Within the several branches of the United States Armed Forces, specialized units exist to help maintain law and order among military and support personnel. Like their civilian counterparts, military police investigate minor crimes, perform patrol duties, provide security and make arrests.
Sometimes, however, investigations become too involved or require far more expertise and resources than regular police can provide. That's where the job of specialized investigators and special agents come in. In addition to military police groups, the armed forces branches also employ special investigative divisions.
Military Investigative Service Careers
The best known of these is perhaps the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, due to the popular television series NCIS. In the United States Army, these special investigations are undertaken by members of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.
History of Army Criminal Investigations
The need for law and order among military personnel is not a new one, and military police or similar units have long had their place among the armed forces. By the time of the American Civil War, however, society's approach to crime was evolving, and the need for thorough investigations was becoming evident.
In response to the need for an investigative arm, the U.S. Army contracted with private investigators to provide these services. The largest and most famous was the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. For more than half of a century, the Army's investigations were conducted by these Private I's, until a special investigative unit was formed out of the existing military police corps in 1917.
Called the Criminal Investigative Division, the USCID was a unit within the military police command until 1971. In order to maintain its autonomy and eliminate any appearance or possibility of outside influence in its investigations, the division was moved to its own command. Despite its elevation to command status, the group is still referred to by the acronym CID as a reminder of its history.
Job Functions and Work Environment
The United States Army Criminal Investigative Command is comprised of both soldiers and civilian personnel who serve as special agents. They may be deployed anywhere in the world that the army has a presence.
Army Criminal Investigations special agents are tasked with investigating major incidents and crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice that would be considered felonies under civilian laws. These include crimes such as murder and other death investigations, rape and sexual battery, armed robbery, financial fraud, and computer crimes.
Essentially, the Army CID is tasked with investigating any felony crime in which army personnel is involved, either as a victim or suspect, if it occurs in an area in which the army has jurisdiction or a clear interest. In the event a soldier or other member of the army is involved in a crime as a suspect or victim in which civilian authorities have jurisdiction over, such as an off-base murder, the Army CID will take a supportive role in assisting with the investigation.
Army CID agents also provide counterterrorism services, investigate high crimes such as treason, and take on internal administrative investigative responsibilities. They employ polygraph examiners, participate in drug trafficking investigations, and provide dignitary protection and protective services. They also provide forensic sciences support for all police and investigative groups within the U.S. Department of Defense.
In addition to their investigative responsibilities, Army CID special agents provide assistance, consulting, and training to host-nation police forces and military police personnel during wartime and occupation. They conduct battlefield investigations, collect forensic evidence from the battlefield, and investigate allegations of war crimes.
Because Army CID special agents provide services both on base and on the battlefield, they must be ready to be deployed anywhere that the army is present. They may find themselves working in harsh and undesirable conditions, and are subject to extensive travel for extended periods of time.
Education and Skill Requirements
The USCIDC employs both military and civilian investigators. Military personnel wishing to pursue a career in the CID need to have at least 1 year of prior service as a military police officer or two years as a civilian police officer and will need to to have completed some college coursework. They must be currently enlisted and have served no less than two years and no more than 10 years in the Army prior to joining CID.
Individuals wishing to apply for a civilian special agent position must possess at least a master's degree in criminal justice or criminology, or related field, and have at least three years of experience in felony investigations. Prior experience must include conducting investigations, preparing and executing search and arrest warrants, interviews and interrogations, and other related activities.
All special agents, both military and civilian alike, attend special training at the U.S. Army Military Police School at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. Training includes police tactics and techniques, investigative tactics and responsibilities, and specialized investigative skills.
Special agents must be eligible for top secret security clearance. This means they will be subject to a thorough background investigation, which will include a polygraph exam. Applicants must have a clean criminal record and a clear background.
Job Growth and Salary Outlook
Civilian Army CID special agents are generally hired at the GS-13 level of service, meaning starting salary will typically be between $81,00 and $90,000 annually, depending on duty station. Candidates for procurement fraud investigators may be hired in a trainee status at the GS-9 level, with the expectation that they will progress to the GS-13 level within 3 years. For these trainees, starting salary will be between $46,000 and $52,000 per year.
Army CID positions are highly competitive. With over 900 civilian special agents employed throughout the world, positions are expected to be available periodically due to normal attrition. As with most federal law enforcement jobs, these positions look for the absolute best candidates available and so it is important to keep a clean background and pursue a college education in order to be competitive.
Is a Career as an Army CID Special Agent Right for You?
As with any career with the United States military, it is no small commitment to become a CID special agent. However, if you are interested in criminology and criminal justice careers, and particularly in becoming an investigator, then a career with the Army CID can prove to be financially rewarding and offer tremendous challenges and opportunities.
If you have an affinity for military life and law enforcement and investigations, working as an Army CID special agent may just be the perfect criminology career for you.