Feb. 3, 2021

03 - Alani Bankhead

03 - Alani Bankhead

For this episode I talked to Alani about her time in the elite Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Much of her work is confidential, but she does a great job explaining how military law enforcement and counter-intelligence works. She also came prepared with a pair of great organizations that help people successfully transition out of the military and into civilian jobs. American Corporate Partners and Hire Heroes USA are both doing great work. Check out our conversation to learn more.


LWI Interview with Alani Bankhead

Chris: [00:00:00] Hi everyone. It's Chris here for your Tuesday episode of the long more interviews. One of my goals for this project is to teach people just how expansive and interconnected the military is. Here's an example, in the last two episodes, Danny and Travis both talked to me about standing post or guard duty now in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Whether you were at a huge patrol base with an airport or a tiny little patrol base outside the wire, there were always people standing posts where they watch over the area to keep everyone else safe. These sentries are up in guard towers or behind sandbag bunkers, or even just taking, covering a ditch.

Anyways the point is no matter where you were, there are always people watching the perimeter. Now, that's all good and fine, but those sentries can only help if there's a threat within eyesight. What if the threat is far away and they're launching mortars or rockets at your position? You could push out a patrol to see what's happening, but the enemy will be long gone by the time you get there.

Yeah. Or even worse. What if someone's planning on packing a truck full of explosives and driving it into your position? You wouldn't know about it until it's too late. So how does the military deal with these kinds of threats? The short answer is intelligence work. There's a massive network of spies and satellites and phone taps and internet crawlers working behind the scenes to try and detect threats before they happen.

That way commanders in the field can find out who's launching those mortars or direct assets to detain the bomb maker before they can load up a truck for an attack. And that's what today's guest is here to talk about. Alani Bankhead spent 12 years on active duty in the Air Force and continues to serve in the Air Force reserves.

She's a member of the elite OSI or Office of Special Investigations,  because her work deals with law enforcement and counter-intelligence much of it's classified, but she does a great job explaining how those fields work, even if she couldn't be too specific. So before we get into the interview, I want to talk to you about the veterans organizations that Alani recommended Now we have two today, the American Corporate Partners and Hire Heroes, USA, both organizations work to help people transitioning out of the military find good jobs.

American Corporate Partners has an extensive network of mentors at some of the largest and most prestigious companies in the country. They pair up their mentors with veterans to help give them advice. Nice and guidance on how to start a career in the civilian world. Hire Heroes is similar, although they focus more on getting vets into jobs by pairing them up with companies that want to hire veterans, both organizations also work with military spouses.

Which is particularly important because military spouses have an unemployment rate. It's nearly four times the national average. So if you're about to leave the military or you're just having trouble fitting in as a civilian, reach out to American Corporate Partners or Hire Heroes, they'll help set you up for success.

Now let's start the show.

Alani: [00:03:42] Yeah, my name is Alani Bankhead, and I first joined active duty in 2004, right out of college. So I did ROTC Air Force ROTC,  and I served on active duty until 2016 when I separated and went to the reserves and I've been in ever since. So I'm coming up on 17 years. I actually started my career as a personnelist, so working human resources type stuff, I didn't stay in that world for too long before I ended up transferring and to be a Special Agent with the Office of Special Investigations.

So up until recently it was the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. But now that we have Space Force online it's now just OSI because we serve both you know, departments. So so yeah, I've been doing OSI ever since and it's just been super wild ride.

Chris: [00:04:33] Cool. So just, you know, for any listeners out here who maybe aren't familiar, is this similar to something like you know, NCIS Naval, you know, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which obviously has a popular TV show, but like, is it, is it a similar thing to that?

Or, you know, what, what exactly do you guys do?

Alani: [00:04:51] Yes. So OSI is the sister component to NCIS. We don't have a cool TV show, but we have EagleEye was Shia LeBeouf, Rosario Dawson played an OSI agent, which is a terrible movie. But yeah, so our jurisdiction is we're federal agents. And so any federal agent job we cover.

