EL PASO, Texas – The U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) is currently conducting it Certification Course at Ft. Bliss, Texas, Jan. 30 to March 16.
The BORTAC Selection Course was conducted on Ft. Bliss at the McGregor Range 11 Training Area from Oct. 15 to Nov. 7.
The selection phase of the BORTAC Selection and Certification Course is where Border Patrol Agents who meet initial physical fitness and marksmanship standards tryout to see if they have what it takes to become part of Border Patrol Special Operations.
“Right now, at the beginning of the Selection and Certification Course, the selection phase, we assess some basic BORTAC operator skills to see if the candidates can comprehend and perform them,” said Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Juan A. Vasquez with Border Patrol Special Operations Group.
The first few days of the selection course are known as “Breakout.” The purpose of this very demanding and intense part of the selection process is to screen and evaluate Border Patrol Agents. It puts the candidate through non-stop physical and mental stress and sleep and food deprivation to see how the candidates react under fatigue and pressure. The overall selection course lasts approximately three weeks. The final part of the training includes a field training exercise to test what the candidates have learned and how they perform during a simulated special operations mission.
“Breakout is the kickstart to selection and it is designed to create a lot of ‘shock and awe’ at the beginning and set the tone for the remainder of the selection course. From this point on it is up to the candidate to push beyond their self-established limits to complete the course,” said Vasquez.
Breakout and the subsequent training in the certification course are designed to test the measure of a person’s true character. The training and evaluation events are designed to see if the candidates can learn special operations skills and apply them in a tactical environment while under stress. It is a test of mental alertness and internal fortitude.
“We are looking for an overall combination of toughness, heart, intelligence and integrity. The goal is to assess in someone what is normally immeasurable. You have to get a sense of person’s true being. Until you break down and tear away the barriers people spend their life building around themselves you cannot accurately assess the core on which they are made” said Mike Marino, Supervisory Border Agent with BORTAC at Special Operation Group.
Much like other special operations training courses, candidates can drop out on request and quit the program.
Of those agents that passed the initial nationwide testing and screening, 77 agents showed up for the selection course. Only 18 agents finished the selection course. From that group only 12 were selected to move on to the BORTAC Certification Course in January. These candidates will not officially graduate and become BORTAC Operators until they complete the eight-week certification course.
In the next phase of training, the Certification Course, candidates will undergo weeks of intense training in small unit tactics, close quarter combat (CQC), interdictions, vehicle assaults, surveillance and counter surveillance, assault climber techniques, operational planning, advanced weapon skills, defensive tactics and airmobile operations to name a few. They will also leave the Certification Course with a level 1 breaching certification which includes ballistic, mechanical, and exothermic breaching.
The training is intense and tough for a reason. Only the best Border Patrol Agents will be selected to be BORTAC Operators.
“At the lowest level of the unit, we need people that when empowered as decision makers, are intelligent enough to rapidly observe, decide, and act in the most critical situations. BORTAC personnel have to make tactical decisions in the field that have serious consequences,” said Marino.
BORTAC provides an immediate response capability to emergent and high-risk incidents requiring specialized skills and tactics. BORTAC has a cadre of full-time team members headquartered in El Paso, Texas, and members dispersed throughout the United States. The teams can be called upon to deploy immediately when needed.
The unit is unique in that it conducts training and operations both in the United States and in other countries in furtherance of the U.S. Border Patrol’s mission. BORTAC also trains and equips Sector Special Operations Detachments that provide Sector Chief Patrol Agents with the same specialized rapid-response capability in their respective areas of responsibility.
For more information on BORTAC or the qualification course, please contact Juan Vasquez at Juan.A.Vasquez@cbp.dhs.gov.