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By Pamela Jackson

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High School Students Experience Real-Life NCIS
(February 20, 2010)

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NCIS agents, Rick Dunwoodie and Nathan O'connor, speak to students at Albany High School.
NCIS agents, Rick Dunwoodie and Nathan O'connor, speak to students at Albany High School.
 LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. (2/11/2010) — It may be easy to confuse television with reality. After all, that is what the producers, directors, make-up artists and special effects staff get paid the big bucks for. Television has a way of blurring the lines between fiction and the real world.

Albany High School celebrated Law and Justice Day Feb.1 - 2 by inviting two special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service Resident Unit here at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany to speak. Their objective was to clarify the ‘real world' role of an NCIS agent.

Rick Dunwoodie and Nathan O'Connor, special agents, NCISRU, were invited by Lynn Miller, Law and Justice Program instructor at AHS. The special agents conducted a series of presentations to hundreds of students in multiple classes over the course of two days that focused on Counter/Antiterrorism 101.

Dunwoodie, a former Marine who has been with NCIS for six years, started the presentation describing their role as “real life” NCIS agents, which is
not at all like what they see on the popular CBS television series, “NCIS.” “Part of our mission is to work around the world. We happen to be in Albany, Georgia, right now, but at any given moment, we can get a call and be off to anywhere, like Djibouti, Africa,” he said.
O'Connor, a former Miami police officer, said after 9/11, he went to work for the Federal Air Marshals Service. He urged the students to get a book, look up what happened during that time and learn about it because it could happen here as well.

“This is why we are here today. There is a real threat and danger in this country and just because you live here or are sitting in this cafeteria right now, doesn't mean it cannot happen again, because it is very possible. I made the decision to join NCIS because of all the things we do such as investigating general crimes, homicide, rape, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, espionage and others. It's kind of like being James Bond without the cool car,” he said.

Following a brief video about their mission in Djibouti, the special agents showed and discussed a PowerPoint presentation on counter/antiterrorism. Dunwoodie and O'Connor went into detail explaining what terrorism is, surveillance gathering, the different types of attacks and the seven step cycle to recognizing terrorism. They also focused on the current gang issue in Albany, cyber attacks and cautioned the students about their use of text messaging, Facebook and MySpace.

“If you think we are up here talking to you about stuff that doesn't happen or can't happen here, or that someone in this room might be a terrorist, just know that it can happen. There is a lot more that goes on in this world than what you see outside, or here in Albany. It can affect you here,” O'Connor said. “Pay attention to your surroundings and be watchful.”

Dunwoodie briefly described what an international terror organization is and gave the example of Al Qaeda, the organization responsible for 9/11.

“It is all of our responsibility to be on the lookout and aware of suspicious activity, then report it. There are terrorists among us and they don't have to come from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lebanon, Afghanistan or other countries in the Middle East. They can come from right here in Georgia and can come in the form of the Ku Klux Klan, Earth Liberation Front or various other organizations that have issues with our government. They take matters into their own hands to get their message across just like other terrorist organizations,” Dunwoodie explained.

Another student asked about the educational requirements for becoming a special agent. Both agents stressed the importance of getting a college degree.

Chris Rowe, a senior who plans to attend Georgia State University in the fall said, “I am going to change my major to criminal justice after hearing from them today. I thought you had to be on the police force to do what they do, but I plan to research it more. I'm now interested in their field.”

Miller has 18 years in law enforcement, but has been teaching law and justice at AHS for two years. She said she invited Dunwoodie and O'Connor out to talk to the students because February is career and technical education awareness month and they just completed a unit on policing and terrorism.

“I wanted to bring awareness to other students who may not be a part of our law and justice program here. After working for years as a police, probation and parole officer, it is very important for them to hear what the agents shared. With so much going on in the world and in this community, it is important for them to see and hear from the professionals who deal with terrorism on a daily basis. This will make them mindful of things that may not look or sound right,” she said.

Dunwoodie spent 11 years as an active duty Marine, three of which were here in Albany.

“It is everyone's responsibility to fight against terrorists and not just our job as agents. We often act on information we receive from the public and our being here today will help instill a sense of security in these students to know that there are people like us working proactively to prevent another tragedy from occurring,” he said.

O'Connor has been with NCIS for one year after spending nine years as a police officer and six years (total) with the Federal Marshals Service as part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Miami.

“I think it is extremely important for the students to hear this because they probably aren't exposed to this type of lecture or information. It is not part of their daily lives or classroom instruction and their day usually consists of math and other classes, practice, chores, hanging with friends or posting their entire lives online. There is a lot more going on out there that they should be aware of, especially when they start thinking about their career paths or what they want to do after high school,” he said.

O'Connor continued, “There is a known crime and gang problem in this community and close to this school. It is important for the students who want to do good and who are not affiliated with any of that to be aware of their surroundings so they do not become victims themselves. They also need to be careful about broadcasting their information to their friends through text messages and other social networks.”

According to Alexis Hall, a senior, she was glad the agents came and talked to the students.

“This really should have been offered to the whole school in the gym because all of us need to hear this,” she said.

Article and photo by Pamela Jackson
Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany
Copyright 2010

Reprinted from Marine Corps News

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