So CIA, FBI, DEA, ATF, Secret Service, Marshals. We have fugitive task force. We have bodyguards. We have counter-intelligence folks. We have, I mean, just everything. So it's really cool in that, you can get a lot of experience in a lot of different mission sets. And it is one of those missions that a lot of people don't really know about, but also I think it's really misunderstood, you know when I was a personnelist, I remember several supervisors and mentors kind of telling me that I should apply for OSI.

And I used to like laugh at them because I was just like, I'm not a snitch. I would never do that. You know? Cause that was kind of what OSI was known for at least at the time. But once I got in, which was a complete accident, it was just kind of like the universe conspiring in my favor. I got in and I realized it wasn't at all, anything like what I thought it was. And the whole reason why we exist is to do criminal counter-intelligence and fraud investigations to protect Air Force people, places and things. So any crime that involves an Air Force person on a military base or anything like that we'll usually have jurisdiction over, or at least front a joint case with like another agency or something like that.

Chris: [00:06:28] Okay. And so you said, is the universe really lined up to let you in there? You know, how did, how did that happen?

Alani: [00:06:36] So, so so yeah, I was super against joining OSI because of the whole snitch thing. And I'd had several supervisors or mentors kind of mentioned this to me. Like they've said, you'd be really good at it.

And I really kind of blew them off. After like the fifth one said something I, you know, I was like, maybe, maybe I should consider it. I don't know. I really loved my career field, actually. I really enjoyed supporting the tip of the spear, right? Like there's nothing worse than when you're like pay or personnel stuff is broken.

And to get, to get, to be a tool to fix that so that people could do their jobs and not worry about the stuff they shouldn't have to worry about. Right. Like the system should be working perfectly without them worrying about it. But then I actually got stuck in this one unit. And even though I really love that unit, my bosses were amazing, but every time I would try to transfer to get a different perspective.

They would kind of be like, no, we need you here. And I'm like, but I've been here for like three, four years, you know, I'm bored and I'm ready to move on. And so I ended up applying to OSI, just kind of on a whim, like, after, you know, the fifth person said something to me about it kind of in, in jest.

I put my application in, I had no expectation of getting in it's a really hard career field to get into. My understanding is it's the second, most difficult after special operations. And it's about a 10% acceptance rate, at least at the time that I was going through. And so I didn't think I was going to get in at all.

And I didn't hear anything for almost a year. And then they call me one day and they're like, congrats, you made it. You're going to a tech school, you know, like in a couple of months or something. And I was just like, Oh my gosh, I have to do this. Like, this is so crazy. So you know, I, I really kind of submitted to, you know, God, the universe, whatever you want to call it.

Cause at that time I was just like, you know what I need, I need a change, and this might be it. I don't really want to do it, but that's kind of been the theme for my career is just kind of getting dropped kicked into these jobs that I didn't think were right for me, but turned out to be amazing.

And I'm just really grateful for, you know, God, the universe working things out. So yeah.

Chris: [00:08:45] That's. I mean, that's super lucky, you know, sometimes you hear you talk to people who have an enlistment that everything that could go wrong does go wrong. You know? So it's nice to hear, you know, someone who has a really awesome experience, like in a lot of different units and different career paths.

So, so once you once you're accepted to OSI, what does that training look like? Is it like similar to learning, to be an FBI agent or, you know, how, how does that kind of look and work?

Alani: [00:09:14] That's a great question. So we go to the federal law enforcement training center in Glynco, Georgia, and it's the same school that teaches the vast majority of all civilian federal agents.

So like the Marshall service goes there, ATF goes there and NCIS goes there. Secret service goes there. The only organizations that don't are like the FBI and the CIA and I think the, DEA has their own school. Cause they're so big was what I was told. And so for the most part, all federal agents, the classification is 1811, will go there. So we all go to the same basic training. It's called criminal investigator training program. And then when you graduate from that, you go to your follow on like specialized school. So I went to the Air Force school and learn how to run an Air Force investigations. And so. It is probably some of the most fun training I've ever done because every day is just like combatives and shooting and driving around racetracks in suped up Dodge Chargers that go really, really fast, right?

Like even some of the boring courses, like the legal courses and stuff like that were just super interesting because you learn all about the constitution and the legal protections in place and you know, how search and seizure works and how not to violate people's civil rights and, you know, stuff like that.

