I thought I’d start this week’s update by answering a question that was recently posed to me, “Why do you do this?” That question was in reference to helping Ray manage HonorFirst.com, moderate the Applicant's Forum and Agent’s Forum, regularly contacting some you active folks, and generally remaining very engaged with the U.S. Border Patrol. For example, it takes me about two hours to create these weekly updates (and I still don’t catch all of the typos). Here’s the answer <cue the patriotic music>…
The last three years of my career my motivation for doing the job, and pushing my chain of command was because I cared, in an Esprit de Corps sense, for the Patrol and the workforce (uniformed and non-uniformed). Interestingly, in a know thyself moment, I realized that I cared about the workforce more than the work. I cared more about those doing and who had did the job, than the job. That's what keeps me here. That's why I send emails to the active folks, author this email, take daily USBP phone calls/emails, etc... I care because I care about the U.S. Border Patrol and its current and former employees, just like you. I send emails to current leadership and take calls nearly everyday, in the belief that I may have just a smidgeon of influence to make the being part of the USBP better for the workforce (past and present). The value to me is intrinsic. I makes me feel good to do good for “them". It makes me feel good when I can right wrongs or merely offer assistance.
Before I retired I used to say, “I’m an unapologetic advocate for the workforce.” In retirement, I realize that I never shed that identity.
<patriotic music fades to silence>
Thank you for your patience. Now to the update!
Esprit de Corps
The workplace climate resulting from a combination of organizational pride and employee morale.
- Organizational pride is the positive feeling experienced by employees from being part of a meaningful team that is rich in history, tradition and culture.
- Employee morale is the feeling experienced by employees based in part on their perception of being valued by the organization, fairly compensated and performing meaningful work.
The definition turns Esprit de Corps into a simple formula and defines parts that comprise organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de Corps = Organizational Pride + Employee Morale
Esprit de Corps is the key to a healthy organization and engaged employees. Honor First is foundational to the Border Patrol's organizational pride and integral to its Esprit de Corps.
- On January 15, 1929, Assistant Commissioner-General (Deputy Commissioner today) and former “Chief” of the Border Patrol George Harris, wrote a memo to all border district heads concerning uniform wear for employees who were both Border Patrol Inspectors and mechanics. It is interesting to see the addressees separated by title, Commissioners of Immigration and District Directors. It should be noted that the concept of an employee possessing the dual appointment of Patrol Inspector and mechanic had occurred as early as 1925, even in acting compacities in 1928.
- On January 21, 1929, the Second Supplement to General Order 4 was issued. It basically stated that district heads would not meet or accompany supervisors on inspection trips unless asked. This is interesting for a few reasons:
- When General Order 4 (which has not been found) was written in 1922, only one person in the Immigration Service is known to have held a title including the word “Supervisor”. That was Father of the Border Patrol Frank Berkshire who was the Supervising Inspector of the southern border. Coincidentally, he retired from federal service in 1922 and the position of Supervising Inspector was discontinued. However, he would return to federal service and later become the third person to have been Chief of the Border Patrol in 1932 as the Director of the Canadian Border District.
- In 1929, the only position known to have “Supervisor” in its title was, Supervisor, Border Patrol (Chief of the Border Patrol).
- Therefore, this supplement appears to have been designed to allow the Chief of the Border Patrol to inspect the field without the interference of local leadership.
- This January 17, 1930 document clearly shows the total manpower, location and hierarchy of the Border Patrol. 32 sub-districts (sectors) with 875 employees of all titles (not just inspectors.)
- This January 21, 1932 document lists the immigration stations in the Montreal District covering modern day, Houlton, Swanton and Buffalo Sectors. It gives an interesting look at the simple rental spaces that were used as sub-district headquarters.
- On January 18, 1939, the Central Office (HQ) issued a memo to the field to inventory all badges and cap insignia for all positions. All of the field responses have been collected from the National Archive giving the most complete list of badges and cap insignia available for that time.
- On January 18, 1956, a memo was addressed to Chief of the Border Patrol Harlon Carter outlining the border fencing projects that were being planned. There were projects in all four southern border states.
- It should be noted that Harlon Carter was 8th Chief of the Border Patrol (1950-1957). Further, he was the first Chief to have graduated the Academy having EOD’d on May 16, 1936 and attended an unnumbered session.
