[su_heading size=”30″]Special Enforcement Teams Go Undercover To Stem Tide Of Heroin Trafﬁcking Across America[/su_heading]
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY TROY TAYSOM
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]I [/su_dropcap]ﬁnally got the call.
“How fast can you get here?” Sgt. Santiago asked.
“Five minutes,” I said.
“Good. We have eyes on our guy, and we are a go.”
I drove as fast as I could to the designated rally area, where I joined more than a dozen men, many with beards (some fairly long) and long hair. None looked remotely like stereotypical cops, but all were “kitted up” and ready to go.
The group packed an impressive assortment of ﬁrearms, from MP5s, M4s and a Remington 870 to Glock 17s and a few high-end 1911s (one I recognized as an Ed Brown custom job). All of the guys were wearing body armor with riﬂe plates, and some had added ballistic helmets. There was no joking or laughing in the ranks.
Several team members eyed me with suspicion, and for good reason. I was being allowed to witness what most citizens will never see: the inner workings of an active special enforcement team (SET). These select groups of undercover detectives are tasked with gathering solid intelligence on drug activity to target drug dealers and users for criminal prosecution. In the case of some users, this insider knowledge will prepare them to become conﬁdential informants.
I asked permission before taking any recognizable pictures, but despite promising anonymity to the officers and their department for the sake of the mission and their security, several politely declined. Detective Blue, however, let me snap several pictures, and even smiled for a few. Others seemed to merely tolerate my presence, strategically turning their backs each time I raised my camera. But I understood. In an environment such as this, trust must be earned.
The cops assembled for this speciﬁc raid were a mix of SET teams from the city and county, and included detectives and special weapons and tactics (SWAT) members. High-tech equipment was already in place to monitor the targeted home in full high deﬁnition, so Sgt. Santiago would know if anyone attempted to enter or exit the house.
After a short drive, we reached our destination. The cops exited their vehicles with lightning speed, knowing exactly where they were going and who they were looking for. They were executing a rare “no-knock” search warrant, which exempted them from having to announce their presence prior to entering. The occupants had no idea that the hammer of justice was on its way.
During an undercover buy, a female drug dealer sold the SET team four grams of methamphetamine. Although she was already on probation for multiple drug charges, the team found countless other drugs prepared for sale while searching her house.
The suspects were known heroin dealers, and in a city still reeling from four recent fatal overdoses, including a one-year-old baby who got into its parents’ stash, the mission had taken on even more urgency.
As the team swiftly mounted the stairs in a ﬂurry of motion, chaos appeared to take over, but appearances can be misleading. This mission was anything but chaotic to these professionals. In a moment, the door was demolished, and a well-orchestrated group movement was quickly executed, one that could have made a dance company jealous.
Within minutes, the targeted suspects were in custody, and the “all-clear” was given. No shots had been ﬁred, and no one had been hurt. Perhaps most importantly, some very dangerous people were led away in silver friendship bracelets to be questioned prior to being booked into the county jail.
A TOUGH BATTLE
All across the country, SET detectives such as these are ﬁghting a battle that is nearly impossible to win. It’s not a thankless job, but it can sometimes feel like it. For every dealer arrested, dozens more are waiting in the wings to take over. There is no shortage of people willing to sell dope to our families and children, and there seems to be no shortage of family members and children willing to buy.
“There’s a heroin tsunami coming,” one department captain told me. “It’s going to get much worse in the very near future.”
Following the raid, the adrenaline rush of the raid may have been over, but the real police work was just getting started. Any search for drugs and their accouterments is a tedious, time-consuming, messy and occasionally gross task. But these veterans have seen drugs hidden in all kinds of places, including shower-curtain rods and freezers, under mattresses, behind medicine cabinets, in heat registers on the ﬂoor, even inside kids’ rooms and toys. On this particular search, the SET team even took a ﬁre extinguisher outside to make sure it was what it appeared to be. No stone or piece of furniture goes unturned.
Users and dealers also hide drugs on their person. There are places on and in the human body where people are willing to hide drugs, and more than one person has died from an overdose using these foolish methods.
The nationwide war on heroin continues at epidemic levels, and law enforcement agencies around the country are constantly in danger of falling far behind.
Once the evidence is collected, documented and bagged, it’s taken to a central evidentiary holding facility to be entered into computer system, ensuring a strong chain of custody.
This is the work life of a SET detective: observe, plan, observe some more, plan some more and chase what, at times, feels like phantom drug dealers.
DRUG OF CHOICE
The city where I’m embedded with this SET team is the embodiment of small-town America, but it is also a place where heroin has become the drug of choice, pushing meth and crack out of the way. Heroin makes its way into the U.S. primarily across our southern border, and many experts feel the opiate epidemic can be directly connected to opioid pills and the way they were marketed in the 1990s.
At one time, physicians were told that less than 1 percent of people who take opiates become addicted. According to author Sam Quinones in Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, Oxycontin was originally marketed by Purdue Pharma as a drug that was “virtually non-addictive.”
The drug cartels we read about or see on television are our neighbors. They are smart and well organized, making the SET detectives’ job even more difficult. Pursuing and investigating these businessmen and their businesses could be described as a high-stakes game of three-card monte, with the dopers dealing the cards. But this SET team continues the ﬁght, always with hope that just one break will help stem the heroin overdoses that seem to have permeated the community.
Most of the heroin in this small town is a variety known as Mexican black tar. Cultivated and processed on the Paciﬁc Coast of Mexico, black tar is rolled and manipulated into tiny balls, and then inserted into balloons. The least processed variety of heroin, because of its purity it is the most lethal. Depending on the region of the country, a black tar balloon will cost $10 to $30, and can keep an addict high for a few days.
Compared to opioid pain pills that can cost $1 per milligram on the street, heroin is a deal.
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER DEALER
Not long after returning to the office following the raid, Detective Noble, one of the senior SET detectives, received a call from an informant. A lady was looking to sell some meth, but the deal had to take place within 15 minutes. The office quickly turned into a beehive. Noble got into a buy car, an undercover vehicle only used for undercover drug deals, while the rest of us drove to different locations to set up a perimeter around the meeting point.
A sample of the drugs and paraphernalia seized in the initial SET raid.
During the set-up, the dealer kept changing the location in hopes of ensuring that her client wasn’t a cop. I was out on the perimeter with Sgt. Santiago, listening via a receiver to what was happening inside the buy car.
Finally, the dealer approached Noble’s car and got in. She sold him 4 grams of meth for $120, but wouldn’t sell him the two balloons of heroin she had hidden on her person. When the take-down signal was given, all officers converged on the dealer as she exited Noble’s car right in front of her house.
The look on her face was priceless. She denied having sold drugs until Sgt. Santiago explained that the man in the car was a cop, and that we had heard the entire deal. Since she was on probation for other drug offenses, the team called her probation officer, who came out and helped with the search. The search yielded Oxycontin, morphine, Clonidine, meth, heroin and Oxycodone, and other pills and paraphernalia were collected and bagged as evidence.
A TEAM OF INDIVIDUALS
Later, I had the opportunity to speak with several members of the team, including Detective Polaris, who surprised me with his candidness and honesty.
“I’m not here to make enemies,” he told me. “I’d rather make friends. These people are going through tough times, and they need to know that someone cares. It doesn’t mean I won’t take them to jail. Sometimes that’s what they need, but my hope is that they ﬁnd a way out of the drug life.”
Detective Polaris relayed a story, with tears in his eyes, of saving a woman’s life as she tried to commit suicide. The woman had a three-month-old baby, and was able to see and hold her infant once she was safe and in the hospital. According to Polaris, the baby just stared and smiled at him and his rookie partner. The woman still calls Polaris to this day to thank him, and to provide an update on her life. “This is why I became a cop,” he tells me.
