Picture an FBI agent in your mind. Most of you will envision neatly dressed men or women, garbed in conservative dark suits, plain blouses, and shirts and ties. An alternate view might be that of the navy blue windbreaker with the foot high, yellow FBI lettering emblazoned on the back. Haircuts are conservative for both men and women. If not exactly a uniform, very close. So, if you like to wear purple shirts to work and dye your hair turquoise, the job of a Special Agent is not the perfect fit for you.
“What Does the FBI Do?” dealt with a bit of history – how/why the FBI came into being and what it is responsible for now.
“The Road to Quantico” dealt with entrance requirements for the FBI Academy at Quantico.
You’ve passed the preliminary tests, set your sights on a life in law enforcement serving in one of the most famous agencies in the world. You’ve competed against hundreds of thousands of other applicants, and feel more than ready to take on the Academy challenges. What’s next?
You will report to Quantico for 21 weeks of intensive training and will live in dormitory style accommodations during your stay. The Academy site is much like a college campus, in that it has classrooms, conference rooms, a library, a gym, a pool, and a dining hall. What sets it apart in structure is that it also has a firing range, a mock town, and a high-speed 1.1-mile oval road track.
Much of the Basic Field Training Course will take place in a classroom, while candidates study a curriculum that reflects the experiences most likely to be encountered in the field. Special Agent trainees and Intelligence Analyst trainees will work together to develop the skills to collect, share, and use the information available to investigate terrorists and dangerous criminals. If the trainees fall short of the FBI standards, they will be sent home.
Basic Field Training Course includes:
Among other areas, the trainees study applications of the law, ethics, human behavior, report writing, intelligence techniques, and forensic science. Students learn how to manage and run a variety of investigations, including those dealing with counterterrorism, spies, weapons of mass destruction, and cyber crimes.
At Quantico, case exercises are a method of presenting real-life situations to prepare the candidates for their future of working in the field. A typical exercise starts with a tip and ends in the arrests of the suspects. Hogan’s Alley is a mock town at the Academy where some of this action may take place. In some scenarios, candidates might get to try the case in a mock trial.
It is assumed that at some point in their service, FBI Special Agents will have a deadly force encounter, so they must prepare for it. As of this writing (2018) the new agent trainees work with a Bureau-issued pistol, carbine, and shotgun. They focus on marksmanship, but also receive instruction on firearms safety and live fire situations.
Acquiring information in the classroom is only part of the training at Quantico. The ability to apply that information to real-life circumstances is essential to the success of any operation. The candidates work on the basics of disarming and handcuffing suspects, searches, surveillance, and tactical driving.
At Hogan’s Alley, trainees practice different arrest options, as well as street survival techniques. Realistic drills might include how to handle a bank robbery or a kidnapping.
Aside from acquiring the basic knowledge needed to do the job successfully, the agents must be in top shape. To that end, even after passing the entrance level of fitness tests, fitness training continues and so does the testing. Nobody is likely gain any extra weight during the 21 weeks at the Academy, but they may acquire a few more muscles. They must continue to do well in the number of sit-ups in one minute, a timed 300-meter sprint, a significant number of push-ups (untimed), and a timed 1.5-mile run. See the “The Road to Quantico” for more fitness details.
The rise of terrorism and the shrinking global community has forced law enforcement agencies all over the world to evolve. The FBI Academy now offers more focused training for intelligence analysts, recognizing that more informed collection and analysis of certain data can help to eliminate threats against our country. Teaching tradecraft is an aspect of the training. These days, it’s standard practice for the Intelligence Analysts and the Special Agent candidates to work side-by-side in the classes, developing a collegial approach to solving cases.
TV and the movies show us enough car chases to imply that this is a part of the daily life of any and all law enforcement officers. While not exactly true that it happens to everyone and/or on a daily basis, the men and women that attend the Academy must know how to handle those rare occasions when it does.
