April 2 - April 8
Welcome to another This Week in USBP History!
Honoring the Unsung Heroes: BORTAC and BORSTAR Agents
Today's blog will focus on the significance of recognizing special operators within the Patrol, particularly agents with BORTAC (Border Patrol Tactical Unit) and BORSTAR (Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue Unit). Despite their preference to remain "silent professionals," it's essential to acknowledge and appreciate their contributions to the Border Patrol's mission, especially considering the incredibly dangerous missions they often undertake
The Value of Recognition:
Just like the story of Border Patrol Agent Cary Scott and many others like him, whose acts of heroism eventually received the recognition they deserved, it's vital to understand that acknowledging these agents' sacrifices and achievements is about more than just giving credit where it's due. It's also about fostering pride, loyalty, and motivation among the workforce. Not just within the specialties of the Patrol, but throughout the entire Patrol.
A few years ago, I had the chance to speak with a ranking BORTAC agent. During our conversation, he told me that the agents assigned to the Border Patrol's Special Operations Group (SOG), were silent professionals who didn't want, seek, or need recognition. I acknowledged what he said, but told him that given the nature of their work, that SOG agents should be swimming in seas of colorful ribbons. They should receive their due recognition.
To offer another perspective, I showed the BORTAC agent a photo of a military member, initially only displaying an impressive collection of ribbons. The most senior award on the ribbon rack was the Nation's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor. As I zoomed out, the Navy Special Warfare device came into view, revealing the military member was a SEAL, Senior Chief Edward C. Byers Jr. I asked the BORTAC agent, "SEALs are silent professionals, right?" He agreed that they were. I told him, if the Navy can recognize their silent professionals, don't you think that Border Patrol could do the same? The BORTAC agent agreed.
Before I retired in 2020, I sent the Border Patrol Special Operations Group (SOG) enough USBP Achievement Medal sets to recognize over 90% of their workforce. Unfortunately, by my last count, they had only awarded USBP Achievement Medals to two employees. It's important to note that BORTAC and BORSTAR agents are frequently involved in incredibly dangerous missions that would easily qualify for a USBP Honorary Award, including the Newton-Azrak Award, the USBP Commendation Medal, and the USBP Achievement Medal. Since they are deployed to the action areas, I expect them to be among the highest decorated agents in the Patrol.
Although BORTAC and BORSTAR agents may see themselves as "silent professionals" who don't actively seek or need recognition, the Patrol must remember that organizationally and culturally, acknowledging their work is incredibly important. By recognizing these agents, the Patrol drives beneficial organizational culture by highlighting a group who upholds Honor First, more so than any other group though their act of heroism and valor.
Learning from Military Special Operators:
The importance of recognizing such professionals is not unique to the Border Patrol. Military special operators, like Navy Seals and Army Delta Force, also consider themselves "silent professionals." Despite their inclination to stay out of the spotlight, these operators often receive recognition for their remarkable accomplishments. These acknowledgments serve as reminders of the sacrifices they make and the dedication they demonstrate in fulfilling their duties.
In conclusion, this blog aims to emphasize the remarkable accomplishments of BORTAC and BORSTAR agents and the significance of acknowledging their efforts. The intention is not to cast a negative light on leadership, but rather to underline that these agents are, first and foremost, Patrol Agents, recognized under the same system as the rest of the workforce through the USBP Honorary Awards Program. While I have not delved into specific instances of heroism and valor, it is important for us to understand that such acts are nearly a daily occurrence within SOG. It is imperative to better recognize the exceptional work of these dedicated agents to ensure that they receive the acknowledgment they so rightfully deserve.
Now to the history!
This week starts with a 1904 letter from the Secretary of Commerce and Labor concerning the appointment of Jeff Milton as a Chinese Inspector. There's a 1922 memo concerning the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration Service. And much more... But most significantly, April 8 commemorates the 47th anniversary of women joining the ranks of Border Patrol Agents. Class 107 began with six women, and ultimately, four would graduate from this class, marking a historic milestone in the agency's history.
We celebrate five Newton-Azrak Award recipients on the anniversaries of their actions.
We remember two of our fallen on the anniversaries of their deaths.
Enjoy and have a fantastic week!
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.
Follow this link to see examples of USBP employees Upholding Honor First.
John K. Crowther
Border Patrol Agent
Del Rio Sector
Border Patrol Agent John K. Crowther was recognized for his courage in attempting to rescue two men from the Rio Grande River. On the night of April 6, 1993, Agent Crowther was performing river patrol when he spotted three individuals attempting to illegally enter the U.S. at a weir dam located upriver from the Del Rio, Texas International Bridge. Two of the subjects tried to get away by diving into the water near the dam. This part of the river, filled with strong currents and dangerous undertows, had caused numerous drowning deaths. Knowing the danger involved and putting his own life at risk, Agent Crowther entered the water and attempted to rescue the two men. He managed to grab one of the men and pull him to safety. Agent Crowther tried to rescue the other man but could not locate him. Agent Crowther put his own life at risk to save another person from certain death, exhibiting great courage with his act of heroism.
Border Patrol Agent
El Centro Sector
Forrest J. Mauldin
Border Patrol Agent
El Centro Sector
At approximately 12:15 a.m. on April 8, 1994, Agents Marshall Tjaden and Forrest J. Mauldin observed a group of nine suspected narcotics smugglers approximately one mile west of Drop 4 on the All American Canal. The nine suspects were ferrying large bundles of contraband, in this case marijuana, across the canal in a rubber raft. Agents Tjaden and Mauldin advised SBPA Donn Hoberg of the situation, who then instructed Agents Arballo and Lee to respond and assist Agents Mauldin and Tjaden.