So there was really no part of it that I didn't enjoy. I mean, it could definitely be tough and it really tested you. But yeah, it was just a blast. And then obviously when you graduate from there, you're officially a federal law enforcement agent. And of course there's follow on courses, just like any other MOS or AFSE.

So I went to advanced source course training cause we run informants a lot of times. Right. So I did a lot of that kind of advanced training . Counterintelligence collections courses , counter threat operations. So predeployment you're kind of preparing to go into some pretty crazy situations.

So for example, on, on deployments we are running informants, right? So our job is to ensure the safety and security of the base. If you're assigned like at a base level unit. And so you're leaving the safety of the base. And you are meeting with your informants who are giving them information on people who want to do damage to military bases and service members.

And you're, you're mitigating that threat. And so our career field I don't know the exact stats, but I know we're up there as far as like the highest rate of casualties in the Air Force. We had Hustler 6 a few years ago, right before Christmas lost a whole bunch of folks which was just, you know, super awful.

But you know, just goes to show, like we're not Fobbits.  Pretty pretty dangerous, pretty rough. But on the flip side, I had some really cush training as well. I was sent to Brazil twice to learn Portuguese. Yeah. Because part of, part of our job is to stay ready to mobilize to anywhere in the world, in case there's some conflict that pops off.

And so I got tapped to make sure I understood Brazilian culture and Portuguese training and it was a hardship tour for sure. So I just kinda got, you know, the, the gamut of from amazing to like, oh, this kind of sucks, like this is really hard, you know, but it was all just a lot of fun, so,

Chris: [00:12:32] Oh, that, that sounds awesome.

Yeah, I certainly never got to go to Brazil. That would, that sounds like it would have been lovely.

Alani: [00:12:40] Hardship tour, for sure. Especially those surfing lessons.

Chris: [00:12:45] So, you know, I think at least from my perspective, you know, the idea that like people in the military, they, you know, they go outside the wire, they go on patrols, things like that.

That's,I think easy to get your head around, you know, you see it in movies and TV and the news. How, how on earth do you recruit and talk to sources? Like, I, I don't even know how that begins to work.

Alani: [00:13:07] Yeah. So, I mean, obviously I can't give away all the trade secrets of course. But I mean, There's an a billion and two different ways that you can recruit sources and that's, you know, kind of what we were talking about before with our different experiences in college, right?

Like even though I might not have been the most studious person in college I was definitely being a social butterfly and you know, I even serve tables in college and I had to learn walking up to a table, how to assess them, to see how good a tip I could get out of them. Right. Like, so maybe somebody is wearing a certain hockey jersey and I'm kind of like, you know, kinda like BS my way through it a little bit.

Right? Like, Oh, I love that team. And like, you know enough about the situation that you can like build a bond with that person and then, you know, get the information that you want. And in college at the time it was tips. Right. But yeah, the same applies with running informants, whether they're drug informants, terrorism informants, counter-intelligence informants . Are it just kind of depends.

And so but all, all of those mission sets, like you're still using the same skillset to meet people, to learn how to talk to them. I remember there was an exercise. They have us do at tech school it's called 'The Howdy.' So basically they're like your homework tonight is you have to go out in town.

And you have to meet a stranger and you have to get these five pieces of information from them. And like, you know, a name might be easy, but they might throw something in there that was like a little bit more personal. And you know, just the intimidation that you feel of like, Oh my gosh, how am I going to get that piece of information from this person?

And everybody was really freaked out by it, but you know, you build that muscle by practicing it. And so just going out and trying something easy then progressing with something harder was one of the ways that we did it. But but yeah, it just like, you just have to get creative too. Is the other good part, so, okay.

Chris: [00:15:02] Oh yeah. I'm sure there's lots of things about your job, you know, that you can't talk about because they're ongoing investigations still or, you know, it's classified, so no, no worries. But if I met, know if I'm ever stepping over a line, you know, just, just tell me, knock it off. That's no, no worries. So, you know, speaking of that is, are there any I dunno, higher profile cases or things like that, that you worked on?

I saw OSI office found the Minuteman nuclear missile teams that were cheating on their readiness tests. I saw that that was your office that had busted that up. Did you work on anything like that?

Alani: [00:15:38] I did not work on that case. I'm trying to think. I never worked any like cases that were in the news per se.

