Following Training in Texas, CBP Team Deploys to Advise, Train Iraqi Officials
Baghdad, Iraq - A team of eight U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel deployed this week to spend the next six months in Iraq in support of the American effort to assist the Iraqi government in developing a modern and effective approach to protecting their country.
Photo Credit:Michael J. Hardy
Known as Border Support Team 18, the group is the latest in a series of CBP personnel who have traveled to Iraq since 2005. They will work throughout the country advising and training Iraqi customs police and border guards. The team will take the place of Border Support Team 17, which will return from Iraq in the coming weeks.
Prior to their deployment, the team spent three weeks in El Paso, Texas, taking part in diverse training exercises designed to prepare them for the challenging situations they could face during their time in Iraq, from advanced weapons skills to specialized information on the culture and customs of their Iraqi counterparts.
"The people here [El Paso] were more than just trainers," said Francis Hinnegan, a Customs and Border Protection Officer on BST 18. "They have been mentors and coaches and have prepared us incredibly well."
The members of the team come from across CBP's operational offices and bring decades of experience and knowledge to their mission in Iraq. They will work with Iraqis at land, sea and air ports of entry, as well as between the ports along the nation's borders, with a goal of helping Iraqis create a more secure and prosperous nation.
El Paso's desert climate provides an environment for the team that is similar to the harsh conditions that exist in Iraq nearly year-round. In addition, the city is home to the Border Patrol's Tactical Unit, known as BORTAC, which provides the team with comprehensive training for the sometimes challenging security situations they may face.
The team will work closely with personnel from the Department of State and Department of Defense, as well as with colleagues from other Department of Homeland Security components in Iraq as part of the larger effort to support the country's continued development.
Cary Rodriguez, a CBP officer who served as commander of BST 14 and who assisted in training the new team, noted that CBP's efforts in Iraq have evolved substantially through the years.
"In the past, we focused on the basics and training their front line," he said. "Now, we're able to evolve from the basics to the management concepts and how to have a larger strategic approach to this work."
Team members understand that their role in Iraq is to help the nation continue to make steps forward.
"The work of previous teams has put us in a position to continue to advance their work and help the Iraqi people make informed decisions on how to develop a modern approach to this vital work," said Doug Harrison, a Border Patrol agent and the commander of BST-18. "Our team brings a wealth of experience that will allow us to build on the foundation the previous teams have built."
Members of the team along with Harrison and Hinnegan include CBP Officer Eric LaRoche, CBP Officer Sonia Kerr, CBP Officer Michael Johns, Border Patrol Agent Eliseo Silva; Special Agent Cesar Garcia and CBP Officer Paul Michalek.
-Jay Mayfield and Kerry Rogers, Office of Public Affairs