CBP Teams Take Top Honors in Ceremonial Competitions
The U.S. Border Patrol took top honors in Police Week’s National Honor Guard Competition at the U.S.
Capitol Tuesday. Honor guards and pipes and drums bands from U.S. Customs and Border Protection competed against 18 law enforcement units from throughout the country in original, choreographed events that honor and recognize law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.
The Border Patrol’s pipes and drums team and honor guard both placed first in the competition. The Honor Guard’s presentation displayed the protocols observed when an agent dies in the line of duty, said Border Patrol Agent Michael Pascale.
“We wanted to highlight the honor watch,” which depicts the support and care given to a fallen agent. Pascale was one of six agents from the El Paso, Texas, Sector on year’s honor guard team.
Despite some challenges, the El Paso team still excelled, he added.
“Getting there [becoming proficient] was an obstacle,” he said. “With the furlough and replacing a team member who broke his hand, we had less time to practice.”
Tempo, timing, and cadence, along with a creative presentation, placed the Border Patrol’s band on top with a riveting mix of bagpipe and eye-catching movements of drummers whirling their drum sticks and mallets.
Border Patrol Agent Kristen Hill, a drummer, from Tucson, Arizona, offered an exceptional display. As her arms holding the mallets swung widely up and down she spun them at the same time into a blur with her fingers. “It’s called flourishing,” she said of the maneuver. “I designed it.”
The CBP Combined Pipes and Drums Band, a composite group of CBP officers and Air and Marine agents, and the Office of Field Operations’ honor guard, representing the National Targeting Center, also competed.
Acting Commissioner John Sanders also observed Tuesday’s events.
“There’s incredible talent here, and it’s a testament to all our people in CBP,” he said. “There’s nothing more important than recognizing our people and the sacrifices they’ve made.”
Honor guard competition has three phases: inspection, presenting the colors and a rifle drill performance.
Inspections are a hushed affair. Contenders stand motionless in a straight line, arms folded with a downward gaze. Resplendent with knife-sharp creases, taut fabric, spotless white gloves and gleaming black shoes, they must satisfy the sharp eye of a U.S. Navy drill team judge in a head-to-toe review.
Standing stationary as a statue is as much mental as physical effort, said CBP Officer Eric Velazquez.
“You must concentrate and block out and sounds and distractions,” he said. One more tip: “Don’t lock your knees. You could black out.”
Rifle drill teams tell their stories through visual precision, percussion and sound. During the Office of Field Operations’ performance, shoes clicked against the pavement, white-gloved hands slapped the stocks of rifles that were spun like a windmill and rapidly tossed back and forth. One feature involved opening and closing the weapon’s bolt in sequence, producing a sharp clack each time.
CBP Officer Phillip Grissom gave spectators a stirring solo performance using both hands to move a spinning rifle around his body. When the spin stopped, he paid tribute to fallen officers in a thundering and commanding voice: “Rest easy, for your sacrifice wasn’t in vain. We have the watch from here.”
To see more photos from the competition, click on CBP’s Flickr photo album.
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 official ports of entry. CBP is charged with securing the borders of the United States while enforcing hundreds of laws and facilitating lawful trade and travel.