Strykers Scope Out Border Crossers
COLUMBUS, N.M. – The Border Patrol says a monthlong mission with Stryker brigade troops from Fort Lewis doing round-the-clock reconnaissance was a success in helping deter people coming into the country illegally from Mexico.

The presence of the soldiers helped turn back about 1,000 would-be border crossers and moved others away from the mission’s patrol area between Columbus and Hachita, N.M., Rick Moody, agent in charge of the Border Patrol’s Deming, N.M., station, said this week.

The mission began in mid-October and is ending this week. Hundreds of soldiers from the Army’s 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment from Fort Lewis helped catch 1,922 people who crossed the border illegally and seized more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana, Moody said.

The soldiers, using Stryker vehicles equipped with long-range surveillance equipment, find people crossing the desert, then direct Border Patrol agents by radio to the location.

Soldiers are not involved in pursuits, apprehensions, detentions or arrests, said Lt. Col. Jeff Peterson, the squadron commander. “Our sole purpose is to observe and report,” he said.

Not The First Time

This isn’t the first time Stryker troops from Fort Lewis have helped out on the border. In August 2003, cavalry scouts from the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division spent about a month working with the joint task force out of Fort Bliss, Texas.

The scouts at that time still hadn’t been issued their Stryker vehicles, but they brought their long-range surveillance optics, ground radars and other sensors that, in a military setting, allow them to detect and track enemy troops at great distances.

The scouts from both Fort Lewis Stryker brigades performed similar missions in Iraq, watching for smugglers and insurgents infiltrating the country along the Syrian border.

The military’s surveillance equipment can spot people at a distance of more than 10 miles, much farther than the Border Patrol’s cameras.

The military mission acted as a “force multiplier” for the Border Patrol, Moody said. “It frees resources in the field to go out and make apprehensions,” he said.

Mixed Reviews

Ranchers who had Stryker units on their leased land gave the mission mixed reviews.

“The military troops are greatly appreciated, but from our observations, I did not see the (immigration) activity slow down one bit. The traffic … across our ranch has continued,” said Joe Johnson, whose family runs a 100,000-acre ranch near Columbus.

However, Murray Keeler, owner of the 25,600-acre Flying W Ranch west of Hachita, said immigrant traffic went down dramatically when the troops arrived. His wife, in appreciation, took chicken and dumplings one night and hamburgers another night to troops stationed near the ranch.

“I hate to see them leave,” Keeler said.