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Strength of Intelligence: Jenelle Bringuel '07

A girl’s childhood dream to work for the FBI becomes a reality.

A girl’s childhood dream to work for the FBI becomes a reality.
Bringuel and her husband, Andrew, also an FBI agent, at her graduation from new agent training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

When Jenelle Janowicz (now Bringuel) matriculated at The University of Scranton in 2003, a pop-culture phenomenon had only recently begun to fascinate the country.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” a.k.a. “CSI Las Vegas,” ushered in the millennium in fall 2000 and piqued a flood of interest in evidence-based crime-solving, which then led to a wave of students seeking higher education in fields such as forensics.

The CSI frenzy didn’t so much fuel as cement her career ambitions, and she would eventually become an FBI special agent.

“As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to work for the FBI,” said Bringuel. “It’s the premier intelligence and law-enforcement agency worldwide.”

Being able to combine a fascination with CSI with a career in the FBI has pleased Bringuel immensely.

A Careful Path

While a criminal justice student commuting to campus daily from her parents’ home in Spring Brook Township and holding down a demanding job, Bringuel planned out a careful path to get where she wanted to be, and the University — “a great school,” she said — prepared her well.

“The most important skill an FBI agent (or FBI employee) has is critical thinking, and the education I received at Scranton placed a huge emphasis on the development of this skill,” she said.

As a sophomore, she decided she wanted to pursue a master’s degree in forensic science. At that time, one of the few master’s programs offered in that field to students not majoring in a “hard” science was at The George Washington University (GW) in Washington, D.C. 

Adding chemistry and biology to her undergraduate curriculum to better position herself made for a heavy workload, especially with her job, volunteer softball coaching and involvement with the University’s Sexual Assault Response Team. But her focus was unwavering. In fall of her senior year she landed an internship with the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, Virginia, and moved to nearby Stafford, to which she returned after graduation to start her master’s at GW.

Analyzing and Investigating

Bringuel then picked up another internship as a forensic analyst before securing a spot as a counterterrorism analyst for an FBI contracting company. She struck gold during the spring of 2008, when the FBI went on a hiring blitz for intelligence analysts.

“This was a huge opportunity for me to get my foot in the door,” she said. She simply “went online and applied” and began working for the FBI that summer, with an ultimate goal of becoming an agent. In November 2012, she graduated from the FBI Academy as a special agent and was assigned to the Washington Field Office, now her professional home.

Bringuel’s Washington field office is one of the largest of the 56 FBI field offices, with more than 800 agents. In the age of ISIS and homegrown violent extremism, her work still touches on counterterrorism, though these days she also deals with violent and white-collar crimes, such as wire and credit-card fraud. 

When Bringuel joined her squad almost three years ago, an investigation of mortgage and credit-card fraud to the tune of $3 million, much of it going overseas, was “really getting down to the nitty-gritty."

After helping garner seven convictions, Bringuel was among five individuals who received the U.S. Attorney’s Award in the Eastern District of Virginia.

An Unofficial Mission 

To the casual observer, the process Bringuel went through to become an agent may seem quick, but the speed was an anomaly.

Getting into the FBI “can take a really long time,” Bringuel cautioned. “But if this is something you really want, and you can wait, you can get where you want.”

She and her husband, Andrew Bringuel II, “an Army brat from Georgia” and fellow special agent, will gladly tell anyone as much. They have made it an unofficial mission to serve as FBI recruiters, encouraging “the right people” to consider a career that will consume at least 50 hours per week of your life, including nights, weekends and holidays, and that may limit you geographically.

Those are indeed drawbacks — especially for families like the Bringuels, who just welcomed a daughter, Madison, in April — but ultimately the exciting life with a huge public-service component outweighs them.

Coming Home

Bringuel gets home to the Scranton area fairly often to visit her parents, Michele and Stanley Janowicz, and her 20-something year old brothers, Ryan and Justin. When she does, a certain proud-papa refrain is sure to surface: “Every time I talk to my dad, I hear ‘I was talking to so and so and told them you work for the FBI … ‘ It’s certainly a conversation-starter.”

Would Bringuel ever come home to Scranton permanently? Possibly. But it may surprise some to know, the FBI in Scranton is a coveted workplace.

When you apply, you rank your field office choice between one and 56, and Scranton is one of the offices in high demand,” Bringuel said. “If I wanted to get back to Scranton, there are probably 30 or 40 people ahead of me.” 

So you want to work for the FBI?

FBI Special Agent Bringuel has some pointers for you. The FBI needs many types of minds, she said, and it’s one of the best places in the country to work. So if you’re a good fit and you really want it, you SHOULD go for it. 

FIRST THINGS FIRST: 

Be prepared for a background check.

During the vetting process for Bringuel, the FBI went back to her 18th birthday but could dig deeper.

Be truthful.

No matter what your answer, Bringuel advises, give an honest one. “The best thing is to be upfront about everything,” she said. “The biggest thing that will get you kicked out of the bureau (or not invited into it) is lack of honesty.”

Be discreet.

We live in a social-media-fueled age, but that doesn’t mean everything is fair game, and talking about your interview with the FBI is, for the most part, off limits. Better to say nothing at all than something that will hurt or kill your chances.

Be fluent.

Time was when the FBI used to focus on recruiting lawyers, accountants and other professionals from defined specialty fields. The Bureau still needs those people, Bringuel said, but the horizons have broadened. Now the FBI is in need of those fluent in languages, particularly Farsi, Arabic, Urdu and Mandarin Chinese.

Be creative.

Echoing the notion that the FBI needs more than accountants and lawyers, Bringuel also notes the Bureau needs creative minds.

“Don’t let a preconceived notion determine whether the FBI would want you,” she said. “There are plenty of people coming to the Bureau from all walks of life. My roommate at the academy was a children’s book editor. One of my husband’s classmates was a butcher. That’s what makes it really cool. It really takes a lot of people with creative minds to brainstorm investigative strategies and to come up with different scenarios for investigations." 

Be patient.

Working for the FBI is generally not a quick process. Bringuel got her job as an intelligence analyst within six months, but she is an exception, not the rule. Despite the fact that she was an on-board employee, it took her two years to make it through the special agent application process.

Be not afraid.

Yes, it’s the FBI. No, it’s not the easiest place to get hired. But you can get there if you have the will. “People think there’s such a big thing to it,” said Bringuel. “I just went online and applied.”
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