January 7 - January 13
Welcome to another This Week in USBP History!
Unfulfilled Promises, Unforgotten Valor
The Story of Five BORTAC Agents' Bravery During Hurricane Katrina
In the storied history of the U.S. Border Patrol, there are moments of extraordinary bravery that remain unrecognized, their stories untold. Among these are the actions of five Border Patrol Agents (BORTAC) - Sean Monroe, Eric Farrar, Raymond Bresnahan, R. Alan Booth, and Christopher Madonna - whose heroism during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has yet to be officially acknowledged.
In September 2005, as Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on New Orleans, these agents were confronted with a dire emergency. A woman, in a state of panic, informed them that her house was on fire with her "baby" still inside. When they called for fire department assistance, the response was grim: no units were available, and none would be. The fire department, overwhelmed by the disaster, advised the agents to evacuate the entire city block, anticipating that the fire would spread uncontrollably. In that critical moment, it became clear: no help was coming. The agents were on their own, facing a rapidly escalating crisis.
Faced with this dire scenario, the agents did not retreat. Despite lacking fire rescue training and equipment, they approached the burning house. The basement was already ablaze, thick smoke pouring out. Inside, visibility was near zero, the heat intense. Yet, they forged ahead.
Forming a daisy chain for orientation and communication in the blinding smoke, three agents - Monroe, Farrar, and Booth - positioned themselves strategically on the ground floor. Meanwhile, Bresnahan and Madonna bravely ascended to the second floor, where they found the mother's "baby", a 14-year-old girl, unconscious. Time was against them as flames threatened to consume the building.
Their evacuation was a race against the rapidly spreading fire. They managed to escape just in time, saving the young girl's life. This act of valor, under such extreme conditions, was nothing short of heroic. All agents suffered smoke inhalation but had ensured the survival of the young girl.
Their bravery was acknowledged internally in 2019 when each agents was nominated for USBP Honorary Awards. In 2020, a panel of seasoned agents at USBP Headquarters considered the nominations. Bresnahan and Madonna were recommend for the Newton-Azrak Award for conspicuous heroism, while Monroe, Farrar, and Booth were recommended for the USBP Commendation Award with a “V” device for extraordinary heroism. However, in April 2020, these nominations along with nominations for 365 other employees were rejected by Raul Ortiz, then the Deputy Chief of the Border Patrol.
In August 2022, then Chief of the Border Patrol Raul Ortiz, influenced by a Medal of Honor presentation, reconsidered his past decision. He decided to revive the disapproved nominations, planning to consider and present them in phases. This decision affected all of the 370 employees, including our five BORTAC agents.
However, as of now, these agents have still not received the recognition they deserve. This blog post serves not only to honor the bravery of these five agents but also to remind the current leadership of Chief Ortiz's promise. Their story is a stark reminder of the sacrifices made by those who serve to protect us, often without acknowledgment or fanfare. Let us ensure that the heroism of Agents Monroe, Farrar, Bresnahan, Booth, and Madonna is not forgotten in U.S. Border Patrol history and that the promise to recognize their bravery is fulfilled.
This blog post is dedicated to the courage and selflessness of these BORTAC agents, a tribute to their bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, and a call to action for the fulfillment of a promise made.
The pictures below are of the actual structure fire where the BORTAC agents rescued the child, at significant personal risk and beyond the call of duty. These photos were part of the nomination packet and were considered by the awards panel.
This week in USBP history, we spotlight landmark events that have significantly influenced the United States Border Patrol. On January 7, 1927, we recall Harry R. Landis' request for horse rentals for winter border patrols, highlighting the adaptability of the force. Moving to January 8, 1984, we celebrate Carol Anne Fetty's groundbreaking appointment as the first female Supervisory Border Patrol Agent, a notable stride in gender diversity. The week continues with Lemuel B. Schofield's stringent badge policy memo on January 9, 1941, and the remarkable bravery shown by Ammon Meshach Tenney III and Charles Askins, Jr. in a 1931 encounter with smugglers. We also explore early border fencing initiatives and the detailed organization of District 13 on January 11. Concluding on January 13, 1930, we reflect on Grover Cleveland Wilmoth's impactful tenure, marked by significant training initiatives and the establishment of the 'Honor First' motto. These events, among others, contribute to the storied legacy of the United States Border Patrol.
