August 13 - August 19
Welcome to another This Week in USBP History!
In the annals of the U.S. Border Patrol, two legends have persisted, captivating the imagination of many: the belief that El Paso and Detroit were the inaugural sectors and stations. To challenge these claims is to commit what some might consider "Border Patrol blasphemy," a daring act of dispelling cherished myths that have become part of the organization's lore.
The reality is that there were 32 sectors, all referred to as sub-districts at the time, and they were all established simultaneously in 1924. The emphasis on something being "first" taps into a universal human desire for distinction and primacy. It's a badge of honor, a mark of originality, and a symbol of leadership. But in this case, the allure of being "first" has led to a misunderstanding that needs correction.
This blog post aims to commit that act of Border Patrol blasphemy by debunking the folklore surrounding El Paso and Detroit's claims to being the first sectors and stations. In doing so, we will honor the true history of the Border Patrol's creation, recognizing the simultaneous establishment of 32 sectors (sub-districts) in 1924, and pay tribute to the collective efforts that laid the foundation for the Border Patrol we know today.
By setting the record straight, we not only correct a historical inaccuracy but also celebrate a richer, more inclusive narrative that honors all sectors and their unique contributions. Join me as we explore the facts, dispel the myths, and embrace the authentic legacy of the U.S. Border Patrol, even if it means committing a bit of Border Patrol blasphemy.
The Myth of the First Sector
Let's explore the claims and the truth behind the myth of the first sector, a topic that has fueled debates and shaped perceptions within the U.S. Border Patrol.
El Paso's Claim
In the annals of the U.S. Border Patrol, two legends have persisted, captivating the imagination of many: the belief that El Paso and Detroit were the inaugural sectors and stations. The city of El Paso has long been associated with the birthplace of the U.S. Border Patrol, a claim that has been embraced and celebrated by many. This belief was further cemented with the slogan "Where the Legend Began," coined in anticipation of the Border Patrol's 75th anniversary in 1999. The phrase captured the popular notion that El Paso was home to the first sector and the first station. However, it is indeed true that El Paso was the location of the first National Border Patrol Training School, a significant milestone in the Border Patrol's history. This fact became a symbol of El Paso's perceived pioneering role in the Border Patrol's history, a claim that has been passed down through generations.
Detroit, too, has a historical claim to being the first sector, though it has been less prominent than El Paso's. Like El Paso, Detroit was one of the cities containing three tiers of Immigration Service hierarchy, adding to its significance in the early days of the Border Patrol. This unique structure contributed to Detroit's belief in its primacy as the first sector, a claim that has been part of the local lore.
The truth about the establishment of the first sectors, referred to as sub-districts at the time, is complex and reflects the dynamic nature of historical records. In his comprehensive work, "HONOR FIRST: The Story of the United States Border Patrol - Volume I," Joseph Banco, a retired Deputy Chief Patrol Agent and respected historian of the U.S. Border Patrol, writes that there were 30 Border Patrol Sub-Districts initially stood up on July 1, 1924.
However, other historical documents and research indicate the simultaneous creation of 32 sub-districts in 1924, operating under the decentralized Immigration Service. The United States was divided into 35 immigration districts, with many further split into sub-districts, laying the groundwork for what would become the modern sectors.
This discrepancy in the number of initial sub-districts illustrates the challenges in piecing together the early history of the Border Patrol. It underscores the importance of continued research and exploration to fully understand the organization's inception. By recognizing the creation of 30 to 32 sub-districts (sectors) in 1924, we embrace a more accurate and inclusive understanding of the Border Patrol's history, celebrating the collective efforts of many rather than attributing the foundational role to a single sector.
The Myth of the First Station
Now, let's turn our attention to the myth of the first station, another enduring legend that has shaped the U.S. Border Patrol's historical narrative.
El Paso's Claim
El Paso's claim to being the first station in the U.S. Border Patrol is rooted in a naming convention that led to the designation "Station One." Starting in 1926, with the enactment of General Order 61, sub-districts within each district were numbered consecutively, beginning with #1. If a station was co-located with the sub-district headquarters, it would be designated as "Station #1." In El Paso's case, this administrative practice led to the local station being referred to as "Station One." Over time, the original rationale behind the name was lost, leading to the misconception that El Paso was the first Border Patrol station.
Detroit's claim to being the first station is intertwined with its unique place in USBP history. Like El Paso, Detroit contained three tiers of Immigration Service hierarchy: district headquarters, sub-district headquarters, and a Border Patrol station. This structure, along with the presence of Border Patrol Chiefs in Detroit, added a fourth level of Immigration Service hierarchy, contributing to Detroit's belief in its status as the first station.
