- ABOUT US
On February 26, I was driving with a friend in an isolated region of the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico when we saw a military tank positioned to be looking south. A lot has been said, written, and documented about the degree and ongoing process of border militarization, but I had never seen anything like this. We were on route 9, just past Playas but not quite to the border town Columbus.
The combat vehicle was such a surprise that I hit the brakes, did a three-point turn, and drove back to make sure that we weren't seeing things. While turning, a soldier came up through the top of the tank with a desert camouflage helmet and looked our way. We waved at him awkwardly, and he waved back. He then leaned forward into the surveillance equipment outfitted for the tank. In front of him was the vast highland desert of southern New Mexico. We were about 20 miles away from the physical border line. Any blurriness in the pictures is probably due to the fact that we had to take the photos in motion, without stopping.
This (photo to the right) was the first of three such combat vehicles that we saw. The second one was stationed on a hill a little to the south of route 9. Approximately 200 yards behind the tank on another hill was a Border Patrol Vehicle. They were lined up together, leading us to believe that they were doing surveillance together. Still a third tank was in the Border Patrol’s Forward Operating Base closer to Columbus. It was inactive, parked among the green-striped vehicles in the lot.
Turns out that these weren’t any old tanks. They were Strykers, made by General Dynamics, a military contractor and manufacturer that is turning more of its attention to the U.S.-Mexico border and Homeland Security endeavors. Strykers are the latest and most modern of U.S. tank technology, used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan, and deemed the 'Cadillac of combat vehicles," by Defense Technology International senior editor Paul McLeary. These tanks are slick and fast, able to reach speeds up to 60 mph. Packed with surveillance technology and a state-of-the art communication system, and designed to be able to handle combat in all scenarios (see video below), they are an all-seeing and hearing armored beast.
DHS Officials have not made any public mention about these tanks, nor given any clear indication to why they were patrolling the borderlands. The best guess is that the Strykers are part of Operation Nimbus II, an operation between Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Defense (DoD) announced on February 22. In this operation 500 soldiers from Fort Bliss (there is a Stryker brigade at Fort Bliss) and Fort Hood, Texas will be supporting Border Patrol with “intelligence and surveillance” assistance for two months. CBP prohibits the soldiers from making direct arrests, which would probably seem hard to believe for a migrant encountering that armored vehicle on her journey north.
In January, Several dozen soldiers parachuted onto Fort Huachuca from the Alaskan airborne engineer brigade. After that dramatic entrance into the Arizona borderlands, they set to work on building a road 3 miles west of the Mariposa port of entry in Nogales. According to an article by Jonathan Clark in Nogales International, program organizers say this “mirrors the type of mission the 40 soldiers might conduct if they were deployed to a place like Afghanistan."
This raises some significant questions: Are the U.S.-Mexico borderlands being used as training ground for overseas wars? Or are those overseas wars starting to become more present in the borderlands? Or both?
As Border Patrol spokesperson Andy Adame explains, the “CBP works with DoD on a regular basis to identify joint opportunities that will allow DoD to fulfill training requirements and, at the same time, enhance CBP’s operational capabilities.” This is done “by leveraging DoD assets and experience.”
So, yes, both. Raising still another question: Will this now be standard practice?
For more from the Border Wars blog, visit nacla.org/blog/border-wars. And now you can follow it on twitter@NACLABorderWars. See also "Undocumented, Not Illegal: Beyond the Rhetoric of Immigration Coverage," by Angelica Rubio in the November/December 2011 NACLA Report; "The Border: Funneling Migrants to Their Doom," by Óscar Martínez, in the September/October 2011 NACLA Report; and the May/June 2007 NACLA Report, Of Migrants & Minutemen.
Just how does this Stryker vehicle look like a tank? That is like spotting a VW Bug and calling it a semi truck.
Maybe I was incorrect in calling a combat vehicle a tank, and I thank you for pointing that out.
However, if I were to take any of the above photos to a, say, local grocery store and were to ask random people to describe what they saw in the pictures, I bet 99 out of 100 people would say a tank.
Like spotting a VW Bug and calling it a semi truck? Please...
