level training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. This training lasts 11 weeks and is followed up by a second, eight-week program that is specific to AF OSI requirements.
The learning in these 19 weeks includes training in firearms, defensive tactics, forensics, antiterrorism techniques, crime scene processing, interrogations, court testimony, plus studies in military and federal law.
Those who graduate from this training are placed in a one-year probationary status and may be assigned field work.
Some, but not all OSI agents may receive specialized training in economic crime, antiterrorism service, counterintelligence, computer crimes and other areas. One option for some is to attend another 12 weeks of technical training in photography, electronics, and technical surveillance.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service
NCIS has a long history dating all the way back to Navy Department General Order 292 of 1882, which created the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). This organization began with a mission to gather intelligence about the design and weaponry of foreign vessels, installations, and industry.
ONI would, in 1966, include a new organization called the Naval Investigative Service (NIS) which was created to operate separately from ONI and this arrangement lasted until the 90s, when the Navy redesignated NIS as NCIS.
NCIS is a unique operation; the official site for the agency describes it as a civilian-run agency, “headed by a civilian law enforcement professional who reports directly to the Secretary of the Navy.”
In order to become an NCIS Special Agent, trainees must attend the Criminal Investigator’s Training Program and Special Agent Basic Training Program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia.
The NCIS official site advises, “Competitive candidates for the position of Special Agent will have at a minimum a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university”.
Other NCIS requirements include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Must be a U.S. born or naturalized U.S. citizen.
- Must have a valid driver’s license.
- Trainees must be under 37 years old. Some exceptions may apply.
- Must pass all phases of the hiring process, including medical exams, drug testing, background investigation, and polygraph testing.
- Must have vision correctable to 20/20 with normal color vision.
- Must be able to obtain and maintain a Top Secret clearance.
Because NCIS Special Agents have a mandatory retirement age of 57, applicants are advised to apply for a Special Agent position before their 36th birthday–failrure to do so may not allow the trainee to complete the required coursework before the Special Agent hiring process begins.
NCIS does not always have an open call for Special Agents. You will need to review the official site or monitor NCIS social media pages to learn when the next openings or calls for applications might occur.
Army Criminal Investigative Command
The Army official site still refers to the Army Criminal Investigative Command as CID; the history of CID dates back to World War One. The Army official site states that as the American military expanded, so did the need for policing.
In 1917 the Military Police Corps was created, but in 1918 further refinements of this police force were instituted including the creation of a criminal investigative division of the Army’s police force.
Back then CID had no centralized control and investigators were reporting to provost marshals. At the end of the Second World War, CID agents were centralized at the theater level, and by 1965 there were already moves to further centralize CID functions.
Today CID operates independently of base, theater, and majcom commanders. The Commander of CID is directly responsible to the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Secretary of the Army.
There are civilian and military positions open in CID. Those currently serving in the Army must contact a CID recruiter. Requirements for joining CID as a soldier include completion of Army Basic Training, completion of 31B Military Police training, and CID Special Agent training.
Those who are college graduates have the option of applying for the CID Direct Accessions Program for new recruits.
This program is open to applicants “interested in active duty positions within the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command” and requires a bachelor’s degree or better in one of the following areas:
- Criminal Justice
- Forensic Science
- Computer Science
- Computer Forensics
- Digital Forensics
- Legal Studies
The following requirements apply for those who want to be considered under this program:
- U.S. Citizenship required
- Must be 21 or older
- Must have completed Basic Leader Course
- Between 2-10 years of military service
- 60 semester hours or more from an accredited institution
- Skilled Technical (ST) score of 107 or higher
- General Technical (GT) score of 110 or higher
- Must be able to “consistently pass” the Army Physical Fitness Test
- Ability to deploy worldwide, have no physical limitations, and normal color vision
- Favorable credit history
- Valid driver’s license and favorable driving record
While there is a general military truism that there’s “a waiver for everything”, Army standards for education related to CID agents are inflexible–no waivers are considered for those who do not meet the minimum 60 hours of higher education from an accredited institution. Applicants must have no felony convictions and no Courts-Martial convictions.