January 15 - January 21
Welcome to another This Week in USBP History!
Let me start out with an announcement. Joe Banco's newest book is ready for purchase from Amazon!
HONOR FIRST: The Story of the United States Border Patrol - Volume Three 1975-1999
HONOR FIRST: The Story of the United States Border Patrol is the first comprehensive history of the U.S. Border Patrol. It is divided into five volumes, each covering a critical stage in its development. In this Volume Three, the story continues covering the period of 1975-1999. Volume Three begins with the story of “The Originals,” those trailblazers that were first during this period of U.S. Border Patrol history. The first women to become part of the U.S. Border Patrol’s legacy, the first female, Hispanic, and black Chief Patrol Agents, and the first naturalized citizen to lead the U.S. Border Patrol. The story continues with openings, closings, and renaming of Sectors, the addition of helicopters, and the reimplementation of the Canine and Horse Patrol programs, the evolution of BORTAC and BORSTAR, operations dealing with mass migrations and refugee crises including the Cuban boatlift and processing of Vietnamese refugees. Covered are the impacts of immigration reform initiatives of the 1980s and 1990s, and the implementation of the 1993 Southwest Border Strategy with Operation Hold the Line, Operation Gatekeeper and others. Closing out Volume III is a reflection on the U.S. Border Patrol as it celebrates its 75th anniversary and a tribute to our Heroes and Fallen.
Where possible and available, actual quotes from Border Patrol Agents, leadership and historical documents are utilized. Background information is also provided to give additional perspective. Historical photographs are included to complement the writing and hopefully add value to Volume III of Honor First: The Story of the United States Border Patrol.
Today's update is going to highlight an area for improvement covering organizational pride. Remember, the building blocks of organizational pride are:
In the Border Patrol, no one thing embodies the Patrol's organizational culture more than it's uniform. It is paramount! Let me give you a few pictures...
So, I've given you nine pictures spanning the earliest time in the Patrol up to 2007. What might not be evident is that every agent and inspector is performing their duties while wearing their dress uniform.
What many people do not know is that Chief of the Border Patrol Roger P. Brandemuehl (pictured bottom center), began having all USBP headquarters personnel wear dress uniforms to work at HQ in the early 1980's. They looked sharp! A tradition that continued until about 2010. We looked sharp! Then something happened...
In the late 2000's all USBP HQ personnel and Sector staff wore dress uniforms. Dress uniforms were mandated throughout the sectors for various duties that didn't require rough duty. Then in 2009, the USBP pulled the trigger and fully implemented a new rough duty uniform. It had cargo pockets, was made from more durable fabric, nylon duty belts, and cloth badges. I was assigned to HQ at the time and to herald in this new era, all HQ folks were mandated to wear rough duty uniforms for the week. That was a departure from the dress uniform and a nice gesture...
Now at the same time, our brothers in Air and Marine Operations (AMO) started wearing flight suits while performing their HQ duties. It was very common for us BP folks to make fun of them for wearing such an informal uniform. We would say things like, "I love your AMO pajamas!" Or we'd say, "I see you're wearing your AMO onesie today." The contrast between them and us was great! The Patrol looked sharp and AMO looked... Sloppy.
The thing that happened was that all agents at HQ were mandated to wear rough duty uniforms in 2010! We started wearing BP pajamas to work similar to AMO, and all of the sectors followed the example. Don't get me wrong, the rough duty uniform is functional and needed, but only in those places that duty dictates. With that far reaching change from dress uniforms to rough duty, our culture began to change... Tradition that had been in place for decades died... A piece of USBP history began to fade.. Organizational pride suffered a detrimental hit. Pride began to diminish...
You see, that dress uniform instilled pride in the wearer because they knew that they looked sharp. When two or more agents were together in dress uniform, their individual pride also became organizational pride. Because we knew that we looked sharp! Since those in leadership positions possessed that simple pride, they naturally passed that down to the rest of the workforce. It was fundamental.
Now, I heard excuses that went along the lines of (with my responses below them)...
In 2014, Admiral McRaven gave a commencement speech at the University of Texas. He started it with the words, "If you wanna change the world, start off by making your bed."
Along that same thinking, the first step in making the Patrol better is by making the Patrol look better. Agents assigned to HQ in DC, a Sector HQ, or performing purely administrative duties should be mandated to wear dress uniform.
Pride starts with appearance and the Patrol is missing the train!
One last set of photos to really drive the point home. It should NEVER be the case that the President of the United States is greeted by agents in rough duty. It is a horrible precedent, and a missed opportunity to look sharp and to be sharp for the rest of the workforce.
Do better folks!
We used to do it right..
It might seem small, but it's huge!
This week starts with an Immigration Guard announcement from 1908. We have an interesting memo from 1929 dealing with employees having a dual appointment as a Border Patrol Inspector and a mechanic. We have fencing from 1956, and the Patrol being deployed to provide security for a presidential inauguration in 1996, and more!
We remember three Newton-Azrak Award Recipients on the anniversary of the day of their action.
We remember five of the fallen on the anniversaries of their deaths.
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.
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, 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 December 7, 2022, the U.S. Border Patrol has suffered 153* fallen.
The names that appear below hold a place of honor. They have made the ultimate sacrifice in an effort to fulfill the oath each officer took to protect and defend the United States of America.
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.
I will note that Border Patrol Agent John Charles Gigax is not recognized as officially fallen by Customs and Border Protection or the U.S. Border Patrol. The Border Patrol Foundation and the Border Patrol Museum also fail to recognize him. He is remembered by all except organizations containing "Border Patrol" in their title. He is remembered by the:
The U.S. Border Patrol, the Border Patrol Foundation, and the Border Patrol Museum should fix their oversight.
HonorFirst.com remembers and lists Agent Gigax among the fallen.
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, and Leslie H. Buchanan, 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.
I prefer that you leave comments. However, if you wish to contact me, please do so by emailing Cliff@HonorFirst.com.