U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


  1. Home
  2. Border Security
  3. From the Air and Sea
  4. Air and Marine Forces: A Rich and Varied History of Service

Air and Marine Forces: A Rich and Varied History of Service


  • The U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Air and Marine aircrews provided logistic support, personnel transport, conducted damage assessment and reconnaissance flights following Hurricane Sandy.
  • OAM establishes the Chicago Air Unit; one of its first missions is to provide support during the May 2012 North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit.
  • OAM completes the replacement of aircraft wings on 5 P-3 aircraft, increasing the service life of each airframe by an additional 15,000 hours of flight time, or approximately 18 to 20 years of service. OAM also upgrades the transom on 10 Interceptor Class: Coastal 39-Foot Midnight Express marine vessels, extending their service life by approximately 7 to 8 years per vessel.
  • Over the course of the fiscal year, OAM contributes to the apprehension of 65,093 undocumented aliens, and the seizure of 1,038,388 pounds of marijuana and 148,818 pounds of cocaine.


  • OAM takes delivery of its first Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft (MEA), which begins flying operationally along the Southwest Border Region. The MEA is the latest addition to OAM's aircraft fleet, and performs marine interdiction, limited air-to-air interdiction, land interdiction, and transportation of cargo and people.
  • Over the course of the fiscal year, OAM contributes to the apprehension of 39,407 undocumented aliens, and the seizure of 1,480,086 pounds of marijuana and 151,969 pounds of cocaine.


  • OAM provides humanitarian support to Haiti following a devastating earthquake.
  • OAM provides aerial support to Operation Deepwater Horizon to track the flow of the oil spill and recovery efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • OAM successfully tests the Guardian Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), which is capable of maritime surveillance of illegal activity in littoral waters.


  • OAM provides airspace security and air support for the Presidential Inauguration. This event represents an unprecedented level of cooperation, collaboration and operational synergy. OAM also provides airspace security to help ensure that the American public is safe from threats of terrorism during the Super Bowl and other high profile events.
  • OAM opens a Predator B UAS Operations Center in North Dakota at Grand Forks Air Force Base. Almost immediately, this unit (now known as the National Air Security Operations Center - Grand Forks) gains national attention for its support during the Red River Valley floods of 2009, where the UAS completes more than 30 hours of flight time mapping the flooded areas of North Dakota and Minnesota.
  • To improve the agency's intelligence-gathering and its response to maritime threats, OAM opens 11 new marine units. The unit placement increases OAM's ability to rapidly interdict suspect vessels traveling primary maritime transit corridors.
  • OAM opens the National Capital Region Air Branch near Washington, D.C. The NCR Air Branch, and its subordinate New York Air Unit, support numerous law enforcement partners and provides support for National Special Security Events.
  • OAM receives a new Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator marine vessel, which illustrates new capabilities for future marine assets.
  • Over the course of the fiscal year, OAM contributes to the arrest of over 1,610 narcotics smugglers, the seizure of over 167,000 pounds of marijuana and cocaine and the apprehension of over 59,960 illegal aliens.


  • With the opening of the Great Lakes Air and Marine Branch, OAM opens the final of five primary air branches along the Northern Border Region.
  • OAM acquires its fifth and sixth Predator B UAS and begins testing a new maritime variant of the Predator B UAS.
  • The Air and Marine Operations Center in Riverside, California, successfully takes command and control of operations during UAS flights.
  • During the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season, OAM uses the UAS to support Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hurricane preparations and recovery operations. OAM maps critical infrastructure before and after each event, and provides streaming video of the hurricane damage to aid first responders.
  • Throughout the fiscal year, OAM contributes to the arrest of over 1,850 narcotics smugglers, the seizure of over 363,000 pounds of marijuana and cocaine, and the apprehension of over 72,370 illegal aliens.


  • The National Air Training Center opens in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
  • The first Air and Marine Basic Class graduates from the CBP Field Operations Academy in Glynco, Georgia.
  • OAM provides supplemental air support for Super Bowl XLI, marking the beginning of OAM's participation in the security of National Special Security Events.


  • CBP announces the integration of CBP's marine assets into CBP Air, creating the Office of Air and Marine.


  • CBP combines air assets from the Office of Air and Marine Operations and the Border Patrol into CBP Air, the largest civilian law enforcement air force in the world.
  • CBP begins operations of its first Predator B UAS.


  • DHS transfers Air and Marine Operations from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to CBP.
  • The first two Northern Border Region air branches become operational in Bellingham, Washington and Plattsburgh, New York.


  • The Air and Marine Interdiction Division transitions from the Department of the Treasury, U.S. Customs Service to the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and is renamed the Office of Air and Marine Operations.
  • Congress mandates the creation of a Northern Border Region Air Wing formed of five new air branches.


  • The Commissioner of U.S. Customs authorizes Customs Marine Officers to utilize warning shots and disabling fire to interdict noncompliant vessels suspected of smuggling.


  • U.S. Customs Service merges its air and marine assets into one operational organization.


  • U.S. Customs Service opens the Air and Marine Operations Center in Riverside, California, as the as the nation's law enforcement air security center.


  • U.S. Customs Service takes possession of its first P-3 aircraft, which was previously on loan from the U.S. Navy.


  • U.S. Customs Service P-3 operations begin with a single P-3 aircraft on loan from the U.S. Navy.


  • U.S. Customs Service begins its modern era marine program as part of the Customs Patrol Division.


  • Customs Aviation Program is established by Congress to address airborne drug smuggling.


  • A record-high 35 aircraft are seized for smuggling. This leads to the establishment of an unofficial Customs Patrol Air Group. The new aerial surveillance focuses their efforts on the southern U.S. border.


  • U.S. Customs Service Patrol begins to utilize seized aircraft to enable aerial surveillance and enforcement.


  • Boatsmen Asa March and Elis Drake became the first Customs officers to die in the line of duty. They gave their lives during a marine interdiction and subsequent gunfight on Lake Champlain in New York.


  • U.S. Customs Service is established to aid in the protection of the revenue of the United States and to prevent the smuggling of contraband. A fleet of vessels begin to patrol the coastal waters of the United States. Congress authorized the Collector of Customs to acquire boats and hire boatsmen. These vessels and boatsmen were the forerunners of today's Midnight Express Interceptor vessels and Marine Interdiction Agents.


Last Modified: December 26, 2013