Detective Puller has been an officer for ﬁve years, and has been with SET for six months. A former active-duty Marine and now in the Army Reserve, discipline and service are his go-to attributes. He has a kind demeanor and a disarming smile. These qualities provide a unique ability to make suspects feel comfortable, and comfortable people talk.
The newest member of SET, Detective Gigante is a quick study in the art of interviewing a suspect. I watched him interview one on the street, and his calm demeanor kept the young lady talking until she had reached the point of no return. Gigante calmly showed her his phone and asked, “How do you think I got these texts?” The game was up, and the girl is now in the process of becoming a conﬁdential informant.
Others are more reserved and quiet. Detective Noble, who looks much younger than he is, tends to keep to himself. He’ll make small talk, but isn’t much on being interviewed. But you know that under his quiet exterior is a brain constantly at work, ﬁguring out how to stay ahead of his targets.
Black tar heroin in its most basic, powdered state (WIKIPEDIA COMMONS PHOTO)
Sgt. Santiago is the “old man” of the bunch. He’s been a cop for more than 20 years, but remains in good physical shape and is a solid leader for his young group of detectives. There are no short cuts allowed on his team, and each process is done the right way. This includes everything from the way probable cause is acquired and writing search warrants to the gear he requires them to wear in the ﬁeld. He expects his men to wear full-body armor including ballistic helmets when entering a house for a variety of reasons, including one that is very personal.
“I hate delivering death notices,” he conﬁded. “And I refuse to deliver a death notice to the wife of one of my detectives because I let them forgo wearing their protective gear. The gear isn’t a 100 percent guarantee [on safety], but I won’t allow my guys to take that chance. There is no leeway or negotiation on this point.”
The years of working SET and other drug task-force assignments have taken a toll on Santiago. He has grown tired of seeing the worst that mankind has to offer. He would love nothing more than to open a beachside bar in the Caribbean, where he could make mojitos and scuba dive for the rest of his life. But that second career will have to wait. He still has a lot of police work left in him.
Other than Santiago, each SET detective will return to regular patrol after the four-year stint on the team is up. This way, the SET squad gets to train more officers on the ins and outs of the drug epidemic that continues to plague every city in this country.
Undercover groups known as special enforcement teams (SET) or special investigation units (SIU) spend countless hours working with drug addicts and other informants to help take down dealers who present an ongoing threat to the general public. From left to right, Detectives Gigante and Polaris, Sergeant Santiago, and Detectives Noble and Puller pose with some of the tools of the trade.
Just because you haven’t seen the problem ﬁrst-hand doesn’t mean it does not exist. The opiate epidemic is growing worse by the day, with no end in sight. But thanks to leaders such as Sgt. Santiago and his dedicated team duplicated on police forces across the nation, it is a battle that will continue to be fought with commitment, knowledge and bravery. ASJ
Editor’s note: The names of the officers in this story have been changed to protect their location and identity.
Posted in Law Enforcement Tagged with: Behind The Badge, Drugs, Heroin, Police, SET, SWAT, Troy Taysom
[su_heading size=”30″]The Life And Times Of Larry Vickers[/su_heading]
STORY BY TROY TAYSOM * PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF LARRY VICKERS
From his roots in the Green Berets, Larry Vickers has spent a lifetime training civilians and law enforcement alike for the rigors of real-world threats. (ALIAS TRAINING)
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]I[/su_dropcap]nternet videos have launched numerous people into stardom, many for doing silly and stupid tricks while inebriated. When I need a good laugh at someone else’s expense, I go to the internet and look for the latest rube who has skirted death and videoed it. But the internet has also introduced some interesting people who we would have otherwise never known about. Larry Vickers is one of these people.
By now, most people in the shooting world have an idea who he is, or have watched one of his videos. After seeing a few, I decided that there was so much more to this guy, so I set out to speak with him. Vickers did not disappoint.
Vickers receiving the Bronze Star with V for Valor for his part in Operation Acid Gambit in Panama, where American citizen Kurt Muse was rescued from the Modelo Prison.
IN THE BEGINNING
Vickers was born the son of a World War II veteran and had military service in his DNA. Hailing from a small town in Ohio, he enlisted in the US Army’s delayed-entry program before graduating from high school in the early 1980s. His enlistment gave him the opportunity to go through Infantry School, followed by Airborne School and then the Special Forces qualiﬁcation course. Following his successful graduation from all of these schools, Vickers was awarded the coveted Green Beret and began his career in the Army.
During his enlistment, however, Vickers decided that being in the Green Berets wasn’t really what he wanted to do, so when his stint was up, he left active duty. Vickers expressed interest in Delta Force, but was advised that he had to be on active duty to even attempt qualiﬁcation, so he reenlisted.
The 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (SFOD-D) is the brainchild of Colonel Charles Beckwith, who served with the British Special Air Service (SAS) as an exchange oﬃcer in the early 1960s. After a decade of pitching the idea for a similar group to the US Army, Beckwith was eventually tasked with forming a counterterrorism and hostage-rescue team of highly trained soldiers capable of operating in small teams. Today, we more commonly refer to this as Delta Force.
Before Vickers was allowed to begin training for a Delta operator position, he had to pass an entrance exercise. The premise was simple: complete a land-navigation course in the mountains of West Virginia. Alone, with a 40-pound rucksack over an 18-mile course. And the time limit to complete this task was only known by test administrators. The students are simply told at the end of the course whether they are good to go or not.
After the full Delta-course training is complete and the enlisted service member is ready to graduate, there is one ﬁnal test – another land-navigation course, again in the mountains of West Virginia. But this time it’s 40 miles with a 45-pound pack and the time is, again, unknown to the candidate. Go or no-go is all you get at the end. The failure rate during the course is high; estimates are as high as 95 percent, but oﬃcial numbers are never given. Vickers made the cut and became a Delta Force operator.
Vickers on assignment with Delta Force in Bosnia
OPERATION ACID GAMBIT
The overwhelming majority of Delta’s missions are classiﬁed top secret and never made public. Of the few that have come to light, Acid Gambit represents one of Delta’s victories and Vickers was there.
Kurt Muse, an American civilian living in Panama, was accused by President Manuel Noriega’s regime of being a CIA asset. Delta was tasked with rescuing him. The mission involved ﬂying by helicopter to the Modelo Prison in Panama, then landing on and entering via the roof. The prison was heavily guarded and resistance was expected to be heavy.
Delta blew open the top entrance and stormed down a few ﬂights of stairs to where Muse was being held. Any guards who were foolish enough to tempt fate were quickly dispatched. The operators retrieved Muse and headed back to up to the roof. While leaving the prison the MH-6 Little Bird that carried Muse went down, but in the end no American lives were lost and multiple operators received commendations, including a Bronze Star of Valor for Vickers.
RETIREMENT AND TRAINING THE CIVILIAN WORLD
After 20 years, three helicopter crashes, numerous missions and several broken bones and a numb left leg, Vickers decided it was time to retire.
“The guys who stay longer than 20 years usually end up dead or even more crippled than I am,” Vickers told me.
Let’s face it, we live in a world where information is easily accessible and there is no limit to the number of people who claim to be experts in a variety of endeavors – particularly ﬁrearms training. I’m not saying that they are all frauds, but there are many who are not all they claim to be. Vickers is not one of them.
His interest in training civilians and law enforcement started years ago, before being an instructor was hip. His expert advice has been sought by large federal to small police departments.
Vickers’ rise to popularity came from his internet videos. This is where I ﬁrst saw him. He was in one explaining why he, as a former Delta operator, was fat. I laughed when I ﬁrst saw the title of the vid, and was thoroughly entertained by his answer to this question. The question was raised by viewers, and Vickers’ answer was simple: He was fat because he didn’t want to end up dead, so he got out of Delta.
“The alternative, because of my lifestyle in Delta, was permanently crippled, paralyzed or dead,” said Vickers in his video. He continued, “I gave this country the best part of my life. I have no regrets and I’d do it again, but the facts are the facts. Frankly, I’m lucky to be alive.”