(Follow this link to see examples of USBP employees Upholding Honor First)
- An organization’s values are codified in its awards system. Recognizing the achievements, service and heroism of employees is important. It is critical for those in positions of leadership to value the workforce. Awards are a fundamental manner for leaders to demonstrate appreciation to the workforce for upholding the organizational values. – U.S. Border Patrol Honorary Awards
Jefferson L. Barr
Senior Patrol Agent
Del Rio Sector
On January 19, agents out of Eagle Pass Station in the Del Rio Sector seized 246 pounds of marijuana at the Rio Grande River at approximately 8:30 p.m. Four subjects escaped by swimming across the river back to Mexico to avoid capture.
At approximately 10:30 p.m., Senior Patrol Agent Jefferson L. Barr and his partner, Border Patrol Agent Ned Thomas, responded to electronic sensor activity at a location in the same area of the earlier seizure, 2 ½ miles down river from the Eagle Pass Port-of-Entry. The two agents took up positions on a trail leading away from the sensor activations to await possible alien foot traffic. When Agents Barr and Thomas challenged four individuals carrying bundles of suspected narcotics, the subjects dropped their loads and three of them attempted to flee toward the river. Agent Thomas grappled with one of the three as the fourth subject simultaneously responded with gunfire at Agent Barr. The suspect expended all eight rounds from a .22 caliber revolver, striking Agent Barr once in the left shoulder area. The path of the projectile that struck him was such that the wound was fatal instantly. Agent Barr fired all six rounds from his .357 magnum Service revolver during the gunfight, striking the suspect once. The round struck the suspect’s left wrist, shattering his wristwatch, and entered his abdominal cavity. The suspect was able to walk the river and cross back into Mexico. Another 201 pounds of marijuana were also seized during this incident.
Luis A. Aguilar - photo
Senior Patrol Agent
Senior Patrol Agent Luis A. Aguilar was honored posthumously for his selfless courage, which resulted in saving the life of a fellow agent. On January 19, 2008, while performing anti-smuggling duties in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational Area as part of the Yuma Station IMPACT Team, Agents Luis Aguilar and German Burgoin coordinated efforts to apprehend two vehicles suspected of being loaded with marijuana that illegally crossed from Mexico into the U.S. The agents were deploying a Controlled Tire Deflation Device in the path of one of the vehicles when the driver accelerated and drove towards them. Agent Aguilar yelled for Agent Burgoin to get out of the area as he attempted to run to a safe location behind some barriers. Agent Burgoin was able to get to safety, but the suspected smuggler intentionally struck Agent Aguilar who died as a result of his injuries. Agent Aguilar made the ultimate sacrifice in saving the life of his fellow agent.
As of December 8, 2021, the U.S. Border Patrol has suffered 151* fallen.
- 3 Mounted Watchmen fell before 1924 and are carried as Border Patrol fallen
- 48 Border Patrol Inspectors fell between 1924 and 1970
- 99 Border Patrol Agents have fallen since 1970
- 1 Enforcement Analysis Specialist
The facts regarding each officer are presented without major editing of the "language of the day" found in the reports detailing the circumstances of each event. This is done to provide the reader an association with historical timeframes.
Employees who died in the line of duty due to being exposed to deadly illnesses will not have the cause of death listed.
*With the exception of two of the fallen immediately below, all names are listed (or in the process of being included) on the official Honor Roll of U.S. Border Patrol fallen and inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The U.S. Border Patrol should fix these discrepancies. HonorFirst.com honors both of the fallen.
- Joe R. White - He is recognized as officially fallen by the U.S. Border Patrol but his name is not inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial.
- John Charles Gigax - His name is inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial (see link) but he is not recognized as officially fallen by the U.S. Border Patrol. His EOW was November 7, 1999.
William L. Sills
Date of Birth: August 21, 1909
Entered on Duty: May 16, 1936
Title: Patrol Inspector
End of Watch: January 17, 1940
Patrol Inspector William L. Sills was killed on January 17, 1940, while on night patrol duty at a crossing on the Rio Grande River in the vicinity of La Grulla, Texas. On the date mentioned, three Patrol Inspectors, William L. Sills, Albin Ulrickson, and Leslie H. Buchanan, encountered three smugglers transporting contraband.
