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U.S. Border Patrol revamps training; New longer curriculum includes substantial increase in scenario-based learning

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The Chief Patrol Agent of the United States Border Patrol Academy in Artesia Dan Harris Jr. inspects recent academy graduates. (Submitted Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

ARTESIA — The United States Border Patrol Academy is revamping basic training for new cadets entering the academy, according to Chief Patrol Agent Dan Harris Jr.

“When you look at a basic law enforcement academy, we want them to make their mistakes here in a safe training environment,” he said.

The academy has transitioned from a 66 day basic training curriculum that for years enabled the agency to get agents to the field quickly and has implemented a 117 day basic training program.

“We want them to get it right in the field,” Harris said.

The new curriculum includes a substantial amount of scenario based training in comparison with the previous curriculum.

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“We don’t want to stay stagnant,” Harris said. “We want to take what is really happening in the field and recreate that in a safe training environment where mistakes are made here and mistakes made by us in the field.”

The training method takes the cadet through more real life scenarios in a controlled environment.

“They make their mistakes here and get it right when they get in the field.”

Harris said recent news accounts involving law enforcement have had an impact on an officer’s judgement and decision making skills.

“Do we have the appropriate ones?” he asked. “By keeping them here (in Artesia) we have taken our program from about 70 hours of judgement and decision making to approximately 170 hours, so you’re looking at over doubling the amount of time that if you were a trainee, I’m going to give you more scenarios.”

Harris added, “it’s one thing to sit in a classroom and tell someone this is how you do it and this is what you do, it’s another thing to take them and put them into one of our venues and basically show them and have them show us and evaluate them on that.”

Training supervisor Lloyd Sams said one major change involved learning Spanish during the previous training period.

“For those that did not understand or speak Spanish, they had an additional 40 days, so for non-native speakers or those that their Spanish speaking skills weren’t as well you had a 66 day basic for those that were unable to communicate the Spanish language they stayed an additional 40 days,” he said.

Sams added that made up an additional 30 percent that were hired during that time frame.

“Now with the 117 day we have reintegrated Spanish back into the full academy, it’s one of the major things we have done in the 117 day is reincorporate Spanish back into the basic training,” he said.

Sams said the reinforcement of those Spanish speakers are force multipliers for USBP Academy instructors, “and the ability to go in and as we learn the languages, during those time frames within the 117 day program we’re able to apply a lot more practical applications.”

He said they want to thread the Spanish program throughout the entire academy.

Harris added, “you couple that with everyone getting that foundation together as a class with partners and teammates and getting more practical applications in our training and tracking abilities, tracking disturbances in the field to our use of force and judgement, when you add all that up into one basic academy, it makes the border patrol one of the top-10 in the country.”

Equipment and how to use it are also part of the training process, according to Harris.

He cited lights for their weapons. He said, “the technology changes everyday.”

“Whether I’ve got to have an agent who goes into a school and stop an active shooter or he’s in the desert in the middle of the darkness, I want them to be able to identify the threat, make the appropriate action, whether it’s escalation or deescalation and stop that threat,” Harris said.

Harris added the mission is to put the best possible light into that agent’s hand.

“That’s just one small piece,” he said. “When we send the men and women out there with some of the best equipment, that is available to them, whether that’s their protective armor, their uniforms, their weapon, their weapon mounted light, we train and certify them intensely train them for six months.”

Harris said in the past it would have taken a few years for an agent through their training to have all that equipment, training and tactics, “that they used to protect themselves and others.”

Sams added in the former 66 day program there were a limited number of tools that they were able to provide those trainees that left the academy with about five or six certifications.

“Now they’re leaving here with close to 13 to 14 certifications, so giving them those more tools, now are being taught at the academy, where traditionally it was one of those where it may have been two to three years longer before we were able to get that in the field.”

The USBP said President Donald Trump has a mandate of hiring 5,000 additional agents.

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

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