How to Become an ATF Agent in Montana

Special agents of the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) help to protect American citizens from violent criminal enterprises.  In addition to their focus on firearms trafficking and the illegal sale and distribution of alcohol and tobacco, these agents pursue violent cartels, drug traffickers and gang members.

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ATF agents are renowned for their expertise with investigating crimes related to arson and explosives.  The agency has a number of explosive detection canine teams that assist with these types of investigations.  These dogs are also used to help police events in Montana that draw big crowds. In fiscal year 2012 alone, the agency helped to protect nearly 10 million people who attended large events and helped to convict more than 7,000 criminals, over half of which were involved in gang-related crimes.

Requirements for Becoming an ATF Special Agent in Montana

Residents of Montana who want to join the ATF as special agents must be at least 21 years old and younger than 37.  Veterans and those with law enforcement backgrounds might be exempt from the latter requirement.  All applicants must be U.S. citizens with a valid driver’s license.

The ATF requires a high level of education and/or expertise for its prospective agents.  These requirements vary depending on the grade level of the jobs being applied for.  Specialized experience includes such things as having investigated crimes or having prepared testimony for court.  Such experience can help to substitute for the educational requirement.

Bachelor’s degrees – Applicants with a bachelor’s degree in any field can apply to become an ATF agent at the GL-5 level.

Applicants that have shown evidence of academic distinction while obtaining their degree can apply at the GL-7 level if they majored in one of the following areas (or one related):

  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Political science
  • Criminal justice

Graduate School – Having one year of graduate school while majoring in one of the fields listed above is a qualification to apply at the GL-7 level.

GL-9 applicants must have a graduate degree or a comparable degree, such as a J.D. or LL.B.

ATF Training for Special Agents

Applicants who pass the agency’s rigorous screening process start their careers as ATF agents by going through two phases of training.  First, they are trained in the basics of performing criminal investigations.  The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia offers a Criminal Investigator Training Program.  Recruits for the ATF train in it with those from other agencies.

After passing this course, the recruits move to the ATF Academy where they learn such things as tactical training in addition to obtaining the specialized expertise of ATF agents.  The Special Agent Basic Training Course prepares them to investigate crimes involving firearms, arson, and explosives.

ATF Cases from Montana

In Montana, ATF agents work out of field offices in Billings and Helena, along with a satellite office in Missoula.  A number of their cases have involved incarcerating felons who possess firearms illegally.  Other types of recent cases in Montana are shown below:

Large-Scale Theft of Explosives – In April 2013, thieves stole over 500 pounds of explosives from a US Forest Service storage bunker near Red Lodge.  In addition, the thieves took cast boosters and a detonating cord.  The explosives were originally destined for such projects as clearing rockslides.  The agency offered $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of the thieves, and was ultimately successful in recovering the explosives later that year.

Theft of Guns from a Firearms Dealer – In September 2013, someone broke into a Red Timber firearms store and stole about ten handguns.  Law enforcement officials were concerned that the guns could be used in violent crimes, and the ATF has been investigating the case since.

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