October 1 - October 7
Welcome to another This Week in USBP History!
A Tale of Two Recognitions
Honoring Howard H. Gay's Heroism 33 Years Later
The Change of Command Ceremony for Chief Jason D. Owens
This week, we're focusing on a momentous occasion that took place on September 29, 2023—the Change of Command ceremony for Chief Jason D. Owens. While Chief Owens officially stepped into his role as the 26th Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol on July 2, 2023, this ceremony was a formal and heartfelt celebration of his leadership.
A Leader with a Diverse Background - from the Change of Command Ceremony Program
Jason D. Owens is the 26th Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol. Chief Owens was appointed on July 2, 2023, after more than 27 years of service, holding key leadership positions at every level, including the northern and southern borders, and the U.S. Border Patrol Academy.
Prior to his appointment as Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, Chief Owens led one of the busiest southwest border sectors, Del Rio, as its Chief Patrol Agent (CPA). Chief Owens served as CPA of the U.S. Border Patrol Academy, providing the strategic vision, leadership, and technical direction for both basic resident and advanced non-resident courses.
Chief Owens entered on duty in 1996 with the 325th session of the U.S. Border Patrol Academy. He was assigned to the El Centro Sector's Calexico Station, where he promoted to Supervisory Border Patrol Agent. In 2001, Chief Owens completed both the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) Selection Course XV and the Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue Team Selection Course III. He later promoted to Field Operations Supervisor at BORTAC Headquarters in El Paso, Texas, leading several counternarcotics and counterterrorism operations along with deployments to Honduras, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Iraq.
Chief Owens has held various other vital leadership roles: CPA Houlton Sector, Assistant Chief at U.S. Border Patrol Headquarters, Patrol Agent in Charge of Pembina Station, Rio Grande Valley Sector Special Operations Detachment, and served as Division Chief of Operations, Deputy Chief and Acting CPA.
In 2016, Chief Owens was assigned to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, and Office of Intelligence as the Deputy Assistant Director for Enterprise Services. He spearheaded deploying Agency classified network technology and infrastructure, and developing the career path program for the Intelligence Research Specialist position.
Chief Owens is a proud member of the Cherokee Nation. He and his wife, Cassy, have two sons, Blake and Zachary, who are both actively serving in the armed forces. He holds both a Master's degree in accountancy from Shorter University and a Master's degree in National Security Strategy from the National War College. He is a graduate of the U.S. Customs and Border Institute, American University's Key Executive Leadership Program, and the Department of Homeland Security Senior Executive Candidate Development Program.
A Personal Connection: More Than Just a Leader
Before we delve into the ceremony's details, I want to share some personal insights about Chief Owens. I had the privilege of being interviewed by him for a What's Important Now (WIN) podcast when he was the Chief Patrol Agent of the Academy. What struck me most was his down-to-earth personality and genuine demeanor.
Our conversation flowed naturally, and he even laughed at some of my jokes that pushed the boundaries a bit. When I found out he was under 50 at the time, I couldn't help but exclaim, "You're just a baby!" That comment was met with a sincere chuckle.
But what impressed me the most was his skill as an interviewer. He had a knack for asking insightful questions that made for a compelling conversation. I even told him, "If this Border Patrol thing doesn't work out for you, I think you have a future in broadcasting." Again, his response was one of sincere amusement.
This personal interaction gave me a glimpse into the man behind the title, and it's no surprise to me that he's risen to the position he's in today.
A Memorable Change of Command Ceremony
The ceremony on September 29, 2023, was a heartfelt celebration of Chief Owens' leadership. His remarks were deeply sincere and emotionally transparent, often pausing to maintain his composure as he expressed gratitude to his family, friends, and colleagues. DHS Secretary Mayorkas presented him with the Department's highest civilian award, the DHS Distinguished Service Medal. Owens reciprocated by thanking the Secretary for entrusting the leadership of the Border Patrol to someone from within its own ranks, a gesture that resonated deeply within the organization.
Among the special guests at the ceremony were Lauren and Vicky Dominguez, relatives of fallen Border Patrol Agent James R. Dominguez. Their presence served as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by agents in the line of duty. In a deeply touching moment that captured the room's attention, Chief Owens announced that Congress had introduced a bill to name the Uvalde Border Patrol Checkpoint after Agent Dominguez. This news was met with a standing ovation and applause, underscoring the enduring impact of those who have given their lives in service.
What made this moment even more significant was a promise Owens had made to Vicky while he was the Chief Patrol Agent of the Del Rio Sector. Vicky had expressed her wish to see the checkpoint named after her fallen husband, and Owens had given his word to make it happen. His announcement at the ceremony was a powerful fulfillment of that promise, all but guaranteeing that the tribute will become a reality and further honoring the legacy of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Another noteworthy aspect of the ceremony, was the presence of agents who had engaged the shooter at Robb Elementary, a devastating incident that resulted in the loss of 19 children and two teachers, with 18 others wounded. Each agent wore their Newton-Azrak Awards, a decoration for their conspicuous acts of heroism. Their attendance was a testament to the courage and resilience that define the U.S. Border Patrol, silently yet powerfully acknowledging the heroes among us whose actions have life-altering consequences.
