CBP Team Finds Success in Iraq During Eight-Month Deployment
Baghdad, Iraq - After an eight-month deployment that saw significant success amid a highly fluid environment, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Border Support Team 17 is returning this week from Iraq.
During their time in Iraq, team members worked alongside colleagues from the military, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies in advising and training their Iraqi counterparts.
Team members were stationed throughout the central and southern parts of the country, and worked to help improve the security of Iraqi borders both at and between air, sea and land ports of entry, while advising some of Iraq's top leaders on border enforcement and customs policies and procedures. At the heart of their mission has been an effort to build positive working relationships with Iraqi officials.
"The rapport and reputation that we have built with the government officials we work with allows us to help with their decision-making process," said Supervisory CBP Officer David Sturm, the team's commander. "We provide suggestions and ideas or explain how we do things, and we lay out examples and answer their questions."
In addition to the consulting and advising role that has become more prominent for CBP in Iraq as U.S. leadership here has transitioned from the Department of Defense to the State Department, team members have substantially trained Iraqi officials in areas where CBP is second to none in experience and expertise.
At Baghdad International Airport alone, the team trained more than 400 individuals representing Iraqi customs and immigration, airport security, airlines and others in how to better analyze and validate documents. According to team member Rudy Frank, a supervisory CBP officer, officials were grateful for the opportunity.
"They can't get this training anywhere else," said Frank, who worked with team member and CBP Officer Mike Fowlkes at the airport during the deployment. "It's good to know that we can make a difference."
The training's success can be seen in the fact that officials at the airport have caught more than 100 percent more fraudulent documents on average than before the training, and the documents they are catching are more sophisticated in their design.
The team's successes extended beyond Baghdad as well. Team Lead Erick Osteen, a supervisory CBP officer, led an effort to reinvigorate a stalled non-intrusive inspection program at land, sea and airports throughout the country. Working with both the U.S. military and representatives of multiple Iraqi government ministries, CBP secured the materials needed for the equipment to function properly.
"We got the right people to the table and helped facilitate the process," said Osteen.
In addition to work at the ports of entry, team members also trained border guards in southeastern Iraq. Team Lead Cole Doggett, a supervisory Border Patrol agent, helped the Iraqi guards develop fundamental patrol skills like tracking, sign cutting, laying in, judging terrain, map reading and intelligence gathering.
Ultimately, team members are pleased with their achievements and the foundation they have put in place for future CBP teams, including BST 18, which arrived this week.
"For all of us, this was an opportunity to serve CBP and our government in a capacity where we could strengthen Iraq's capability," said Sturm. "You have to be flexible, patient and fluid here, but there's a real satisfaction taking a step forward."
- Jay Mayfield and Kerry Rogers, Office of Public Affairs
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.