One of the most popular police dramas on TV to is NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service which is often referred to by is acronym NCIS. Each week millions of viewers tune in to watch Mark Harmon and the rest of the cast take on criminals, terrorists, and traitors in Washington D.C. and around the globe. While there is plenty of action and intrigue how much of what happens on the show actually goes on in a typical NCIS agent’s day? Now of coarse any TV show greatly exaggerates any real life situation, but is everything the fictional agents of NCIS completely fantasy? While NCIS isn’t overly technical and by no means a documentary of the agency it does get a lot right, and they do know how to fight.
Prior to the Korean War Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) handled many of the duties NCIS handles today, but in the 1950’s more civilians began joining the force and by 1969 they were their own separate unit. The mission of the real NCIS is protect the families and assets of the Navy and Marines, and is summed up in their three strategic priorities, Prevent Terrorism, Protect Secrets, and Reduce Crime. While the list is short it keeps the over 1,000 agents in 14 field offices and 140 locations around the world very busy. In recent years NCIS agents caught spy Jonathan Pollard, and after September 11, agents were deployed to Cairo to protect shipping in the Suez Canal, and agents have uncovered billions in fraud. The agency protects Navy and Marines personnel so they’re better able to fulfill their duties.
If you talk to anyone about NCIS you’ll probably soon realize the show is character driven, and because of that there isn’t as much focus on the technical side of things. Supervisory Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs a former marine and agents Anthony DiNozzo, Timothy McGee, and Caitlin “Kate” Todd are all good examples of NCIS agents with backgrounds in law enforcement the military, and computers. Medical Examiner Donald “Ducky” Mallard and Forensic Specialist Abby Sciuto also are typical of the agencies’ support personnel. Mossad Liaison Officer Ziva David on the other hand is pure fantasy, and no intelligence agency has foreign agents even from a friendly nation on staff. The agency requires its agents to have a bachelor degree and backgrounds very from law enforcement to journalism.
The show is accurate to a point, but it also important to know that the agents also show some reality in how they fight. When the team has to take down a steroid crazed marine they don’t use any fancy techniques, they just overwhelm him with numbers and effective brute force. They weren’t afraid to get hurt, and they knew normal techniques wouldn’t work in that situation. In one episode when Gibbs and DiNozzo are working out in the boxing ring Tony asks if Gibbs learned how to box in the Marines, Gibbs than catches Tony’s arm and takes him to the ground with a combat judo take down and says, “they teach you fighting in the Marines not boxing.” When Abby has to deal with a hit man on her own she uses mace and a tazer to defend her self until help arrives. At the end of season 6 agent DiNozzo uses one of the few possible defenses against a rear choke when he is fighting for his life against a rogue Israeli agent’s in Ziva’s apartment.
There are other examples of NCIS members using correct techniques in combat, but in the end they fall victim to what many fictional characters experience. Reality isn’t exciting enough for entertaining purposes. In many episodes a fight could have been cut short by a simple strike to the throat or even the groin, and if an officers feels threatened they will shoot, but that wouldn’t give you dramatic moments and intense fights. Any real NCIS agent will try to end a fight as quickly as possible and will use what ever means they can to win. So sit back and enjoy the show, but remember you need a better source for your self defense and martial arts training.