Jackson's Craig Pappin protects dignitaries -Air Force Reserve special agent looks forward to new career in law


By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

It's not every newly minted attorney who can tout on his resume that he's protected POTUS -- the President of the United States.

But that was Craig Pappin's experience during his distinguished career in the United States Air Force.

A Jackson attorney who was admitted to the Michigan State Bar in May, Pappin spent five years on active duty as a Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) whose mission is to identify, exploit and neutralize criminal, terrorist and intelligence threats to the U.S. Air Force, Department of Defense and U.S. Government.

He continues to serve as a special agent with AFOSI in the USAF Reserve, one of 2,094 federally credentialed special agents, and one of only 419 reservists among AFOSI's 3,002 active duty, reserve and civilian agent and support personnel.

Pappin helped protect President Ronald Reagan, Vice President George H. W. Bush, and many foreign dignitaries including British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, the Shah of Iran, the President of Zambia, Crown Prince of Japan ... and many more.

"Special Agents assigned to protective details are literally up close and personal, roving around the principals," he says.

"When Gorbachev arrived in the U.S., there was extensive television coverage - and I could be seen standing under the wing of the Soviet Aeroflot jet. When King Juan Carlos unexpectedly had to spend a night in the United States, we had to quickly arrange appropriate security, transportation, and lodging for the King and staff - and juggling the various telephone calls between two ends of the VIP suite, I almost bumped into the king as I rounded a corner."

Not bad for a kid from Pinconning, who was attracted to the Air Force because of an uncle who was a colonel and flight surgeon in the USAF.

"I was interested in law enforcement, and the Air Force offered some great career possibilities," Pappin says.

His early duties were as a Law Enforcement Specialist in Grand Forks, N.D., and Athens, Greece. He also conducted felony criminal investigations at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois; Bolling AFB in Washington, D.C.; and Andrews AFB, Md.

While stationed in Athens, he worked the aftermath of a bombing on the American base - displaying skills that eventually led to his recruitment to AFOSI.

Courses at Bolling AFB trained him in firearms and other weapons, defensive tactics, forensics, surveillance and surveillance detection, antiterrorism techniques, crime scene processing, interrogations and interviews, court testimony, and military and federal law.

After graduating, he spent a one-year probationary period in the field, followed by specialized training in antiterrorism and counterintelligence, computer crimes and other sophisticated criminal investigative capabilities.

Pappin could paper the walls of his house with his umpteen USAF awards and decorations - he has received several Air Force Commendation Medals and Air Force Achievement Medals for his skills.

He's done everything from helping nab narcotics dealers and thieves to reviewing hundreds of highly classified intelligence messages and counterintelligence products, scrutinizing vast amounts of data and mining out critical information for senior Air Force leaders, and directing crucial follow up and real-time critical threat reporting.

His skills have helped to keep thousands of military and civilian employees safe from attacks.

Following a series of simultaneous bombings in Saudi Arabia, Pappin researched and coordinated threat information with multiple agencies resulting in immediate updating of force protection information preventing similar types of attacks elsewhere.

He provided key information to the Pentagon after a large commercial plane went missing in Africa, and provided key support after a grenade attack in Kuwait, quickly leading to the suspect's capture.

He also performed deep-cover undercover operations as the Air Force's only full-time undercover agent at several locations - Arizona, Illinois, Texas, the Dakotas, New England, and more.

There were times his own mother wouldn't have recognized him.

"When I was undercover with a biker gang out west, I really looked the part - long hair and a beard," he jokes.

After leaving active duty with the U.S. Air Force, Pappin returned to Michigan and founded a retail business that he and his wife Debbie operated in Alpena before moving to Jackson.

Designs Plus specializes in gifts, trophies, glass etching and engraving. He became interested in this field while in the Air Force when he worked with a graphics lab creating illustrations for a project he was coordinating, and he also became interested in a trophy shop on a base and saw the business potential of blending these capabilities.

"I was captivated by the equipment, and wanted to do it myself afterwards," he says. "I couldn't have done it without Debbie - she's kept everything running full time on her own, when I've been serving on active duty and the Reserves, or in school."

Debbie was left to run things alone again after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, that brought Pappin back to serve in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

"I was at the Pentagon within days after the 9/11 attack and observed the damage in person," he says.

