DHS Agency Recognizes Officers Returning from Iraq
Houston - Rebuilding the war-torn country of Iraq requires experts in many fields. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are answering the nation's call to assist in the reconstruction efforts.
The CBP commissioner recently recognized 31 CBP officers with his Ambassador's Award for their courage in willingly putting themselves in harm's way while working with the Iraqi people to secure their border.
For one recipient, a 1985 graduate of Eden High School, the deployment provided a sense of personal satisfaction at having the opportunity to be a part of the reconstruction effort.
"After 9/11, everyone wanted to go out and join the military," said CBP Chief Jerry Rainwater. "However, that was not a true option for everybody, and this deployment was my opportunity to do my part."
Rainwater left his bride of 19 years and their two daughters, 12 and 17, and departed for El Paso, Texas, July 5. There he received additional training and military gear before arriving at Forward Operating Base Prosperity in Baghdad for his six-month tour of duty in the desert.
"We worked 12-hour shifts on a regular basis," Rainwater said. "But we were embedded with a military unit, and we were interacting with our Iraqi counterparts so we didn't just stop working at the end of a shift if the rest of the team was working. There is a mission over there."
Rainwater's mission included monitoring the daily operations of land ports of entry and assisting in strengthening Iraqi's processes and procedures that included meeting with their Iraqis counterparts three times a week.
"We traveled a lot," Rainwater said. "On the days we would meet with our counterparts, we would put all of our gear on and travel to their location. We would meet for about two to four hours and travel back."
Although he traveled several times a week, Rainwater didn't encounter any insurgents, however he did hear and feel explosions at times.
"We could feel explosions from car bombs resonating through the ground," Rainwater recalled. "After hearing an explosion, we would walk out on to the balcony, and we could see the sand and dust plume that follow an explosion."
Rainwater admits this deployment was no vacation.
"The living arrangements were the worst part of the deployment. The problem was the tiny room that two men shared. There was only enough room for the beds and the wall lockers; and since there was no indoor plumbing, we had a 50-60 yard trek to the restroom and shower," Rainwater said.
Though long hours, soaring temperatures, and meager living conditions were a part of the deployment, Rainwater said that he would definitely return to Iraq if CBP would allow him.
"I had so many rewarding moments. I learned about the Iraqi people and their culture," Rainwater said. "I enjoyed sitting with our Iraqi counterparts for hours, eating with them, learning about their past, meeting their families, traveling the country and learning how the country was when Saddam Hussein was in control."
Rainwater, who works with CBP in Houston, and 30 other CBP officers received awards commending them for their service and dedication and for representing the interests of Homeland Security and CBP with distinction.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.