There are no Newton-Azrak Award action anniversaries this week. However, some Newton-Azrak Award recipients do not have a date associated with their actions. Such is the case with Immigration Inspector Willard T. Lamade, who was one of the first two recipients from 1973 and whose action is highlighted this week.
Also, we solemnly remember two of our fallen 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 firstname.lastname@example.org). 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
A Timeless Vigil
Patrol Inspector Ray Kilpatrick in the Winter Desert of 1955
In this captivating throwback from 1955, we see Patrol Inspector Ray Kilpatrick (1919-2002), a sentinel of the vast frontier, standing resolutely in the snow-dusted desert. Behind him, his trusty Border Patrol Jeep Willy serves as a testament to the rugged durability required in the line of duty. The desert brush, peeking through a light blanket of snow, and the road that cuts a diagonal swath across the scene, leading into the distant mountains, evoke a sense of enduring commitment and the vast expanse of the border landscape. This historical gem, courtesy of the Border Patrol Museum, not only reflects the enduring spirit of the Border Patrol but also the changing face of the landscapes they protect.
January 12 - No entries
Follow this link to see examples of USBP employees Upholding Honor First.
Willard T. Lamade
San Ysidro, California
Inspector Willard T. Lamade was recognized for his heroic action in assisting Federal agents in capturing a dealer in large amounts of narcotics and alien smuggling, at great risk to himself.
As of November 14, 2023 the U.S. Border Patrol has suffered 157* 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 although the circumstances surrounding their deaths met the criteria for Line-of-Duty Deaths at the time, Patrol Inspector Garvis Field Harrell, Border Patrol Agent John Charles Gigax, and Border Patrol Pilot Howard H. Gay, who lost his life in the action that earned him the Newton-Azrak Award, are not officially recognized as fallen by either the Customs and Border Protection or the U.S. Border Patrol. Nonetheless, HonorFirst.com respectfully recognizes and includes Inspector Harrell, Agent Gigax, and Pilot Gay among those honored as having fallen in the line of duty.
William D. McCalib
Date of Birth: December 20, 1895
Entered on Duty: December 4, 1928
Title: Patrol Inspector
End of Watch: January 7, 1930
On January 7, 1930, Patrol Inspector McCalib, together with Senior Patrol Inspector West, apprehended Pedro Rendon, at Alice, Texas. Rendon was suspected of being an alien unlawfully in the United States. Rendon claimed that the proprietor of a restaurant in Alice could vouch for him and, accordingly, the officers put Rendon in the back seat of the car and drove to the restaurant. Senior Patrol Inspector West entered the establishment to interview the proprietor while Inspector McCalib remained in the car with Rendon. During West's absence, Rendon drew a pistol and shot McCalib in the back of the head, killing him instantly. Rendon was subdued and taken into custody by Senior Patrol Inspector West. It was later discovered that Rendon, alias Jose Ramirez, was an escaped convict.
Survivor benefits - As per this document, his wife received $69.75 per month for her and their child. Upon the death of his wife, his child received $38.75 per month.
Jose A. Nava
Date of Birth: July 6, 1958
Entered on Duty: January 27, 1987
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: January 7, 1995
On January 6, 1995, Agent Jose A. Nava was on his way to conduct a train check. He was traveling on Farm Road 1572, 45 miles east of Del Rio, Texas. His Service vehicle struck a deer causing him to lose control. The vehicle overturned several times and Agent Nava was thrown from the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 12:40 a.m. on January 7, 1995.
Jose Nava was born in Brownsville, Texas. He began his career with the Border Patrol in El Paso, Texas. On April 9, 1989, he transferred to the Del Rio Sector and was assigned to the Brackettville Station.
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.