Meet Cheri Boyle. Wife. Mother. Junior League member. And retired special agent in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. That’s NCIS, as in the award-winning TV show. If you’re not a regular viewer, the mission of NCIS is to investigate and defeat criminal, terrorist and foreign threats to the US Navy and Marine Corps worldwide.

Cheri, a past president of the Junior League of Panama City who is currently finishing up a two-year term as an at-large member of the AJLI Governance Committee, went straight into NCIS after graduating from Florida State University with a degree in criminology. That was in 1985, when the agency was actively recruiting females directly from top criminology programs. Fifteen years later – after a career of investigating cases such as the Walker spy ring and often spent living out of a suitcase in far-flung corners of the world (including Antarctica, investigating a rape case at a naval installation there) – she traded in her badge and firearm for a Diaper Genie and minivan and went back to civilian life.

Why? Well, one thing NCIS the TV show really does get right is the fact that it’s a tough life for married people, particularly those with children. Cheri left the agency to “get some normalcy” in her life and to be able to spend more time with her two children and her husband, a former Navy pilot and then a law school student. Cheri admits that leaving government service was tough – she felt as if she’d lost her identity.

Some two years after leaving NCIS Cheri did something she had wanted to do for years, but couldn’t because of the travel and stress of her job…she joined The Junior League, in part because of the tangible training that was offered. In 15 years at her League, Cheri has done almost everything a League member can do. Among her accomplishments are serving on the Bay Publications committee managing vendor sales for League cookbooks; serving on the Elderly Outreach committee; chairing JLPCs holiday market event; serving as Placement Chair; VP of Training and Leadership Development for two separate terms, and the VP of Community Service; President-Elect and President.  Cheri also served on the VOICES committee (Volunteering for Others Inspiring Change Empowering Self) which mentors high school girls and chaired JLPC’s AJLI Affiliation Working Group. She served as JLPC’s FLSPAC delegate and Chair of local PAC; served as the JLPC Archivist/Historian; served on the Nominating Committee for two separate terms, and served on the JLPC Board of Directors for 8 years.

But even now, more than 15 years later, Cheri admits she has never had a job she liked more. The oldest of four daughters, she came from a law enforcement family (her father was an undercover officer in Panama City, FL), and from an early age, Cheri felt drawn to public service. She found she had flair for the investigative aspects of the job, as well as an appreciation for the satisfaction gained in providing closure to victims and their families while protecting our military in often dangerous venues. (Like most NCIS agents, Cheri was a civilian assigned to investigate felony cases involving naval or Marine personnel as well as counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism incidents involving their military facilities.)

Even after all this time, Cheri is prohibited from speaking about some of her work with NCIS, but she has confirmed that she:

  • Participated in 1986 Operation Sail in NYC in conjunction with the Salute to the Statue of Liberty celebration and International Naval Review. Worked Protective Service Detail for the Captain of foreign naval vessel.
  • Worked Protective Service Detail for Yitzhak Rabin, then Defense Minister of Israel, on his visit to WDC and NYC.
  • In addition to the Walker spy ring investigation, played an NCIS headquarters oversight role in the J. Pollard and Clayton Lonetree espionage investigations.
  • Worked Protective Service and Law Enforcement logistics for President George H.W. Bush’s visit to Hawaii and the USS Arizona for the 50th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
  • Received specialized training in computer forensics and worked multiple hacking/intrusion of DOD systems investigations. Attended and worked undercover at the first “Hacker Convention” (DEFCON) in Las Vegas.

For NCIS fans looking for an inside peek at the life of a special agent, Cheri has these stories to tell:

  • No one would call life at NCIS boring, but it’s nowhere near as glamorous as the TV show implies.
  • Prior to the TV show, no one had a clue what NCIS was, or what they did.
  • Working on terrorism and counter-intelligence investigations is often a lot less exciting in real life than on TV, requiring much patience for a very tedious and methodical effort.
  • Agents have little daily interaction with “the science folks” whose work is glamorized by the TV show. (Cheri does, however, credit them with having tremendous value to agents in investigating and closing cases.)
  • Foreign travel may be exotic, but TDYs, or temporary duty assignments, take you away from home for up to three weeks to three months and can have you working up to 80 hours a week – Cheri admits to nights spent sleeping on the office floor.
  • And, yes, real NCIS agents really do like watching the show – when they get a chance.

So how do you exchange the desire to make positive changes through your professional life into your personal life? Join a Junior League!