Blackhawk crash that Larry Vickers survived in an undisclosed location.
His videos cover a huge range of topics, from how to reload in a ﬁreﬁght to how much lube is too much and his crazy Russian friends running their outrageously dangerous shooting drills. One of those drills involves an operator being shot in the chest with a real round, and then returning ﬁre at a cardboard target right next to the guy who just shot him. It’s insanely dangerous!
Videos aren’t the only thing that Vickers does or has done. He was also brought on as a consultant by Heckler & Koch during development of the company’s HK416 – the carbine purportedly used to kill Osama Bin Laden – the HK417 (the 7.62mm version) and the HK45 handgun.
Vickers has also helped Daniel Defense get their Daniel Defense M4 to market and pushed Sureﬁre to develop smaller tactical ﬂashlights. Most recently he coauthored a book, Vickers Guide: 1911, which was just released. I’m assured it will be a must-have for any serious handgun lover.
Vickers was also one of the founding members of the very popular International Defensive Pistol Association. According to the IDPA website, the organization has a current membership of 22,000 shooters, and IDPA matches represent some of the most practical stages of any major shooting organization.
VICKERS AND THE RUSSIAN
Larry Vickers makes no bones about his favorite riﬂe of all time – the venerable AK-47. His love of everything AK stems from all of the variations that can be found in the world. Once the Eastern European countries disavowed communism, the diﬀerent versions of the AK became widely available in the United States. The riﬂe’s simplistic design is its real selling point and another reason that Vickers loves it.
This Little Bird helicopter was carrying American Kurt Muse after being rescued by Delta Force in Panama. Despite the crash, not a single American life was lost during the mission.
My favorite Vickers’ story is of his quest to get the autograph of none other than Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47. In 2003, the SHOT Show was held in Orlando, Fla., and it happened to coincide with Knight’s Armament Company’s open house of their new facility in the Space Coast City of Titusville. Kalashnikov was expected
to attend. Vickers knew this was his chance, so he secured tickets to the catered dinner event and went with several friends. As the night drew on he knew that his opportunity was slipping away. He saw Kalashnikov sitting in a private dining room and approached him. According to Vickers, “As soon as we walked in there I knew it wasn’t going to go well. He doesn’t speak English, but his daughter who was with him did. She asked me what I wanted, and I said that I was wondering if I could get Mr. Kalashnikov’s signature. She basically told us to get lost.”
All was not lost, however, because in 2009 Arsenal USA released the 35th Anniversary Gold Edition AK-74. Part of the astronomical price tag included a certiﬁcate of authenticity with an original Mikhail Kalashnikov signature. Mission accomplished.
Larry Vickers serving in Delta Force sporting a CAR-15 with a ﬂashlight attached to the bottom. The size of the ﬂashlight should give some insight into the age of this photo.
The bottom line for me is this: When I need legal advice, I get an attorney; if I’m sick, I go to a doctor; and if my car is acting crazy, I go see a mechanic. If you have questions or need training, you seek an expert. Larry Vickers is just such an expert when it comes to surviving and winning a gun ﬁght. His style of teaching is straightforward, and his personality is easy going and fun. If you are looking to improve your shooting skills and knowledge, give Vickers a shot – you won’t be disappointed. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more information on Larry Vickers and training opportunities, you can visit his website at vickerstactical.com.
Posted in History Tagged with: Delta Force, Green Beret, HK416, HK417, HK45, Larry Vickers, Panama, Troy Taysom, VickersTactical
[su_heading size=”30″]Noveske Rifleworks: Yesterday, Today, And Tomorrow[/su_heading]
Story by Troy Taysom * Photographs Courtesy of Noveske Rifleworks
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]T[/su_dropcap]he AR-15 is arguably the most popular rifle platform ever. It has been around since the late 1950s when it was created by Armalite. AR actually stands for Armalite rifle, and I can only imagine that their designers, back in 1959, had no idea they would create a platform that would transcend the civilian gun market place.
Johnny Noveske started out as a gunsmith who simply set out make a better chamber and barrel. Little did he know that he would be setting the standard for exacting standards.
When it first appeared it was chambered for .223/5.56, but today one can find calibers from .22LR all the way up to .50 Beowulf. With all of the options out there, building one’s own rifle has also become a popular pastime, because no matter how many cosmetic changes are made to an AR, the guts are often always the same (with the exception of piston-operated versions): all have the same boltcarrier group, firing pin, buffer tube, buffer and spring. But what if you simply wanted the best of the best?
Johnny Noveske started out as a gunsmith who tried to make a better chamber and barrel for the AR-15. He wanted more exacting standards, better accuracy and reliability. He didn’t realize it at the time but he was creating the Porsche equivalent for the AR platform, and is now known for creating just that – Noveske created some of the finest ARs on the market.
Noveske rifles currently come in 5.56, .300 Blackout, .308 and 7.62, but will soon also offer 6.5 Creedmor.
IN THE LUSH, green woods of southwest Oregon, Noveske Rifleworks designs and builds a wide array of luxury AR-based rifles. Their rifles are masterpieces of design and craftsmanship, but they aren’t for everyone. The price alone, which ranges from $2,000 and up with their newest rifle starting at $3,400, will keep many shooters from owning one. You do get what you pay for, however. My Toyota gets me to work every day, but a Porsche would get me there in style, comfort and precision engineering. The same holds true for a Noveske rifle. It’s a piece of art that just happens to come in 5.56, .300 Blackout and .308. Once you shoot a Noveske, the realization sets in that you have just handled one of the finest ARs in the world today.
The company is staffed by what can only be described as an eclectic group. There are only 33 members of the team, and in order to accomplish Noveske’s innovative approach, these people think outside of the box, and more likely don’t even know what the box is.
Noveske’s 2016 release of the N6 has sparked the attention of small operational teams that are interested in a 7.62 version.
SADLY, IN JANUARY of 2013 Johnny Noveske was killed in a car accident at just 36 years old. The company forged ahead with his widow, Lorina, in an attempt to keep Noveske’s dream and the company alive. They have had more than one change at the president level since his passing, but have now landed Mike Alland. Alland has a long history in the outdoor, adventure-sports and firearms market. Alland is a high-energy guy who brings excitement, commitment to excellence and cutting-edge product ideas to the table. He isn’t your typical gun-company executive, either. Alland has a degree from San Diego State University in economics and statistical analysis.
Noveske has a guerilla-marketing style that forgoes the normal channels used by their competitors. For example, at the gun industry’s biggest annual show, SHOT, you won’t find a Noveske booth. You may see one of their guns here and there displayed at one of their distributors’ booths and the Noveske folks might be wandering the floor, but no booth. Their business comes from word of mouth and customer testimonials. This a live-on-theedge concept; if your customers are unhappy, you are going to have a difficult time selling your product. Up to this point, Noveske has kept their customers happy. The only complaint they seem to get is that they don’t introduce new products quickly and past products took a long time to get to market. These are issues that Alland has addressed and is correcting.
To Johnny Noveske’s credit, he passed much of his gunsmithing knowledge onto his employees, but just like when Apple lost Steve Jobs, Noveske too had lost their innovator. A lack of ingenuity causes stagnation and this can ultimately kill a company. When Alland stepped in, this was the concensus, but this is changing. The company is finally releasing their N6, which has been highly anticipated by their loyal followers, and will not disappoint the critics.
Johnny Noveske with his family before the January 2013 car crash near Grants Pass, Ore., that would take his life.
THE N6 IS A 7.62, but will also be released in 6.5 Creedmor and comes with some incredible features. The rifle is available in two barrel lengths: 16 and 12.5 inches. It has a switch block, which allows the shooter to control how much gas comes through the system, and there is a setting for suppressed, nonsuppressed and off. The suppressed setting allows the user to cut back on the gas that gets pushed back while shooting suppressed, saving wear and tear on the can and rifle. When turned off, the round will fire but the action will not cycle – perfect for maximizing sound reduction. According to the Noveske Rifleworks team, small operational units have shown interest in using the 12.5 version in full auto.
