Marines with 2nd and 3rd Intel Battalion, Ground Sensor Platoon, under tactical control of Joint Task Force North, work in support of the U.S. Border Patrol in detecting, identifying, and alerting USBP of potential narcotics smuggling, human trafficking and illegal personnel.
Working in conjunction with the U.S. Border Patrol, the primary mission is to detect transnational threats to the homeland in order to prevent terrorists’ weapons, including, weapons of mass destruction, from entering the United States.
Several drug trafficking organizations smuggle high volumes of illegal narcotics from Mexico to the United States for mass distribution. Drug smugglers use the heavy vegetation of to avoid surveillance and observation from U.S. Border Patrol in an attempt to evade detention and processing.
When apprehended by USBP, undocumented aliens or UDAs are processed and then are transferred to other government agencies for final disposition such as release with court date or deportation. In cases where drugs are involved, the drugs are confiscated and handed over to the Drug Enforcement Agency for proper disposal.
Having the Marines there provides a second set of eyes to support the mission. Marines place these sensors along the border in areas of interest known to be popular for crossing.
“These sensors allow the border patrol agents to cover more territory with fewer personnel, allowing them to capture UDA’s and Drug Trafficking Organizations personnel smuggling narcotics from Mexico into the U.S.,” said Col. Russ Draper, the Regional Support Team Chief, Joint Task Force North. “The Marines are providing a valuable service by helping to increase the capacity to secure the border.”
Another device Marines use is an imager, which set up similar to a sensor, is not easily detected. Unlike a sensor, when the imager is activated it captures a picture which can make for easy identification of traffickers.
“The Marine Corps is providing a unique capability that not many organizations have,” Draper said. “Their professionalism and behavior is impacting JTF-N and enhancing the relationships with the partners they work alongside.”
Marines rotated 12 or 24 hour duty evolutions depending on the station they were at. During their duty, Marines watched for activations and when they saw something suspicious they would call it in to the Border Patrol, who would relay the message to agents they have in that area to investigate.
The set-up of some of the stations allowed the Marines to work side-by-side with the Border Patrol agents, but for other stations it is important they maintained good communication with each other. With good cooperation, it makes working together easier and allows the group to achieve their common goal.
“It’s been a lot of fun, and is really cool to work with another government agency,” said a tactical remote sensor systems technician with 3rd Intel Bn, GSP. “We learn a lot from each other which makes for a really good experience.”
Working with the Border Patrol provided mutual benefits for the Marines. Not only were they able to help, but as a deployment they gained experience in handling and utilizing their equipment.
“We have been coming out here for several years now,” said the section leader with 2nd Intel Bn, GSP. “It’s a great way to employ our gear and get real-world training. You can’t recreate this kind of environment and it allows us to test all our capabilities with our equipment.”
In past years, the Marines had supported a two-month mission where they would spend only a little time at each station before moving on to the next. This year’s mission enabled them to bring more gear and cover a greater expanse of the border so they could monitor all stations for the entire operation.
“We love supporting the Border Patrol and want to catch the illicit activity that comes across just as much as they do,” said the section leader with 2nd Intel Bn, GSP. “The mission allows us to support the Border Patrol for an extended period of time without losing coverage along the border.”
With great success during the operation, the Marines have high hopes of returning in the upcoming years.
“We all play a really pivotal role here and we work well together,” said a tactical remote sensor systems technician with 3rd Intel Bn, GSP. “I believe we’ll have a lot of success in the future.”
Story by Cpl. Brianna Gaudi