FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Sept. 3, 2015) -- The U.S. Army's version of crime scene investigators get their start on Fort Leonard Wood attending the U.S. Army Military Police School, or USAMPS.

It takes 15 weeks to earn the title of criminal investigations special agent (historically called CID agents) for select Soldiers, who are specialized in crime-scene investigation, evidence gathering and laws of the science.

The CID Special Agent Course, or CIDSAC, syllabus covers law, code to include the Uniform Code of Military Justice, unarmed self-defense, subject apprehension, firearms training and qualification, crime-scene processing and drugs and weapons undercover operations.

Students participate in a rite of passage ceremony, where they graduate, said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Hickman, CIDSAC course manager, who said, on average, about 200 Soldiers annually graduate from the course accredited by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation program.

Already holding a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, Spc. Catherine Link applied for the CID program and made the transition from civilian to Soldier by completing the military police 19-week, One Station Unit Training here.

"The more I learned about forensic science, the more I fell in love with it," she said. "Forensic science and helping people at the same time is a real-life puzzle. So, if you're good at puzzles already, this is a dream come true."

"You have to have the right mindset," the Illinois native said. "You have to think 'this is science.' As long as you can separate your life from what is going on, you are safe. You can't let the two blend."

Following completion of the course, Link plans to complete a yearlong apprenticeship on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Another of the current CIDSAC students, Sgt. Andrew Langley, came to the course from Fort Hood, Texas, where he served as a signals analyst. He said he's been in military intelligence for six years, and completed a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan as an asset to investigations from the end of 2013 to mid-2014.

Langley said it took about six months for his CID application to be accepted, which was short in comparison to some, since he held the required security clearance from his previous position.

"Investigation is about problem solving," said Langley, an Alabama native. "I like the idea of solving problems, getting to the truth, and finding the facts of each case. That's what got me to want to put in a CID packet."

Spc. Christian Wilson, served for six years with the 229th MP Company, Virginia National Guard, where he worked security operations and riot control, and now serves on active duty.

"It took one year and eight months and a lot of perseverance to get here," Wilson said.

"The purpose of the course is to provide the most current doctrine, training and technology, and investigative techniques available, to train our newest to conduct investigations on serious crimes, ranging from $5,000 larcenies to murder," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Duane Mitchell, USAMPS, Military Police Investigative Division chief. "That is the meat and potatoes of what CID is all about - safeguarding Army personnel, assets and interests."

Mitchell said as part of the course curriculum, students are tested on their ability to juggle cases, because that's exactly what they will have to do in the field. "We basically see who is struggling, and help teach them prioritization," he said. "We're producing a self-sufficient agent who can figure things out on their own, which is the way it should be."

"Agents are taught to do the right thing, the right way, the first time. Once you burn a bridge, it's over with," said Mitchell, who has a 30-year background in criminal investigations.

Currently, members of the U.S. Marine Corps are eligible to attend the course, and Mitchell said it is important to include other services in the training.

"That way, we're all speaking the same language and using the same protocols," he said.

Mitchell said CIDSAC is just the beginning to a career as a 31D.

"This is basic level training. There are so many other courses to further their investigative capabilities. We touch upon these topics in the basic course so they are aware," Mitchell said.

Hickman said the prerequisites and process to become a CID special agent can be found online at www.cid.army.mil.