Chaminade Alumni Represent True NCIS Agents
They don’t go around pointing their guns at people. They don’t detonate bombs. And they certainly don’t solve major crimes in an hour. But, what five Chaminade alumni do help to accomplish is to keep Hawaii safe.
As special agents for the Hawaii Field Office of NCIS headquartered at Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Chris Meana ’12, Pia Teves ’85, Tamara Kenessey ’16, Olivia DeQuiroz ’12 and Kay Een ’02 are tasked with monitoring crime, conducting polygraph tests, supporting criminal investigations, and providing analytical support and technical surveillance countermeasures (TSCM).
They’re important jobs for sure. And for Meana, it has been a “life calling.”
“When I attended Chaminade, I was really into my religious classes, and I thought that was my calling,” says Meana, an Intelligence Specialist with NCIS since 2015 who also acts as NCIS Honors Student Internship Coordinator, and is a member of Member of the Special Agent in Charge Advisory Group. “But then I served with the Hawaii National Guard and I refined my calling, wanting to make an impact in my hometown.”
For DeQuiroz, it was not so much a calling but a necessity that led her to the NCIS Hawaii Field Office. “I needed to pay for college so I applied for an administrative position,” says the Polygraph Examiner. “Then a job came up and I was encouraged to apply, and I passed a series of tests during the hiring process.”
Today, DeQuiroz provides counterintelligence, monitoring spies, terrorists and any matter that pertains to our national security across all branches of the military. She’s also involved with “Operation Keiki Shield,” which is part of the Hawaii Department of the Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force that is comprised of a national network of 61 coordinated task forces, representing more than 5,400 federal, state and local law enforcement.
“Internet crimes are always challenging,” DeQuiroz says. “But we’ve managed to arrest more than 100 child predators in our Task Force in Hawaii.”
With the nation’s strategic focus shifting towards the Indo-Pacific region, the NCIS Hawaii Field Office’s multi-faceted capabilities are even more in demand. Stretching from the Pacific coastline to the Indian Ocean, the area is home to more than half of the world’s people, nearly two-thirds of the world’s economy and seven of the world’s largest militaries. And in the years ahead, as the region drives as much as two-thirds of global economic growth, its influence will only grow—as will its importance to the United States.
A former electrician with his family’s business, Teves started as a Technical Investigative Specialist (TIS) Agent in 1987 and became a Technical Enforcement Officer in 2014. He is now the sole provider of technical support for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, as well as providing technical security for the entire Pacific Command.
“Before there was internet, I was looking at an actual bulletin board while I was on campus, and I came across this poster that read: Naval Investigative Service (NIS), Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), Special Agent position. Overseas travel, Worldwide locations,” recalls Teves, whose official NCIS title is currently Technical Surveillance Specialist. “I had no idea what it was, but it sounded sexy so I applied. About nine months later, I was hired as an Agent.”
Often misperceived as a branch of the military, NCIS is not. It is, however, the federal law enforcement arm of the Department of the Navy. Comprised primarily of civilian 1811 special agents and a small cadre of active duty Marine Corps active duty investigators, NCIS has more than 14 field offices and over 190 locations. Its special agents are stationed worldwide in support of military operations.
With historical roots tied to the Office of Naval Intelligence, the modern NCIS was formally established in 1966 as the Naval Investigative Service. It was re-organized and assigned a civilian director in 1992, along with a name change to the now Naval Criminal Investigative Service. With this re-branding, NCIS also became a primarily civilian agency as an insulation against military command influence.
“We’re an agency of around only 2,500 members, which is relatively small compared to the major players, like the DEA, ATF and FBI,” Meana points out. “But our capabilities are well respected, and we are well known for our role in counterintelligence, protective service and force protection operations.”
Solving crimes and catching the bad guys, though, aren’t the only issues that the NCIS Hawai‘i Field Office faces. Integrating itself into the local community is vital, as well, which is why the team can be seen throughout the year at a variety of functions. Some outreach efforts focus on awareness and education, spanning across such topics as internet safety and sexual assault prevention to identity theft and cybercrime.
A Special Agent since 2020, Kenessey deals with death investigations, child enticement, fraud, arson and all federal-level investigations that involve criminal and security matters with the Navy.
Upon learning that her mentor, Associate Professor Dr. Joe Allen, passed away in December 2021, Kenessey was saddened by the news. “Technically I wouldn’t be here if Dr. Allen hadn’t written a letter, and told me to check out NCIS,” Kenessey says. “I think Chaminade lost a valuable professor and mentor. As I said, he was an integral part of where I am today both academically and professionally.”
Kay Een, meanwhile, praises Chaminade for its welcoming atmosphere and for the experiential learning that helped her land a job with NCIS. As NCIS’ Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Een supports NCIS’ progression in the DEI arena by supporting enterprise initiatives to implement the best business practices, encouraging collaboration, and delivering proven solutions to nurture a ready and resilient, globally-engaged workforce. She was introduced to the NCIS Honors Internship Program while a Silversword.
“Much like my time at Chaminade, I believe there is great value being surrounded by people with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives,” says Een, who is now in her 20th year with NCIS. “Being in a place that fosters diversity through inclusion is key to growing an innovative and agile workforce.”
As far as the authenticity of CBS’ popular NCIS franchise, Meana, Teves, DeQuiroz, Kenessey and Een agree that the drama doesn’t always get it right. “We have a close relationship with the show, and we’ve worked with them closely,” Meana says. “They try to stay close to reality, but they do add their own fictional twist.”