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Column: The Unfair Treatment of Man Who Really Just Wanted to Be an FBI Agent

Herman Groman is a retired FBI agent whose work included investigating public corruption and organized crime.

Justin Slaby

 
By Herman Groman
For ticklethewire.com

I’m not one to easily pick up a cause. I’ve seen too many situations when after all of the hype and the dust settles, somehow the “cause” was found to be flawed.

So when I heard about FBI Agent trainee Justin Slaby being drummed out of the FBI training academy at Quantico, Virginia, I was certain after looking into it, there would be more to this story. It would all make sense.

You see Justin Slaby is a former US Army ranger and he served three tours of duty serving his country in Afghanistan and Iraq. He left the military only after his left hand was blown off by a grenade.

His life-long ambition was to become an FBI Special Agent, but with his amputated left hand it seemed unlikely his dream would be realized. Still, he was hopeful.

He got some encouragement along the way from an FBI recruiter he met, and decided as improbable as it might be, he would continue his quest. The first obstacle he faced however, wasn’t his missing hand. He had a state of the art prosthesis and could just about do anything he could before he lost his hand. He had to get a college degree.

So the married father went to college at night full-time and worked during the day. All the while he kept his sights on his dream to become an agent. Eventually, he landed a job with the elite FBI hostage rescue team as a support employee.

Not an easy accomplishment by itself, but he still wasn’t an agent. Fortunately, when it came to firearms, he was an expert shot and he was right handed. But knowing that the FBI firearms training required that some shooting be done with the “weak hand” (in his case his left hand with the prosthesis) he even learned to shoot with the prosthesis for this limited shooting. Eventually, his determination paid off.

After enduring the grueling application process, countless interviews and an extensive background investigation, he was offered a position as an FBI Special Agent trainee at Quantico Va.

Herman Groman

He was where he had dreamed of being since he was boy. Against all odds, he had made it to the FBI Academy. He was doing well in the academics, and the physical part of it was a cake walk given his Army Ranger training.

In firearms training he was doing well, but the technique he developed for shooting with his prosthesis in his “weak hand” wasn’t in conformance established FBI firearms guidelines.

It wasn’t pretty, but he got the job done. After several weeks into the training, he noticed that he would be called out of classes and summoned to the firearms unit. He was tasked to do things that the other trainees were not asked to do.

Things like draw a can of pepper spray and his weapon at the same time and pull  a 250-pound man around with one arm. One of the instructors even callously blurted out to one of his classmates, “What’s next? Guys in wheelchairs?”

Still, he was willing to endure whatever they asked of him in order to accomplish his goal of becoming a special agent.

After a few weeks, in spite of his satisfactory performance, he was dismissed from the FBI Academy because of his unconventional “weak hand shooting technique.”

He formally requested to be reinstated to the academy and his request was denied.

Slaby has filed a federal law suit and the trial is scheduled to begin on Monday July 29th in Stafford Va.

I for one hope he prevails. He has already demonstrated that he has guts, focus, drive and integrity: the qualities that make an outstanding FBI Special Agent.


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Comment from pbhayes
Time July 30, 2013 at 11:33 am

I don’t personally know Slaby but I do know some Agents who never should have made it through the background process much less Quantico. It’s hard to say where the line should be drawn on physical disabilities but I feel you can’t have a one size fits all rule which the government loves to utilize. If Slaby was doing well in the academics and physical tests and was shooting well without being a danger to other Agent trainees then he may have a case for reinstatement.

Comment from Davis3729
Time November 26, 2013 at 3:21 am

Mr Groman, if you had conducted your own investigation of Slaby’s experience at Quantico, instead of obviously taking Slaby’s word for what happened, maybe you wouldn’t have found it necessary to write about nothing. Slaby’s could not, and can not, fire his weapon with his prosthetic weak hand, which all Agents are required to do at the Academy. That is why he didn’t pass the Firearms portion. Also, he was not asked to perform any special tasks that any other trainee wasn’t asked to perform. The special team of attorneys assigned to this most unusual applicant made sure he was treated like every other
trainee at the FBI Academy. I feel for Slaby, not being able to become a Special Agent, but standards are developed for a reason, and I think not being able to defend ones self or another by not being able to handle a firearm to Standard shouldn’t be questioned.

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