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Investigations section helps keep Offutt safe

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Staff Sgt. John Grunik, a criminal investigator with the 55th Security Forces Squadron, dusts a keyboard for prints inside Bldg. 160 here during a simulated investigation. The 55th SFS criminal investigation section consists of a three man team that investigates a variety of crimes including theft, assault and drug related incidents.  U.S. Air Force photo by Charles Haymond

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Staff Sgt. John Grunik, a criminal investigator with the 55th Security Forces Squadron, dusts a keyboard for prints inside Bldg. 160 here on Dec. 7, 2009 during a simulated investigation. The 55th SFS criminal investigation section consists of a three man team that investigates a variety of crimes including theft, assault and drug related incidents. U.S. Air Force photo by Charles Haymond

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Corey D. Zimmer, chief of criminal investigations with the 55th Security Forces Squadron, checks in evidence inside Bldg. 160 here on Dec. 7, 2009. The criminal investigation section is a three man team that investigates a variety of crimes including theft, assault and drug related incidents. 
U.S. Air Force photo by Charles Haymond

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Corey D. Zimmer, chief of criminal investigations with the 55th Security Forces Squadron, checks in evidence inside Bldg. 160 here on Dec. 7, 2009. The criminal investigation section is a three man team that investigates a variety of crimes including theft, assault and drug related incidents. U.S. Air Force photo by Charles Haymond

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Corey D. Zimmer, chief of criminal investigations with the 55th Security Forces Squadron, poses for a photo inside Bldg. 160 here on Dec. 7, 2009. The criminal investigation section consists of a three man team that investigates a variety of crimes including theft, assault and drug related incidents. U.S. Air Force photo by Charles Haymond

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Corey D. Zimmer, chief of criminal investigations with the 55th Security Forces Squadron, poses for a photo inside Bldg. 160 here on Dec. 7, 2009. The criminal investigation section consists of a three man team that investigates a variety of crimes including theft, assault and drug related incidents. U.S. Air Force photo by Charles Haymond

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- If your property is stolen or vandalized or someone you know has been assaulted there's a team within the 55th Security Forces Squadron with the expertise to help you.

The 55th SFS Investigations Section investigates a wide variety of crimes including theft, assault and drug-related incidents.

Corey D. Zimmer, chief of 55th SFS criminal investigations, said crime at Offutt for the most part is decreasing. However, Mr. Zimmer stressed members of Team Offutt shouldn't develop a false sense of security simply because they live or work in a military environment.

"Stolen unsecured property is our biggest problem," Mr. Zimmer said. "Not securing and marking your property will ensure that unsavory person will be happier with your (things)."

While theft remains a constant concern, Mr. Zimmer said, Offutt is fortunate to not have the volume of violent crime seen in most civilian communities.

"We are lucky in a sense because we don't have a high rate of violent crimes such as assault, rape, abuse or social crimes," Mr. Zimmer said. "This is partly based on the fact that the majority of the personnel we deal with on a daily basis have a true sense of integrity and try to do the right thing."

For those who don't do the right thing, Mr. Zimmer and the other two people who make up his highly trained team are ready to do what is necessary to see that justice is served.

Each security forces investigator completes the eight-week U.S. Army Military Police Investigator course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. During the course, investigators learn the military and civilian justice process, search procedures, drug identification, undercover operations, surveillance techniques and crime scene management.

Investigators are also experts in weapons handling and firing, and receive extensive self defense training.

Staff Sgt. Aaron C. Agrelius, served as an investigator at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, before coming to Offutt. For the past three years he's been a member of the 55th SFS investigation team, a job he said he really enjoys.

"I love (my job)," Sergeant Agrelius said. "It's a job that allows me to use my mind and forces me to think outside the box, I have to try to be one step ahead of the suspects and the job involves a lot of strategy."

The 55th SFS investigations section does more than simply perform criminal investigations, Sergeant Agrelius explained.

"We are involved in a number of community outreach programs such as Cell Phones for Domestic Abuse Victims, which gives recycled cell phones to victims of domestic abuse (so they) can call 911," he said.

"We also see ourselves as a part of crime prevention (as we) educate the public about the importance of locking doors and securing property," Sergeant Agrelius said, "and we put out bulletins about crime trends and suggestions on how to avoid becoming a victim."

Not becoming a victim requires increased awareness, Mr. Zimmer said.

"People must always be aware of their surroundings (including) who is around them or the lack of people around them," Mr. Zimmer explained.

Be aware of local danger areas, know the numbers to local law enforcement agencies and be prepared to be an informative witness or victim in the event a crime occurs, he added.

"It's sad but in this ever increasing violent world you can bet that at some point in your life you or someone you (know) will become a victim of some type of crime," Mr. Zimmer said. "Hopefully that crime isn't a violent (one), but none-the-less, prepare yourself mentally and physically to keep a clear head to report details and be ready to put up a fight for your life if necessary."

Along with investigating crimes, educating the public and engaging in community outreach programs, Offutt's investigators also play a key role in anti-terrorism and regularly advise on-duty security forces flights. One investigator is also on-call 24-hours a day to respond to a variety of situations.

Lt. Col. Brian A. Barthel, 55th SFS commander, said he's very proud of his investigation team.

"(Our) investigations section is the best I've seen in my 18-year career," Colonel Barthel said.

"They are led by an even keeled, extremely knowledgeable leader who yearns to make a difference every day," Colonel Barthel added. "Mr. Zimmer has done a fantastic job grooming his personnel and fostering tight bonds with the local populace."

According to Colonel Barthel, the 55th investigations section maintain an amazing 90 percent solve rate.

"The best part about our investigation section is they don't wait to be asked to do something, they just go out and make things happen every day," Colonel Barthel said. "I'm very proud of them and the products they produce."

For more information about the 55th SFS investigations section or to report a crime, call 294-6813. Crimes may also be reported in person at the investigations office in Bldg. 160 Room B-120, or by calling the Base Defense Operations Center at 294-6110 or 294-6119.