Air Force Picks 1st Woman as Top Criminal Investigations Civilian. She Takes Over an Office Facing Questions.

Office of Special Investigations Special Agent Pearl S. Mundt.
Office of Special Investigations Special Agent Pearl S. Mundt is the eighth Executive Director in the command's history. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Air Force has named the first woman to serve as the civilian leader of its criminal investigation agency in its 74-year history.

Special Agent Pearl S. Mundt, who has spent 23 years with the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations, was named as its executive director April 24. She will serve as deputy to the OSI commander, Brig. Gen. Terry L. Bullard.

"It's truly an honor to follow in the footsteps of those who held this position before," Mundt said in a Monday press release. "I look forward to continuing their legacy of service, serving OSI and the Department of the Air Force and its members in this new role as we work together protecting our Air and Space Forces."

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Mundt's historic appointment to serve as OSI's top civilian leader comes amid a tumultuous time in the Air Force.

The service announced earlier this month that it has opened an investigation into the Massachusetts Air National Guard wing where Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira was assigned before he was arrested following a long-running online leak that disclosed classified information about the war in Ukraine and U.S. relations with allies.

Teixeira not only had a top-secret security clearance but also had sensitive compartmented information access, a more restrictive designation for some of the government's most closely guarded secrets, since 2021, according to an affidavit from the Justice Department.

The Air Force is investigating the circumstances around the leak and examining the 102nd Intelligence Wing where Teixeira worked; it is also looking at the service's policies as a whole.

The investigation could lead to additional charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, because Teixeira had been on federal Title 10 orders since October, meaning he had been on active-duty status performing military duties as opposed to more sporadic drill weekends in Massachusetts.

Mundt's new role also comes as the OSI has been working to rebuild trust after the November 2017 mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

The service did not flag the shooter, Air Force veteran Devin Patrick Kelley, in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System after he made threats of violence to his superiors; assaulted his wife and child; attempted to smuggle firearms onto Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico; and escaped from a behavioral health facility while awaiting court-martial in 2012. He received a bad conduct discharge from the service in 2014.

Because Kelley wasn't flagged in the background check system, he was able to buy the firearm he used to kill 26 people and injure 22 others at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.

"A Department of Defense Inspector General investigation of the shooting, released Dec. 10, 2018, concluded the Air Force could have prevented Kelley from legally buying a weapon and committing the mass shooting, had its investigators followed proper protocol and established a criminal history record (indexing) for Kelley based on his criminal arrest and subsequent courts-martial conviction," a 2019 statement from OSI read.

Additionally, a judgment issued in 2021 found the service 60% responsible for the events because it failed to report the gunman's criminal history to authorities.

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice announced that victims and family members who lost loved ones and fellow parishioners in the massacre have reached a tentative $144.5 million settlement with the U.S. government.

Mundt's prior roles include serving as the executive director of the OSI Center in Quantico, Virginia, as well as being the principal adviser to OSI and Department of the Air Force leadership on "all global law enforcement, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, specialized investigative activities and integrated force protection operations for the Department of the Air Force," the press release said.

-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

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