Other FAQ's (Stuff That Really Didn't Fit Anywhere Else)
Q. You say that Border Patrol Agent is the Best Job on Earth. Why?
A. The position of Border Patrol Agent is exactly what YOU make of it.
There is outdoors work, office work, digging in the dirt work, riding horses work, riding four wheeler work, you name it, we have it. They give you a four wheel drive vehicle and all the gas you can burn, then they actually encourage you to go out in the desert and go four wheeling. Then of course, we have the dreaded "X's", (a necessary but not well-loved part of our border control strategy) but we'll let the naysayers tell you about those.
They give you this great gun and lots of bullets to practice with. You get some nice uniforms for free and a real shiny gold badge (real shiny, NOT real gold). You have the respect of sister agencies who know what kind of academy you've just gone through. You get to learn a new language if you don't already speak Spanish, all for free. Did I say free? You get PAID to do this!! You get to travel, you get to meet strange and exotic people from all over the globe and arrest many of them. I did this great job for over 22 years years, and while I can't deny I'm kind of enjoying retirement, I think you can sense that the excitement of the job has not burned out in all these years. If and when the fun and excitement are gone, Folks, it's time to seek employment elsewhere.
Q. What can you tell me about retirement benefits?
A. Click HERE to see the official Thrift Savings Plan web site.
Q. Is this job very dangerous?
A. Border Patrol is police work and police work can be dangerous. Most of the people we arrest are fairly docile, simply looking for work in a land of opportunity. However, you should be aware that we arrest drug smugglers, criminals and other people who are not fond of the idea of being incarcerated. The job also has inherent dangers. Usually, common sense and good judgment will keep you out of danger, but every now and then, things happen. The Border Patrol offers some of the best training available at the academy and on the job to keep make sure you go home when your shift is over. Click to see the San Diego Union Tribune articles.
Q. I have experience working with canines (or I just want to work with canines). What are my chances of getting a dog handler position?
A. Pretty good, actually. You must attain journeyman status before you even think about it, though. Not every station has dogs. The dogs are trained for detection of humans and narcotics, not for attack. They can be a heavy responsibility since you will assume all kenneling chores.
Q. I am a licensed pilot. Can I fly for the Border Patrol?
A. You can fly for CBP. Sadly, our pilots are no longer Border Patrol Agents.
Q. What about chances for advancement in the Patrol?
A. You will be promoted non-competitively to GS-12, assuming all duties are performed in a satisfactory manner. You will be awarded step increases at periodic intervals up to step ten. If you make it to GS-12, step 10 and continue to not seek advancement, that's the end of the trail, Cowboy.
If you are interested in supervision or management, you can apply for those positions. Supervisory Border Patrol Agents (that's what I was until I took an investigative position) are normally hired at the GS-13 level. Patrol Agents in Charge can be 13's, 14's or higher, depending on station needs. The Field Operations Supervisor or Watch Commander is also generally a GS-14. And so it goes. Opportunities abound for those willing to accept responsibility.
You may also be interested in going into the criminal investigations field. INS Criminal Investigators are hired in a couple of different ways. Sometimes, they hire at the journeyman level, GS-12 or 13. Sometimes, they hire off the street at the GS-5 level. I personally do not like this, since there are always highly trained and motivated BPA's looking for advancement. As far as I know, the INS is the only agency in the US that hires street hire investigators when they have a uniformed branch to draw from. There is probably a really good reason for that, that I am not aware of.
Q. What gun does the Border Patrol use? Can I use my own gun?
A. The Border Patrol uses the H&K P2000. It is a .40 caliber semi auto pistol. Personally owned guns must be approved by your Chief Patrol Agent in charge of your sector.
Q. What are the chances that I will ever have to use my gun?
A. That's a "loaded" question. I did this stuff for over 22 years and I've never had to shoot anyone. Then again, I knew a trainee who shot a guy not too long after reporting to his station. Violence is becoming more of a problem along the border with the success of Operation Hold the Line and Operation Gatekeeper. You just have to adopt an attitude that you will not allow the bad guys to hurt you and be ready by virtue of the training you get from the BP and training that you do by yourself. I used to personally try to outdraw that ugly guy in the mirror before I went to work. He was almost as fast as I was.
