Security Forces commander attends FBI course

  • Published
  • By Maj. Tara Opielowski
  • 736th Security Forces Squadron
On June 8, 2012, I will be one of 264 law enforcement officials graduating from the 249th Session of the Federal Bureau of Investigations National Academy. The FBI National Academy is a 10-week course of study, held at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, for U.S. and international law enforcement leaders.
The National Academy serves to improve the administration of justice in police departments and agencies at home and abroad and to raise law enforcement standards, knowledge, and cooperation worldwide. There are four sessions held every year, each with an average of 250 students, and law enforcement personnel from over 150 nations attend and take classes in leadership, ethics, advanced forensics, investigation and interrogation practices, legal issues and case studies. Every student is also required to take a physical fitness class that focuses on cutting edge strategies for improved nutrition and muscular and cardiovascular fitness. The National Academy partners with the University of Virginia, so the students will receive undergraduate or graduate level credits for the courses they complete.

Most of the students at the National Academy are law enforcement officials in management and leadership positions within their respective departments; a lot of the students are Chiefs or Sheriffs. Many are hand-selected after an intense application and screening process, and may wait five to 10 years in order to be able to attend. For most who attend, it is not only a resume building block, but something rather prestigious and an honorable personal achievement.

For the seven active duty military members in attendance, it was no different. Each of us participated in some manner of a selection process and we all realized what a great privilege we had been afforded to attend along with our civilian law enforcement counterparts.

During this 10-week course, I was exposed to many academic experiences I never before encountered and I learned a great deal. My undergraduate degree was in civil engineering, and throughout my security forces career, I have focused almost entirely on base defense rather than law enforcement, so many of the courses I took were very eye-opening for me. I gained a lot of knowledge on advanced interviewing techniques and honed my skills in investigative strategies. At the same time, I studied various violent crime case studies, reinforced my beliefs on the importance of intelligence-led policing efforts and debated what constitutes ethical leadership. Lastly, I beasted my body with intense physical training sessions - some of the most intense I have ever had.

The two most important lessons I learned however, were learned outside of the classroom and off of the running trails.

The first lesson is that law enforcement should never be taken for granted. Similar to the protection that the U.S. military offers to its citizens when we take the fight abroad to the enemy, our local law enforcement officials offer citizens safety and protection from the enemies in our own neighborhoods. They are the first line of defense to the criminal and terrorist threats that we face at home and it is a responsibility that is not taken lightly. I felt proud to be sitting next to them and realize the many technologies and techniques they employ in order to protect and serve and I was even more honored to realize that there are many, many good police officers out there who take that charge very serious and serve every day with the greatest honor and courage. We should all be reminded at how fortunate our country is to have a solid law enforcement foundation; there are many others in the world who are not so fortunate.

The second, and perhaps more important lesson that I learned, is that we share a strong, common bond with our law enforcement brothers. Every day as we put on our military uniform, and they don their local departments' uniform, we join together in service worldwide to offer protection, safety and peace of mind to our citizens. The tasks they perform, the level of service expected of them and the burden they carry is very similar to ours as military members. It was powerfully moving for me to realize that there are many men and women out there who took a similar charge as me, so that their children may grow up in a safer world.

My 10-weeks at the FBI National Academy will serve to be one of the best experiences of my military career. The lifelong friends I made and the lessons I learned will never be forgotten. I feel privileged and humbled to have trained with some of the finest police officers in the world, and I hope that in some way, I can remind all of us to be grateful and to support not only the Yellow Ribbon, but also the Thin Blue Line.