If you get the chance to shoot a Noveske rifle, take it. It may, however, create a dilemma for you. My dilemma was whether or not I needed to eat for the next six months. To each their own, and you will figure it out quickly. After all, shooting is supposed to be fun, and Noveske makes it fun.
Very fun. ASJ
Noveske Rifleworks is known for being the Porsche of the AR-platform world, and continues to dominate the industry simply by being the best.
Editor’s note: For more information about Noveske, go to noveske.com.
Posted in Long Guns Tagged with: AR, ar-15, Armalite Rifle, Johnny Noveske, Noveske, Noveske Rifleworks, Troy Taysom
[su_heading size=”30″]Center Stage With Craig Morgan, A Man Of Many, Many Talents[/su_heading]
STORY BY TROY TAYSOM * PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF OUTDOOR CHANNEL
[su_dropcap style=”flat” size=”5″]S[/su_dropcap]oldier, paratrooper, air assaulter, deputy sheriﬀ, singer, songwriter, EMT, TV show personality – this might sound like the opening line on a job-fair poster, but the truth is that one man has done all of these jobs at one time or another, and continues to do most of them. Did I forget to include father, husband, member of the Grand Ole Opry and a regular performer with the United Service Organization? Indeed, Craig Morgan is a man of many talents, and all of his accolades have come from hard work. Looking at Morgan’s schedule, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had somehow invented a time machine or a way to clone himself in order to keep up with the crazy life he lives. But when you are doing what you love, it never really feels like work – right?
He may look deadly serious, but Morgan is a comedian at heart and never misses an opportunity to laugh and help others see the humor in the world. His show, Craig Morgan’s All Access Outdoors, won the Outdoor Channel’s Golden Moose award in 2015 for best comedy.
It Seems That Country Singers are a dime a dozen today, especially with all the reality-based singing shows. Many of the artists are just ﬂashes in the pan. Staying power is the key to the music business – to any entertainment business, really. Staying relevant is the most diﬃcult part of keeping in the public spotlight. Life for Morgan is no diﬀerent. It is a ﬁght to remain relevant in the country-music scene. Television can seem worse as consumers are bombarded with entertainment options, and the only way to get and keep loyal fans is to continue producing fresh and exciting products that speak to them. Morgan has ﬁgured out a winning formula for he and his fans, and this talent has kept him in the limelight since he ﬁrst entered the music scene back in his Army days.
As A Paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division and later a member of the 101st Airborne/Air Assault Division, he amassed more than 800 jumps, including combat jumps. If you’re not familiar with the Army, that’s a lot of jumps! Morgan knows the lonely, miserable feeling of being far from home in a hostile atmosphere. At one point, while serving, he entered and won multiple singing competitions, which gave him the conﬁdence to continue. After 10½ years in active duty, Morgan came back home to Tennessee and dedicated himself to a music career, while still continuing to serve by joining the Army Reserve until 2004.
His music career didn’t occur by happenstance. Born in central Tennessee in 1964, his father was a bassist and Morgan was introduced to many of country music’s royalty as a child, including George Jones and Tammy Wynette. He even sang the National Anthem at age 10 with Minnie Pearl in the audience. The way the story goes, Miss Pearl told Morgan, “Son, someday you’re gonna be famous.” Miss Pearl was correct. In 2008 Craig joined the iconic country music institution, The Grand Ole Opry – with Miss Minnie Pearl by his side. An invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry is a high honor for any country music artist.
Even after his active-duty military career ended, Morgan served in the reserves and continues to perform and volunteer for the United Service Organization, or USO, events worldwide.
Morgan hasn’t forgotten his roots, nor his time in the Army. He regularly entertains service members around the world on USO tours – in fact, he was on one as I wrote this article. Although his tour location is a secret, due to security concerns, he has performed multiple times in Southwest Asia over the past decade, bringing joy, entertainment, comedy and relief to young men and women risking their lives thousands of miles from home.
Acting Like A Country Star is simply not in Morgan’s DNA. Speaking to him was like talking to an old friend. Sure, he’s a busy man these days, what with a new album getting ready to launch, the seventh season of his hit TV show Craig Morgan’s All Access Outdoors airing in on Outdoor Channel in July, a couple of kids in college and a wife, Karen, of 25 years, but I never felt like I was burdening him for his time. He has a guy-nextdoor vibe about him – approachable and kind. He’s also a jokester. His cable hunting series is as much a comedy as it is an adventure. Let me give you folks a piece of advice: If you are on a plane and you see someone who looks like Craig Moran – don’t fall asleep! If you do, you will make it onto his Twitter and Facebook accounts as #SOP – sleepers on the plane. His tweets include selﬁes with snoozing passengers in the background. He takes great joy in catching his fellow sojourners napping. You’ve been warned!
Morgan has had many hits over his career such as: “Redneck Yacht Club;” “International Harvester;” “Bonﬁre;” and “That’s What I Love about Sunday” – a hit that stayed number one on country music billboards for four weeks and was ultimately declared the number one hit of 2005. Morgan just keeps evolving with every album.
A single from his new, yet to be named or released album is out now. “When I’m Gone” is fantastic and has a more emotional yearning to it than some of his previous work. I was fortunate enough to hear the entire album, and in this writer’s opinion, “When I’m Gone” will be big, but the best cut is titled “A Whole Lot More To Me.” The song speaks to Morgan’s multidimensional life. I asked Morgan is expand on this a bit more. “We’ve been stereotyped as rednecks, but it’s our own fault – we are to blame. With this song, I wanted people to see a diﬀerent side to country music. We can like the ﬁner things in life and still be country. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.”
The Latest Album Isn’t the only activity taking up Morgan’s time these days. He has been and is still ﬁlming episodes for his show on Outdoor Channel. The show is part reality, part comedy and a whole lot of outdoors. Unlike many outdoor shows, Morgan isn’t about ﬁnding the biggest buck on a hunt, but about having fun while being with his family and friends, all while encouraging his viewers to get outside too. In 2015, his show won the coveted Golden Moose Award for best comedy.
Morgan is a seasoned outdoorsman and his show is proof positive of his interests. Season seven (beginning in July) promises to be even more adventurous and is geared towards everyone who enjoys the outdoors, country music and fun – it’s not just for hunters.
In one of the many upcoming episodes, the show supports Billy’s Place, an organization that caters to griefstricken children and children in crisis and was named after Morgan’s father-in-law, and highlights Billy’s Place 5K Run, Billy’s Place golf tournament and music fest. Craig saw the need for activities like during his time as a deputy sheriﬀ – yes, one of his many facets.
Other adventures you will see include Morgan using various Hoyt compound bows while hunting deer in Illinois and Kentucky and big elk in the enchanted state of New Mexico, and a visit to the Remington ammunition plant, where I hope he will ask what happened to the .22LR ammunition! More bowhunting in Ohio and Texas and then oﬀ to Nebraska for mule deer – the best kind, as far as this Utah writer is concerned. There is some Florida hog hunting, showing that there is more to the Sunshine State than beaches and bikinis, and then all the way up to Canada for black bear. There are even turkey and goat hunts along the way. These are just some of the adventures.
An avid hunter, Morgan travels the world for game, and his Outdoor Channel TV show, Craig Morgan’s All Access Outdoors, launches its seventh season this July. An episode will take he and son Jerry to Hawaii, where they hunt goats. If nothing else, Morgan understands the true meaning of family. (MOLLIE COCHRANE)
Morgan Also Travels To Hawaii to hunt Vancouver bulls, as well as goats and turkeys. Yes, you read that correctly, Vancouver bulls. You know, cows, but wild. The history behind this is interesting. Captain Vancouver gave King Kamehameha a herd of cattle as a gift. The cattle were killed and eaten rather quickly, wiping out the herd. So the captain gave the king another group, smaller this time, and told him to let the herd grow so he could provide his people with a food supply for a long time.
