40 Years of Women Agents: A Father-Daughter Perspective
Mollie Halpern: Like her father before her, Sherri Queener is an FBI special agent.
Father-daughter pairs like Sherri and Charles could not share the same career path in the FBI until May of 1972. That’s the year the Bureau began accepting applications for the FBI special agent position from women.
Since then, Sherri and thousands of women have entered these grounds of the FBI Academy as new agents in training.
Sherri Queener: I go through the gates of the academy and still get chills that I’m really here. And just how far I’ve come. So it’s still a little exciting when I hear the gunshots in the background, I see the kind of training going on and I realize I’ve been here, I’ve done something which hundreds of thousands of people want to do and I’m here actually getting the chance to do it.
Mollie Halpern: Sherri is one of the Bureau’s nearly 2,700 special agents who just happen to be women.
Sherri: It never entered my mind that being a female would be any different than being a male in this line of work. I’ve always been treated like an agent, and you look to your fellow agent and you want to know, ‘Is this person going to work hard? Is this person going to have my back? Is this person going to give everything that I’m giving?’ It doesn’t matter if they’re a female or a male. There are a lot of things that I can do that males can’t do; there’s a lot of things that males can do that I can’t do. But it’s a teamwork concept, and we’re only able to do the things that we do in this organization because we’re both here, male and female.
Mollie Halpern: It’s that teamwork between men and women that Charles realized was missing during an operation around 1970—back when he was a young agent.
Charles: There was one incident as I recall that we needed to go into the women’s restroom. And we realized, ‘We don’t have any women to go in the restroom.’ And that was the first time it really dawned on me…I’d been in the FBI about a year and a half, two years. That was the first time it started to dawn on me that we need a diversified organization and it was shortly thereafter that women, 40 years now that we started getting women agents.
Mollie Halpern: Charles never would have guessed that one day, his daughter would be one of them.
Charles: I’ll never forget that phone call. She said, “Dad, I’m going to become an FBI agent, I’m going to make an application.” I was excited that she was going to do what she wanted to do. Not because of dad…dad never talked to her about becoming an FBI agent. Matter of fact, growing up, I thought she would be an attorney one day.
Mollie Halpern: Sherri, however, always knew she wanted to enforce the law—not practice it
Sherri: Since I was little, I always knew I wanted to be an FBI agent. I think it’s a calling.
Mollie Halpern: Charles certainly inspired Sherri’s dream of become an FBI special agent.
But having a dad as an FBI agent wasn’t always an inspiration—to some it caused perspiration.
Sherri: It was hard to bring guys to the house. Guys would drop me off at the corner of the street and didn’t want to come to the house.
Sherri: He was known to be a little intimidating to my friends and the boys that would come to the house, so I had a tough time dating. But I guess that’s probably a good thing for him.
Mollie Halpern: Before Sherri headed to the FBI Academy—a place where new agent hopefuls undergo months of tireless training—the retired FBI special agent offered Sherri some fatherly advice.
Charles reminded her to live and work by the golden rule and…
Charles: I remember distinctly telling her if you’re going to do that, don’t ever quit. It’s going to be tough, the training is tough, and I said I know the good bad and the ugly part of this.
Mollie Halpern: Sherri’s class at the academy was a lot different than her father’s.
Sherri: My father had no females, obviously, in his class. There were 15 women in my class—a third of our class were women. Which was great, because I thought, ‘I’m going to be one of two, one of three,’ and I realized, ‘No, I’m one of 15.’ That’s pretty neat.
Mollie Halpern: Also neat? Sherri and her father share the same credential number.
Sherri: I was in my physical training class and my supervisor came running into class and he goes, “511, 511,” and I’m thinking, ‘Is that a code I need to know to do something?’ I looked at him and he says, “511.” I said, “Okay…” He said, “Your father’s cred number, I got it for you!” So now I’m carrying the credential number that my father carried for 25 years.
Director Mueller: Graduating class, please stand.
Mollie Halpern: When new agents graduate from the academy the Director or deputy director presents them with their credentials and badges in a special ceremony.
On the day Sherri was sworn in as a new agent….
Sherri: I started to get emotional. And the last thing you want to do is have an emotional moment at your FBI Academy graduation, and I couldn’t look at him. I just stared at the floor the whole entire time until it was my turn to walk across the stage.
Mollie Halpern: Just before Sherri walked across the stage, a special announcement was made. In place of the deputy director, the rare privilege of presenting Sherri with her credentials and badge would be done by her father.
Charles: When they said “her father,” I just broke. Hits me today. I gave her her credentials and we hugged. And the entire auditorium went, “Awwww.” But that was something that wasn’t planned. You don’t plan it today, it’s just something that’s deep inside your home and your family and your relationship.
Mollie Halpern: Sherri is now nearly a decade into her service as an FBI special agent.
Sherri: It wasn’t until I got into this job and started working the long 12-, 13-, 14-hour days, I remember making a phone call to him and going, “How did you do it?”
Mollie Halpern: Sherri is making her own reputation at the Bureau while continuing to serve in the tradition of her father.
It’s a different Bureau than it was when Charles served under former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Charles: This is the first time I’ve seen this.
Sherri: This is a memorial built for 9/11 by one of the National Academy classes years ago. It represents Flight 93, the Pentagon, the World Trade Center. This is what kind of was that turning point for me on 9/11, to sit and watch what happened that day and realize that I didn’t want to be sitting at home watching—I wanted to do something and contribute to society and make a difference. I couldn’t just sit back anymore and watch what was happening in the world. It was very different than when you were in the Bureau.
Charles: I can remember the last time I left New York, when I was transferred from the New York office, seeing these towers standing there. Actually working there for six years.
Mollie Halpern: At that time, organized crime was the Bureau’s number one priority. Today, it’s to protect America from terrorist attacks.
Sherri: The world has changed a lot in these years.
Mollie Halpern: Times have changed, but the mission of the FBI and its men and women stays the same—to protect and defend America and her people.