At the point on the canal where this activity was taking place, the canal is approximately one hundred yards wide, deep, and had an extremely swift moving current. It should also be pointed out that on this particular night, the weather conditions were poor. The wind was strong, gusting up to 30 miles per hour and the temperature was in the forties.
Agents Tjaden and Mauldin maintained surveillance on the group until all nine suspects, with large bundles of contraband and the rubber raft were all out of the canal and on the north side of the north berm of the canal. Agents Tjaden and Mauldin began to sneak up on the group and got into position less than eight feet from them. They made their move and apprehended two of the nine suspects and 366.5 pounds of marijuana.
While Agents Tjaden and Mauldin were securing the apprehension scene and checking the immediate area for the seven suspects who had fled, they heard screams coming from the direction of the canal. Agent Tjaden climbed to the 40-foot berm and saw an individual in the berm. The person was screaming for help and appeared to be drowning. Agent Tjaden called for Agent Mauldin to assist him. Agent Mauldin climbed to the top of the berm while Agent Tjaden ran down to the canal bank.
At this point, Agents Arballo, Lee, and SBPA Hoberg arrived on the scene. Agent Mauldin guided Agent Arballo to his location on the north side of the canal. He then directed Agent Lee and SBPA Hoberg to the south side of the canal as the drowning man appeared closer to that side. Agent Tjaden was telling the man in the water not to fight the current, but to swim with it.
Agents Arballo and Mauldin were preparing to make another rescue attempt. This time, the drowning man was able to grab onto a small outcropping of brush, which slowed him down considerably.
Without hesitation, Agent Arballo again jumped into the icy water while Agent Mauldin anchored the tow strap. This time, Agent Arballo was successful in reaching the man. He grabbed the man and yelled for Agent Mauldin to start pulling. Agent Mauldin pulled as hard as he could, and after several minutes, managed to pull Agent Arballo and the drowning victim to safety.
Because of the extremely cold water, the distance they had traveled, which was over one mile, and because this entire ordeal had lasted approximately 30 minutes, Agents Arballo and Mauldin were physically exhausted.
Agents Arballo and Mauldin acted on instinct more than anything else. They disregarded the fact that a large load of narcotics had just been apprehended and the fact that the drowning man was probably one of the drug smugglers. They saw a person in desperate need of help, rushed to his aid, and saved his life.
What Agents Arballo and Mauldin did was extremely dangerous. However, they acted without hesitation. They thought about what there were going to do, planned their moves, and executed them to the best of their ability.
Senior Patrol Agent
El Centro Sector
On April 2, 2001, Senior Patrol Agent Benjamin Sanford was patrolling a stretch of the All American Canal, near Calexico, California, monitoring the border fence for people attempting to enter the country illegally from Mexico. A concerned citizen frantically approached him to report that a car had just plummeted into the canal. Agent Sanford immediately called his colleagues at the Calexico Station for assistance, and then drove to the crash site. When he arrived at the scene, he saw a partially submerged car and a woman flailing in a fight against the swift currents. Realizing he could not wait for help to arrive, and giving little regard to his own well-being, he dove into the water, swam to the woman, and dragged her to shore. His heroic actions saved her from certain death.
Marco A. Perez Jr. - photo, award certificate
Border Patrol Agent
San Diego, CA
On April 6, 2021, at approximately 6:58 A.M., beyond the call of duty, Border Patrol Agent Marco Perez put his own life at great personal risk and acted without hesitation to save a woman from certain death as she attempted to end her life. By leaning over the edge of the 459 foot Pine Valley Bridge and grabbing the suicidal victim that had just let go, Agent Perez placed himself in great personal danger. Agent Perez's conspicuous lifesaving actions brought great credit upon himself and the U.S. Border Patrol.
As of March 6, 2023 the U.S. Border Patrol has suffered 154* 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.
Joseph P. Riley
Date of Birth: October 23, 1894
Entered on Duty: October 8, 1924
Title: Patrol Inspector
End of Watch: April 6, 1925
During the evening of April 4, 1925, Patrol Inspectors William A. Blundell and Joseph P. Riley were patrolling in a government-owned car about 1 1/2 miles from Eureka, Montana, when the tie rod broke, causing the automobile to leave the roadway. The vehicle continued over a high bank and then into a ditch and turned over, pinning Inspector Riley under the steering wheel. Patrol Inspector Blundell was not seriously injured.
Patrol Inspector Riley sustained a fractured cervical vertebra and a spinal cord injury. He was conveyed to the Eureka Hospital, which was nearest the scene of the accident. The attending physician advised that Inspector Riley's condition was so serious that facilities were not available for providing proper attention at Eureka and he recommended moving the patient to Spokane, Washington. On April 5, Inspector Riley was transported by train to Spokane, Washington, where he was placed in the Sacred Heart Hospital. He succumbed at 6:00 a.m. on April 6, 1925, from respiratory paralysis.
Survivor benefits - As per this document, his mother received $20 per month for 8 years
Jason C. Panides
Date of Birth: December 27, 1974
Entered on Duty: March 9, 1998
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: April 4, 2001
On Wednesday, April 4, 2001, at 12:36 a.m., Border Patrol Agent Jason C. Panides was killed after assisting in the apprehension of a group of illegal aliens on Interstate Highway 35, north of Laredo, Texas. Agent Panides was in the southbound lane of the east access road when he was struck by a southbound truck. He was killed instantly.
Agent Panides was a native of Jacksonville, Florida, and was a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in criminal justice and psychology. He was a graduate of the 368th session of the Border Patrol Academy at Glynco, Georgia. At the time of his death, he was stationed at the Laredo North Border Patrol Station.
Help spread the word!
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.