Real-world training

Quite a while ago I mentioned that I thought military units should perform anti-infiltration training on the US-Mexico border. I can’t find out where. Recently I said it again.

Well, soldiers from the 172nd Infantry Brigade (the third Stryker Brigade) have been doing just that:

Members of the Stryker Brigade needed training in a desert setting. Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexican border needed help stopping the flow of illegal drugs and immigrants.

When the two sides joined forces earlier this winter, they stopped more than 2,500 illegal aliens and 6,900 pounds of marijuana from making it to the United States.

In the exercise, called “Operation Bootheel,” 444 soldiers in the 4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment of the 172nd Stryker Brigade used the sophisticated surveillance equipment in their Stryker vehicles to spot people crossing the border.


Federal law prohibits the military from direct law enforcement, so once the targets were spotted, the soldiers notified the Border Patrol to pick them up. The exercise was coordinated by Joint Task Force North, which works with federal law-enforcement agencies to provide military support.

I personally think that defending the borders of the nation during a time of war might call for at least some military intervention, but what do I know?

About 200 pieces of equipment were shipped. The Strykers were transferred by train and boat, then driven the rest of the way. Other equipment was flown down on aircraft from Eielson Air Force Base.

Once there, the soldiers participated–for the first time together as a squadron–in a real-life mission of defending an 81-mile border.

The squadron was in the “Bootheel” of New Mexico, a mountainous desert region bordering Mexico and Arizona. Valleys running north to south streamline the traffic coming across the border.

“The terrain favors the transnational threat,” squadron commander Lt. Col. Mark Freitag said of the flow across the border.

In addition to lending a hand to the Border Patrol, the mission was beneficial in other ways. Since the Stryker Brigade is scheduled for deployment to Iraq late this summer, the training was an excellent opportunity to learn about desert terrain and practice with their equipment.

“It was perfect timing,” Freitag said.

The 172nd, I think, is going to benefit greatly from the lessons learned by the first two Stryker Brigades in Iraq. While the second brigade was training, most of the lessons were still being learned by the first. The third brigade has had a chance to modify its training program extensively to incorporate new things.

And I fully support the idea of military troops permanently stationed along the border with Mexico. I’m not arguing that the military should be performing law enforcement. I’m arguing that defending the border is more than a simple law enforcement issue. (vis Stryker Brigade News)