For an FBI agent, real life might include high speeds and guns and terrorist activity. At the Tactical and Emergency Vehicle Operations Center (TEVOC), candidates, the DEA, and other government and military personnel are taught how to maneuver at high speed, how to spot threats with a second’s notice, and how to react effectively. Onsite is the oval road track and off road training is given as well.
Many types of FBI and government personnel are sent to high-risk postings overseas and they might receive more specific training at TEVOC. Awareness of the risks and the sophistication of enemies here and abroad has caused an uptick in the need for curriculum that blends survival training and driving techniques in meaningful ways for many law enforcement groups.
Long after graduation, the Special Agents and the Intelligence Analysts will return to the Academy for fine-tuning and for courses that will keep them updated on the latest techniques and threats. Academy training is considered among the best in the world, so international groups and people in private security work have been trained here as well. In addition, other United States law enforcement groups have participated in training at Quantico as threat levels from all sides have ramped up.
*All photos from the FBI website.
The name ‘Quantico’ has been synonymous with FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) training for decades, but in fact, Quantico is the town where the Marine Corps Base is situated in Virginia (USA). The FBI Training Academy is located on 547 acres within the Base, and is run by the FBI’s Training Division. Additional training happens elsewhere.
Special Agents are the most visible FBI agents to the public at large and for the most part, those are the men and women we see depicted on TV and in movies.
So, how do you get to become an FBI Special Agent? Only the best and brightest need apply.
Before you ever get to the Academy, there are a few items to check:
If you can say with certainty that you meet the minimums listed above (there are others as well) then you might be eligible to apply to be a Special Agent.
But before you fill out the paperwork, consider what you will be asked to do. The application process takes at least a year. Then, if you pass all the tests, get through Quantico, this is a twenty year commitment, not a six months to a year try-it-see-if-you-like-it job. You will be required to:
Would you and your family be on board with all of that?
Then here’s what the recruiters and interviewers are looking for:
Still interested? Here’s a little of what to expect:
Once all that is completed satisfactorily, then the candidate might be invited to attend the FBI Academy.
The application testing process deals with academics, analytic ability, and health related questions, but the Physical Fitness Test is the one that points to a lifestyle commitment. For the Special Agent applicant, there are four challenges to be tested:
To give you an idea of what is involved:
A woman can score 1 (one) point for doing 35-36 situps in one minute. 10 (ten) points can be scored for doing 57 and over in one minute. That’s not a typo. Try doing that many situps unless you are in really good shape. Right. I never liked situps. If the candidate stops at any point during the minute, only the situps completed up to that time are counted.
The 300-meter sprint looks easier to me, because I ran sprints (and won races) when I was younger. Now? I’d be happy to score 2-3 points, but then I’m not 23 (or even 36) years old anymore. 😉
Now for the pushups. These must be performed with a straight body, arms fully extended and elbows away from the body, feet together, and continuously. 45 pushups or more without stopping will earn you 10 (ten) points – guys must do 71 (seventy-one) without stopping to earn the 10 (ten) points. Women can actually get points subtracted if they only do 4 (four) pushups, and won’t earn any points unless they can perform at least 14 (fourteen) pushups without stopping. There is no time limit for the pushup event, but the candidate must score at least one point in order to pass this section. If the candidate pauses at any time during the event, only the pushups completed up to that point are counted.
The 1.5 mile run is a timed event. The female candidate must complete the course in no slower than 13:59 in order to get on the board with one point.
You are allowed no more than five minutes between each activity and are scored on each one. If you fail one, but do well on the others, it doesn’t matter. You fail the entire test and can retake it at a later date. But not too much later. There is a time limit to re-taking this particular test. Even if you have done well in all other testing, if you can’t pass the PFT, you will not become a Special Agent.
Now what? You’ve passed the tests, you’re smart enough, fit enough, and work well with others. You’ve been accepted to the FBI Academy at Quantico.
