Members of 1-14 CAV, the first Stryker brigade’s cavalry squadron, spent a month in New Mexico watching the border:
The presence of the soldiers helped turn back about 1,000 would-be border crossers and moved others away from the mission’s patrol area between Columbus and Hachita, N.M., Rick Moody, agent in charge of the Border Patrol’s Deming, N.M., station, said this week.
The mission began in mid-October and is ending this week. Hundreds of soldiers from the Army’s 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment from Fort Lewis helped catch 1,922 people who crossed the border illegally and seized more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana, Moody said.
The soldiers, using Stryker vehicles equipped with long-range surveillance equipment, find people crossing the desert, then direct Border Patrol agents by radio to the location.
Soldiers are not involved in pursuits, apprehensions, detentions or arrests, said Lt. Col. Jeff Peterson, the squadron commander. “Our sole purpose is to observe and report,” he said.
This isn’t the first time Stryker troops have done similar duty. In 2003, cavalry scouts from the second Stryker brigade helped out in Texas, though they didn’t have their Strykers with them that time. Although not mentioned in the article, 4-14 CAV troopers conducted Operation Bootheel earlier this year. 4-14 CAV is in Iraq right now with the third Stryker brigade.
Ranchers who had Stryker units on their leased land gave the mission mixed reviews.
“The military troops are greatly appreciated, but from our observations, I did not see the (immigration) activity slow down one bit. The traffic … across our ranch has continued,” said Joe Johnson, whose family runs a 100,000-acre ranch near Columbus.
However, Murray Keeler, owner of the 25,600-acre Flying W Ranch west of Hachita, said immigrant traffic went down dramatically when the troops arrived. His wife, in appreciation, took chicken and dumplings one night and hamburgers another night to troops stationed near the ranch.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is how you support the troops.
As I noted in the post on Operation Bootheel, this is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. First, soldiers are getting real-world exposure and training in a situation similar to some that they will face in Iraq. If they can stop illegal immigrants from Mexico, they will be much better prepared to stop al Qeada fighters entering Iraq from Syria or Iran. Secondly, the Border Patrol is still suffering from a manpower shortage and the men and eqipment of the Stryker brigade provide a significant force multiplier.
As far as direct participation in patrolling the border, I think a strong case can be made that, during a time of war, the military is not only allowed to have a direct role, but that they’re expected to. I think it’s probably appropriate.
Regardless of that discussion, programs like Operation Bootheel and this most-recent one should not only be continued, they should be expanded.
1-14 CAV and the first Stryker brigade will be heading back to Iraq in the next rotation. (Cross posted at Winds of Change)