April 1, 2011 —
FORT BLISS, Texas - Equipped with the latest surveillance technology in the Army's inventory, the 1st Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment recently completed training in Arizona which also supported the U.S. Border Patrol's efforts to detect, deter and defeat transnational criminal organizations (referred-to as drug-trafficking organizations or drug cartels, although their criminal activities extend well beyond drugs) attempting to cross the U.S. – Mexico border.
Historically known as the “Warhorse Squadron,” the Fort Bliss-based unit volunteered to execute the Defense Support to Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies mission coordinated by Joint Task Force North, the U.S. Northern Command unit tasked to provide military support to the nation’s federal law enforcement agencies.
"The supported law enforcement agencies gain homeland security support, and the units get to train on their mission-essential tasks against a real adversary, as opposed to other simulated training venues,” said Lt. Col. John Stahl, chief of JTF North’s Southwest Regional Support Team.
During the U.S. Border Patrol – Tucson Sector support mission, the 1st Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment Soldiers served as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the agents that patrol the Arizona – Sonora, Mexico border area. Military personnel on JTF North missions operate strictly in a support capacity. In accordance with the Posse Comitatus Act, they cannot search, seize, detain, or make arrests.
“The Soldiers used their state-of-the-art surveillance equipment to identify and report the suspected illegal activities they observed and vectored border patrol agents in to make the arrests and drug seizures,” said Maj. Pete Schnurr, JTF North operations planner assigned to facilitate Warhorse’s mission. “The combined-arms effect that we strive for in all military operations was realized during this operation, resulting in increased drug seizures across the board for Tucson Sector during the 1st Squadron, 13th Cavalry’s mission.”
The military assistance was highly appreciated by the Border Patrol agents tasked to secure the vast Arizona desert environment between the legal ports of entry, said Tucson Sector Border Patrol Chief Randy Hill.
“The Border Patrol is always striving to find new ways to detect and interdict smugglers from entering the U.S.,” Hill said. “The [supporting] Soldiers serve as a force multiplier contributing to a better managed border by providing intelligence analysis and immediate support to our mission.”
“The Soldiers presence allows our agents to respond more rapidly to any detected crossings thereby increasing our effectiveness,” he added.
While providing the much-needed support to the nation’s law enforcement agencies, the JTF North support operations provided the volunteer units with real-world training opportunities that are directly related to their go-to-war missions.
“This type of experience is impossible to replicate in a five or ten-day field exercise back home,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Jacobi, 1st Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment commander. “Where else can we operate over an extended period of time, in an extended operating environment, against a thinking foe who is actively trying to counter us by actively trying to hide in order to make us work hard to find him?”
Another benefit realized by the unit, which will deploy to Afghanistan in the fall, was the opportunity to work in support of a civilian law enforcement agency.
“We are going to be doing the same types of missions in Afghanistan,” said Jacobi.
While deployed, the “Warhorse Squadron” will train and conduct combined operations with the Afghan National Army and Police Force.
“One of the aspects that you cannot replicate (on any other training operation) is the chance to work with other agencies like we will have to do in Afghanistan,” said 2nd Lt. Frank McClendon, a “Blackhawk” platoon leader. “I hope that other units get a chance to train like this; because it’s the closest scenario we can get to an actual deployment, and we also got a chance to make a difference at the same time by helping keep drugs off the streets.”
While executing the support operation, the 1st Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment also conducted concurrent weapons training, tested logistical capabilities, performed maintenance functions, and practiced their unit emergency-response plans.
The end result was a total win-win situation for both the U.S. Border Patrol and the “Warhorse” Soldiers - law enforcement received much needed support and the military unit gained invaluable training for their pending deployment.