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SF, TV investigators 'not even close'

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The detective gets the call and hits the crime scene. He scours the area for evidence and finds a lone cigarette butt. Using the lab, he links the DNA on the cigarette to a known criminal, drives to his house, arrests him and the case is closed ... all in one hour.

While a scenario like this may play out well for television audiences, it is far from the real life of 51st Security Forces Squadron investigators.

"Not even close," said Investigator John Gorrell, 51st SFS. "We can't solve a case in an hour and we don't have all of the cool gadgets they show on TV. There's a lot of leg work and paperwork involved."

It takes a lot of work just to become an investigator. First, a security forces member must be recommended by a security forces commander. Once selected, the member attends the Army's eight-week Military Police Investigators course at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo. It isn't until after one year of on-the-job training that the aspiring investigator finally receives a "Special Experience Identifier" that marks a security forces member as an investigator for the rest of his career.

Once they're out in the field, investigators deal with myriad offenses, from larceny to assault to human trafficking.

"Normally, if an on-duty patrolman can't resolve an incident within his shift, it comes to our office," said Investigator Gorrell.

The types of cases they work sometimes gets the security forces investigators confused with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

"While SF investigators and AFOSI do work hand-in-hand and very well together, we work in different career fields," he said. "An easy way to look at it is that SF Investigators work mostly misdemeanor cases and AFOSI works mostly felony cases."

Investigator Gorrell will work his last cases as an investigator here, broadening his career field experiences at his next base. However, he leaves Team Osan with this sage advice:

"I strongly urge all Airmen here at Osan to follow the 0-0-1-3 recommendation," he said. "Following this formula will ensure our Airmen are 'Ready to Fight Tonight' and will more than likely keep their names from crossing our desks."