Tucson, Ariz. - Tucson Sector Special Operations Detachment (SOD) Border Patrol agents and Air and Marine Operations (AMO) Tucson Air Branch agents successfully carried out an intra-agency operation on May 20, which took place from the air and continued down a mountain top to arrest scouts working for a transnational criminal organization. The scouting camp was fixed high atop a steep Sonoran Desert mountainside in the Silver Bell mountain range outside of Arizona City, Arizona.
The observation post was targeted after AMO agents flying in a CE550 Cessna Citation aircraft on a reconnaissance mission spotted two scouts dressed in camouflage earlier in the day. Once air agents pinpointed the location, they reported their observations back to the Tucson Air Branch.
After planning and coordination, the operation kicked off that evening with AMO agents flying to the identified location in a UH-60 Black Hawk loaded with Border Patrol SOD agents. SOD agents fast-roped down to the mountain top as the helicopter hovered above its peak, where the scouts were operating from a makeshift post in a mountain-side cave. One of the scouts attempted to flee after a SOD agent spotted him hiding in the cave. The scout was apprehended after a foot chase which ended approximately 30-feet from a cliff with a dangerous and potentially fatal drop to jagged rocks below.
Tucson Sector Chief Patrol Agent Paul Beeson said this operation is one of many examples which illustrate the dangers Border Patrol agents face day-to-day.
“Agents jumping out of helicopters onto mountain tops is dangerous enough on its own,” he said. “The risk of injury or death to everyone involved is increased more so when you add having to pursue dangerous criminals in a harsh environment.”
AMO Tucson Air Branch Director of Operations Mitch Pribble said these types of operations have an element of risk from the air as well.
“It takes a great amount of training, expertise and precision by our aircraft crew to operate the Black Hawk during insertion operations over mountain ranges,” he said. “This is indicative of the dangers and challenges air agents face every time they depart for an enforcement mission. There is no room for error when keeping an aircraft that large steady in gusty cross-winds among narrow mountain peaks to enable other agents to descend as safely as possible.”
These joint operations, which illustrate how the integration of assets can overcome environmental challenges, resulted in the seizure of a large cache of counter-surveillance equipment and one suspect facing federal criminal charges.
Video is available at: https://www.dvidshub.net/unit/USCBP
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.