- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

The deployment of federal troops along the U.S.-Mexico border in October netted a 60 percent increase in apprehensions of illegal aliens by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, a congressional report says.

The report given this month to the Senate Armed Services Committee says a Texas-based Stryker-armored reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition squadron helped CBP agents capture 2,000 illegal border crossers in New Mexico and Arizona.

The squadron, part of Joint Task Force North (JTF-N), based at Biggs Army Airfield in Fort Bliss, Texas, was used to “detect and report” the movement of “transnational threats” to the U.S. Border Patrol during the 30-day Operation Western Vigilance.

Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told the committee that the operation also detected three tunnels at the U.S.-Mexico border and one from Canada.

“Our homeland defense and civil support plans are the foundation of our ability to deter, prevent and defeat threats to our nation and assist civil authorities when called upon by the president or secretary of defense,” Adm. Keating said.

JTF-N, a joint service command of active duty and reserve soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Defense Department civilian employees, is a part of NORTHCOM, which is headquartered in Colorado Springs and monitors air, land and sea approaches and encompasses the entire North American continent.

The unclassified report noted that unmanned aerial systems and National Guard helicopters were used in addition to the squadron’s combat vehicles.

Adm. Keating said NORTHCOM initiated coordination with multiple federal agencies for further development of tunnel detection technology, which will benefit not only JTF-N and its law-enforcement agency partners, but also U.S. Central Command in Southwest Asia.

NORTHCOM is engaged with the Federal Aviation Administration to develop airspace procedures for unmanned aerial system support to border control lead agencies and disaster response operations, he said.

Stryker squadrons like the one used in Operation Western Vigilance consist of combat vehicles that combine the capacity for rapid deployment with survivability and tactical mobility. They enable combat teams to maneuver in close and urban areas, provide protection in open terrain and transport infantry quickly to critical positions.

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