That was over 300 years ago, and now the islands have a wild cattle problem. Initially, the king issued an order forbidding the killing of the animals, and the herd grew quickly. But what do cattle do if unmanaged? Raze crops and hurt people. An organized hunt was commissioned years later, which thinned the herd, but deep in the jungle, these nonnative animals continue to damage an already stressed ecosystem, thus the hunt. The hunt isn’t easy either. To get to these bulls, one must walk through steep terrain and thick jungle just to ﬁnd them.
Morgan’s international travels also take him to New Zealand for tahr. Similar to a mountain goat, hunting these Himalayn transplants is very diﬃcult due to the terrain and strong winds that blow where these creatures live.
If Hunting Isn’t Your Thing, then tune in for Morgan’s motorcycle racing episode in Indiana and his day at the dirt track racing in Missouri. He’s also headed for the Bahamas on a world-class ﬁshing trip, doing his best Ernest Hemingway impression by catching the big ones.
And what would a season of CMAAO be without music? Craig will be performing in Iowa and Kansas and parts of these shows will be aired during the season.
Craig will also be teaming up with Bass Pro Shops and JP Morris for a cast-and-blast turkey hunt, and will, of course, be participating again this year in the Annual Opry Hunt. This hunt features legends in the country music world out hunting together. In the past the Opry Hunt has been for duck, but rumor has it that this year it’s a riﬂe hunt – what could they be hunting? You’ve got to tune in to ﬁnd out!
Craig Morgan seems to have two speeds – full speed or asleep. When he’s not traveling the world entertaining the troops with the USO, he is performing concerts, recording a new album, going on adventures for his Outdoor Channel show, working with Exodus Road to try and stop human traﬃcking overseas, volunteering with his local sheriﬀ’s oﬃce and spending time with his wife and kids. The old saying is true, “If you want something done, ask a busy man.” Somehow Morgan is able to ﬁt more into his 24-hour day than any other human I’ve met.
Craig Morgan is many things – husband, father, singer-songwriter, true patriot who has served in the military and continues to support the armed forces, and a hunter.
Do Yourself A Favor, and check out Morgan’s new shows on the Outdoor Channel starting this summer and watch for his new album to be released sometime in mid-2016. I’ve listened to every song multiple times and can say that as a country music fan, I love this album. His new music doesn’t pigeonhole him as the Bakersﬁeld or Nashville sound. To my untrained ear, he is mixing these polar opposite sounds to create a unique and distinctly Morgan sound.
We throw the term “hero” around a lot. Sports stars, music stars, reality TV stars are being sold to us as heroes. A true hero is someone who can be depended on to do what’s best for those around him or her. A true hero doesn’t calculate risk to life or reputation and they never make decisions based on what’s politically correct. A hero sees what needs to be done and simply does it. Craig Morgan’s life has been lived in this exact manner. Is he a hero? He is to me. AMSJ
Posted in Stories Tagged with: Country music, Craig Morgan, music, paratrooper, Troy Taysom, Veteran
[su_heading size=”30″]‘Sky Cops’ Protect Bases, Bombers, Missile Fields, And Take On New Roles[/su_heading]
STORY BY TROY TAYSOM
Editor’s note: Part I in this series last issue covered the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations.
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]T[/su_dropcap]he United States Air Force is a unique service for a multitude of reasons. It was the ﬁrst branch of the service to allow women into combat roles (security police) and has an entire career ﬁeld dedicated to protecting air bases, aircraft, Air Force personnel and nuclear weapons. All of the other services require individual units to provide security for themselves, i.e. an Army aviation unit’s members, including her mechanics, are armed and trained as riﬂemen. In the Air Force, only one group is trained in the art of Air Base Ground Defense (ABGD).
Chuck Norris started his martial arts training when he was an air policeman in Korea. Besides Norris, the “Sky Cops” have a storied past full of unsung heroes, hard-fought battles and the distinction that not a single air base was ever overrun during the Vietnam War – and not for lack of trying on the North Vietnamese’s part either. It has taken nearly 70 years for this career ﬁeld to gain its true identity. Here is that story.
POST WORLD WAR II
In 1947 when the Air Force was officially separated from the Army, the need to protect not only the aircraft but now a cache of nuclear weapons became paramount. The old-time bomber pilot and commander Curtis LeMay saw the need for a unit to function like the infantry, but on Air Force bases. These airmen needed to be versed in the use of small arms, crew-served weapons, and squad- (ﬁre team in the Air Force), platoon- (called a ﬂight) and company- (called a squadron) level tactics. These units needed to be highly specialized in the deterrence and detection of unauthorized people or groups attempting to access a base (especially ones with nuclear missions) or missile ﬁeld. The Strategic Air Command led the way in developing their APs into highly trained soldier airmen, known unofficially as “SAC Trained Killers.”
During the Korean War, very few air bases came under attack. The APs were basically law enforcement on the base and guarded aircraft. No tactical plans had been implemented, let alone training for a base attack. The Air Force was lucky, but their luck would be tested mightily in the next go-around. The SAC model wasn’t followed by units in Korea, as the nuclear weapons were kept stateside.
As the Vietnam War ramped up in the 1960s, so did the need for the Air Force’s presence in and around America’s ally in Southeast Asia. The U.S. focused most of its air bases in South Vietnam and Thailand, with others further away in places like Guam and the Philippines. Those bases located on the mainland endured the greatest risk of attack, as they sat close to enemy forces. Amazingly enough, few of the Air Force bases came under attack in the beginning years of the war. The tactics and mindset were still very Korean War-oriented. Many APs arrived at bases in Southeast Asia to ﬁnd no weapons had been sent for them to use. Other bases had WWII leftovers – Browning Automatic Riﬂes (BARs), .30-caliber Browning machineguns, grease guns, Colt .45 ACP 1911s and M1 Carbines.
I spoke with Senior Master Sergeant Pete Piazza (retired) at length about what the Sky Cops (as they were lovingly dubbed) endured from 1966-72. Piazza served three tours of duty in Vietnam as an AP and then as a SP. He witnessed ﬁrsthand the Air Force go from no real idea of how to defend a base to being awarded the Silver Star for his actions at Bien Hoa Air Base on Jan. 31, 1968, during the Tet Offensive.
Piazza took charge of his bunker when his leader, Capt. Maisey, was killed by a rocket. A staff sergeant at the time, he spent the next eight hours running through heavy machinegun ﬁre, rockets and sniper ﬁre to keep his men fully supplied with much-needed ammunition and water. Piazza was quick to educate me on a couple of little known facts.
“Ninety percent of the SPs that were at Air Force bases when Tet started had never seen combat,” he told me.
Air police, security police, security forces – the protectors of our country’s air bases and overseas assets have had several names, but the job they’ve done has never wavered. (TROY TAYSOM)
He also said something that intrigued me: “The Air Force was the only branch of the service that didn’t have one of their bases overrun by the enemy.”
Why was that? Men just like Piazza. But ask him and he’ll say, “I was just doing what everybody else was doing.” While humility is the true sign of a hero, I will have to disagree with Pete on this one. Silver Stars aren’t just handed out, especially to enlisted USAF airmen.
Undoubtedly, there were others who performed as bravely as Piazza did on that January day so long ago. I can’t possibly ﬁnd and speak to them all; some, including his direct supervisor, Capt. Maisey, were killed on that day and in the days to come as Tet raged on. Piazza certainly wasn’t part of any “chair force.” He was every bit an infantryman that day as Audie Murphy and Chesty Puller.
Ask any soldier and he or she will tell you: Whoever owns the night has the advantage. The SPs were some of the ﬁrst units in the Vietnam War to receive ANTVS-2 scopes, nicknamed “Starlight” because of their use of ambient star and moon light. These scopes were some of the ﬁrst real attempts at night vision and changed the face of war forever. The riﬂemounted scope gave the user night vision out to 400 meters, while a crew-served weapons version, the ANPVS-4, worked out to 1,000, and an off-weapon version, the ANPVS-5, allowed sight out to 1,500 meters. For those airmen who had them, night shifts became a little less nerve racking.
