For sailors who have never served on an aircraft carrier or a large-deck amphibious ship, they might be surprised to learn that these Navy flattops have Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agents on board.
NCIS is the Navy’s civilian law enforcement agency responsible for investigating crime, preventing terrorism and protecting sensitive Navy and Marine Corps information. Their agents deploy with carrier and amphibious strike groups when they head overseas. NCIS agents were first assigned to carriers starting in the early 1970s as part of the Special Agent Afloat program, and served on the USS Midway for nearly 20 years.
In October 2022, the USS Midway Museum’s new NCIS exhibit, located on the 2nd deck near the aft officer’s wardroom, opened to the public 30 years after the ship had been decommissioned. The small display replicates the look of the special agent’s office found on the ship in the early 1990s.
The development of the new exhibit was spearheaded by Kimberly and Dennis Usrey, both former NCIS agents, along with Cheryl Mencel, a career NCIS administrative officer.
“The story of NCIS on the USS Midway and the contribution the many special agents made aboard the ship is recognized and depicted by the new NCIS exhibit,” said Kimberly, one of the first women special agents hired by NCIS in 1979. “These stories tell of the incredible dedication and service to the mission by the agents.”
Finding a suitable location on the ship for the exhibit was not easy. Over the course of several years, a number of potential spaces were identified, but they were either already being used for other displays or were unavailable for renovation. This did not deter Kimberly and Dennis.
Working with Midway’s museum exhibit director, Mike Ozaki, and volunteer docent, Todd Hyde, the Usreys continued their search.
“We toured the spaces where past NCIS offices were and I sent them snapshots of the ship’s plans,” recalled Todd, a volunteer docent since 2011. “More importantly, I acted as a liaison between our exhibits and engineering teams to help find and bless a reasonable space along an existing tour route.”
A breakthrough occurred in late 2021. Kimberly was talking to a former NCIS agent who had been assigned to Midway from 1979-1980. He told her that his small office was just aft of the officers’ “dirty shirt” wardroom on the 2nd deck. A few days later, Kimberly was back on board looking for that office.
“We found a space exactly as described,” said Kimberly, who, after leaving the agency, was a co-manager with her husband Dennis of an NCIS-sponsored law enforcement information exchange program for Northup Grumman. “We pushed open the door and were amazed that the space, although full of trash, dark and unpainted, just might work for our exhibit. The best part was that the space was on a Midway tour route. It did not take long for Midway to authorize us to use that space.”
During the next 12 months, Cheryl and the Usreys, along with volunteers from Midway’s exhibit and engineering departments, renovated and furnished the space. Kimberly and Dennis moved aboard NCIS memorabilia they have collected over the years, including many items from agents who served on Midway, to complete the project.
“I love it when we are able to collaborate with people who actually did the job,” said Mike, Midway’s exhibit’s director since 2015. “Their experience and network of retired and active duty NCIS agents really helped bring the space alive. I am honored to have met Kimberly and Dennis to help them tell their story.”
“After more than 11 years of dreaming about the possibility of establishing an NCIS exhibit aboard the USS Midway Museum, Dennis and I were delighted when the dream became a reality,” said Kimberly, who also ran her own private investigative business for nearly 20 years. “This final product could not have been completed in such a fabulous way without the help of other former agents who contributed to the exhibit.”
Along with Midway being able to now present the NCIS story to its visitors, the exhibit also resulted in new volunteer recruits for the museum.
“Our experience working with the team members aboard Midway was so positive, Cheryl, Dennis and I all decided to volunteer with the exhibits team,” said Kimberly. “We are so excited to continue our efforts to support the museum and have fun working with such a great crew.”
“I am happy that they have joined our exhibit volunteer team,” said Mike. “I look forward to working with them in the future with more good things to come.”
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