Program of the Month Q&A: Homeland Security Adjunct Faculty Member Chris Martinez

Adjunct faculty member Chris Martinez has taught in the homeland security (HLS) program since its start at Medaille, and even developed some of the current courses. His classes cover a wide range of subjects, including: international political systems and homeland security, cyber investigations, intelligence and homeland security, domestic terrorism, criminal research methods, ethical conduct, drug smuggling, money laundering, commercial fraud, intellectual property rights, human smuggling and trafficking, and emergency preparedness.

A retired assistant special agent in charge of homeland security investigations, Martinez brings several years of on-the-job experience to the courses that he teaches. He also shares insights gained from his military service in the United States Navy and the United States Army. He has a master’s degree in education and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in homeland security leadership and policy.

Here, Martinez speaks about his background and how it shapes the content and effectiveness of his HLS classes.


Can you briefly describe your background? What drew you to a career in homeland security?

I decided to join the Navy after high school. I was stationed in San Diego, and served as an air traffic controller. I went to college at night. Just before leaving the Navy, I landed a job with the U.S. Customs Service (USCS) as a detection systems specialist, intercepting airborne drug smugglers along the Southwest border. I eventually obtained my college degree. The degree was the catalyst that allowed me to attain the special agent position with USCS in Miami. In this role, I led a variety of investigations including violations of narcotics laws, fraud and financial crimes. I travelled from Miami, San Diego and Washington D.C. to Colombia and Panama. Being bilingual was an asset.

During this time, I joined the Army Reserves and served as a warrant officer and as a counterintelligence technician. My responsibilities included using analytical and investigative skills to detect and prevent acts of espionage, sabotage and terrorism directed against Army activities. Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, I was activated and served in Maryland, Kansas, and California. In 2002, all special agents in USCS, including myself, were transferred to the newly created U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).  I served as a regional attaché and advisor at the U.S. Embassies in Colombia and Panama, working to enhance national security and investigative benefits for DHS and to assist foreign law enforcement intelligence and investigative services. Upon returning to the U.S., I was assigned to the Newark, New Jersey field office. I led a division of criminal investigators, intelligence agents and support personnel in conducting money laundering, compliance and asset identification investigations.


How does your real-world experience in the field, along with the experience of your colleagues, help shape the content and effectiveness of HLS classes?

I have devoted my entire adult life as a federal law enforcement officer to working in the criminal justice and the homeland security field. I have investigated, coordinated and overseen criminal investigations with all levels of government, from municipal law enforcement, to state law enforcement, and our international law enforcement partners. I have experience with the applications of the U.S Code of Criminal Procedure statutes, and placed them in practice through my oversight of investigations

My assignments with the former U.S. Customs Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement exposed me to culturally and socio-economically diverse populations in the U.S. and around the globe. My experience has allowed me to understand, appreciate and serve the needs of the individual student, both in the classroom and in an online class environment. 


How would you describe the value of a homeland security degree in today’s world?

HLS is an emerging field that is a catch-all for emergency planning, law enforcement and intelligence. Emergency management specialist is one of the fastest growing career fields within the HLS industry. Successful graduates will place themselves in a favorable position to secure employment in the public and private sectors as law enforcement officers, criminal investigators, intelligence analysts, emergency management specialists, or information security professionals.

Some of the agencies and departments that hire individuals with HLS degrees:

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Enforcement and Removal
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • Customs and Border Protection
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • Citizen and Immigration Service
  • Center for Disease Control
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Justice
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