MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
In Fiscal Year 2010, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol seized 4.1 million pounds of narcotics, including 2.4 million pounds seized in between ports of entry. Approximately half of all drugs seized and illegal immigrants apprehended entering the United States are seized or apprehended in Arizona. The alarm monitors of the Marine Corps Air Station can rightfully claim credit for a part of that.
Stacey Mitchell, Chris Carbajal and Louey Roque, who work as alarm monitors at the station’s alarm control center were recognized by the U.S. Border Patrol April 26, 2011, for their involvement in the seizure more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana on the Barry M. Goldwater Range, April 7, 2011.
The trio spotted a vehicle traveling northbound through the Goldwater Range in an area not normally travelled by vehicles.
Near the border, the Goldwater Range is fitted with sensors and alarms to alert the control center, a section within the station’s provost marshal's office, when movement is detected on the range.
“We usually don’t see a whole lot of activity out there,” said Carbajal. “It’s right next to the international border.”
Being on a military range so close to the border and during a Weapons and Tactics Instructor course, there was a chance it could be a Border Patrol or military vehicle.
“We thought it could be a Border Patrol vehicle, but we always call to double check,” said Mitchell.
“It didn’t seem like the normal type of vehicle we see out there,” added Roque.
The Border Patrol sent agents out to respond to the alarm, who chased the suspect vehicle back toward the international boundary. Once the vehicle reached the border fence, the two suspects fled over the fence and back into Mexico, leaving behind the vehicle in which Border Patrol agents discovered more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana, worth an estimated street value of over $800,000.
While the monitors knew the Border Patrol had found drugs in the vehicle, they didn’t find out just how much was discovered until the next day.
“It all happened right before the end of our shift,” said Mitchell. “It was pretty awesome, and we’re excited about it.”
Along with the fence that denotes the international boundary, the sensors and closed-circuit television cameras that cover the Goldwater Range have forced smugglers to travel elsewhere to attempt to smuggle contraband into the country.
In addition to the station’s security measures on the range, there are thousands of technology assets deployed by the Department of Homeland Security along the southwest border which include mobile surveillance units, thermal imaging systems, and large-and small-scale non-intrusive inspection equipment, as well as 130 aircraft and three Unmanned Aircraft Systems, according to the Border Patrol.
Combined, the technology and the nearly doubling of Border Patrol agents have helped lead to a decrease in apprehensions of illegal aliens from nearly 724,000 in FY 2008, to approximately 463,000 in FY 2010, indicating that fewer people are attempting to illegally cross the border, stated the Border Patrol website.
The efforts of the alarm control center monitors have contributed to help secure the Yuma sector’s area of responsibility on the international border, and don’t go unnoticed by the Border Patrol agents who routinely patrol here.
“Without your people and equipment out there, we wouldn’t be able to patrol the area as well as we do,” said William Robins, acting assistant patrol agent in charge. “Your efforts have slowed illegal traffic in the area to a trickle.”