I, I, might've done a lot of background support for certain cases. So for example I don't know if you remember the Kabul International Airport shooting. Gosh, I wanna say it was right around 2012, maybe 2013. It's been so long. I can't exactly remember, but we lost a whole bunch of service members on a green, on blue attack and that that case had already been closed, but there were a lot of congressionals and like there's all these appeals processes and all this stuff happening.

And so part of OSI's, job is to ensure that the integrity of the military is intact, right. That the community trusts the military, that they believe that the military is taking any criminal allegation seriously, or that, you know, Basically that we're doing everything we can to protect America's sons and daughters and the death of so many service members.

You know, obviously there are a lot of really distraught families. And sometimes, you know, you can't tell them everything about a case because in that case it was terrorism related. There might be some classified information. You know, as part of that case that they can't disclose. But so being part of that congressional oversight where I'm doing, you know, the reviews and providing the data for Congress to make sure that those families get the answers that they need.

You know, that was an example of, I guess, a high profile case that I supported. But I think more than anything, like I did a lot of crazy stuff, but it was just more on the tactical level. So You know, it's kinda crazy. You never really know the impact that you have. So I actually, what did a year in Kuwait? Right after the Arab spring. And so. Kuwait at the time had the largest population of Egyptians outside of Egypt. And OSI well all the military criminal investigations organizations. So NCIS army CID, all those guys part of our job is ensuring the physical security of the base. So maybe not the gate, right.

But we're going outside the base again to make sure that nobody's trying to attack it. And we spent a lot of late nights or sleepless nights up because you know, we were getting until that Muslim brotherhood was planning an attack on military convoys going between bases, right? Because we usually contract the same types of vehicles and shift changes or, you know, a lot of times at the same time.

So getting that type of Intel and switching things out to mitigate that threat was some of the hardest, but most rewarding work of my career. But at the same time, you never really know what you avoided. Right. And the issue with that of course is like whenever you hear about a terrorist attack somewhere, that's a counter-intelligence failure.

And at the time in Kuwait, I was the commander of our unit out there. And so for me that year was really tough because. I couldn't sleep. Right. I'm just like, what threat is out there? Like, what am I not doing? Who am I not talking to? And so I'm really grateful for that year, but yeah, so there's all these examples of that kind of stuff, right.

Where I'm on the ground, you know, I hope it made a difference, even though it didn't make the news. I mean, the goal is not to make the news right. Yeah.

Chris: [00:18:55] It's, you know, maybe kind of a cliche thing to say, but, you know, for law enforcement and intelligence you're right. No one knows about the victories. You know, if you're doing your job, nothing bad happens would, you know, is the victory.

So I'm sure that can be tough to kind of thankless at times, if you know, you're working really hard, but you know, absence of error is really success.

Alani: [00:19:17] Yeah, absolutely. And, and, you know, that is something as a leader that you have to make sure you're trying to convey to your folks too. Right. Cause everybody's killing themselves for the mission, especially when you're in the sandbox.

And but that's hard to do sometimes when, you know, let's say you do thwart 10 attacks, but you don't know it, you know? And so you're kind of like, I'm spinning my wheels, like what's going on. But so yeah, mentally and physically, it's a really tough, MOS to be in because just of all the physical and mental stress, that kind of goes with it.

How long, so how long were your deployments like you were in Kuwait? You know, how, how long would you typically deploy for?

Most of our deployments are either six months or a year. You might have some, three or four months deployments. Those are really kind of like one-off and their deployments to places like, you know, Washington DC right.

Or like the like Sha Air force bases like the rear component for the deployed operation. So they're considered deployments. But yeah, for the most part six, six months to a year is what we have, so, okay.

Chris: [00:20:26] Yeah, it was I was in the Marines seven months, you know, seven months, seemed fine. Six months is fine talking to some of these army guys who do like 18 months, you know, on a deployment.

It's just absolutely awful. So nice to hear that they weren't putting you through that.

