Do you have what it takes? FBI invites reporters to work out with agents for a day

Agent trainees brave the rain as they start their 1.5-mile run, part of their physical fitness test at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. (Photo courtesy of FBI)

PHOENIX – The FBI hires special agents from a wide range of backgrounds: microbiologists, law enforcement officials, military veterans, computer scientists, teachers and wedding planners.

“We are looking for everyone who wants to join our organization,” said special agent Erin Gibbs, applicant coordinator of the FBI’s Phoenix field office.

But news reporters? Maybe.

– Video by Anthony Totri/Cronkite News

As part of a nationwide FBI recruitment blitz, the Phoenix office recently took a different recruiting approach, inviting members of the news media to participate in its physical fitness test.

“We’re looking for people who are very versatile, with an open mind, and who are willing to put in the work,” said Ezell Grigsby, supervisory special agent to the Phoenix field office. The FBI “is not something that you just sign up for, and it’s just going to be given to you. You actually have to work for it.”

To give local reporters an idea of the demands of the job and to get the word out about FBI careers, agents recently put reporters through a fitness test at Grand Canyon University.

Reporters were scored based on how many push-ups they could do, their time in a 300-meter sprint, the number of sit-ups they could complete in a minute and their time in a 1.5-mile run. Candidates – or members of the media, in this instance – can rest no more than 5 minutes between each event.

At its Quantico, Virginia, headquarters, the FBI also has designed a physical fitness test application for those curious to see whether they measure up to the bureau’s standards.

Jill McCabe, the public affairs specialist with the FBI Phoenix field office, said the agency is seeking about 900 agents to serve the bureau’s 56 field offices, with a focus on diversity of backgrounds.

About 35,000 people work for the FBI, according to its website. Potential agents must complete a rigorous application process. Applicants must also have a bachelor’s degree and a 3.0 grade point average to be considered.

Special agents are required to remain fit throughout the year, mentally and physically, and are tested 10 to 15 times a year, Gibbs said.

The job requires dedication.

“We are a very proud organization,” Gibbs said. “Our people are passionate about what we do, and passionate about helping people.”

Gibbs said the depiction of agents as mysterious figures wearing black suits who operate in the shadows is strictly a product of television and movies. That inaccurate perception is one reason the FBI invited reporters to take the fitness test.

“We think that there is a lot of misconceptions about the FBI out there,” Gibbs said. “We’re not out running around doing quite the things they do on TV. If we did, we would be doing paperwork for six months. But it’s also fun to show people in real, practical time how we run this.”

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