One asset was in great supply, and gave the SPs another advantage at night – military working dogs, MWDs or K9s. The Sky Cops would walk the perimeter at night with their dogs. The SPs couldn’t see any better just because they had a dog, but the dogs could sense the presence of intruders, and on more than one occasion they stopped enemy sappers before they had the chance to breach the perimeter fence. For whatever reason, the Viet Cong also had a healthy fear of these K9s and kept their distance as word spread of their presence on the air bases. At the height of the K9 program, in January 1967, there were 476 dogs deployed. The dog handlers carried a special version of the M16, called the GAU-5/A. It was shorter and allowed the handler to control the dog and ﬁre the riﬂe one-handed if needed.
It wasn’t until after Tet that the Air Force wrote its ﬁrst deﬁnitive, battle-tested, air-base ground defense manual to be used in the years ahead – especially during the Cold War.
THE MAYAGUEZ INCIDENT
On May 12, 1975, Cambodian naval ships captured the S.S. Mayaguez, a U.S. merchant marine ship, in international waters. Negotiations broke down and a rescue mission was planned. The closest unit with combat experience was the 56th Security Police Squadron stationed at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. After the CH-53 Knife helicopters plus some HH-53 choppers left the base, Knife 13 disappeared from radar 40 miles out. It is widely thought that mechanical issues caused the crash. All 18 security policemen and four crew members and a linguist died.
Moments before take-off, a picture of the ill-fated Sky Cops in Knife 13 was taken. Thirty minutes later all 23 passengers were dead. The image leaves a haunting legacy of sacriﬁce and how short life can be in a combat zone.
As the Cold War heated up, America’s nuclear arsenal followed suit. Most nuclear assets came under the purview of the USAF, and more speciﬁcally SAC. SAC was the brain child of LeMay and was arguably the best run major command in the Air Force. SAC operated bases for bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons, as well as bases that
supported missile ﬁeld operations. These wings were subject to remarkably stringent inspections, the failure of which would result in the ﬁring of the senior staff of the wing.
The USAF was the first branch of the military to deploy female snipers and has since trained multiple women in this role. (USAF)
The SPs were responsible for several missions on SAC bases: the protection of the weapons storage areas, where the nukes were stored; and the physical guarding of the B-52s and KC-135s, air refuelers, that were on “alert.” Being on alert required the aircrews to live in a special facility next to the aircraft. At the sound of the klaxon, the crews rushed to their aircraft and were ready for take-off to top secret destinations. The SPs guarded all of these locations, day and night, 24/7/365. At places like Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, guard duty tested one’s desire to be a cop.
Missile ﬁelds also demanded the attention of the SPs. These ﬁelds were vast and remote. Cops worked seven days straight, often living out of campers attached to the back of pick-up trucks. The missile ﬁelds weren’t located in tropical locales either. They were spread across states like Montana, Kansas, Wyoming and South Dakota. Working conditions for the cops were less than ideal; in fact, at times the conditions resembled the Arctic Circle more than the continental United States. But defend these locations the SPs did, and to this day, still do. In 1997 security police career ﬁelds of law enforcement and security specialist were merged into one ﬁeld and renamed Security Forces. This change gave the cops more ﬂexibility in manning assignments, as well as providing cross training.
MODERN-DAY WAR ON TERROR
The USAF’s modern-day Security Forces function even more like infantry units than the cops in the past. They have all the weapons of the infantry – the M240, M249B, M4, M9, M203, 81mm mortars and M24 sniper systems. They are the ﬁrst service to deploy female snipers and have now trained multiple women in this role.
Couple of Ravens in back of C-17 Aircraft – Photo by J Hines
The Air Force’s cops continue to become a “high speed, low drag” group. They have a squadron that is airborne qualiﬁed, stationed in Georgia. This group of cops even made a combat jump with the Army into Iraq. Air Mobility Command has also developed a group called the Ravens. In this group of Security Forces, airmen accompany aircraft into dangerous regions of the world where there is no on ground security for the aircraft. These men and women travel the world providing security for these USAF assets and serve as Force Protection advisors to aircrew members. Other major commands have similar.
In addition to guarding U.S. Air Force missile fields, “Sky Cops” also protect the nation’s bomber fleet. Here, Airman 1st Class Arlando Budd, assigned to the 509th Security Forces Squadron, provides security near a B-2 Spirit at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. (SENIOR AIRMAN NICK WILSON, USAF)
The Air Force continues to change with the times. It just so happens that the “Sky Cops” are leading the way when it comes to installation, asset, nuclear and personnel security. The lessons learned in the Jungles of Vietnam and Thailand, as well as the lessons of the Cold War in Europe and the frozen missile ﬁelds and bomber facilities of America are the foundation under which the new generation of Sky Cops continue to grow and evolve. ASJ
Posted in Law Enforcement Tagged with: Air force, History, Military, Pete Piazza, Troy Taysom, USAF, Veteran
[su_heading size=”25″]Guardians Of The Air Force – Part I of II[/su_heading]
‘The Eyes Of The Eagle’
STORY BY TROY TAYSOM
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]I[/su_dropcap]n 1947 the world was rebuilding after the most devastating global conflict we’ve ever known had ended. The importance of air power had been proven with the destruction of Tokyo, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Berlin and Hamburg. The importance of owning the skies above the battlefield led our nation to form a new branch of the military; on September 18, 1947, the United States Air Force was born.
Just one year later, a new career field was created within the USAF. Modeled after the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI or OSI) was formed in August of 1948. The impetus for its formation would propel OSI agents to the forefront of professional fraud investigations.
Agents carried Smith & Wesson’s .38 Chief’s Special between the 1950s and 1970s, but these days may carry personal handguns on an approved list. (USAF)
AT THE END OF WWII, Major General Bennett E. Meyers, in charge of procurement, fell victim to one of the seven deadly sins – greed. He saw how much money was being spent and how little oversight was present, and took advantage of his position. An anonymous letter floated around the military and the FBI for years, written by a junior-ranking officer explaining what this general was up to. Legend says that the letter remained largely ignored because of unclear jurisdictional matters. The letter finally saw the light of day during Senate hearings, and exposed the inadequate system that the Air Force had for such investigations. In April 1948, this Senate committee made a recommendation: “A competent investigative unit should be established at once to act as a watchdog over the huge and continuing expenditure of public funds by that important arm [Air Force] of the military establishment.” OSI was formed with a three-pronged dictate: investigate fraud, criminal activity and perform counterintelligence.
The military is a microcosm of society, which means if society has it, the military has it as well, just on a smaller scale. Many of the crimes OSI investigates, such as drugs for example, are among the wide swath of responsibilities under their umbrella. (USAF)
AFOSI FUNCTIONS MUCH LIKE the FBI, but only within the confines of the mission of the Air Force. Special agents (SA) don’t wear uniforms and rank is hardly spoken of. AFOSI reports directly to the Inspector General of the Air Force, and is not beholden to base and wing commanders like all other Air Force personnel. It’s not because they are privileged or entitled; it’s to ensure a safety gap exists in the event that the base or wing commander is the one under investigation. This separation ensures that rank is not used to intimidate the enlisted agents as they investigate potential crimes.
OSI agents destroy weapons in Afghanistan that were seized during operations. (PHOTOS USAF – SRA MARCI BOOZER)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the number one requested career field by newly commissioned 2nd lieutenants is pilot training. However, it may surprise some that the second most requested field is OSI. The amazing thing is that the field has less than 3,000 agents and just over 300 of those are officers. The majority are enlisted personnel, followed closely by civilians.