In, "HONOR FIRST: The Story of the United States Border Patrol - Volume I," Joe Banco acknowledges the rumor surrounding Detroit's claim, stating, "Officially, the initial Border Patrol Stations in the first 30 Border Patrol Sub-Districts (later to be renamed Sectors) were stood up on the same date, July 1, 1924, but it is rumored that Detroit District Inspector in Charge Ruel Davenport ordered the Detroit Station to be opened and renamed in mid-June 1924, although no records could be found to verify it." This insight adds to the complexity of the historical narrative and illustrates the challenges in verifying some aspects of the early history of the Border Patrol.
The truth about the first Border Patrol station is far more complex and inclusive. In 1924, when the U.S. Border Patrol received funding, operations were initiated simultaneously across the nation. There was no single designated first station. Instead, the initial five weeks were focused on hiring new Border Patrol employees and securing small rental spaces as sub-district headquarters, often consisting of rented rooms or houses. These humble beginnings marked the simultaneous establishment of stations across the country, reflecting a collective effort rather than a singular "first" station.
By acknowledging the simultaneous inception of stations in 1924, we dispel the myths surrounding El Paso and Detroit's claims and honor the true history of the Border Patrol's creation. It's a history that recognizes the collective contributions of many, embracing a narrative that is both accurate and respectful of the organization's rich legacy.
The Significance of El Paso and Detroit
While the myths of being the first sector or station have been debunked, the significance of El Paso and Detroit in the history of the U.S. Border Patrol cannot be overlooked. Let's explore the unique roles and contributions of these two locations.
El Paso's Role
While the claim of being the first sector or station may be a myth, El Paso's significance in the history of the U.S. Border Patrol is undeniable. It was in El Paso that Frank Berkshire drafted his proposals for the formation of the Border Patrol, a foundational effort that laid the groundwork for the organization's creation. Additionally, El Paso was home to the first National Border Patrol Training School, a vital institution that shaped the training and development of Border Patrol agents. The city's contributions extend beyond mere symbolism; they represent tangible efforts that have had a lasting impact on the Border Patrol's mission and values.
Detroit's unique position in the early structure of the USBP also warrants recognition. The city was one of the few locations containing three tiers of Immigration Service hierarchy: district headquarters, sub-district headquarters, and a Border Patrol station. The presence of Border Patrol Chiefs in Detroit added a fourth level of Immigration Service hierarchy, reflecting the city's importance in the organizational structure. Detroit's role in the early days of the Border Patrol is a testament to its strategic significance and its contributions to shaping the agency's direction.
Honoring All Sectors
While El Paso and Detroit's contributions are noteworthy, it's essential to stress the importance of recognizing the contributions of all 32 sectors (sub-districts) created in 1924. The simultaneous establishment of these sectors marked a collective effort that laid the foundation for the Border Patrol we know today. Each sector has its unique history, challenges, and achievements, and honoring them all ensures a more accurate and inclusive understanding of the Border Patrol's rich legacy. By acknowledging the significance of both El Paso and Detroit, as well as the collective contributions of all sectors, we embrace a narrative that celebrates the diversity and complexity of the U.S. Border Patrol's history.
The myths surrounding El Paso and Detroit as the first sectors and stations in the U.S. Border Patrol have become ingrained in the organization's folklore. These legends, while captivating, have overshadowed the true history of the Border Patrol's creation—a history that involves the simultaneous establishment of 32 sectors (sub-districts) in 1924 and the collective efforts of many.
El Paso and Detroit's significant contributions to the Border Patrol are undeniable, from Frank Berkshire's proposals to the unique organizational structure in Detroit. However, the importance of accurate historical understanding cannot be overstated. By dispelling the myths and embracing the truth, we honor not just one or two sectors but all 32, recognizing their unique roles and achievements.
I encourage readers to explore further, delve into HonorFirst's Historical Documents Library, and visit the Border Patrol Museum. Additionally, I invite you to explore the HonorFirst History Page and the links it contains, offering a wealth of information on the U.S. Border Patrol's rich legacy:
For those interested in an in-depth exploration, consider purchasing Joe Banco's USBP History books, a valuable resource that provides detailed insights into the organization's history:
In conclusion, let us honor the legacy of the Border Patrol by acknowledging the truth of its history. By committing what some might consider "Border Patrol blasphemy," we celebrate a more inclusive and accurate narrative that pays tribute to the collective efforts that have shaped the organization. It's a history that goes beyond myths and legends, recognizing the real efforts and achievements that have defined the U.S. Border Patrol. By embracing this truth, we not only correct historical inaccuracies but also enrich our understanding and appreciation of the Border Patrol's complex and multifaceted legacy.
