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Out of Command SA Obtains Doctorate Expanding Career > Office of Special Investigations > Article display

Since June 2018, Special Agent of the Office of Special Investigations, Lt. Col. Joseph Schaefer, has been channeling his passion for foreign languages ​​into a doctorate in philosophy.

On July 29, 2022, he successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in front of a trio of examiners from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to earn his doctorate.

His first reaction after overcoming the final hurdle of the examiners?

“Simultaneous exuberance and exhaustion,” Schaefer said. “I couldn’t have been happier, but all the strong emotions were limited by the accumulated fatigue of last year…and the night before.”

Specifically, Schaefer’s thesis studies focused on the intersection between language planning and policy, pedagogical (teaching) approaches, and the integration of colloquial (informal, conversational) variety into Arabic as a second language curricula. .

As an *Out of Command SA currently assigned to the United States Air Force Academy, Schaefer is the Chief of the Strategic Languages ​​Division of the Department of Foreign Languages. According to his biography, he is responsible for all Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Russian language and culture instruction, directing 16 military and civilian instructors for the language instruction of more than 500 cadets each year.

A 2004 USAFA graduate, Schaefer immediately joined OSI as a Special Agent in March 2005. He has successfully executed, supported, and/or managed various criminal level criminal investigations, as well as operations/investigations intelligence and counter-threat covering three major areas of responsibility.

OSI’s global footprint is made possible, in large measure, by the ability of its special agents to communicate in a myriad of foreign languages ​​and adapt to their cultural environment, a skill set that Schaefer does not didn’t lose.

In 2014, he learned Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, before traveling extensively in the Middle East to work directly with OSI law enforcement and security partners in the region.

“For more than four years, I experienced firsthand the personal and professional impact of using Arabic with native speakers,” Schaefer recalls. “I used Arabic to advance OSI and Air Force missions, however, I often thought about how to improve language training specifically for military members who need to communicate frequently. with native Arabic speakers.”

The program including Schaefer’s doctorate in philosophy at CMU was rigorous. It included three years of a combination of doctoral courses; be an official instructor for undergraduate language courses (he taught undergraduate Arabic courses); and research. The fourth year was exclusively devoted to the realization and defense of his thesis.

“In addition to these requirements, my program included annual benchmarks: First year: Summary document; Second year: Research study; Third year: thesis proposal; Fourth year or later: thesis defense,” Schaefer explained.

Her commitment to earning the degree made it a most rewarding experience.

“[It’s] hard to put into words — not because it was a Ph.D., but because it was such a challenge to complete,” Schaefer said. “If you include the four years of the program and the year before when I was going through the application process for USAFA, CMU and the other colleges, I finally felt the time and effort was worth it. “

His academic career was possible thanks to the partnership between the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and the USAFA. The Academy advertises active duty instructor positions, some requiring advanced degrees at civilian universities or civilian AFIT institutions. As a candidate, AFIT paid for Schaefer’s three years of residency training at CMU, followed by a five-year active duty commitment to USAFA as an instructor.

Schaefer is expected to end his Out of Command status in USAFA and return to OSI in June 2026.

“He is currently working in a very interesting position at the Air Force Academy and is already putting his doctorate that he has just obtained to good use,” said Colonel James Hudson, Director of Force Development at OSI. “Because it’s in languages, it has an absolutely direct and positive impact on OSI’s mission once it comes back home. One thing we watch carefully is the return on investment. Obviously that’s a lot for the members professionally and personally, but we’re calculating the benefits for OSI and the Air Force. In Lt. Col. Schaefer’s situation, and given his background, we can certainly see him coming back to us and benefiting from his extensive study and teaching experience in many OSI mission sets.

*Editor’s note: In this case, Out of Command means that SA Schaefer is in a non-special agent position, performing duties not directly related to the OSI mission. His primary Air Force specialty code (71S) is on file, but he is temporarily in an (81T0) AFSC designating training or instructor duty. OSI still tracks his career based on his permanent 71S designation, but as long as he is in his current position, he does not report to the OSI chain of command.

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