After 22 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and three years as FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC), Greg T. Bretzing is moving toward retirement. Before he hands over the reins to his successor, we took a moment to speak with him about his term as SAC, his interactions with the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association and what we can expect in the future.
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Takeover
Just one year ago, Mr. Bretzing was driving to Burns, Oregon to take over command of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from armed anti-government protesters in a 41-day armed occupation. One of Mr. Bretzing’s most memorable experiences as SAC, the Associate Press labels the tale as Oregon’s Top News Story of 2016.
Officials chose to move in on the refuge after the Portland Audubon Society, Burns Paiute Tribe and other uneasy stakeholders voiced concerns about the extended occupation harming archeological sites and Burns Paiute artifacts, destroying infrastructure and delaying projects regarding bird migrations and invasive species control.
“One year ago today, I was driving into Burns, Oregon to take over command of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” Mr. Bretzing said. “I headed down on January 3rd, stopped in Bend for a video conference with Washington D.C., got snowed in, and drove to Burns the next day. We’ve had 11 sustained guilty pleas and another trial starts next month. It’s been a busy year.”
A 22-Year History of FBI Service
A father of five, Mr. Bretzing followed in his own father’s footsteps when he entered the FBI back in 1995. Assigned to a five-man resident agency on the border with Mexico in Sierra Vista, Arizona, he hit the ground running, working drugs, corruption and border violence.
“I had always wanted to be an FBI agent,” said Bretzing. “My dad was a Special Agent for 28 years from 1960 to 1988. I have been living my dream.”
After five years in Sierra Vista, Mr. Bretzing took a promotion at headquarters in the FBI’s money-laundering unit, working cases in the Caribbean and along the West Coast. In September 2001, he found himself traveling the Middle East, tracing the hijackers’ funding as Unit Chief of the FBI’s Terrorist Financing Operations section.
A few years later, he transferred to a supervisor role with the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Salt Lake City, Utah. In four years, he was promoted to Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) covering Utah, Idaho and Montana working crime and national security. In 2012, Mr. Bretzing began investigating FBI agent deadly force confrontations before his promotion to SAC.
SAC and FBICAAA Work Together To Protect Oregon Communities
Greg Bretzing arrived in Oregon in March 2014 where he has worked to prioritize the focus of the FBI field offices’ approximately 270 employees and promoted increased interactions with state and local law enforcement.
“We invest a lot of time interaction with law enforcement,” Mr. Bretzing said. “Our size, our broad jurisdiction and the expertise of our state and local partners makes working together much more effective. We work in task force environments in almost every aspect of what we do and try to leverage the expertise of our partners.”
The SAC also works closely with state political and community leaders, meeting with the Urban League, the NAACP, Basic Rights Oregon, the Hispanic Chamber and many other groups to ensure that they understand the FBI’s role and to help the FBI understand how they can better assist communities in keeping our country safe.
“The FBI Citizens Alumni Academy is a vital part of the FBI outreach to our community,” Mr. Bretzing said. “I have participated in the Citizens Academy from the start of my career as the JTTF supervisor in Salt Lake City, through my role as ASAC and continuing here in Oregon. The Academy gives us a chance to go far more in depth about what it is the FBI does, what our responsibilities are, what challenges we face, the mistakes we’ve made and how to recognize them and try to overcome them.”
“The Citizens Academy educates the community,” he said. “It also helps people acting in their circles of influence to then educate others about the FBI.”
When asked how the FBICAAA can assist the SAC, Mr. Bretzing explained the possibilities are limitless. “The opportunity to help is limited only by the imagination of the Board of the Alumni Association working with the FBI representatives to that board and through the SAC,” he said. “There are many opportunities for service. For example, we use their talents and resources in community events like National Night Out, where members participate in each of the locations we man.”
The FBICAAA also assists the SAC in training events. “When I first got to Oregon, we did an active shooter event in Washington Square Mall after hours,” he said. “Many Citizens Academy alumni participated as role players and other functions which was extremely helpful. They also volunteer to help us in the aftermath of actual active shooter events.” Mr. Bretzing led FBI responses to the 2014 shooting at Reynolds High School and the 2015 shooting at the Roseburg campus of Umpqua Community College. “There is just so much that can be leveraged between the two organizations.”
Bretzing Strengthens State and Federal Collaboration, Puts Portland Police Bureau Back on JTTF
When asked what he is most proud of during his tenure as SAC, Mr. Bretzing hopes a lasting change will be the strengthening of relationships between state and federal partners. “That has been, to me, some of the most gratifying work,” he said. “The law enforcement community here in Oregon is unique. It is very collaborative and the relationships between the FBI and law enforcement and between all other law enforcement agencies are outstanding.”
Another of Greg Bretzing’s important accomplishments as SAC was placing the Portland Police Bureau back on the JTTF after a 10-year period of inactivity. “It was very important to have the major city police agency participate on that task force because of the threats that are out there today,” he said. “It enhances our ability to share information and to protect the citizens in this area.”
Loren “Renn” Cannon Joins Oregon As New SAC
Regarding his upcoming January 20 retirement from the FBI, “It is a surreal feeling after 22 years,” he said. “A bittersweet thing.” However, retirement doesn’t offer Mr. Bretzing much of a break. On February 1, he begins his new role as Global Security Director for an Oregon-headquartered international railcar manufacturer with operations in Mexico, Brazil, Poland and Romania. The position will allow his family to remain in Oregon where they hope to stay.
Greg Bretzing and his SAC successor, Loren “Renn” Cannon, aren’t strangers. Prior to starting as new SAC on January 20, Mr. Cannon served as Section Chief of the Leadership Development Program in the Human Resources branch of FBI headquarters. “We have been working together for years,” Mr. Bretzing said. “Renn replaced me as ASAC back in Salt Lake City. Then we moved to headquarters. He’s a great guy and will have the opportunity to meet the next Citizens Academy Class that we will run in the spring.”
FBI members, the FBICAA and Oregon citizens are grateful to Mr. Bretzing for his service during his 22-year term with the FBI and wish him well in his future endeavors. Please join us on January 19th for a special Retirement Celebration to honor Greg Bretzing and thank him for his service to our country and our community.