Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Operation Bootheel

This article in the El Paso Times is basically about the Army "transformation" process. Anti-mortar work is what starts the story off, but it gets interesting talking about the Stryker Brigades:
One of those newly formed units is the 4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, stationed in Fort Wainwright, Alaska. Part of the squadron participated in "Operation Bootheel" recently, which paired them with U.S. Border Patrol agents in southwest and south-central New Mexico. The brigade was converted from an infantry unit.

The assignment allowed the unit to practice reconnaissance, which is its primary mission. Its 40-plus vehicles were equipped with "Long Range Advanced Scout Surveillance Systems" that allow observations day or night and during bad weather. The system has a range of more than two miles, which puts the soldiers out of the range of direct fire weapons and sensor systems.

With only 21 days of formal training, the unit arrived in the high desert of New Mexico for a 60-day mission coordinated by Joint Task Force North. When the mission ended earlier this month, the unit had assisted in nearly 2,500 undocumented immigrant apprehensions and the seizure of more than 6,000 pounds of marijuana.
First, is this was a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act? According to the US Coast Guard:
Posse Comitatus clarifications emphasize supportive and technical assistance (e.g., use of facilities, vessels, aircraft, intelligence, tech aid, surveillance, etc.) while generally prohibiting direct participation of DoD personnel in law enforcement (e.g., search, seizure, and arrests).
Meaning that as long as the Strykers were just looking while the Border Patrol picked the people up, there is nothing wrong with this.

Now the President has been taking it on the chin lately about weak borders. The budget hasn't increased funding for the Border Patrol as much as people would like. That and W is awfully friendly with Vincente Fox. The narrative from both sides of the aisle is that that Bush is doing little to nothing to stop border problems. Up to this point there really hasn't been anything to challenge it either.

Meanwhile, Bush has been discretely deploying Army units to strengthen the border on training missions. So these units, who are training for border security in Iraq and Afghanistan, are starting off getting experience in the same thing here closer to home. That seems like great way to do it to me.

If you want to be a critic, you could say that this is a token instance. I don't know if that is true or not, but it certainly could be. There may be people rotating through this job on a regular basis. The only place Operation Bootheel has been reported is in one paper in Texas. But it is El Paso, one of the major border crossing points, so perhaps they are just more interested in the topic of border security than elsewhere. In any case the story could use more attention and eyeballs.

Of course all this relates back to the Minuteman Project which is kicking off in Arizona. It's a slow news cycle, so the actions of the Minuteman Project are a big deal even though private security firms have been monitoring the border for years in the exact same way. Only this time many of the local landowners who have been paying for additional security will probably be taking part in the Minuteman Project directly.

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