SAs go through a rigorous selection process that includes an exhaustive background investigation, an in-depth polygraph and then basic federal agents’ school in Glynco, Ga. After basic training, the SAs split off into their own OSI academy to learn the capabilities and pillars under which OSI operates. According to OSI, their cornerstones are:
• Vigorously solve crime;
• Protect secrets;
• Warn of threats;
• Exploit intelligence opportunities;
• And operate in cyberspace.
Special Agent Nathan Sessler (left) with another agent and local children in Iraq. This is just one of many locations around the world where OSI operates. (NATHAN SESSLER)
AGENTS HAVE A PLETHORA of weapons they use in the field. From the early 1950s until the late 1970s OSI agents carried .38 Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special (which was renamed the Model 36) 3-inch revolvers. In the late 1970s, OSI decided to switch to the M1911A1 .45 ACP. They acquired surplus guns that the Navy had deemed unserviceable and customized them. The barrel and slide were shortened by three quarters of an inch and the frame by a half inch. The shortened frame required a custom-made, six-round magazine. Many agents praised the change to a better caliber, but the gun was plagued with slide cracks, failures to feed, as well as stove-pipe failures, according to one retired agent I spoke with. It is estimated that it only cost the Air Force $100 per gun to make changes to the .45s, making the project highly economical.
The Colt proved to be a good stop-gap between the old 3-inch .38s and the new 9mm adopted by the armed forces in 1985. Not long after the military adopted the Beretta M9, OSI started issuing them to the SAs. The M9 was liked by many and hated by probably just as many. For an OSI agent the biggest issue was concealability. The M9 was not designed to be carried as a concealed firearm. It was a battlefield back-up gun. OSI needed something more in line with their missions, including undercover investigations and protective details.
After 9/11, many OSI agents were sent to the front lines to work human intelligence (HUMINT). Searching for weapons caches was among the many duties of this special agent. (USAF)
Ultimately OSI adopted the Sig Sauer M11, or P228 in civilian terms, just like US Army pilots and other aircrews. However, in November 2015, the AFOSI commander, Brigadier General Keith M. Givens, announced a new weapons policy, which allowed SAs to carry privately owned weapons (POWs) as long as they are on the list of 27 approved models. Brig. Gen. Givens explained, “One of the main driving forces behind this change was the desire to provide each agent the option to employ a weapon that best suits their individual body type and hand size for preference and concealment concerns. Now, OSI Special Agents will have that flexibility.”
Agents are also trained with the Remington 870 and the M4. Agents who deploy in counterinsurgency rolls have the chance to qualify with other weapons like the M203, M240 and M249.
Agents working protective details have used everything from Remington 870s with a folding steel stocks to Uzis and MP5s, depending on what part of the world they are in.
Once and SA has completed training they are assigned to a detachment somewhere in the world to undergo their probationary period. During this time a more senior SA will work with them on criminal investigations, including fraud, narcotics, sexual assaults, murders and any other serious felonies that present themselves.
AFOSI HAS A REPUTATION of working closely with their civilian counterparts. One famous incident involved three airmen from Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The airmen robbed a hi-fi-type store in Ogden, Utah, a town close to the base. During the robbery they held several people hostage and committed heinous crimes, including forcing some to drink liquid Drano in hopes of killing the witnesses. When this didn’t work they shot each of the hostages. One man still didn’t die and they resorted to kicking a pen into his ear and choking him – he lived and crawled outside where he was found. A tip from a fellow airman led police to Airman Dale S. Pierre, then 21 years old, and Airman William Andrews, age 20. Evidence was recovered from a dumpster next to the base and with the help of OSI, a search warrant was issued and executed in the barracks. The stereo equipment was recovered, and the two stood trial and were convicted on multiple felonies including capital murder. Pierre was executed in 1987 and Andrews in 1992.
Former SA Nathan Sessler told me that during his time at Pope Airfield, N.C., he worked closely with the Fayetteville Police Department to learn more about street gangs. Street gangs wouldn’t seem to be a problem in the Air Force, but SA Sessler pointed out that the military is a microcosm of society – if society has it, the military has it too, just on a smaller scale. With his new training he was able to identify members within the Air Force and get the local police to verify gang membership.
OSI agents report directly to the Inspector General of the Air Force. SA Smiley takes in the sights in Afghanistan. (USAF)
In Texas, OSI found that members of the “Bloods,” a known and violent gang, had joined the Air Force and were working in the post office on base, using it to smuggle and transport narcotics.
OSI has always excelled at investigating fraud. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a chief master sergeant stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., was investigated for stealing flight-line generators and using them to help high-ranking officers build summer cabins in the countryside.
At around the same time a master sergeant working in a supply supervisory role was caught using government funds to furnish his private rental units. The investigation uncovered $200,000 worth of ill-gotten furniture, fixtures and equipment in his apartments.
DURING MY INTERVIEW with SA Sessler he mentioned a case where a topographical-map printer, valued at $13,000, was stolen from an air evacuation medical unit. The printer didn’t turn up until the spouse of an airmen was involved in a domestic battery. She told his commanding officer and police that her husband had stolen a printer from his squadron. SA Sessler went to the home to investigate and located the printer. What came next shocked the seasoned OSI veteran. The wife casually asked, “Would he (the husband) be in trouble if he had stolen other stuff from the Air Force?” “Yes, ma’am,” responded Sessler. She led him to the couple’s three-car garage that was packed floor to ceiling and wall to wall with stolen and misappropriated merchandise. The man was an E-7 with 19.5 years of service and was a unit purchaser with a no-limit government credit card. He showed his subordinates how to reconcile the books by simply selecting the approve-all button in the software. In 18 months the master sergeant had stolen $392,000 worth of material. His subordinates were charged with dereliction of duty and he received an eight-year imprisonment, loss of rank, forfeiture of pay and a bad-conduct discharge.
The future looks bright for OSI. There seems to be no end to their expertise and ability to reshape their section of the Air Force to adapt to changing times. (USAF)
OSI has also jumped into the world of computer crimes as well as counterinsurgency. These crimes include everything from attempts to steal sensitive data to child pornography. SA Sessler was one of the agents who got a confession from an E-6 who had been creating and distributing child porn while stationed in the US. He was arrested at Pope AFB. Airman Nathan Wogan was sentenced to life in prison, thanks to the efforts of AFOSI agents like SA Sessler.
UNTIL 9/11, OSI WASN’T HEAVILY involved in counterinsurgency. During the war on terror many OSI agents were sent to the front lines to work human intelligence (HUMINT). This is no different than working narcotics cases with informants and insiders. In fact, OSI was able to get one of the most prolific improvised explosive device (IED) makers in southern Iraq off the streets. Several SAs had been discussing problems they were having in the area with IEDs. One of the agents suggested they work the case just like they would for narcotics. They did and worked their way up the ladder, so to speak, and were eventually buying directly from the IED maker, ultimately taking him into custody. After the operation, the number of IEDs in that area dropped to nearly zero.
In December of 2015, four OSI agents were killed doing counterinsurgency work in Afghanistan. Even though they are not considered front-line units like Rangers, Special Forces, SEALS and Delta Force, the job that OSI agents do is vitally important to the safety of our air assets and the lives of those who serve in the Air Force. Make no mistake, however, theirs is a dangerous job and always will be.
In OSIs 68-year history, they have lost 14 agents in the line of duty – four in that single day in 2015. ASJ
Editor’s note: Next issue, in part II of this series, we will profile other very important USAF law enforcement agencies that protect military assets and help keep our country safe.