Q. Do you have a list of Border Patrol Commonly Used Terms:
Tricky bag - The bag you carry your gear in. (Comes from the Spanish triques, meaning "things." Also used by trainees to carry lots of books to study during slow periods at work. You supply your own tricky bag.
EOD - to Enter On Duty. This is the date that you start work with the Border Patrol. All seniority, leave accrual, pay and everything else depends on this date. You will use the term constantly throughout your career.
Sector - A Border Patrol headquarters comprised of several stations covering a large geographical area. Generally, there is also a station almost physically attached to the Sector HQ.
O.S. - Your Official Station, where you are assigned and go to work.
T&A - No, not what you are thinking.... This is the Time and Attendance Report that you turn in to get paid. Turned in every two weeks.
I-50 - The weekly report of your time and how you spent it. (This probably no longer exists).
Pay Period - A set schedule of two week periods used for pay purposes. A pay period begins on Sunday and ends two weeks later on Saturday at midnight.
Post Academy Training - This is what you will do once or twice a week until you pass your second probationary exam. You will spend all day either in class or in the company of an FTO (see below) learning Border Patrol stuff.
FTO - Field Training Officer
Journeyman - The most important person in a trainee's life. This is the person who will train you, keep you alive and make sure you get paid. Your journeyman agent will also rate your performance bi-weekly, so make sure that you always get the best vehicle you can, make sure it is clean and gassed and the oil checked. Impress your journeyman agent with your vast knowledge of the Spanish you learned at the Academy and be eager to learn every drop of info that he or she is willing to impart. Many times, what a trainee lacks in ability, they make up for in enthusiasm and motivation.
Coyote (coh-yoh-teh)- Not an animal....well, maybe a human animal. A smuggler of aliens, the Border Patrol Agent's nemesis, one who traffics in human misery with total disregard for their lives.
Pollo (poh-yoh)- the Spanish word for chicken, also used by coyotes to describe the humans they smuggle which gives you some idea of how they regard their customers.
OTM - Other Than Mexican. Any alien from a country other than Mexico. Most of our clients are from Mexico, thus the general term for those who are not.
Migra (mee-grah)- What Mexican aliens call us. Short for Inmigracion.
GTH- The Giant Talking head in Washington DC. This is the Border Patrol Hiring God with whom I communicate telepathically to get information for this web site. Sorry, no interceding on your behalf.
P.A. - Patrol Agent. You may hear some old timers still use the term P.I. for Patrol Inspector. Most of the people using that term are retired or should be.
BPA - Border Patrol Agent. This is your title that you will sign on I-213's (see below) after you stop using BPA(T) Border Patrol Agent (Trainee). GS-5 through GS-9.
SBPA - Supervisory Border Patrol Agent, GS-13.
FOS (Field Operations Supervisor) or Watch Commander - the SBPA's boss. GS-14
ACPA - Assistant Chief Patrol Agent, does all the real work at Sector.
DCPA - Deputy Chief Patrol Agent, in charge of discipline, acts as CPA in when CPA is absent.
CPA - Chief Patrol Agent, El Jefe, the big cheese.
I-213 - The form you will use most. It is the Record of Deportable Alien and you file one for each and every alien arrested. There are other forms that go with it and you will learn all about those later.
VR - Voluntary Return, the way most Mexicans and a few other nationalities return to their countries. It has less force than a deportation and causes less of a black mark on their immigration record.
Any agents out there that think of something to add, let me know.
What other kinds of weapons and neat stuff do you use or have available?
We use the "ASP" type, collapsible steel baton. You also get simultaneous training in the use of pepper spray. Agents have available for check out shotguns and M-16's or other automatic weapons.
TASERs are available.
Although not weapons, agents can also check out Night Vision Goggles (NVG's). Be careful to never use the Infra red emitting mode because the bad guys have these things, too. If you emit IR, it's like having a flashlight stuck on your forehead if someone is looking at you with NVG's. Use the passive mode only.
You will probably get to play with the Scope Truck from time to time. The scope is a device that picks up images based on temperature. They are extremely effective in detecting walking groups and dope smugglers.
The neatest thing we have available is YOU. Your training, your cunning and your intelligence is what will make or break you. This job is truly one that is what YOU make of it. You can work as hard or as lazy as you want and I promise that your efforts (whichever way you go) will be noticed and appropriately rewarded.