Stay tuned for information about the FBI Academy Training.
*Photo credits: the FBI website
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is an intelligence-driven and threat-focused national security organization with both intelligence and law enforcement responsibilities.”* It is the chief fact-finding branch of the Department of Justice and helps other agencies by sharing that information and providing training.
Its mission is:
“To protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.”*
In 1908, the United States had about 100 cities with 50,000 people. The rest of the population (about 83 million) was spread throughout the rural areas of the country. Law enforcement personnel at the local level were often poorly paid (and were sometimes volunteer) members of the community. Murders were handled by local investigators and still are to this day. For the majority of the cases, murder is not a federal crime, unless carried out across State lines.
Prosecution of border security issues or organized crime was limited in 1908 since there was no adequate way to enforce the law at a national level. In fact, few criminal laws even existed at a federal level. For the most part, individual States and local jurisdictions handled their own criminal investigations, and sometimes that led to political corruption, corporate criminal behavior, and even slave labor in factories. Federal agencies were stretched thin or were nonexistent in some parts of the country.
President Teddy Roosevelt supported the idea of modernizing law enforcement, so when his Attorney General hired 34 of his own investigators (including nine seasoned Secret Service agents) to assist the Department of Justice, Roosevelt wholeheartedly endorsed the action. A few months later, the Bureau of Investigation was officially created. Hardly a large force, but it was a start.
At the beginning, incidents involving car theft across State lines, civil rights, and various kinds of fraud were the typical cases. The FBI also took on treason and domestic terrorism, and Congress (previously reluctant to loosen the purse strings) began to see the value of a national law enforcement agency.
It’s interesting to note that the Mann Act or “White Slave Traffic Act,” was passed in 1910 to help stop interstate prostitution and human trafficking, and the FBI had a role in the early investigations. One hundred years later, it has become an international problem and requires cooperation from many different agencies to obtain successful prosecutions.
World War 1 brought us the problems of sabotage by foreign agents against our military ships and munitions plants, as well as international smuggling. The FBI had entered the so-called spy business and worked hard to eliminate those threats.
In 1924, it was recognized that fingerprinting was a reliable way of connecting (or eliminating) individuals to a particular scene, and to collect that information in a central location would be helpful to other law enforcement agencies in the United States. Now, the FBI gathers and classifies fingerprints from convicted felons and other criminals, military personnel, federal applicants and employees, and shares that information with appropriate agencies. Additionally, fingerprints of military detainees and other persons of national security interest are being collected for national security purposes.
Formerly called Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), the program processes over 63,000 prints a day, is now integrated with other forms of identification and called IAFIS, and can deliver digital information in as little as two hours. It is used in connection with biometric databases (facial and voice recognition) for more accurate identifications. Next Generation Identification (NGI) combines biometrics, fingerprints, and palm prints to expand identification possibilities.
One of the programs developed by the FBI is the ‘Ten Most Wanted’ list. It began in 1950 as a way to call attention to fugitives who might otherwise remain at large. Each new list is posted in United States Post Offices and on the FBI website.
Since 1950, 518 fugitives have been on the list, and 484 have been apprehended or located. The stats below are from the FBI site:
With the advent of increased world-wide terrorism, the computer and cyber-security age, more complex corporate crimes, and a global awareness of human trafficking, the focus of the FBI has shifted.
At the end of 2017, there were over 35,000 employees, made up of intelligence analysts, field agents, language specialists, scientists, and information technology specialists. They are tasked with investigating:
Stay tuned for posts about Quantico and training for the FBI, and interviews with former FBI agents.
*Photo and quotes credit: (from FBI website)
1969 Latent Print Match
A latent print removed from a 1969 murder victim’s car was later determined to be a match to the suspect’s fingerprint (inset) contained in the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). The Houston police detective and Texas Department of Public Safety latent print technician instrumental in solving the cold case were honored by the FBI with the 2011 “Latent Hit of the Year” Award.