When we consider the police profession, too often, what we see on television in various fiction programs impacts our perceptions. These broadcasts, nine times out of ten, concern specialized teams or missions such as criminal or forensic investigations. Anyone who has served in the law enforcement profession can usually spend the majority of one of these shows telling you everything that is inaccurate. Additionally, some of the most popular shows focus on military law enforcement specialties, such as the Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). What too many people don’t know is the truth behind real law enforcement and the various military equivalents. In this article, we are going to take a brief look at the military occupational specialties otherwise known as MOS.
Each service branch has its own version of military police officers and has different titles in each branch. The army has a military police. The Air Force has security forces. The navy has fencing masters. Interestingly, even though the Marine Corps is part of the Navy, they have military police like the Army. The Coast Guard, based on its mission, focuses on law enforcement protecting our coastline and waterways. That said, as part of the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard can also be assigned to wartime operations. Civilian law enforcement officers probably have more regular interactions with the Coast Guard in coastal areas than any other service branch, with the notable exception of areas immediately surrounding military installations.
According to this website, https://militarybenefits.info/military-police-careers/, the job description for the Army Military Police is: …you will protect the lives and property of people at military facilities. the army by applying military laws and regulations. You will also control traffic, prevent crime and respond to any emergencies. You will conduct force protection, counter-terrorism, area security and police intelligence operations. You will also train in corrections and detention, investigations and mobility, and security around the world.
This job description resembles, in general, civilian law enforcement work, with the exception of enforcing military laws and regulations. It’s pretty comprehensive for what the average MP does. Although army deputies are certainly trained in “investigations and mobility”, this is not an important objective of their daily function. The typical work day for a PM is much the same as the average civilian patrol officer: report for duty, go to roll call, report for uniform inspection, then go on patrol. “On Patrol” involves responding to calls for service, enforcing traffic laws, deterring criminal activity, and more.
If anything beyond basic street investigations is needed, the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, or CID, is called in. One cannot enlist in the army CID. A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a variety of other fields is required. Military Police officers are required to attend Basic Training and Military Police Academy, both currently located at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The total time spent is about twenty weeks between the two combined. This is called One Station Unit Training or OSUT. However, to be a CID agent, after obtaining the bachelor’s degree, candidates must successfully complete a separate 16-week training program also conducted at Fort Leonard Wood. CID officers are responsible for investigating all crimes that may have been committed by members of the military or that impact military operations.
MPs may be assigned to patrol, force protection, detention and/or correction duties. The Military Police Corps also has K-9 teams. There are specific training programs for corrections and K-9 MOSs that require additional training beyond “normal” military police school.
The Navy Weapons Master’s job description is significantly different from the Army MP’s, containing a bulleted list of potential mission assignments. The law enforcement and security community provides a wide range of essential services to every part of the Navy, including:
- Security and physical protection
- Train others in security and shore patrol duties
- Security advice
- crowd control
- Riot Prevention
- K-9 Homework
- Waterborne security patrol and interdiction operations
- Preliminary Investigations into Violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice
- Crime prevention programs
With the exception of water-related duties, this is very similar to the responsibilities of Army MPs. Like the Army, the Navy has a dedicated investigative service that most people have heard of: NCIS. The basic requirements to become an NCIS agent involve age (under 37), a bachelor’s degree, driver’s license, and more. (All of the positions discussed in this article require a clean criminal record, and recruiting agencies are certainly competent to execute them thoroughly). To become an NCIS agent, the candidate must successfully complete the required program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. Minimum standards are set for physical fitness and academic achievement. “Just finish” is not enough. NCIS agents are required to complete FLETC training in the upper quarter of the course.
The Air Force Security Forces (as described on this website: https://www.airforce.com/careers/in-demand-careers/security-forces) constitute the bulk of the personnel of the Air Force and have the following general job description: . ..it is the job of the security forces to protect, defend and fight. They are responsible for missile security, defense of air bases worldwide, law enforcement on those bases, combat weapons, and handling of military working dogs.
Each of the Air Force MOSs that involve law enforcement has the requirement to successfully complete Basic Training, an 8.5 week school for the Air Force. There are additional education requirements, but each is specific to the job assignment assigned. For example, if the mission is asset protection, specific training in access control, site defense, etc. will be dispensed. If the mission is working a K-9, then that would be the appropriate and required training.
To carry out investigations, the Air Force has the Office of Special Investigations. They can be considered the equivalent of the Navy’s NCIS or the Army’s CID. OSI agents may be hired civilians or enlisted candidates who successfully complete the screening process and additional training requirements.
Although the Marine Corps has military police officers as MOS, investigative duties are handled by NCIS.
The Coast Guard has a specialized investigations branch: the Coast Guard Investigation Service or CGIS. Simply due to sometimes common operational parameters and the overlap between the Navy and Coast Guard, even though they have markedly different mission responsibilities, NCIS and CGIS may end up investigating the same crimes from different approaches. . In such cases, jurisdiction may be shared, but investigative control is assigned based on the primary crime and concern being investigated.
Keeping all the previous information in mind, consider the civilian equivalent. Each agency of sufficient size has an investigation office. Detectives in these sections investigate the full gamut of crimes, from robbery to homicide to theft and more. Interestingly, the process of investigating a crime is the same whether the investigator is military or civilian. The basic process of criminal investigations is the same in all disciplines. What differs are the laws and regulations governing the investigative process for a given branch (civilian, army, navy, air force, coastguard) and, generally, the available resources related to medical services and analysis. -legal.
As with most things in law enforcement, what is available comes down to budget and what an agency can afford. As a result, federally funded agencies tend to have better resources than state, county, or municipal agencies.
In the end, investigators are investigators are investigators. Police work is police work. Core job functions cover all services needed for security, corrections, law enforcement, investigations and more. All that really differentiates one agent from another is the name on the badge and the specific level or type of training required. While doing the research for this article, it became apparent that every military investigative service accepts online applications and all requirements are clearly listed.