While the law enforcement response to the Robb Elementary shooting has faced rightful criticism, it's vital for the Patrol and its leaders to continue to affirm the agents who performed admirably, even in the face of a tragedy where so much went awry.
Also in attendance were two of Del Rio Sector Horse Patrol agents who had faced intense scrutiny and allegations during the Haitian incident. Their presence and the standing ovation they received, including from Secretary Mayorkas, underscored Owens' commitment to supporting his workforce, even in the face of controversy. This was particularly noteworthy given that Secretary Mayorkas had been an early critic, yet joined in the standing ovation, signaling a united front.
Chief Owens concluded the ceremony with these empowering words:
"I'm shouldered with the unbelievable and awesome burden to lead this historic and special family at one of the most difficult times. But I'm blessed because I get to do it standing beside you. That means everything to me. Our superpower is that we endure. There's nothing that can be thrown our way that we won't overcome, and we accomplish what others think to be impossible. I want you to know this: You have no bigger fan than me. No one is more proud of who you are or what you do. One of my greatest honors in my life is to be chosen to represent you, and I will always strive to make you proud. God bless you guys. God bless this country. And Honor First!"
This week, we dive deeper into the annals of the U.S. Border Patrol's fascinating history. We kick off in 1918, when the Commissioner-General's telegrams to Seattle and El Paso laid the groundwork for what would become a "regular patrol" focused on wartime measures. Fast forward to 1922, and we find Frank Berkshire's visionary proposals leading to the Inter-Departmental Committee, which ultimately recommended the creation of the Border Patrol. By 1927, Ruel E. Davenport had become the sole Chief of the Border Patrol, offering a comprehensive report that underscored the force's growing professionalism. And as we step into the 1980s, we witness the opening of the U.S. Border Patrol Museum in 1985, a treasure trove of history and heritage. Continue reading to uncover these pivotal moments that have shaped the Border Patrol we know today.
This week, we honor three Border Patrol Agents on the anniversary of their Newton-Azrak Award actions, including Howard H. Gay. Intriguingly, the actions that led to Gay's death were recognized with the Newton-Azrak Award, yet his death itself has never been classified as a 'Line of Duty Death' (LODD).
We also remember the loss of four of our fallen, including two who fell in the same event. Friedrich Karl and John S. Blue fell in the same incident in 1973. It's saddening to note that the USBP has lost two Agents due to the same event nine times (18 fallen). Their names are listed below:
Daniel P. Cox and Edgardo Acosta-Feliciano both fell on July 31, 2021. However, their causes of death were not related.
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
Turning the Page Back to 2000
The Dawn of HonorFirst.com
Captured from the Wayback Machine, this snapshot of HonorFirst.com from March 4, 2000, serves as a testament to Ray Harris' dedication to the U.S. Border Patrol community. Ray recognized the need for a centralized platform to aid applicants and agents alike, leading to the creation of the site and its subsequent Delphi forums. These forums became a cornerstone for community building within the USBP, accumulating over 50,000 members and 4 million visitors. It's a nostalgic look back at how far HonorFirst.com and Ray have come in recruitment and community engagement.
Follow this link to see examples of USBP employees Upholding Honor First.
Howard H. Gay
Border Patrol Pilot
On October 3, 1990, while driving to work in the morning thick fog, Border Patrol Pilot Howard H. Gay noticed a stranded motorist on the highway. Realizing the danger, Mr. Gay attempted to turn around to render assistance when he was struck and killed by an on-coming vehicle. He will be remembered as a person always willing to help others in distress.
Jose (Joe) L. Perez
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent
San Diego Sector
On the night of October 3, 1994, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jose (Joe) L. Perez was performing his patrol duties in the Dulzura, CA area on Highway 94. Highway 94 runs east and west adjacent to the International Border between the United States and Mexico. While performing his patrol duties, Agent Perez came upon a one-car vehicle accident. Being the first law enforcement officer on the scene, Agent Perez took those steps necessary to notify the proper agencies through the Border Patrol Dispatch, and then took additional steps well above the call of duty.
Agent Perez observed that there were three occupants trapped inside a vehicle that was overturned and resting on its roof. As Agent Perez approached the vehicle, he observed that the doors were jammed shut. Agent Perez used what leverage he could and managed to open one front door. Through this door, Agent Perez was able to remove the driver and the front seat passenger. He placed both of them out of the flow of traffic and returned to the car. Agent Perez then observed that the vehicle was on fire and that there was still one occupant trapped inside the vehicle. Agent Perez reentered the vehicle and doubled his efforts to free the remaining passenger. The last passenger was trapped between the collapsed roof of the vehicle and the rear seat with her legs hanging through the shattered rear window. Using brute strength, Agent Perez was able to force the seat to move sufficiently to allow him to extricate the passenger. Although the vehicle was on fire, Agent Perez took the time to ensure that any possible spinal or neck injuries were cared for before moving the passenger to a safe location. Agent Perez continued performing immediate first aid until the arrival of the paramedics and fire units.
