This Training Information paper deals with basic field investigation and local, regional, and state operational tips not covered in the Field Investigator's Manual. This revised paper was originally published in May 1986 in the MUFON UFO JOURNAL (Issue Number 217, Page 16).
Since the demise of the Air Force Project Blue Book in 1969, to facilitate the receipt and transmission of initial UFO reports, witnesses generally contact local law enforcement personnel, airport, airport control tower operators, weather observers, or nearby military bases. Reports are then usually referred to a local civilian UFO investigator. In the absence of a local operative the caller should be asked to contact the National UFO Reporting Center in Seattle, WA.:
The person handling the call completes an initial report form or Message Slip , which is then sent to the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) in Seguin, TX. MUFON then submits a copy of this form to the MUFON State Director or the nearest qualified field investigator, who, in turn, contacts the witness directly. Sometimes initial reports are filed with the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) in Chicago. In this case, a CUFOS representative may contact the state directly and request an investigation. In most cases the initial report to the state arrives as a form in the mail or a phone call, depending on the urgency. With the widespread use of the internet, preliminary reports and the acceptance of the case for investigation can sometimes be conducted by email. Finally, many times initial reports are made by the witnesses themselves, either in letter form or by calling the nearby field investigator referred by police, sheriff departments or airports.
After the witness is contacted, if the object in question appears to evade conventional explanation, an investigation may begin. Depending on the potential value of the incident a number of methods may be used. If the object appears to have been an aircraft, balloon, star/planet, the report simply is noted on the message slip and filed way. Recording it is important, since an incident harder to explain may be linked directly with it later on, indicating both were probable IFOs (Identified Flying Objects). If something in the incident truly qualifies the event as a potential UFO (description or flight characteristic such as hovering, exhibiting anomalistic motion, absence of sound where some type of actual craft is observed at close range, etc.), the case should be thoroughly investigated. This can be done either in-person or by mail depending on the situation. Caution: Investigation by mail has become more and more less productive. And determining the character and reliability of the witness can BE more difficult, if not impossible, by the limited access of written communication. If the FI cannot investigate the incident in-person or on-site it should be conducted over the telephone, the Form 1 (General Case) then mailed to be signed and/or corrected. People in general hate to fill out questionnaires.
Preliminary reports on significant cases not received from MUFON direct, but acquired without MUFON HQ knowledge, should be sent to MUFON ASAP, either by phone, "snailmail", or email:
Completed reports are submitted by Field Investigators or State Section Directors to their State Directors, who then forward the original copy to their Regional Director. Some states appoint an Investigation Coordinator to handle UFO investigations, leaving the administration activities to the State Director. After the Regional Director (who usually has about 15-20 states under his jurisdiction) reviews and checks it for completeness, the case report is then forwarded to the DDI (Deputy Director of Investigations). The report is then filed and data placed in the MUFON UFO database program. Copies of the report are retained by the state and the FI in charge. Some states also file duplicate reports, one copy to CUFOS as a courtesy, especially if they provided the initial or preliminary report.
Field Investigator and Field Investigator Trainee preparation and training should include the following:
1) The acquisition of the MUFON Field Investigator's Manual
2) Completion of the FIE (FI Exam) as soon as possible.
3) The construction of the Field Investigator Kit(s).
4) The establishment of a local hotline or "filter center".
5) Production and distribution of a "status report" or newsletter, sent periodically to local law
enforcement dispatchers, airport control towers, selected news media, etc.
THE TRAINING OFFICER
To better facilitate training in a state group I highly recommend the selection of a "Training Officer". This person maintains contact by mail with FITs, sending materials, etc. I use a checklist and training record form (Training Transmittal Record) which lists all the materials available and when they were mailed. The TTR begins with the date the applicant became a member of MUFON, the date the applicant was sent a "welcome aboard" letter and sample newsletter, all the materials in the Training Information Series, and ends with the date the applicant completed the FI Exam, his score, and his promotion to FI and/or State Section Director. There is even a line and date for the "Certificate of Award" if the state uses one, such as Indiana. The trainee must send an SASE (one or two stamps) to the Training Officer for the next step of additional materials until the program is completed. The training ceases when the FIT stops requesting materials or fails to pay the state's annual dues. FITs may call the Training Officer at any time. If the state has no Training Officer, FITs should contact their State Director. If no State Director, trainees should contact Walt Andrus, MUFON's International Director, at 103 Oldtowne Rd., Seguin, TX 78155-4099. (210) 379-9216
THE FI MANUAL
This is a tool many veteran researchers never had available in the early years. The FI Manual was prepared from the combined experience of many respected and experienced UFO researchers. Any fool can ask questions from a questionnaire and write down the answers. There is more to it than that. And separating UFOs from IFOs requires knowledge, attainable through experience and proper use of the Manual. UFOlogy, the scientific study of UFOs, is a "volunteer profession", not a hobby. The FI Manual can be obtained from MUFON for $25 plus $3.50 for postage and handling. I suggest FITs send checks made out to MUFON to their State Director or Training Officer, to be forwarded to MUFON so that a notation can be made on the TTR that the FIT has complied with that requirement. The TTR is not a MUFON form or requirement, but an idea successfully used in Indiana for over ten years.
