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Marines get an insider’s view of training at FBI Academy

30 Jun 2016 | Adele Uphaus-Conner Marine Corps Base Quantico

“This is the most robbed bank in the world,” said Kurt Crawford, public affairs specialist for the FBI Academy, pointing out the Bank of Hogan in the small town of Hogan’s Alley. “It gets robbed at least twice a week.”

He led a group of Marines from 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, past the familiar hallmarks of any small town: a motel, a laundromat, a post office, a pool hall, a movie theater, restaurants, town homes, and detached family houses. But unlike other small towns, the shops of Hogan’s Alley are empty and the streets are quiet—at least when FBI agent training is not underway.

Hogan’s Alley is not a real town. It was built in 1987 with the help of Hollywood set designers to provide new FBI agents with a realistic setting for tactical training.

The Marines, who toured the FBI Academy as part of a Professional Military Education trip to Marine Corps Base Quantico recently, got a chance to look inside one of the Hogan’s Alley houses, which had the air of a hastily-abandoned college fraternity party house.

After Hogan’s Alley, the Marines visited the academy’s gym, passing the tree covered with signs reading “Hurt,” “Agony,” and “Pain” that Jodi Foster was shown running by in the 1991 movie “Silence of the Lambs.” The group also stopped at the 9/11 memorial courtyard at the Jefferson dormitory building, at the gun vault for a weapons overview, at the shooting range to observe a Drug Enforcement Agency Basic Agent class, and at the Exchange for souvenir shopping.

Before their tour of the academy, the Marines were greeted by Mark Morgan, a veteran Marine and current assistant director of training for the FBI, who answered questions about a career with the organization.

“You can absolutely make the Marine Corps a career and that’s great,” Morgan said. “But what you learn in the Marine Corps will take you anywhere. Here at the FBI, we need diversity, but we will always need people with military experience. And there is no such thing as too many Marines.”

He told the service members that it’s not too soon for them to think about their futures, especially about pursuing higher education. Most federal agencies require four-year degrees.

The Marines asked if it matters what kind of degree.

“I wouldn’t get a degree in basket-weaving,” Morgan answered. “But other than that, I would recommend that you go after the degree that you’re really passionate about.”

He added that any cyber-related degree would be useful in the current climate and that knowledge of a foreign language—particularly Arabic, Farsi or Mandarin Chinese—would give an applicant a big boost.

Morgan explained the difference between FBI special agents and intelligence analysts. After the 9/11 attacks, the organization changed to become an intelligence-gathering, national security agency as well as an investigative agency.

“The agents pursue the threat, but to understand the threat, they rely on the intelligence experts,” Morgan said. “They’re different roles but they work together.”

To highlight the collaborative nature of their work, analysts and agents now go through the agency’s 260-hour Basic Field Training Course (BFTC) together. This is new as of last year—previously agents and analysts went through completely separate training. Agents go on to complete a total of 800 hours of training.

Morgan also discussed pay. He said that military retirements are better than those in the federal service, but federal pay is better. New agents will start at the GS-10 level, Step 2, with an annual salary of $48,729. Within five years, they are usually at the GS-13 level, which has a starting salary of $73,846.

“Now is a great time to put in an application with the FBI,” Morgan said. “We’re in a staffing enhancement cycle through probably 2019.”

“If you’re an active-duty Marine, I can’t think of anything that would disqualify you,” he added.

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