Real Talk with CJLearn about a career in Crime Scene Investigation in the U.S. Army and how to start right after graduation
Tue, Oct. 18, 2016
In the U.S. Army, special agents in the Criminal Investigation Command, commonly referred to as CID, serve as detectives and crime scene investigators on felony-level crimes related to the U.S. Army.
“The best way I explain what I do is to use the TV show NCIS,” said Special Agent Michael McGrath, who is stationed at Joint Base, San Antonio. “That’s what we do, except for the Army. The job is very rewarding, but it is also very demanding.”
Three special agents in Texas – including McGrath and SHSU Alumnus Ian Parisi and Jarrad Williams from Fort Hood -- will discuss their careers and how to get into the CID unit at Real Talk w/CJ. They will be accompanied by an Army recruiter who can answer questions on the specific requirements to be eligible for the program.
In addition to handling criminal allegations and offenses involving Army property and personnel, the division is responsible for cases of espionage, treason, and terrorism, including the recent attacks at Fort Hood. Although they work daily with other federal and local agencies, they are the lead investigators on Army cases.
There are two routes to get into the CID: through traditional channels as an enlisted soldier or through the Direct Ascension Program, which hires qualified college graduates directly into the organization after completing basic and specialized training. The program is competitive and does have stringent requirements, including being a U.S. citizen at least 21 years of age and having a bachelor degree or higher in criminal justice, forensic science, computer science, pre-law, or others.
“Everyone wants to be a FBI, DEA or ATF agent, but those agencies have not been hiring that much lately,” said Special Agent Williams, the 11th Battalion Investigative Operations Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge. “For every special agent hired in the FBI, they get 500 applications. For the Army Special Agent, we are always looking for qualified candidates, and the pay and benefits are outstanding. I get free housing and free medical and pay only $36 a month for my wife and three kids.”
Special agents receive training at the U.S. Army Military Police School and are eligible for advanced training in specialized investigative disciplines, as well as training at the FBI National Academy, Metropolitan Police Academy at Scotland Yard, Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, and the Canadian Police College. Agents also have the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree in Forensic Science from George Mason University, which runs concurrent with a fellowship from the Armed Forced Medical Examiner System.
The 11th MP Battalion, based in Fort Hood, encompasses Army interests in five states, including Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and Kansas and includes 200 special agents. The CID handles all felony cases on Army facilities, including murder, assault, larceny, fraud, or homicide, to name a few. The most common investigations involve sexual assault cases, including enlisted and civilians, and death cases.
“The Fort Hood CID Office works about 18 death investigations a month,” said Special Agent William. “These are not all murders. Some die of natural cases and some are suicides.”
Because they are a federal agency, CID has some of the best equipment available for crime scene investigations, including high end flashlights, alternate light sources, and chemicals like Blue Star, which has been able to detect traces of blood dating back to WWII. Special agents are responsible for crime scene investigations as well as interrogating suspects and interviewing witnesses. They also are involved in fraud cases, everything from a soldier illegally getting higher housing allowances or a promotion to cases against contractors on the base involved with roads, buildings or technology.
For Special Agent Williams, the long hours and late nights on the job are worth it.
“When you are sitting in a courtroom, with your arms around an 11-year old boy and his mother when his offender is getting 177-years in prison, it is everything I have worked to do to protect that child,” said Williams. “It is absolutely worth it.”