Holding The Line
War Stories of the U.S. Border Patrol
by GERALD SCHUMACHER, COLONEL, U.S. ARMY, (RET)
This is our border war. It is not a stretch to call our border with Mexico, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). It is a swath of land about fifty miles deep and eighteen hundred miles long. It is in a complete state of “chaos” every night. And every night as tens of thousands of people prepare to illegally enter the United States a severely understaffed army of U.S. Border Patrol agents heads out on patrol. The night shift gets the brunt of it. A fair guess is that each agent in the field is outnumbered by illegal border crossers by about 40:1.
Before the sun rises, agents of the U.S. Border patrol will have apprehended thousands, administered first aid and saved the lives of dozens. They will have confronted armed drug smugglers. They will have fed starving families. In many cases, although against regulations, they will have stopped at a McDonalds and bought food for their captives with money from their own pocket. As with so many nights, the border patrol agents are reminded of the dichotomy of their profession; a sense of accomplishment in having prevented hardened criminals from entering our country and anguish over the human plight of desperate families.
They will have crawled through drainage ditches, waded into the Rio Grande, and sloshed through the muddy red muck of north Texas cotton fields. They will have scaled cliffs, repelled from helicopters, slid into rocky ravines, dealt with more than a few snakes, crossed paths with an occasional mountain lion, fallen into a mesquite bush or cactus pile. They travel in jeeps, hummers, and SUVs, in helicopters, in boats, on horses, on foot, on three wheeled all terrain vehicles, and on bicycles. They are often alone and often frightened but they have mastered the art of controlled fear and a concept called “officer presence”.
What most law enforcement training academies teach as “a worse case scenario” is a routine event for the men and women United States Border Patrol.Back to portfolio »