Robert S. Holmes - photo
Border Patrol Agent
Grand Forks, ND
On October 3, 2020 at 9:00 PM, Bottineau Station Border Patrol Agent Robert Holmes assisted local law enforcement with a call regarding a suicidal man who was on top of a 144-foot structure. Beyond the call of duty while facing grave danger, Agent Holmes went to the top of the structure to search for the man. Upon reaching the top, Agent Holmes began searching the massive area which was riddled with shafts, pipes and other industrial hazards. Under the cover of night, Agent Holmes was able to locate the man, who was armed with a knife, near the edge of a grain elevator. Agent Holmes began a tactful conversation with the man and ultimately talked him into storing the knife in his pocket and moving away from the edge to safety. Agent Holmes’ actions brought great credit upon himself and the United States Border Patrol.
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.
Date of Birth: July 15, 1923
Entered on Duty: May 2, 1955
Title: Airplane Pilot
End of Watch: October 4, 1973
Both Airplane Pilot Friedrich Karl and his observer, Senior Patrol Agent John S. Blue, were stationed at Yuma, Arizona, when they were killed in an airplane crash.
The officers were on a sign cutting and aircraft patrol assignment, having departed from the Yuma County Airport at approximately 6:00 a.m., on October 4, 1973. The flight also served to acquaint Senior Patrol Agent Blue with portions of the Yuma Sector since he had transferred there a short time before. After some five hours of flight, the officers landed at the Stoker Company Airport at Tacna, Arizona, for a rest stop and to communicate with units from the Tacna Station relative to patrol plans and operations.
At approximately 12:00 noon, shortly after take-off from Tacna, the airplane struck a static line near the top of 52-foot poles of the Wellton Irrigation District power line. Contact of the landing gear with the static line caused the plane to flip, invert, and fall to the ground in an upside-down position. Both of the officers were killed instantly upon impact.
John S. Blue
Date of Birth: April 6, 1935
Entered on Duty: November 23, 1960
Title: Senior Patrol Agent
End of Watch: October 4, 1973
Senior Patrol Agent John S. Blue was stationed at Yuma, Arizona, where, while serving as an observer, he was killed in the crash of a Border Patrol airplane being flown by Airplane Pilot Friedrich Karl, also of Yuma. The officers were on a sign cutting and aircraft patrol assignment, having departed from the Yuma County Airport at approximately 6:00 a.m., on October 4, 1973. The flight also served to acquaint Senior Patrol Agent Blue with portions of the Yuma Sector since he had transferred there a short time before.
After some five hours of flight, the officers landed at the Stoker Company Airport at Tacna, Arizona, for a rest stop and to communicate with units from the Tacna Station relative to patrol plans and operations. At approximately 12:00 noon, shortly after take-off from Tacna, the airplane struck a static line near the top of 52-foot poles of the Wellton Irrigation District power line. Contact of the landing gear with the static line caused the plane to flip, invert, and fall to the ground in an upside-down position. Both of the officers were killed instantly upon impact.
Burial Details Unknown
Nicholas J. Ivie
Date of Birth October 13, 1981
Entered on Duty: January 3, 2008
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: October 2, 2012
On October 2, 2012, Border Patrol Agent Nicholas J. Ivie, of the Brian A. Terry Border Patrol Station was mortally wounded in the line of duty. Agent Ivie and separate group of two Border Patrol Agents were responding to a sensor activation in a remote area near Bisbee, Arizona. Agent Ivie and one of the other Border Patrol Agents mistook the other in the darkness as an armed threat. They engaged each other, unknowingly in a friendly versus friendly gunfight. Both agents were injured by gunfire, with Agent Ivie suffering a fatal wound.
Agent Ivie entered on duty as a member of the 733rd academy session on January 3, 2008. Agent Ivie was 30 years old at the time of his death and leaves behind a wife, two daughters, his parents and four siblings.
Robert M. Hotten
Date of Birth: September 24, 1975
Entered on Duty: September 10, 2009
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: October 6, 2019
On October 6, 2019, BPA Robert M. Hotten was investigating potential illegal cross-border activity in extremely rugged terrain near Patagonia, Arizona. After he failed to respond to radio calls, fellow agents responded to his last known location and found him unresponsive. Agent Hotten was airlifted to a hospital in Nogales, Arizona where he was later pronounced deceased.
Agent Hotten entered on duty with the United States Border Patrol on September 10, 2009, as a member of the 910th session of the Border Patrol Academy. He was assigned to the Sonoita Border Patrol Station in the Tucson Sector following his graduation. Agent Hotten served with the United States Border Patrol for over 10 years.
Burial Details Unknown
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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.
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