He also served in a six-month active mobilization in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"When I was later stationed at Andrews during my activation in 2003, my parents were able to visit me, and I arranged a personal tour for them at the reopened Pentagon. We made a special visit to the chapel and memorial at the 'Ground Zero' spot -- we were very moved."

Speaking of the activation, "It was all very hush-hush," he says. "Debbie couldn't tell anyone what I was doing or where I was. And she had to cope on her own again."

As a member of the Reserve, Pappin has conducted counter-intelligence investigations and provided support for anti-terrorist operations; and conducted felony criminal investigations at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, Dyess AFB near Abilene, Texas, and is now assigned as the Superintendant at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ.

Felony crimes include murder, robbery, rape, assault, major burglaries, drug use and trafficking, sex offenses, arson, compromise of Air Force test materials, black market activities, and other criminal activities.

Pappin earned his bachelor's degree, Summa Cum Laude, in Criminal Justice from Siena Heights University in Adrian; holds associates degrees with High Honors in Corrections and Law Enforcement from Jackson Community College; and earned his law degree from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, studying full time, while also working since January 2009 as a judicial law clerk and court bailiff for the Judge John G. McBain, chief circuit court judge in Jackson.

Juggling so much, "I really had to study hard, assimilating it fast," he says.

Now Pappin is seeking his first position as an attorney.

"It may be a different kind of challenge, since I'm older than most new lawyers," he says.

"But I bring a lot of experience to any position. I'm also not limiting myself to any one area of law. Law school exposed me to many areas. I thought I'd only be interested in criminal law, but other areas have caught my interest.

"While I love litigation in the courtroom, I'm also very interested in transactional work.

"What made me so effective as an undercover agent was the ability to quickly adapt and blend into my surroundings. I'll bring those same skills to the practice of law."

AFOSI - "Eyes of the Eagle"

The Air Force Office of Special Investigation -- reporting to the Inspector General, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force -- has been the United States Air Force's major investigative service since its founding Aug.1, 1948, at the suggestion of Congress to consolidate investigative activities in the USAF.

Secretary of the Air Force W. Stuart Symington created AFOSI and patterned it after the FBI. He appointed Special Agent Joseph Carroll, an assistant to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, as the first AFOSI commander and charged him with providing independent, unbiased and centrally directed investigations of criminal activity in the Air Force.

The second-most requested career-field choice in the Air Force, AFOSI -- -- with a motto, "Eyes of the Eagle" -- welcomes more than 230 new special agents each year.

AFOSI -- with a vision statement of being the premiere federal law enforcement agency operating throughout the full spectrum of warfare, seamlessly within any domain -- provides professional investigative service to commanders of all Air Force activities. Its primary responsibilities are criminal investigations and counterintelligence services.

The command provides five robust capabilities: Protect critical technologies and information; detect and mitigate threats; provide global specialized Services; conduct major criminal investigations and engage foreign adversaries and threats offensively.

AFOSI provides professional investigative service to commanders of all Air Force activities, and identifies, investigates and neutralizes criminal, terrorist, and espionage threats to Air Force and Department of Defense personnel and resources.

AFOSI has 3,002 active-duty, Reserve and civilian personnel; 2,094 of this number are federally credentialed special agents. There are 311 active-duty officers, 1,253 active-duty enlisted, 785 civilians and 419 reservists.

In addition to command headquarters at Andrews Air Force Base, AFOSI has eight field investigations regions. Seven are aligned with Air Force major commands: Region 1 with Air Force Materiel Command, Region 2 with Air Combat Command, Region 3 with Air Mobility Command, Region 4 with Air Education and Training Command, Region 5 with U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Region 6 with Pacific Air Forces, and Region 8 with Air Force Space Command.

All AFOSI units and personnel remain independent of those commands, and chains of command flow directly to AFOSI headquarters, an organizational independence that ensures unbiased investigations.

The single region not aligned with a major command is Region 7, the mission of which is to provide counterintelligence and security-program management for special-access programs under the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force.

At the regional level are subordinate units called field investigations squadrons, detachments and operating locations. AFOSI owns more than 160 units worldwide.

AFOSI operations include threat detection; criminal investigations; economic crime investigations, information operations; technology protection; specialized Services; a Defense Cyber Crime Center; and antiterrorism teams.



Published: Mon, Jul 19, 2010