This Week in USBP History, Vol. 50
August 14 - August 20
Welcome to another This Week in USBP History!
Before jumping into the focus of today's introduction, let me highlight that the U.S. Border Patrol has recently presented the Newton-Azrak Award to two agents, recognizing them for performing beyond the call of duty while facing grave danger:
Please see the HonorFirst Newton-Azrak Award Page for more information about the award and its recipients.
Last week was the 80th anniversary of the U.S. Border Patrol patch. We know that because the date (August 5, 1942) is on the original blueprint (follow this link for a large photo). But, very few people know that the only two copies of the blueprint known to exist (they are actually lithographs) were almost thrown away to be lost forever! Let me briefly share how they were saved, with a special thanks to Joe Banco for passing the story to me (Hopefully, Joe puts a more detailed story in Volume III).
In 2003, with the Immigration and Naturalization Service being dissolved and creation of DHS and CBP, the Border Patrol was relocating its HQ and HQ personnel from the Chester Arthur Building to the Ronald Reagan Building (both in Washington DC). As part of the move, the USBP HQ staff (only about 20 or so), were discarding and throwing away many old and dated items. Thankfully, one of the staff, Dan Harris Jr., had a keen eye and saved two lithographs of the blueprint for the USBP patch! If it were not for Dan, an irreplaceable portion of USBP history would have been lost forever! The Patrol owes him an immeasurable debt of gratitude!
Dan will forever be remembered in USBP history. His twenty-five year career in the Patrol was marked with success after success, and achievement after achievement. He was instrumental in laying the foundation of what would evolve to be the USBP Honorary Awards and the creation USBP Honor Guard. He served in multiple sectors and eventually retired as the Chief Patrol Agent of the U.S. Border Patrol Academy.
When Dan took command of the Academy after having been the Chief Patrol Agent of Blaine Sector, Commissioner Kerlikowske said this about him:
Before I praise Chief Harris’ accomplishments, I want to share a bit of his personal family background with you. Chief Harris is a sixth-generation law enforcement officer. Think about that for a minute – that’s well more than a century of law enforcement “DNA” – so it’s probably an understatement to say he was born into this career path.
Chief Harris is also the 14th officer in his family – and was named in honor of his great-grandfather who was shot and killed in the line of duty as a Texas Ranger (Dan Lafayette McDuffie, NLEOM, ODMP, 1883-1931). He’s also a teacher and a mentor; in fact, before he joined the U.S. Border Patrol, he was a San Angelo Texas police officer and Instructor for the South Plains College Criminal Justice Education Center.
Chief Harris has risen through the ranks with the U.S. Border Patrol starting with Class 286 in 1995. From his first duty assignment at the El Paso Station as a trainee to his last assignment as Chief Patrol Agent in Blaine, Washington, Chief Harris has dedicated his career and life to the betterment of our agency and profession. He’s worked tirelessly on the evolution and development of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Critical Incident Response Programs evolving them into one of the best programs in the nation. He also served on the transition team that helped stand up the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.
In short, Chief Harris is a true leader in integration, teamwork, community engagement, and partnership.
Dan was a recipient of numerous awards and recognitions throughout his USBP career including the Newton-Azrak Award and the USBP 75th Anniversary Medal.
Not stopping after retiring from the Border Patrol, Dan continues to serve the public as the Stephenville Chief of Police.
I've also updated the entry for the USBP patch in the HonorFirst History Page with Dan's contribution (see below).
The official design of the patch was finalized August 5, 1942. The earliest evidence of the patch on a Border Patrol uniform is a photograph from 1944.
See this picture* and this document.
1938 Uniform Sketches
As research was being conducted, a series of unsigned and undated sketches were discovered surrounded by documents from 1938. These sketches are believed to be part of discussions that, in part, led to the creation of the U.S. Border Patrol patch. On page 5 of this document is a sketch shaped like the United States with the words "Border Patrol". The background color is blue and the lettering is silver. Following the pattern of the time, there may have been discussions of gold lettering for Chief Patrol Inspectors and above. Although the original concept was to have a patch that was shaped like the United States, the manufacture of such a complex shape was cost prohibitive at the time. Therefore, it is believed that the patch shape was changed to a less expensive circle and the outline of the United States sewn onto it.
* A special thanks to the U.S. Border Patrol Academy for providing the 1944 photograph.
It should also be noted that in 2003, with the Immigration and Naturalization Service being dissolved and creation of DHS and CBP, the Border Patrol was relocating its HQ and HQ personnel from the Chester Arthur Building to the Ronald Reagan Building (both in Washington DC). As part of the move, the USBP HQ staff (only about 20 or so), were discarding and throwing away many old and dated items. Thankfully, one of the staff, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Dan Harris Jr., had a keen eye and saved two lithographs of the blueprint for the USBP patch! If it were not for Dan, an irreplaceable portion of USBP history would have been lost forever! The Patrol owes him an immeasurable debt of gratitude!
I know the phrase might be cliché, but what a huge week in USBP history!
This week has mentions of suspected German activity near the border in 1918, and furloughed Mounted Watchmen in 1919. There's a question of the authority of Patrol Inspectors in 1924 and the beginnings of the death of the khaki uniforms in 1953. And, I picked up the torch from Joe Banco with the trademark of "Honor First".
We also celebrate the Newton-Azrak Award action anniversaries of nine agents, including two of which who suffered serious gunshot wounds.
Finally, we remember two of our fallen on the anniversaries of their deaths, including Lawrence B. Pierce whose loss would be recognized as line-of-duty over two decades after he fell.