Two of them were taken into custody, and Patrol Inspector Sills, in attempting to cut off the escape of the third smuggler, was shot at close range and fatally wounded. Before falling, Inspector Sills returned the smuggler's fire and killed him. The smuggler, a Mexican alien, had previously been deported from the United States.
Patrol Inspector Sills died in an ambulance enroute to the hospital at McAllen, Texas, where he was stationed. The two smugglers who were apprehended were arraigned on smuggling charges and for complicity in the killing.
Jefferson L. Barr
Date of Birth: November 16, 1962
Entered on Duty: January 19, 1988
Title: Senior Patrol Agent
End of Watch: January 19, 1996
On January 19, 1996, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Senior Patrol Agent Jefferson Barr and his partner, Border Patrol Agent Ned Thomas responded to electronic sensor activity at a location on the Rio Grande River 2 1/2 miles downriver from the Eagle Pass Port-of-Entry. The two agents took up positions on a trail leading away from the sensor activations to await possible alien foot traffic.
When Agents Barr and Thomas challenged four individuals carrying bundles of suspected narcotics, the subjects dropped their loads and three of them attempted to flee toward the river. Agent Thomas grappled with one of the three as the fourth subject, simultaneously, responded with gunfire at Agent Barr. The suspect expended all eight rounds from a .22 caliber revolver, striking Agent Barr once in the left shoulder area. The path of the projectile that struck Agent Barr was such that the wound was fatal instantly. Agent Barr fired all six rounds from his .357 magnum Service revolver during the gunfight, striking the suspect once. The suspect was able to walk to the river and cross back into Mexico. He was found shortly thereafter, suffering from his wounds, taken for medical treatment and subsequently taken into custody by Mexican authorities.
Rene B. Garza
Date of Birth: February 11, 1947
Entered on Duty: March 30, 1975
Title: Senior Patrol Agent
End of Watch: January 20, 1999
On January 20, 1999, Senior Patrol Agent Rene B. Garza was conducting surveillance on horseback in Skeleton Canyon, located in the “bootheel” of New Mexico, about 75 miles southwest of Lordsburg. He suffered cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead. According to other Border Patrol Agents, the severity of the illness and the geographical isolation were contributing factors in Agent Garza’s death.
Agent Garza was born in south Texas and was a graduate of the Border Patrol’s 107th Academy Class. He had spent his entire Border Patrol career at the Lordsburg Station.
Date of Birth: June 14, 1972
Entered on Duty: March 9, 1998
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: January 17, 2002
On Thursday, January 17, 2002, at 12:08 a.m., Border Patrol Agent Eloy Hernandez was killed in an automobile accident while on patrol near Progesso, Texas. He was rounding a curve on a gravel road when his vehicle rolled over twice. A fellow Border Patrol Agent located the wreck. Agent Hernandez was airlifted to Valley Baptist Medical Center, Harlingen, Texas, where he was pronounced dead.
Agent Hernandez was a native of Mercedes, Texas. He was a graduate of the 367th session of the Border Patrol Academy at Glynco, Georgia, and was assigned to the Weslaco Station at the time of his death.
Luis A. Aguilar
Date of Birth: November 26, 1976
Entered on Duty: July 21, 2002
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: January 19, 2008
Border Patrol Agent Luis A. Aguilar was killed in the line of duty on Saturday, January 19, 2008, after a suspected smuggler intentionally ran him over, while he was deploying a controlled tire deflation device in an attempt to stop the vehicle from escaping into Mexico.
Agent Aguilar was working with a plain-clothes unit (IMPACT) near the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, when he and his unit were notified of attempted drive-through vehicles. The IMPACT Unit stationed several agents in an attempt to intercept the vehicles as they made their way northbound. Agent Aguilar and another agent positioned themselves on the access road to deploy a controlled tire deflation device (CTDD). As the agents were stretching the CTDD across the roadway, the driver of the vehicle accelerated, driving directly toward the agents. One agent climbed the highway fence to the north, and was able to escape being struck by the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle immediately swerved to the left, directly at Agent Aguilar. At approximately 9:30 AM, the vehicle struck Agent Aguilar, continued across the campground and escaped into Mexico. Border Patrol Agent Luis A. Aguilar was pronounced dead about 20 minutes later.
The driver of the vehicle, Jesus Navarro-Montes, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.