JTF-N provides DoD engineering training opportunities on southwest border

By Maj. Cassandra D. McGinnis | Aug. 30, 2017

FORT BLISS, Texas — (January 6, 2017) -- Engineer units face unique training challenges.

Rarely can construction units exercise mission essential tasks - from survey, design to construction. At the same time, the U.S. Border Patrol is challenged by a lack of mobility along the southwest border. In many cases, USBP can only access large areas on foot or by horseback. These two challenges, the need of military construction unit training and mobility for Border Patrol, provides a unique benefit partnership.

Joint Task Force North’s military engineering support directly increases the effectiveness of USBP efforts to deter and prevent drug trafficking and associated transnational threats from entering the United States through the construction of all-weather roads while providing service members with enhanced training opportunities.

JTF-N, based on Fort Bliss, Texas, is the Defense Department's active-duty command tasked to support the United States' federal law enforcement agencies in the conduct of counterdrug and counter transnational criminal organization activities conducted within and along the nation's southwest border and entries to the United States.

Mobility support missions are executed primarily in El Centro, California; Rio Grande Valley, Texas; Laredo, Texas; Fronton, Texas; Yuma, Arizona; and Nogales, Arizona. The focus and priority of these areas are in direct relation to an operational analysis done by JTF-N, the U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Infrastructure Directorate, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Facilities Management and Engineering Directorate.

JTF-N mobility support missions enhance Border Patrol agents’ response times to conduct interdiction operations; in many cases, agent response time can be reduced by 75 percent. These missions also allow agents to better patrol the rough terrain and afford access to areas to emplace and maintain persistent sensor platforms. Permanent roads, built with drainage culverts to keep them from washing out, help agents respond faster to drug trafficking activity in the area and provide aid more quickly to undocumented aliens in distress. Additionally, local residents and businesses also benefit from the improved conditions.

Military Training Opportunities

Since fiscal year 2011, JTF-N mobility support missions have constructed 62 miles of all-weather road while executing 49 engineer missions and deploying 1,658 military personnel from 49 units (34 from the Army, 12 from the Marines, and three from the Navy) - located at 20 different military installations from throughout 14 states for a total of 95 months.

Military engineer units from all three services have executed a variety of mobility missions along the southwest border to include road construction and improvement, border perimeter lighting installation, border fence construction and vehicle barrier construction. JTF-N mobility missions offer military engineer units with unique training opportunities to exercise multiple skill level tasks in military construction. These missions are challenging and provide the unit’s leadership with some of the best “real-world” construction training opportunities within the continental United States.

Volunteer units typically train in 90 percent of their wartime mission tasks. Volunteer units and individuals have repeatedly remarked that JTF-N missions provided them with the best training they have ever received, emulating terrain similar to that seen during combat operations, as indicated in multiple after-action reports.

“This project provides a phenomenal opportunity for us to train every echelon of the brigade, from individual operator all the way through battalion and brigade mission command,” said U.S. Army Col. Larry F. Dillard Jr., commander of the 555th Engineer Brigade. “Candidly, we normally don't have an operations and maintenance budget sufficient to allow us to take on a project of this scale, so we're thankful to be able to do it on someone else's dime. At the same time, I have to believe that executing with troop construction lowers the net cost of the project for JTF-N, so this truly is the elusive ‘win-win’ we all search for.”

For more information on JTF-N, its engineering projects or its trainings opportunities, please contact the command at 915-313-7777 or visit www.jtfn.northcom.mil.