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OSI agents focus on force protection issues

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Cannon’s Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 224, wants to remind Airmen of the duty to watch out for their fellow Airmen, report illegal drug activity and protect the resources of the United States. 

From April 2005 to April 2006, Det. 224 conducted 12 drug investigations; up from nine cases the previous year. Currently, 50 percent of all cases investigated by the detachment are drug related. 

Using the message of “you can run, but you can’t hide,” for those using or inclined to use drugs, OSI uses every resource available to conduct drug investigations at Cannon.
“Anyone that we even have an assumption about, we’re going to try to get a urinalysis,” said Special Agent Jason McMackin. 

Drugs in the military are a force protection issue that affects combat readiness, morale and good military order, said OSI officials. Illegal drug use can lead to felonies such as rape or sexual assault, driving under the influence or health problems such as brain damage or death. The risk of a “high” maintenance troop or air traffic controller means military lives are at stake. 

But OSI agents work to be proactive, rather than cleaning up the chaos of poor decisions. 

“We want to stop the drugs before they get here,” Agent McMackin said. Their goal is to reach maintainers and others who work on F-16’s so that a pilot will not operate a jet maintained by someone under the influence of narcotics. They also want to ensure the pilot isn’t flying under the influence of narcotics. 

Whether being proactive or cleaning up, OSI Det. 224 does not work alone. Instead, they work with local law enforcement agencies to provide knowledge of illegal activity. All strings of knowledge from these liaisons must be tied together by a military connection, which may be as seemingly insignificant as a Cannon decal on a vehicle, said Agent McMackin. 

While appearing insignificant, details are never taken lightly. 

“The danger level is high because of the association with gangs,” said Agent McMackin, who with Special Agent Luke Wert predicts that gang and drug problems could worsen at Cannon if a larger mission comes to the base. 

Although Airmen spend most of their time on base, they should be aware of gang influences showing up in the military. Gang leaders are keeping members’ records clean in order to get them into the military to receive training. Upon separating from the military, they take the training back to the gang, said Agent McMackin. 

Whether by personal use or gang dispersion, illegal drugs travel around bases, and are likened to constantly moving targets, with the drugs of choice by Airmen being marijuana and methamphetamines. It is also a well-known fact that the sale of illegal narcotics has been utilized to finance terrorist activities, said Special Agent Tanya R. Harrison, Commander, AFOSI Det. 224. 

“All individuals need to be aware of their surroundings, regardless of the terrorist threat. Be very vigilant in what you are doing when you are in town. Do not get into [bad] situations. Report anything you see,” Agent McMackin said. 

OSI agents are fact-finders only; they do not give consequences to drug users, but they want the message loud and clear that what they find can influence consequences and affect an Airman’s military career. Punishments can include court-martial, dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and allowances, imprisonment and felony convictions. 

“Because of most of the commanders’ zero tolerance policies out here, [Airmen] are more than likely going to be separated from the military,” Agent McMackin said, acknowledging the decision also hinges on an Airman’s job, security clearance and circumstances surrounding the situation. 

Airmen who suspect another troop is illegally using drugs have several options for reporting, such as first sergeants or supervisors, their commander or OSI. Airmen can assist Det. 224 in combating illegal drugs by calling 784-2511 to report illegal drug activity. Callers can remain anonymous. 

Airmen are obligated by law and safety concerns to report illegal drug use, said Agent Wert. “Failure to report can mean [being] charged with a crime, if throughout the course of an investigation, we find out [an Airman] knew.” 

Additional information provided by Agent Harrison.