As soon as the study of the Manual and other training information are completed, FITs should be ready to take the FI Exam. The State Director or Training Officer will help them acquire and submit the exam papers to the appropriate persons. The exam is an open-book test. If further assistance is needed, contact Walter Andrus at MUFON HQ.
THE FIELD INVESTIGATION KITS
Basic materials needed are listed in the Manual. I suggest at least two kits.
1) Kit One. Should include the Manual, copies of all the necessary forms, pens, paper,
everything you might need for a routine on-the-spot investigation.
2) Kit Two. Would actually be the one mentioned in the Manual for collecting physical
3) Other kits. Could be designed to include everything needed for special investigations and
collection. Items that need special care and support materials such as camcorders, which
need tapes, batteries, chargers, etc. Or cameras, film, etc.
THE RAPID DEPLOYMENT TEAM
We use a list called a "PLL" or "Prescribed Load List" to include anything and everything a "think tank" might conceive needed during any investigation or deployment. The PLL is a major portion of our basic plan of having an alert team ready to go at any time. Years of experience has improved on the PLL. The list is checked periodically and everything on that list is loaded before we hit the road. The point is, organization and speed is important. You may only get one chance in your lifetime to document an actual close encounter. When bonified UFOs decide to appear, confusion and panic begins. And Murphy's Law works best in UFOlogy. So, you still want to be a serious Field Investigator?
THE LOCAL HOTLINE
The idea of a UFO investigation means nothing if people can't contact you. And if the UFO sighting is "in progress", you want to view it yourself and possibly identify it or document the rare occurrence with videotape, etc. It is not necessary to have a dedicated line used strictly for UFO reports. But, if you do not, make sure you have "call waiting". I call it "call bothering", but it comes in handy. The phone near a note pad or pad of "message slips" is perfect, but another useful tool is the cordless phone. With that you can be outside actually looking for the locally-reported UFO and talking to the witness, other spotters in your group, or the control tower, etc.
STATUS REPORT OR NEWSLETTER
A tip for FIs and SSDs is to put out a periodic status report to dispatchers (local police, sheriff, state police) and airport tower controllers, and selected news media. Keep your local group up-to-date and constantly reminded of your telephone number and presence. An initial visit in-person is a good idea. Dress appropriate. Don't wear sunglasses or try to look like the CIA! If the newspaper does an article on your efforts, that could suffice. However, if you are good at PR, go for it! If you are in a good state group with a state newsletter being printed periodically, you're in luck. All you have to do is copy the newsletter, add a slip sheet with your information and phone number, and mail out. Caution: If your state newsletter is inappropriate or too radical, make up your own. If you look like a kook, or belong to a group of kooks, law enforcement will have nothing to do with you. Keep your theories to yourself. Remember, you are a serious researcher and you are searching for the truth, no matter what that turns out to be. It's called science. Dispatchers generally don't want to handle UFO reports. If they know you are in place and your phone number is handy, you can bet that they will hand off the report to you, unless they are ardent skeptics. Even then they want to appear to the public as concerned and will probably have the witness call you. Finally, you might make up a card (business or 3x5 or larger) to place under their desk glass or put on the bulletin board.
To become familiar with things in the sky, especially at night, you should spend time out on SKYWATCH. These are group learning sessions. And having "spotters" distributed around the county you live in can come in handy, too, if someone reports a UFO in your area. Telephone "patches" are very useful, but must be used with caution. Radio Shack units turn the cassette recorder on and off by simply picking up the phone, great for outdoors use. Other useful items include a strobelight or spotlight, CB radio or cellular phone, bionic ear, etc. One of the most important tools I have saved until last. The camcorder is a valuable piece of equipment in more ways than one. It's better than a movie camera and has sound. If you have one, make sure it is charged, loaded with tape, and ready to go at all times.
Being prepared is the most important aspect of being a serious investigator. Most investigations will be routine and somewhat boring. If you must travel to investigate an incident, make sure you are prepared. A later return to complete an extra form may not be in your schedule. And witnesses might decide one session with you is all they want.
Here are a few other suggestions:
1) Use your ID card, but don't abuse it. Laminate it and have it clipped on your pocket or
lapel. That way you don't have to make an issue of it.
2) FITs should be accompanied by a trained FI if at all possible.
3) If the witness is a child under 16 or a woman, one of the investigating personnel should be
4) If you obtain anything from the witness other than a signed report form, leave a receipt.
5) Don't discuss your theories. Get your work done, be courteous, and get out. If they ask
questions or want information, tell them you will send some information. There are fact
sheets and you have your newsletter.
6) One of the most important things you need to know is to let the witnesses tell what they
saw and how it all started, in their own words and without interruption. If you interrogate
the witnesses from a questionnaire only, the story you will get will be out-of-sequence and
may be lacking a lot of important details. Answering a battery of "Joe Friday" questions is
not only distracting, it is unprofessional.
7) Finally, when investigating a "sight and sound type UFO" report, be sure to look around
for an intermittent or continuous conventional sound source nearby. Witnesses may be in
unfamiliar territory when they have a sighting, and the sound they associate with it may
have a local and conventional explanation. A normal or even noisy (meaning needing
maintenance) air conditioner, or blower on a grain dryer, or unfamiliar animal sound, may
become associated with the sighting. And this sighting could be a genuine anomaly or
a misidentification of a common object, but you must not assume the sound and the
sighting event are related.