From Lab Coat to Raid Jacket: A Scientist’s Journey to the Badge

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zachary Willis
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

For 75 years, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) has defended the nation, pursued justice and protected personnel and property from external and internal threats.

Special Agent Alycia Paulsen serves in OSI Detachment 321 at McConnell Air Force Base as a criminal investigator, where she assists in processing evidence and resolutions on cases.  In her next assignment, she hopes to specialize as a Forensic Science Consultant (FSC).  These consultants are experts in crime-scene reconstruction, firearms trajectory, blood spatter analysis, and human remains recovery and examination.

“I planned on joining the Air Force early on in my college career; however, I decided to put it on hold until after I graduated,” said Paulsen. “One-year out from earning a master’s degree in Forensic Science, I resumed my inquiry into joining the Air Force and I came across OSI and the FSC program.”

Paulsen started her application to join OSI while continuing her work as a technician in a molecular pathology laboratory.

“I spent my days in a typical white laboratory coat pipetting biological samples for analysis,” said Paulsen. “Joining OSI was an adjustment; I had no prior law enforcement or military experience.”

After applying and getting accepted for the position, Paulsen began her training journey.

New agents receive basic training in forensics from the start of their careers while going through the Criminal Investigators Training Program, as well as at the Basic Special Investigators Course, Paulsen explained.

“The five months of basic training required to become a special agent was an incredible introduction to law enforcement and a military-like curriculum,” said Paulsen.

After graduating, Paulsen became one of over 2,000 military and civilian federally credentialed special agents.

“My peers in the military have welcomed me to my detachment and have been quick to show me the ropes,” said Paulsen. “I have been given many opportunities to learn from the diverse backgrounds of my peers while bringing my experience in forensic science to my detachment. My transition from working in the civilian sector to the military was a great choice for me.”

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is a field operating agency, a division that performs activities beyond the scope of any of the major commands and has been the department’s felony-level investigative service since Aug. 1, 1948.

“OSI’s primary responsibilities are criminal investigations and counterintelligence services,” said Paulsen. “Forensic science is an important aspect in achieving these services. Collecting evidence from crime scenes help develop objective findings that can assist in the investigation and prosecution of criminal activities.”

The application of forensics in criminal investigations can be crucial in objectively confirming or disproving allegations of a crime. Forensic scientists can dramatically affect case outcomes by analyzing trace evidence, such as fibers and bullet fragments, or biological evidence, such as blood and hair.

FSCs have been called upon by top federal agencies, including the FBI, because of their established record of excellence and proficiency in the forensics community. Additionally, these professionals perform a diverse set of law enforcement functions.

“One day could be spent pursuing leads on a criminal investigation, the next day we could be conducting interviews, and another day we could be collaborating with the prosecutor in preparation for a search warrant,” said Paulsen. “The variety of daily tasks is what I like most about OSI.”