Have a great week!
Esprit de Corps
The workplace climate resulting from a combination of organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de corps is reinforced through the shared goals, mission and values of the organization and its employees.
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.
Newton-Azrak Award Action Anniversaries
Follow this link to see examples of USBP employees Upholding Honor First.
Border Patrol Agent
Stanley U. Spencer
Senior Patrol Agent
Border Patrol Agent Paul Conover and Senior Patrol Agent Stanley U. Spencer were recognized for their exceptional devotion to duty in the face of grave danger, while pursuing a murder suspect attempting entry from Mexico. On August 17, 1982, Senior Patrol Agent Conover and Senior Patrol Agent Stanley Spencer spotted two individuals crossing the river by boat, and attempted to approach the subjects upon land. Shots were fired by one of the subjects, wounding Agent Conover. Spencer returned the fire and then administered first aid to his partner. Conover was hospitalized for eight weeks while recovering from wounds received in the incident.
Benjamin M. Batchelder
Border Patrol Agent
Stephen A. Brooks
Border Patrol Agent
Martin G. Hewson
Border Patrol Agent
Border Patrol Agent Benjamin M. Batchelder, Border Patrol Agent Stephen A. Brooks, and Border Patrol Agent Martin G. Hewson were recognized for their heroic actions in assisting a wounded agent during a gun battle with an armed murder suspect that occurred on August 19, 1997.
John C. Pfeifer - photo
Patrol Agent In Charge
Patrol Agent In Charge Pfeifer was recognized for his heroic actions taken and critical wounds sustained while engaged in a gun battle with an armed murder suspect on August 19, 1997.
Ricardo J. Hernandez
Border Patrol Agent
El Paso Sector
Felix Morales III
Border Patrol Agent
El Paso Sector
Border Patrol Agent Ricardo J. Hernandez and Border Patrol Agent Felix Morales were recognized for demonstrating extraordinary courage and valor during the performance of duty on August 15, 2006. Without regard for their own personal safety, Agents Ricardo J. Hernandez and Felix Morales’ quick response to save a father and his minor children from drowning. While assigned to the Checkpoint located on New Mexico Highway 195, the agents were approached by a frantic woman who informed them that water had trapped her husband and two children in their submerged SUV. Agents Hernandez and Morales jumped into the turbulent water and made their way to the vehicle. Agent Morales was swept down the river while holding one of the children. He eventually managed to cling to some brush and hand the child to another person at the scene. Agent Hernandez was able to rescue the other child and father. The father sustained a leg injury after being struck by the rolling SUV, and the children were treated for exposure and shock.
Gary L. Ortega Jr.
Border Patrol Agent
El Centro Sector
Border Patrol Agent Gary L. Ortega Jr. was recognized for his selfless dedication to duty to ensure the survival of injured and helpless people. On August 18, 2007, on his return to the Indio Border Patrol Station at the conclusion of his shift at the checkpoint on Highway 86 near Westmoreland, California, Agent Ortega encountered a station wagon that had been involved in a single vehicle accident and had rolled into the median and caught on fire. As he approached the vehicle, one injured woman was near the vehicle on her hands and knees, and he could see two children and an elderly man in the rear seat of the vehicle. Agent Ortega assisted the injured woman away from the burning car and then attempt to gain entry through the doors that were jammed shut. He extricated the two children through the rear hatch and returned to help the elderly man who was trapped inside. As the flames spread from the engine compartment to the passenger compartment, Agent Ortega unsuccessfully attempted to break out the windows. Disregarding his own personal safety and without hesitation, he re-entered the rear of the vehicle, and used his collapsible steel baton to pry the seat enough to allow him to pull the elderly man to safety as the entire vehicle had become engulfed in flames.
As of May 16, 2022, the U.S. Border Patrol has suffered 152* fallen.
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.
Lawrence B. Pierce
Date of Birth September 2, 1946
Entered on Duty: June 23, 1980
Title: Supervisory Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: August 17, 1995
On August 17, 1995, while off-duty in Chula Vista, California, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Lawrence B. Pierce witnessed an altercation where an innocent man was stabbed to death. Agent Pierce chased down the killer, identified himself as a law enforcement officer, and while attempting to disarm the killer he suffered wounds that resulted in his tragic death. The killer was apprehended, convicted of murder, and was sentenced to 39 years to life in prison.
Agent Pierce entered on duty with the U.S. Border Patrol on June 23, 1980, as a member of the 137th session of the Border Patrol Academy, and was assigned to the Campo Station in the San Diego Sector. Agent Pierce was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and had served with the United States Border Patrol for over 15 years.
Entered on Duty: February 12, 2009
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: August 16, 2021
Agent Zarate entered on duty on February 12, 2009, as part of the 922nd Session of the Border Patrol Academy. At the time of his passing, he was assigned to the McAllen Station in the Rio Grande Valley Sector in Texas. The circumstances of his passing were reviewed by an executive panel and the CBP Commissioner who determined that this death occurred in the line of duty.
He is survived by his wife: Crystal; children: Payton and Ezekiel; parents : Benito and Diana; and brothers: Benito Jr., Isaac, and Rodolfo.
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Blog author, retired U.S. Border Patrol Assistant Chief and, current U.S. Border Patrol employee advocate.
Site founder and owner, former Senior Patrol Agent and retired Immigration Special Agent.
U.S. Border Patrol historian and retired Deputy Chief Patrol Agent.
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