Featured Article: Small Teams in the U.S. Border Patrol
Mission Command: Small Teams in the U.S. Border Patrol
by Robert W. Edwards
The U.S. Border Patrol divides personnel into shifts using line units, or patrol groups. Line units are the norm throughout the U.S. Border Patrol, dividing a 24-hour rotation into shifts filled by agents at each station within the 20 sectors in the U.S. Border Patrol. Most stations use small teams, like all-terrain vehicle units and horse patrol units. However, the idea of creating autonomous clusters of small teams on patrol groups or line units as an employment construct has not been executed.
Line units are cumbersome, divided into groups or teams in an ad hoc nature not specifically aligned to an area or expertise, whereas personnel employed in small teams would be the most responsive in the field, functioning autonomously. On small teams, agents report to one or two supervisors, and those supervisors work hand-in-hand with agents, augmenting the team. On a patrol group, supervisors have oversight of greater field tasks and office assignments. They delegate agents and technology assets to traffic in the field, devise schedules, and approve office work products completed by subordinate agents. Small teams may also require less technology, as they are proactive in response to specifically mobile technology in the field. Versus line units or patrol groups that respond reactively to infrequently mobile and static technology. Unlike patrol groups—which are assigned arbitrarily on weekly or monthly schedules—small teams work in the same area day after day, gaining familiarity with traffic or other structural patterns of activity, and fostering subject matter expertise. Line unit agents never gain this familiarity with their assigned areas.
Tactically and operationally, small teams would improve the U.S. Border Patrol’s situational awareness along the border…
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| About the Author:
Robert Edwards attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in 2016-2017, and received the Homeland Security Studies Award. Edwards also holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Texas A&M International University. Since 1995, Edwards has worked on several small teams with the U.S. Border Patrol.
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