Alani: [00:20:40] I know, right? Yeah. That's so wild when you hear those stories and especially considering the conditions that they're in, you know, like I know all the services, we kind of clown on each other. I feel like most people will usually clown on the Air Force. Right. But I mean, we. It's not always cush conditions, but I mean, we're not sleeping like in mountains. Right. So, yeah. I give so much credit to our army and Marine Corps. You know, brothers and sisters who are out there for over a year. That is rough. So, but yeah.

Chris: [00:21:12] Speaking of that though, you, you said that you worked with SOCOM, special operations command for awhile.

Is there anything that you could tell us about that time at all? Or is this kind of hush, hush?

Alani: [00:21:23] Yeah, I can talk in generalities. So I did six months with special operations in Iraq and my job there was running informants. This mission was a little bit different, so I wasn't at the base level, but I was tasked with identifying targeting information to kill or capture Al-Qaeda senior leaders in Iraq at the time. So, so yeah, so still running informants, but just a slightly more strategic missions like that.

Chris: [00:21:53] That's, I mean, very cool. I'm sure you know, the picture that I have in my mind is like a, you know, a cork board with pictures on it and strings connecting, you know, this, this guy runs this IED cell this guy runs, you know, this other IED manufacturing group. Is that, is that kind of, am I on target? There? Is that just like a movie thing?

Alani: [00:22:13] It's kind of a movie thing everything's digital now. Yeah. So I mean, you know, back in the day they had the corkboard with the strings. I mean now we have all sorts of cool tools that our Intel analysts use to, to produce those products and whatnot, and they do have them and they're wonderful products.

But I mean, we did have dossiers on our informants and you know, dossiers with the target information on the various targets and the senior leaders and whatnot. And so yeah, it, it was, it was super wild being part of that, especially, you know, realizing that that's where I was going to deploy.

And it is like a movie, you know, like you're like, no. Yeah. Like. You're leaving the safety of the base and you're meeting with your informant and you're getting the information and, you know, if it closes the target package for special ops and they go out, they come back, you know, if the guy's alive, then you're, you know, interrogating him and the Intel cycle starts all over again.

So it was really cool getting to be kind of in a movie, like experience of course, like real life isn't really like the movies. So that deployment had a lot of challenges that, you know, all these many years later, I've had a lot of time to reflect on. And it's kind of cool thinking back to like what a newbie I was to it and how much better I understand the strategic picture, especially now that you know, we've been at war for so long and we have a much better understanding of what's going on tactically and strategically, and maybe some things that the government should have done a little bit differently, right? Hindsight's always 2020, but yeah, it was my very first deployment I begged to go and I'm so, so grateful that I did. I had so much personal growth in those six months. I was exhausted. I came back with probably a pretty mild case of PTSD. I had a lot of anger and memory issues when I got back and that was a tough thing to navigate through.

Especially when you know that there are all these people out in the world that are trying to do harm to your brothers and sisters. And you're back in garrison, like going back to drug cases or, you know, something like that. So.

Chris: [00:24:22] Yeah. I, I heard you talk about the intelligence cycle. Can you talk about that at all?

You know, I'm not familiar with that term at all.

Alani: [00:24:30] Sure. So I mean, in general when, you know, on TV, you see the RPA that drops the bomb, you know, on a guy or on a building or something like that. That event occurred because there's this massive intelligence community that is working behind the scenes to aggregate as much information as possible to locate where suspects are.

Right. And it's not just locating them. So we're talking about their name, their photo , vehicle information, cell phone numbers, like just. Regular kind of stuff that you would see in regular law enforcement, right? Like this, this is all unclassified stuff. But not only that there's this whole legal element of it.

So there's some element at some higher headquarters that determines based on witness testimony or other evidence that they've confirmed that this guy is a bonafide terrorist, right? And so there's all these different layers of things that have to happen in order for that targeting cycle where you're taking all of that information about that person.

Right. So who they are, where they live, where they work , who they killed how have they killed them and getting that evidence together so that you have a really good case, right? Because obviously we want to make sure that we're going after people who legitimately are trying to hurt other people or you know, bring down democratic institutions in their countries.

And we don't pick those targets. That's that happens at a much higher level than anybody at the ground level. But you also have other types of intelligence, right? So human intelligence, which is what I did on the ground is one tiny sliver of the whole intelligence community. So. You have like the satellites that are taking pictures of the ground.

