Home News Local News U.S. Border Patrol Academy grads meet silent partners

U.S. Border Patrol Academy grads meet silent partners

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Recent United States Border Patrol Academy cadets pose for a class photo. Chief Patrol Agent Dan Harris Jr. says they graduated earlier this month in Artesia and spent six months learning the ropes to become sworn officers. (Submitted Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

ARTESIA — Recent graduates from the United States Border Patrol Academy in Artesia have someone with them at all times, according to Chief Patrol Agent Dan Harris Jr.

Earlier this month, Harris and others associated with the USBP at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center saw another group of cadets graduate. Artesia Police Chief Kirk Roberts served as the guest speaker.

“It’s one of our special days here at the academy,” Harris said of the recent graduation. “Anytime we have men and women who want to take the oath and who want to go out and protect America and keep bad people and bad things out of our country. We want to celebrate their accomplishment.”

He added, “the academy here is a tough thing to graduate from.”

Graduation day starts with an inspection, according to Harris. He said family members join in and they spend a good portion of the day on the FLETC campus.

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Harris said the graduates receive a gold badge and they are sworn in as officers of the USBP.

“It’s a special day for us,” Harris said. “We reward those who are top of the class and a few other things like that.”

Harris compares the USBP graduation to a college graduation.

The cadets spend at least six months in Artesia learning the ropes of what it takes to be a USBP agent.

In the past, Harris said the training focus was based on the teachers. That has changed where the focus is on students.

“We’ve really redone our academy,” he said.

“It’s a complicated academy, it’s based on a quasi-military style boot camp,” Harris added.

He said the cadets live on campus and they study a multitude of things.

“The No. 1 thing for us is to keep terrorists and terrorist weapons out of this country,” Harris said. “Same goes with narcotics.”

In addition to learning about law, Harris said the cadets also learn about firearms, use of force and physical fitness.

“They’re going to run into trouble when they get out there,” Harris said. “When you run into trouble, some things don’t always go well and we want that agent to come home at the end of their shift.”

Harris added that the future agents also deal with vehicle training. “We have one of the top off-road training courses right here on the west campus.”

Along with the physical preparation, cadets must also go through mental preparation. “It’s not easy,” Harris said. “But it’s not Hell either.”

What does it take to get into the academy?

“We try to reach them really young and early,” Harris said of potential recruits.

To do that, Harris said the USBP offers an “explorer program” for those 14 and older.

In order to be in the program, Harris said the teenagers need to have good grades and a good sense of morals.

“One of the most challenging things for us here is drug use,” Harris said.

Harris said potential recruits have to take a series of tests and then they get interviewed.

“It’s tough to get into law enforcement,” he said. “There’s also polygraph exam, we want to get the right people here (and) it’s a lengthy process.”

Harris is no stranger to this region or to law enforcement. He grew up in Denver City, Texas, which is near Hobbs and he has been in Artesia for nearly two years.

“It was like coming back home,” he said.

Harris said he’s had multiple family members in law enforcement.

“I’m the 14th law enforcement officer in my family. I’m named after my great-grandfather who was killed in the line of duty as a Texas Ranger,” Harris said.

Harris has been in law enforcement for nearly three decades, including five years as a police officer in San Angelo, Texas.

Harris added once the cadets become sworn officers, they have a “silent partner” who goes with them at all times.

“We honor the fallen by training the living,” Harris said. “We base our academy on real-life scenarios that have happened in the field.”

“Sadly, there have been 125 border patrol agents in our history that have gone to work and not come home at the end of the day,” he added. “We assign our trainees a silent partner.”

The trainees are given a laminated card that shows the birthdate of the fallen agent. It also shows the date they entered USBP duty, along with the date they died and the location and cause of death, age at death and years of service.

“When we first started talking about this program, is how do we keep the promise to our families and to those agents who are out there working, that their service to this country and their sacrifice will never be forgotten if they have to give the ultimate sacrifice (and) we’re gonna keep their memory alive,” Harris said.

Harris added that homicides and vehicle accidents are the two leading causes of death for the 125 agents honored by the USBP.

General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at sports2@rdrnews.com.