January 14 - January 20
Welcome to another This Week in USBP History!
Highlighting Opportunities for Recognition in the U.S. Border Patrol
A Supportive Perspective
As a retired Border Patrol Agent and still fully engaged with the Border Patrol, I've observed an area within the Patrol ripe with opportunity: the enhancement of internal recognition for our agents. While the USBP often celebrates its agents for external recognitions, there's a golden chance to bolster our own system of acknowledgment. This is not a critique but an encouragement for the leadership to seize an opportunity to further uplift our agents and strengthen our organizational culture.
The Power of Internal Recognition
The USBP has a commendable system of Honorary Awards, designed to honor various levels of heroism, service, and achievement. The true potential of these awards lies in their timely and proactive use in recognizing the deserving efforts of our agents. It's essential for the Patrol to lead in acknowledging its employees, ensuring that our awards, like the Newton-Azrak Award or the USBP Purple Cross, are symbols of our high esteem and appreciation.
Opportunities from Real Stories: The Nomination Paradox and Internal Recognition
In examining the recognition practices within the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP), a notable paradox emerges, particularly in the context of the Patrol's leadership nominating agents for prestigious external awards. This paradox highlights a critical area for leadership focus and improvement in internal recognition practices.
Leadership's Role in Seizing Opportunities
The leadership of the USBP plays a pivotal role in this area of opportunity. By:
A Call for Proactive Internal Recognition
The stories of these agents serve as a call to action for USBP leadership to proactively engage in internal recognition. This commitment to recognizing our agents' contributions is a testament to the values we hold dear in the USBP: honor, respect, and a deep appreciation for the dedication and bravery of our agents.
Conclusion: Embracing a Culture of Recognition
The USBP Honorary Awards are not just accolades; they are profound expressions of respect and appreciation for our agents' dedication and bravery. It's an opportune time for USBP leadership to proactively recognize their agents, ensuring these awards are a central part of our recognition culture. By doing so, we honor our agents and significantly bolster the morale and unity within the force. This is an invitation for the USBP leadership to embrace and champion a culture of timely and meaningful internal recognition, reinforcing the core values and spirit of the Patrol and Honor First!
This week in USBP history, we turn the pages back to some significant milestones. On January 15, 1908, the Immigration Service issued an announcement for the Guard position, marking an early chapter in border enforcement. Fast forward to January 15, 1929, when George Harris sent out a memo about uniform policies for employees with dual roles, a reflection of the evolving nature of patrol duties. On January 17, 1930, we uncover a document that sheds light on the Border Patrol's structure and manpower, providing a snapshot of its formative years. And on January 18, 1939, the Central Office's call for a thorough inventory of badges and cap insignia stands out, underscoring an attention to detail and heritage. Join us as we explore these events and more, tracing the footsteps of the United States Border Patrol.
This week, we honor three Newton-Azrak Award recipients for their valor, including two who were also among the five fallen heroes we solemnly remember on the anniversaries of their ultimate sacrifice.
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
Sharpshooters with a Touch of Humor
Border Patrol's Elite of the 1930s
This mid-1930s photograph, courtesy of the Border Patrol Museum, features from left to right, Patrol Inspectors Patrol Inspectors Paul Kester "Bing" Crosby (1910-1965), Louis D. Knesick (1905-1969), Charles Askins Jr, (1907-1999), Senior Patrol Inspector Michael T. “Tommy” Box (1901-1950) and Patrol Inspector Robert Jackson (1903-1976). Their uniforms, comically covered in shooting awards, whimsically mirror the exaggerated decorations seen on North Korean generals. This lighthearted portrayal contrasts with the serious dedication these men had to their roles in the Border Patrol. Notably, Senior Patrol Inspector Box's uniform features the early Border Patrol rank insignia, distinguished by the 3" silver embroidered bars on his lower sleeves. We honor Senior Patrol Inspector Box, who later bravely served as a Border Patrol Pilot and tragically lost his life in the line of duty.
January 16 - No entries
Follow this link to see examples of USBP employees Upholding Honor First.
John J. Burgmeier, III - photo, memo
Border Patrol Agent
On January 19, 1985, while on duty, Border Patrol Agent John J. Burgmeier observed a house engulfed in flames. He reacted by notifying the Border Patrol Radio Operator and requested the Yuma Fire Department. He then proceeded to the front door of the house and encountered a woman who informed him that her mother and son were still in the burning house. Without hesitation, he entered the burning. Smoke filled home and attempted to rescue the individuals. Almost overcome by smoke, he came outside, at which time the woman who he initially encountered pointed out a man nearby and indicated he was the one who started the fire. Agent Burgmeier immediately took the suspect into custody. At this time a second officer appeared, to whom Agent Burgmeier turned over the suspect and again entered the burning house. He courageously reentered the house many times in the attempt to rescue the individuals believed to be inside, until he was so overcome by smoke that he had to be taken to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.
One of the persons inside the house managed to escape while the other was overcome and died in the blaze.
Agent Burgmeier’s valiant efforts resulted in the arrest of an arson/murder suspect and displayed courage beyond that expected in normal line of duty.
Jefferson L. Barr
Senior Patrol Agent
Del Rio Sector
On January 19, 1996, 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 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 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 (1914-1987), and Leslie H. Buchanan (1911-1999), 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.
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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