Right. And so they can detect like different structures and stuff like that. That's a form of intelligence. There's so much, I can't talk about either, but all of that, like there are these amazing Intel analysts that take all of that data. And again, my part being a really tiny sliver of it. And then they're able to say this guy's a bad guy.

Here's why he's a bad guy. This has been confirmed and adjudicated, and now we can go pick him up and special operations is, you know, one of the arms that does that out in the Middle East, or I guess anywhere in the world. And so, yeah, it's a very big, complicated cycle and I hope I explained it.

Chris: [00:26:56] Absolutely, absolutely. To, to that. And when you were talking earlier about being in Kuwait, It really, it helps show like what a big operation, you know, that the US has out in the world trying to keep everyone safe, both from the intelligence aspect, where you have CIA, DIA, you know, defense intelligence agency, the NSA doing SIGINT signals intelligence and things like that.

And right. And just fusing all of this different data together to try and figure out who is doing what, do you, is there, you know, you mentioned, you know, there's the armed forces rivalries. Did you feel like there's a little bit of rivalry between the intelligence or counter-intelligence sides? You just like get outta here CIA guys, like we don't like around here.

Alani: [00:27:41] Oh man. You know, there was a little bit of rivalry, which I didn't necessarily understand, like if it was funny, haha. Like just to have a good time. I really love that stuff. There is a hierarchy just like anywhere else. Right. So when you're downrange. The CIA is the top dog.

And FBI has their own counter-terrorism stuff that they do and their next top dog. And it was always funny to me because sometimes you would run into agents that had a chip on their shoulders. And if you had a source or an informant that was really good. And one of those other agents agencies came and took that informant.

Some people would get really like, butt hurt about it, you know, and, you know, trying to explain to them, you're like, okay, yeah, you invested a lot of time and energy, but like, it's actually kind of a feather in your cap that like this guy is so good and has access to so much information that these big dogs are coming in and kind of taking them.

And I think that's part of the importance of understanding, kind of what you're saying. It is such a massive system and you're a part of it. And if you understand where you are in that hierarchy of things, like, it doesn't mean that CIA and FBI are better than you. Like, you're just, everybody has their different space that they work in.

And you know, it's really in our best interests all work together, but of course, you know, while talking trash to each other.

Chris: [00:28:59] When I was in Iraq, the war was pretty much over as as in Ramadi of post Anbar Awakening. It was actually more peaceful place than most major American cities, you know, a testament to how far things had improved. But then one night we get this call from Baghdad and they're like this, you know, a couple of helicopters of army Rangers coming over and they need your help to pick somebody up.

And we had, you know, we've been patrolling these streets every day for months. No idea who this guy was, they just kind of came in the middle of the night, walked inside, like, woke him up and took them out, put them on a helicopter and left, but it's, you know, and not certainly very different than your job, you know, you probably had a lot more insight into who was, who in the area.

But it is interesting to see this big system of intelligence gathering and even, even us who are out there walking past this house every single day, no idea or indication or local intelligence that this guy was, you know, AQI affiliated, but you know, clearly, clearly there was enough evidence to justify picking him up off the street.

Alani: [00:30:02] Definitely. But you know, even your part, like. It's tough, not being in the know on everything that's going on, but even your guys's part is so important to the safety and security of the mission, you know, because. You know, sometimes you need that plus level of manpower and you guys are critical to helping with that.

So but yeah, that's a great example of how like the whole system really works together. If, if people are humble enough to, you know, just support each other. So I, I definitely, I would like, you know, listeners who aren't familiar with the military to understand, like, it really is big team operation, that defense national security system, but you're right.

Chris: [00:30:39] Yeah. Some people certainly have a chip on their shoulder about it, but I think most people, you know, working with each other pretty, I would say better than a lot of civilian jobs that I've had, you know, well, don't think take things personally like they do in other jobs.

Alani: [00:30:55] So true. That is definitely one of the biggest things I miss about the military.

Cause in my civilian job, I work law enforcement and yeah, like we run these operations and things, you know, we're exhausted and things are kind of crazy. And you know, in the military, like you might snipe at each other. Right. Cause there's different ways to skin a cat. But at the end of the day, like you kind of work through it and figure out the best way to get the job done.