This additional blog post, written by Paul McLeary of Defense Technology International and also published today (March 7), adds to the above piece, and contains a response from Customs and Border Protection—Army Sends Strykers, Air Defense Radar to Mexican Border.
Tanks have very big guns that are very visible and deadly. The vehicles pictured in this article are unarmed armored (protection to crew) reconnaissance vehicles with spotting and imagery equipment, Indeed a machine gun can be added to this vehicle,, but, as the photos show this has not been implemented. Typically these vehicles are issued to cavalry scouts who are on the taxpayers payroll and need extensive training like any other trade to master their craft. These scout teams simply report to the border patrol ant activity of interest,,, nothing to get excited over as they may as well be bird watchers, It is about time that they were deployed on our border as the drug cartels trespass across our borders almost daily. The First Armored Division moved from Germany to Ft Bliss Texas several years ago in accordance to BRAC 2005. Ft Bliss is one of the few bases that can handle an Armored Division,,, the move was quite logical and the deployment of scouts much anticipated.
These are not tanks and there is no need to be excited,,,
Obviously the author googled the Stryker vehicle and relayed on only partial information,,, very sloppy research and reporting. Also, the Stryker unit based at Ft. Hood just started receiving their vehicles last week,, soooo until they receive more vehicles,,, they will not be deploying anytime soon.
I aren’t no dang journalist and I aint got no edumacation to go writen’ about thangs I know nothing about,,, but,,I do ‘ave integrity.
1) Can you please elaborate on your last sentence? I don't get it.
2) It's true that I don't see any guns on the outside of the Stryker. It's not clear that there isn't some weaponized nature to this vehicle. If you are confirming that, I'd love to hear your source. I say this because to me, this vehicle does remind me thoroughly of a tank, which is accompanied by reminders of weapons.
3) Can you explain more of the scouts program you mention? I'm not aware of military or civilian law enforcement hierarchy.
-Who are cavalry scouts?
-Where are they trained?
-What does their training consist of?
-Why are is their training appropriate to border-based activity?
-Why can't border patrol agents be tasked with this type of reconnaissance? Is it because of cost?
-For that matter, why couldn't cavalry scouts be employed to do more of the border patrol agents's work?
4) You said "typically" the cavalry scouts use these vehicles. Could you tell us how they are used and by whom in atypical settings?
Thanks for all your knowledge!
Saludos and thanks for your comment and additional information. Though honestly there are some parts in which I'm not entirely clear what you are saying, or at the very least find them debatable.
I am also not sure what you mean in the last sentence. Is that supposed to be a joke?
I do appreciate you sharing your knowledge, and I wish I could've contacted you at the time of this posting (March 7), because there was no information from DHS or the DoD that they were going to deploy Strykers, no press release, no nothing. There was only a hunch that it was a part of the operation mentioned in the blog. What you call partial information actually came from no information from either the military or the Border Patrol (and we did try to contact them).
But that said, to begin to debate some of your points:
If these soldiers are the equivalent of bird watchers, well then wouldn't it be even more important to issue a press release, to inform the public? (Plus, I've got a pair of old binoculars that might be a little easier on the tax payers pocketbook.)
If you think that I shouldn't have used the word "tank," well I concede that (to a degree), see the other comment above. I don't concede it entirely, however.
If you think that it's about time that these combat vehicles are deployed on the border, then let's debate that, and we can do that right here (with other readers too), because not everyone agrees with that assertion.
However, if your point is to squelch this sort of public debate - and that this debate should only happen between military insiders who don't have to google a Stryker to see what it is, and who have inside information that is not available to the public - well, this isn't going to happen. This seems to be the tone of your comment, and I do invite you to take another tone, especially with an issue that has multiple perspectives and voices.
Lastly, I want to mention that this was not a research article, it was a blog based on personal experience. It was meant to elicit such a conversation.
Todd, thank-you for sharing this valuable information. The Strykers are armored military vehicles used for population control, whether this is Gaza, Falujah, or at home. I say no to the militarization of our border, I say no to military bases, and I say no to the training of our youth, for population control at home. The person that feels this is nothing to worry about, is someone that has acquiesced to the militarization of our society. As someone who is familiar with the militarization of Latin America, with funding and training by the US, and it's human costs over the past 50 years, this is no laughing matter.