Here is an excerpt from Brady McCombs' article in the Arizona Daily Star:
"It's early evening and the agents are between shifts at one of the Border Patrol's forward operating bases, which along with temporary camps are an increasingly integral part of the agency's strategy to slow illegal immigration and drug smuggling. The bases and camps let agents stay out for longer periods of time in remote border areas that have been difficult to patrol due to the vast distances and long drives to and from stations, said Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin. Agents typically stay seven days straight at the bases... There are seven permanent forward operating bases along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Border Patrol would not disclose the number of camps. Security experts and ranchers call the bases an efficient use of agency resources, getting agents off the main roads and into the smuggling corridors... But the Border Patrol agents' union has concerns about housing conditions at the camps and the lack of standby pay for agents stationed there, said Shawn Moran, vice president of the union, National Border Patrol Council. Agents are not allowed to leave without permission from a supervisor or have visitors. They must bring their own food, water and bedding, and cellphone service is usually shoddy... The increased use of bases and camps is part of an ill-advised movement by Border Patrol leaders to make the agency more military-like, Moran said. Many agents left the military seeking better working conditions and more time with their families... Life in the bases and camps may not be easy, but being in the Border Patrol means adapting to the needs of the agency, said Fred Burton, vice president of intelligence at Stratfor Global Intelligence in Austin, Texas. Getting agents closer to where they need to patrol is the same concept used by city police agencies that build substations throughout a community, Burton said. The U.S. military often uses them overseas as well, such as in Afghanistan now." Link to Full Article
Analysis: I was thrilled to read this article - the first half, anyway - because this is exactly the kind of thinking that DHS needs to continue to embrace: Taking the fight to the drug and human smugglers, instead of waiting for the criminals to come to where it's easy or more convenient. It's a huge part of the challenge to USBP agents just to get to those routes, so having these forward bases and camps is a great solution. As for the conditions, they don't sound any different to me than what I experienced in the Air Force, and are probably much better than what some of our soldiers are managing with in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While this is a concept merely on paper for me, I wanted to get the perspectives of some of my associates in the USBP to see if they believe the bases and camps work, and if the conditions are that bad. Most were of the opinion that the camps are great, and really make the job easier for them. A week away from home can be tough, especially when you have kids, but it's manageable. As for the conditions, the Border Patrol has never been advertised as a cushy job. These agents are routinely walking around in 100+ degree heat with heavy gear, and often working long hours as part of their regular duties. They were never told they'd be put up in five-star accommodations to get the mission accomplished.
I understand the role of unions, and what Mr. Moran is trying to accomplish with his complaints. But I'm concerned that his public stance about the bases and camps are going to make agents look like a bunch of whiners - which I assure you that the vast majority of them are not. As for those agents who don't care for the week-long camp-out, I'll reiterate what Fred Burton said: it's about putting the mission first and getting the job done. I have very positive feelings about this forward-operating concept, and what the USBP can accomplish by using them. If some agents don't care for it and want to leave the Border Patrol because of it, then perhaps they'd be better suited for a desk job with the FBI.