A camera shutter click captures the minutia of a fingerprint left behind. An unknown substance is placed on a portable ramen spectroscopy for on-site analysis. For two weeks each year, an elite cadre of ROTC cadets participate in the Selective Biometrics and Forensics Internship held at the FIU’s Global Forensic and Justice Center (GFJC) office in Largo, Florida.
Dressed in their army fatigues, the 12 cadets learn the difference between real CSI and fauxrensiques Seen on TV. Jacqueline Knotts, an Army ROTC MS4 cadet from the University of Tampa chose this course over a JAG internship.
“It’s an area I’m really passionate about, and I wanted to take the opportunity to learn from those who have years of experience in a multitude of fields to expand my knowledge,” Knotts said. She also hopes the internship will prepare her not only for her crime scene course this fall, but also as a military intelligence officer or military police in the U.S. Army Reserves.
During the internship, cadets learn how to properly document, collect and analyze evidence, following the process from the crime scene to the lab. Jillian Murphy, battalion commander for FIU ROTC and graduate student at the University of Miami, plans to apply these new and unfamiliar skills to her future military career.
“I would like to become a military intelligence officer and progress to becoming a public affairs officer. Better understanding what it takes to be on the scene and analyzing the information will allow me to communicate with the military with missions and with the public as well.
Two other cadets FIU Army ROTC are also on the program this year. CRF is home to one of the largest ROTC programs in the country.
The GFJC has been offering this unique and sought-after course since 2009 at no cost to cadets or their command.
“Teaching the future leaders of our military these mission-critical skills prepares them to uphold their oath to defend the constitution against foreign and domestic enemies,” said Harley Prado, ROTC internship coordinator.
Prado has spent more than two decades in the military, training special operations forces (SOF) on the same cadet exploitation analysis experience during internship.
“When I started my military career, we didn’t have access to these portable devices and portable field tools. Now these cadets can start their careers not only knowing on them but knowing How? ‘Or’ What to use them. This prepares them for success on the next mission,” Prado added.
As of 2016, the roster of trainees has had more female than male cadets, reflecting gender dynamics in civilian forensics and crime scene investigation positions.
“It’s great to see more women participating and learning these advanced skills since [the military] is a male-dominated career path,” Murphy explained. “What I’ve learned so far is that if you’re willing to work hard, your gender shouldn’t get in the way of your goals. Seeing more women in leadership positions is great, but what really matters is the result of great leaders for the military, regardless of gender, which I think a lot more women are able to accomplish.
—By Michelle Chernicoff