North American Border Conference convenes

By Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Thornell AFNORTH Command Chief

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Common ocean approaches, shared air space and land borders, and the defense of the population of North America brought 30 senior enlisted leaders from across the United States and Canada to San Diego June 1-2 for the 2011 North America Border Conference.

The annual conference is co-hosted by U.S. Northern Command and Canada Command’s Senior Enlisted Leaders -- Chief Master Sgt. Allan Usry, Canadian Chief Warrant Officer Michel Ouellet. Each year, the location alternates between the two countries. This year’s conference was facilitated by U.S. Army North and included Army National Guard, Air National Guard, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and Canadian Forces senior enlisted leaders.

The conference focus was on border security, joint and international activities, training and development opportunities, in addition to generating discussion of future activities that could affect North America.

During the conference, the SELs received multiple briefings and tours to include touring the Port of Entry at Otay Mesa on the U.S.-Mexico border, and detailed information on how U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials enforce the 1,900 miles of the U.S.’s southern border and the 5,400 miles of the nation’s northern border. They learned firsthand how the daily entrance and exit activities of Mexican and Canadian citizens are managed and concluded their tour with a drive in the security zone between Mexico and America.

The military facilities in San Diego provided an opportunity to visit the U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet Headquarters and U.S. Coast Guard Station San Diego.

“With increased international and joint maritime operations, the inclusion of the Third Fleet mission and the Coast Guard’s Eleventh District operations were crucial to the conference success,” Usry said.

This year’s conference boasted the greatest attendance to date, and Ouellet invited enlisted leaders from each of Canada’s six regional joint task forces and their search and rescue regions.

“The Canadian Forces members from all services, interacting with their U.S. counterparts makes us more effective when our international operations take place,” said Ouellet. “It will also save critical time should a cross-border emergency occur.”

The conference concluded with a legal practices update from Joint Task Force North.

“The multiple statutes and laws in the United States provide an outstanding learning tool for our international partners and solid reminder for our senior enlisted leaders as we go forth to perform our missions to keep North America secure while remaining mindful of the rights of both of our country’s citizens,” said Command Master Chief Rob Cuff, Joint Task Force-North senior enlisted leader.

The 2012 conference will be held in Canada and the group enthusiastically discussed participation from the Mexican military’s enlisted leaders in future conferences.