Only 13News Now was allowed inside the FBI’s Training Academy at Quantico to show you how the people who protect our country, stop terrorism plots and keep us safe, are trained.
To most of the world, their world is a secret. There are covert operations and files marked "classified." They train behind security gates with restricted access.
We can't give you the full names of most of the people with whom we are talking. We agreed to protect their identities, while they learn how to protect our country.
Craig and Nikki are in the ninth week of training. Nikki is learning how to be an FBI intelligence analyst. Craig is taking the special agent path.
“We're here to play,” Nikki said. “We're here to fight.”
They train together for the first twelve weeks, then agents continue on for another eight.
“Tiring is probably the best word for the academy,” Craig sighed.
That joint training is new. What's called the new Basic Field Training Course started about a year and a half ago.
“That was really a 180 degree departure from the training I received a couple decades ago,” Unit Chief Kellie Holland explained. “The reason we did that is that we recognized that our training wasn't meeting the needs of what the field offices were requesting.”
In today's world, the field offices need agents and analysts who specialize in intelligence.
“We are going to train our students to know what those threats are,” Holland guaranteed. “They're going to mitigate those threats and then we're operationally going to go and stop those threats.”
Each class has 152 agents and 38 analysts. With five classes a year, that means about 1,000 people are coming out of the academy each year.
“There’s been some early mornings and some late nights, as far as studying,” Craig described. “The days are long.”
He believes they are worth it.
“It is one of the most righteous jobs you can be involved in,” Craig exclaimed. “You get a great opportunity to help people and protect them from things they couldn't necessarily protect themselves from.”
Examples of that are brought to life in Hogan's Alley. It is a complete fake small city.
The agents training at Quantico have no idea what's behind the doors they have to breach as they execute a mock search warrant, just like they wouldn't in real life. The area is set up so that when the agents and analysts get into the field offices, they're thinking about these exercises, not only lessons learned sitting in a classroom.
The scenarios are thought out and worked through. Then, the actions are analyzed by the teachers and trainers.
“The bulk of our training is about protecting people's rights actually,” Craig explained. “I think that that's the thing that people don't get. They wonder why we're here so long.”
The trainees need to know how to take down their suspects, which is covered in defensive tactics.
Even for analysts like Nikki, the learning is not only in books.
“Some of the best exercises and classes that we've had here are the ones that are hands-on tabletop or field exercises-- 'alright, you've got information, now what are you going to do with it,'” Nikki told us.
Holland said it is a myth the FBI solves its cases in a television hour. Some, can take years. That work and training to do that work, means sacrifices.
“You're here and this becomes your whole world,” Nikki imparted. “So trying to remember ‘oh yeah there's life outside of the FTC,’ staying in touch with my family, trying to call my husband once a day, that kind of thing.”
That's also training for life after the academy because The Bureau is a lifestyle.
“This is not something that you just do and put away,” Holland added. “It's not a nine to five job. It's a calling. Our mission is to protect the American people and to uphold the Constitution of the United States. That is a huge mission and with that comes great responsibility. So the training that comes here directly relates to achieving that mission and the job that they're going to do in the field.”
The training is constantly evolving. Holland believes in the future they will need to incorporate even more cyber training into the curriculum at Quantico.