Alpha Phi Sigma gets a look into FBI life

Joel Campbell

J. Edgar Hoover would have been proud as his “G-men” walked off the silver screen and onto Grand Valley State University’s Pew Campus to share their experiences.

Special Agents Sean and Benjamin, members of the Grand Rapids Violent Crimes and Fugitive Task Force, spoke to Alpha Phi Sigma about their years of service.

Sean represented the “old school” Federal Bureau of Investigation. Joining in 1992, Sean started his career with the Pittsburg Strategic Weapons and Tactics. His pre-9/11 experience focused more on domestic issues, with agents rarely leaving the United States. However, since 9/11, he has been deployed to Afghanistan on the Bureau’s behalf.

Unlike his mentor, Benjamin entered the FBI through the Tactical Recruitment Program. Special forces members, such as former Green Berets or Army Rangers, can enter this program after completing three years in the special forces.

The first rule, says both Benjamin and Sean is to be cool. “Cool guy,” Sean said. “You gotta be a cool guy.”

Focusing on what the Bureau is looking for in today’s political environment, the agents mentioned such items as speaking Persian, Arabic, Chinese and having computer skills among the most important. Speakers of Arabic may be fast tracked into the Bureau because of their valuable language skills. Two constants remain regardless of where in the FBI one ends up: writing skills and physical fitness.

“For every cool thing you do outside, there’s plenty of paperwork to go along with it,” Benjamin said. “You’re going to have to type up those interviews or typing up a search warrant.”

Language skills in French may become increasingly more valuable as the FBI looks ahead. Increased relations in Southeast Asia, both strained and beneficial, will require it.

“The Horn of Africa,” Sean said. “That’s probably the next big thing.” The Bureau’s attention may be turned towards the next threat, but the young professionals who gathered in the University Club had their attention fixated on their future in federal law enforcement.

“Everyone’s interested in the FBI and that’s essentially why we started with them,” said Debra Ross, the faculty advisor for Alpha Phi Sigma and professor of criminal justice. “We’ll try to bring some different agencies next

Ross hopes that it can become part of a series and among the agencies she hopes to see visit, Border Patrol and the U.S. Marshals are at the top of her list.

“A lot of the students don’t necessarily understand exactly what it is to be in the field,” Ross said. “I’m trying to bring the people who actually work in the field with different experiences [in].”

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