This week, we delve into the rich history of the U.S. Border Patrol, starting with 1918, when future Chief Frank Berkshire expressed concerns about German propaganda along the Mexican border, highlighting the need for proper border patrol. In 1928, we find a thrilling account of Patrol Inspectors intercepting a vehicle that had illegally entered the U.S. near Faben, Texas. Fast forward to 1953, Chief of the Border Patrol Harlon B. Carter addressed concerns about the dress of officers, leading to changes in uniforms. In 1954, significant directives were introduced, including a Procedure for Border Patrol Participation in Funeral Services, formalizing the way to honor deceased members. We conclude in 2010, with the phrase "Honor First" receiving a trademark, a term that has become synonymous with the U.S. Border Patrol. These events, along with others, shape our understanding of the Border Patrol's evolution and legacy.These events, among others, will be our focus this week.
We remember nine of the Patrol's heroes on the anniversary of their Newton-Azrak Award actions.
During this week, we solemnly remember two of our fallen, Lawrence B. Pierce and Ricardo Zarate, on the anniversaries of their deaths.
Enjoy and have a great week!
P.S. - As an open and continuous invitation to current and former USBP employees, I am always accepting photos to post in the USBP Photo Galleries and in the Upholding Honor First pages. I sure would appreciate you visiting those pages and sending me anything that you think I could post (just send them to email@example.com). As always, make sure to explore all of the hyperlinks to the documents and pages. Finally, please forward this blog to whomever you think may enjoy it.
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.
THROWBACK PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Desert Rescue: A Brotherhood in Action, Circa 1939-1940
In this timeless snapshot from 1939-1940, six Border Patrol Inspectors unite to free a 1939 Ford from the relentless grip of the desert sands. With a shovel and collective effort, they push the vehicle backward, a symbol of their unbreakable bond and commitment to one another. If the tradition of 'doughnuts for the shift' existed back then, this rescue would have been a costly one for the stuck Inspector. A scene that resonates with the values of teamwork and duty that continue to define the Border Patrol.
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. Even though Conover was critically injured he continued to return fire wounding the assailant. Conover was hospitalized for eight weeks while recovering from wounds received in the incident.
HonorFirst note - Agent Conover was the USBP's first recipient of the Purple Cross. See the Purple Cross page for his citation which provides greater details.
Benjamin M. Batchelder
Border Patrol Agent
Stephen A. Brooks
Border Patrol Agent
Martin G. Hewson
Border Patrol Agent
John C. Pfeifer - photo
Patrol Agent In Charge
On August 19, 1997, in the face of unprecedented danger, Border Patrol Agents Benjamin M. Batchelder, Stephen A. Brooks, Martin G. Hewson, and Patrol Agent In Charge John C. Pfeifer demonstrated extraordinary courage, valor, and commitment to duty.
Responding to a three-hour rampage by Carl Drega, a local troublemaker and former soldier, these agents found themselves in a perilous situation. Drega had already killed a New Hampshire judge, two state troopers, and a newspaper editor, and had wounded other officers.
In the midst of chaos and violence, Agents Batchelder, Brooks, and Hewson were recognized for their heroic actions in assisting Patrol Agent In Charge Pfeifer, who sustained critical wounds during a gun battle with Drega. Despite the grave danger, they remained steadfast, providing vital support and assistance to their fellow agent.
Patrol Agent In Charge Pfeifer's bravery and determination were evident as he engaged in the gun battle, sustaining injuries but continuing to fight, reflecting the highest standards of the U.S. Border Patrol.
Their collective actions on that fateful day stand as a testament to their unwavering dedication to protecting their community and their fellow officers. Their bravery under fire and selfless commitment to duty have earned them the esteemed Newton-Azrak Award for Heroism.
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 March 6, 2023 the U.S. Border Patrol has suffered 155* fallen.
The following names hold a distinguished position, as they have made the ultimate sacrifice in their unwavering commitment to uphold the oath each officer took to protect and defend the United States of America.
The facts concerning each officer are presented with minimal editing to preserve the "language of the day" found in the original reports, providing readers with a sense of historical context.
In compliance with the Privacy Act of 1974, the cause of death for employees who lost their lives in the line of duty due to exposure to lethal illnesses will not be disclosed.
* Please note that despite their deaths meeting the criteria for Line-of-Duty-Deaths at the time, Patrol Inspector Garvis Field Harrell and Border Patrol Agent John Charles Gigax are not officially recognized as fallen by either the Customs and Border Protection or the U.S. Border Patrol. However, HonorFirst.com respectfully recognizes and includes both Inspector Harrell and Agent Gigax among those who have fallen in the line of duty.
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 Supervisory Border Patrol Agent and retired Immigration Special Agent.
U.S. Border Patrol historian and retired Deputy Chief Patrol Agent.
I prefer that you leave comments. However, if you wish to contact me, please do so by emailing Cliff@HonorFirst.com.