Author’s note: Special thanks to the following retired OSI agents for their tremendous help with this article: Mike Brunson, Steve Rivers, Nathan Sessler, Michael Taysom, Bill Yurek and many others.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is often considered to be the FBI of the Air Force. Their roles in investigating crimes around the world ranges from fingerprint processing, just like special agent Adam Deem is demonstrating, to countering drug trafficking, insurgent explosive devices and gang activities. (USAF)
Posted in Law Enforcement Tagged with: AFOSI, Behind The Badge, HUMINT, Major General Bennett E. Meyers, Office of Special Investigations, OSI, Special Agent Sessler, Troy Taysom, US Air Force, USAF
[su_heading]Rocky Mountains Deputies Dan And Mike Coyle[/su_heading]
STORY BY TROY TAYSOM • PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAN AND MIKE COYLE
Police officers are commonly referred to as brothers in blue. This speaks to the close bond that officers develop with each other while enduring difficult situations, and at times requires life-and-death decisions. Sometimes officers are true biological brothers as well, which enhances this bond. Meet Mike and Dan Coyle. Each has a unique outlook on police work, and different reasons for having chosen law enforcment as a career.
DEPUTY MIKE COYLE initially worked various jobs, none of which provided satisfaction. While mowing lawns for a municipality, Mike had an epiphany – he needed to do something with his life that had meaning, and that meant helping others. In the same thought, Mike realized that law enforcement always needs honest people. I have known Mike for 18 years – Mike is honest! The road to becoming a police officer for him was difficult, required dedication and major lifestyle change. It also meant extra time away from his family.
Deputy Dan and Mike Coyle have 25 years of law enforcement experience between them.
Mike struggled at times, but never gave up on his goal. After completing the academy, he was hired by a sheriff’s department more than 60 miles from his home. His dedication to law enforcement was tested and solidiﬁed by the daily 120-plus-mile commute. After a few years of this arduous schedule, Mike was hired by the Utah County, Utah, Sheriff’s Office, reducing his drive from hours to minutes.
Mike has always worked as a corrections deputy, which is a perfect ﬁt for him. He is a huge man, both in size – standing an intimidating 6 foot 4 inches – and heart. Mike is the type of person who would give his last dollar and ask nothing in return. His honest nature creates trust with inmates, and that manifests usable, dependable intelligence. Some of the information he has gleaned has led to major arrests in the gang and drug world. This is not to say that Mike is not genuine – in fact, just the opposite. He is always kind, and this translates into natural trust from people around him.
DEPUTY DAN COYLE, Mike’s younger brother, initially worked in the IT industry, but also had a desire to serve others, and wanted to be proactive in his community. Dan has now been a deputy sheriff with the Douglas County, Colo., Sheriff’s Office for eight and a half years.
It all started when Dan said to his wife, “I want to do what Mike does.” And that was that. His ﬁrst four years were spent working in corrections, where he treated all of the inmates with respect and dignity. Dan’s time there gave him what he called “a different view of the human experience.”
Four years ago, Dan was selected for road-patrol duty and started his ﬁeld training. Within a short time, an opening for a school resource officer was announced, and Dan jumped at the chance. SROs are the front-line defense for our kids. I wish it were different, but psychopaths have chosen our schools as targets for their misplaced anger and evil intentions. Officers like Dan now stand ready to protect them, and give their own lives if necessary.
Two years ago, an 18-year-old kid arrived at Arapahoe, Colo., High School, a few short miles from Dan’s school, armed with a shotgun and four bombs. His intentions obvious, he killed a beautiful young lady before killing himself. Dan’s school was on immediate lock-down. He guarded the halls of his school with his patrol riﬂe, checking each student to make sure that no one with evil intentions made it in. His office changed the term for active shooter to active killer. This is more appropriate, and better deﬁnes the stark reality of these situations.
Dan, his fellow SROs, along with the military and other law enforcement agencies, train for these kinds of events – even the kids play a part. The drama classes do stage makeup to simulate wounds that ﬁrst responders might encounter, as well as act as citizens during these mock events.
Law enforcement often sees the worst of society, but the Coyle brothers always maintain kindness and respect for everyone they meet.
THE GOOD TIMES Mike has spent his entire 15-year career working in corrections. Jail deputies are not just guards, they are mentors, counselors and, at times, friends to people who have hit bottom.
When I asked Mike what his best day in law enforcement has been, he reached for his smartphone and didn’t say a word while he searched for something. I thought he had received a text and was ignoring my question. Instead, he set his phone on the table and hit play:
“Hi, Mike, this is Dianne [her name has been changed]. I just wanted to call and tell you, ‘Thank you very much.’ I want you to know how much I appreciate you. Today is my sixth year clean and sober, and I’m going through my list of memorable people – people who helped me get here. I wanted to thank you for having faith in me, for listening to me and giving me advice. I’m so grateful that God placed you in my life.” Not much more needed to be said.
For Dan, he was once working crowd control at a suicide prevention event when a man and woman approached him. “This is the man who turned my life around,” said the approaching man to his wife. The man had been an inmate when Dan served as a corrections deputy. Dan didn’t remember saying anything special to him other than simply being kind and respectful. Actions have lasting consequences – Dan’s kind actions somehow helped this man change his life.
Recently, Dan helped save the life of a man who had reached his limit and sought to take his own life. Dan was ﬁnishing a patrol of a local park where students often congregate and cause trouble when the call came in: There was a suicidal man on a freeway overpass. Dan and another deputy arrived on the scene at the same time. The man wouldn’t talk, and was getting closer to the edge. Just as the man was starting to lean over to jump, Dan and the other deputy grabbed him. The man remained uncooperative but alive.
EVERY OFFICER WILL HAVE at least one day that will be their worst day in law enforcement.For Mike, that was January 29th, 2014, a cold, snowy, miserable Utah County winter day. One afternoon, Sgt. Cory Wride of UCSO, stopped to help a stranded motorist in a remote area. The vehicle wasn’t stranded. The driver was a parolee, and he had his 17-year-old girlfriend along with him. Long story short, the parolee shot and killed Sgt. Wride through the windshield of his patrol truck. The pair was found 70 miles away, and a shootout with police ensued. Sgt. Wride left behind a wife, ﬁve kids and eight grandkids. Mike knew Sgt. Wride from his early days as a K9 handler, and Mike was one of the ﬁrst deputies scheduled to watch the parolee when he arrived at the hospital. In an act of kindness, the city police department took over watch duties to allow the sheriff’s office time to grieve. The parolee died the next day.
Dan’s worst day happened on November 15th, 2015. Dan often worked closely with state trooper Jaimie Jursevics because she patrolled the county where Dan worked. Trooper Jursevics was assisting with an investigation on I-25 in Douglas County when she was hit by a man suspected of driving under the inﬂuence. The man drove another 15 miles before being apprehended, but the damage was done. Trooper Jursevics died from her injuries, leaving behind a husband and 8-month-old baby girl. These men and women feel the pain when one of their own loses their life.
MIKE AND DAN’S DESIRE to serve and help the less fortunate comes from their upbringing. These two were raised by self-proclaimed hippies from a bygone era of free love and slogans like “never trust the man, man!” They were raised with the sounds of Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Beatles, Cream and The Guess Who. It’s no wonder that both Dan and Mike do a fair amount of DJing as a hobby when not on duty. When I told them that I was going to talk to their mother for this article, both seemed a little apprehensive.
Parents Robyn and Richard Coyle must have done something right to have raised these two ﬁne men. I asked Robyn how she felt about her sons working in law enforcement, and she said, “My family history is full of people being on the other side of the law. Both of my boys have said that they’re in jail too; the difference is they have the keys!”
“It’s not what I thought they would choose, but I am so proud of the work they do. The hardest thing for me is trying to keep my worrying in check. I have to remember that my sons train for dangerous situations, and because they are both in law enforcement they have a special bond. They can unload (no pun intended) on each other when they’ve had a rough day. As a civilian I cannot understand all of their stressors. Naturally, they don’t want to worry me. Their dad [Richard] makes a habit of going up and thanking all law enforcement officers he encounters for their service.”
Even though their parents are proud to be called hippies and come from the counter-culture generation, they are both delighted with their sons.
The bond between Mike and Dan is one that most cannot appreciate – they stand as brothers in blood and brothers in blue. ASJ
Posted in Law Enforcement Tagged with: Dan Coyle, Mike Coyle, Police, sheriff, Troy Taysom