And then you go have a beer afterwards. You know, if you're not in the sandbox, but but. In the civilian side of things a lot of times I do encounter like, you know, where you have an exchange like that and then people are just like upset with you for months. And like, don't want to talk to you. And you're just like what happened?

And yeah, so it can be kind of frustrating because you're like, I mean, especially in my civilian field, I work child sex abuse and child sex trafficking cases. And so, you know, much like terrorism, like this is a life and death thing for the victims of these crimes. And you know, for us in the military, you really do develop an attitude of like, I don't really care about your ego, like there are lives at stake.

And if we can't communicate effectively and work together as a team, then people die and yeah, in the, in the civilian side, a lot of times, like, when you experienced the opposite of that attitude, it's just so frustrating. Cause you're like, I don't have the time, you know, and I don't have time for ego and.

You know, it's not personal. Like give me feedback if I need it too, because I'm not perfect. But but yeah, so I totally feel you on that one.

Chris: [00:32:22] So you, you said you're in the reserves now, still working with OSI. I take it?

Alani: [00:32:27] Yeah. I still, I'm still with OSI. I'm assigned to one of the Florida units. And so I just do my regular reserve time, you know, my two weeks a year and stay current on training and whatnot.

Chris: [00:32:39] How, how does the culture differ between, you know, when you were active duty versus reserves, is it, is it night and day? Is it, you know Dawn and dusk, like there are different, but similar, you know, how how's it feel?

Alani: [00:32:52] Yeah, they are slightly different, but similar that's a really good way of putting it.

Active duty is really high speed. Like nobody's going to hold your hand. I mean, literally your first day out of tech school, you could get a massive case and nobody's going to hold your hand through it. They expect you, you know, you have the training, like you've been embedded into this job. Because you're a high functioning person, so you have enough rope to hang yourself if you don't do it right.

And so that does continue, you know, when I do my active time as a reserve, as my classification of the reserves is I'm an IMA. And there's this joke in the IMA world that that stands for I'm alone. Because on the flip side, the reserves are just such a different beast. And sometimes the active duty folks don't really understand how the IMA program works and and especially being the only, well, I like when I'm activated, I serve as the commander of my unit and it is tough, you know, like. Sometimes having to approach certain active duty folks where they think reserves are just these lazy pieces of crap or whatever.

And I'm like no, like I was guarding the Secretary of the Air Force, like four years ago, you know, like I, I deployed, I was deployed when you were in grade school. Like not, not to go to that place, you know, like you never want to go to that place. But sometimes there definitely is a stigma with reservists and maybe sometimes it as well, deserved in some cases, but most of the reservists I know in our MOS are just really squared away folks. Most of them are still in law enforcement on the federal state or local side in some capacity. And they're just really great support, I think because I mean, I will say it is all of the perks. I feel like being active duty and none of the real drawbacks.

So. For the most part, people are happy to see us when we show up, because we provide that extra help, whether it's like running interviews or helping clear out case loads and stuff like that. And I do love that element of being able to come in and just help whoever needs it so that their burden is a little bit lighter.

But but yeah, it has its challenges. You still have to build trust with them. You're not there for very long. Yeah.

Chris: [00:35:01] No, no. That's, I think it's awesome too, that, you know, you spend a lot of time, active duty and then to stay in the reserves. I didn't, I, my body's too banged up. I can't do it anymore. But I talk to my friends that are still in the Marines and like, you know, so many people who deployed or who have a lot of experience, you know, tend to get out after four or eight years. And they said there's really like a, a bad brain drain going on in the organization. And my friends who were in the reserves say it's even worse there. Did you, do you see that in the Air Force, like do people just, you know, are they having trouble keeping in knowledgeable experienced people?

Alani: [00:35:40] That's such a good question. And it is a complicated question. I mean, I would say like big picture. Yeah. I do see brain drain on the active and you know, the reserves. I actually, I think the reserves side, I mean, I'm not super current on the manning documents, but I feel like I get a lot of calls from active duty agents that I know that are like, tell me about the reserves.

Like, how do I get out? You know? And you know, it's interesting. I. I love the concept of your podcast because I grew up in an army family and my dad never deployed in his 20 plus years on active duty. He almost went to the Gulf war. He was like this close to going, but the war ended, right. It was a pretty short war.

But obviously like Iraq and Afghanistan, like. It's been since 2001 that we've been doing this dance. And you know, I think one of the biggest reasons is because people are exhausted, you know, they're exhausted of the OP tempo, the deployments. Like I did my year and a half in the sandbox and like, I'll go back if they, if they tell me to, I'm not going to volunteer and if I never see the Middle East again, like I'm not going to be sad, you know? So there were a lot of elements of those cultures that were amazing. And I met a lot of really amazing Iraqis and Kuwaitis and whatnot, but but yeah, I think the difference between my dad's experience and my, my experience, are just night and day. And you know, there's a lot of exhaustion and burnout and people join for all the best reasons and they want to serve and, you know, do the right thing for their country. But even hearing your example, like you're like my body's broken, you know, and, and I kind of came to a place to where I realized if I continue that my body would also be like broken beyond.

Like really what I wanted. Like I'm willing to sacrifice some for my country, but like not my whole body. Right, right. And even like I had friends and family. Who like very lovingly when I was on active duty were like Alani, we're just worried about you. Like, you work like a dog, you're always gone, you know?

And, and I love my job, but at the time I just kind of had to make a decision for myself, much like you did. And I, you know, sometimes miss it and wish I'd stayed on active duty, but I think it was the right choice. For me. So, yeah.

Chris: [00:37:59] Yeah. I tell people that, you know, average day, at least, at least in my unit, you know, the average day, if, if this is an even not good, not bad day, it just average day, average day in a Marine infantry unit is just kind of bad.

Just kind of sucks. You get yelled at a lot. You, you know, you're like not cleaning the floor with toothbrushes. Almost sometimes, you know but then like a really fun day, like you get to ride in a helicopter then go throw grenades, you know, into a trench and shoot machine guns. And like, it's really cool.

You know, you can't do this stuff anywhere else. It's great. And you're doing it with all your best friends, you know, it's like the best days are, you know, incredibly fun. And like, I love, I love getting together with my friends and reminiscing, but you're right. It's. It, it, it, it has been such a crushing operations tempo.

Know, you talk to guys, people, you know, men and women who are like, I've been to Iraq four or five, six times Afghanistan, a bunch of times, they're either stories about you know, someone who went to Afghanistan, 2001, and now their kids are in Afghanistan, is it? Yeah, it's just, and that's, that is part of what I'm trying to communicate to people here is like, what has been happening.

So I appreciate, you know, getting your, your corner of the world. You know, there's so many different parts of this machine as we're talking about. So I really appreciate you coming on to talk to us about you know, all that you've done in Air Force OSI. One last thing, do you have an organization that you'd like to promote?

Alani: [00:39:27] Actually I have two, if that's okay. Absolutely. Yeah, let's hear it. The first one, yeah, is American Corporate Partners. And so they're a nonprofit and their whole function is to help transitioning veterans kind of link up with different mentors in like the corporate civilian world because you know, the transition can be kind of scary.

And so I had this amazing mentor assigned to me his name. Steven Newman he's over at Wells Fargo and he just helped cut so much of the fear out of my transition and just help build my confidence to you know, just know that I was going to be successful as a civilian. And then the other one is Hire Heroes USA, and they do kind of similar work, right?

Like helping veterans transition out. My old high school buddy, Ross Dyckman, he actually was in the army. He was a helicopter pilot and he got out and he now works for them. And these organizations. Do you just see such amazing work and helping our veterans like transition successfully. And I, I can't say enough about them.

 Chris: [00:40:28] Okay. I want to give up big, thanks to Alani for sitting down to talk to me about her time in the Air Force. After a pair of episodes about grants, it was great to learn about a different corner of the military. And two quick announcements. First, I'm still working on the glossary for the website. I'll let you know when it's live.

And second, if there's a topic that you'd like to hear more about, please reach out and let me know. Are you curious about Navy SEALs or helicopter pilots or the bomb disposal? People who take care of IEDs? Let me know. You can always send me a message on our Facebook page. Or send an email to chris@thelongwarinterviews.com.

All right. Thanks for listening. And I'll see you all on Friday. .