Brown Field Mountain UnitBrown Field Mountain Unit
A memorable adventure took place in approximately 1996 or 1997 when I was selected to participate on the Brown Field Station Mountain Unit, a station detail that focused exclusively on working alien traffic in the busiest areas of the Otay Mountains and surrounding hills. Selection to the Mountain Unit was a license to range far and wide and we typically worked the swing shift when the greatest number of illegal aliens crossed the international border and began walking north down in the flat lands of the Otay Mesa or started hiking up the Otay Mountain canyons.
One evening we made plans for half of the Unit to sweep south off the top of the Otay Mountain and down through the upper forks of Buttewig Canyon to the mouth of the Canyon at the international border far below. The other half of the Unit would drive all the way around to the 250 Border Monument on the south side of the Otay Mountain and walk down a foot trail known as the “Pack Trail” to the mouth of Buttewig Canyon at the border, in order to commence their part of the operation. After sweeping north along the base of the canyon for a mile, this group of agents would lay-in in order to stop any suspected illegal aliens from escaping south while also catching any illegal alien traffic coming north from Mexico. The two halves of the Mountain Unit would then meet and walk out the apprehended illegal aliens, ascending the Pack Trail back to 250 Monument that is on the border at the top of the east ridge of Buttewig Canyon.
A fellow agent and good friend accompanied me and our first line supervisor on the walk south from the top of the Otay Mountain and down through the west fork of upper Buttewig Canyon. Members of our unit had split up in order to walk down each of the three upper forks of the canyon before meeting below where the primary trail coming north divided. We caught several groups of illegal aliens along the way and had many apprehended people in tow before finally reaching the center part of the Canyon. The evening was very chilly so as night fell, we made a campfire to temporarily warm ourselves and the apprehended men and women. The supervisor, who is now also retired, would often retell this part of the story from his perspective as an observer. Both my partner and I were tall, with my partner standing 6’9’’ and myself at about 6’7’’ in height, and as he and I would reach up and break off large, dry juniper branches for firewood, the much smaller, seated illegal aliens from Mexico seemed to have watched us in awe and amazement. The outcome was that they were very, very cooperative that night.
Later we continued our walk down the south half of Buttewig Canyon where we finally met up with the other part of the Mountain Unit which had caught several alien groups of their own. The end result was that a handful of agents had 90 aliens in tow in the dark of the night at the bottom of a very deep, distant mountain canyon. The part of the story that I will vividly remember forever occurred after we finally reached the “Pack Trail” that gradually climbs to the top of the canyon. I remember walking up the trail in the dark and seeing the silhouettes of 90 aliens ahead and behind me, with agents interspaced between them, stretching as far as I could see along the switchbacks of the upward trail.
Adjacent to the south end of each north-south switchback was an east-west barbed wire fence which was within touching distance of all the aliens as they followed the foot path. As we walked up the trail, one of the Mexican men asked what the fence was for and I told him that it was part of a local cattle ranch. Little did he or any of the 90 aliens know that the fence was actually the International Border and everyone in custody could have simply climbed over or under the fence into Mexico in the dark of night. As a result, no one escaped, and the evening’s operation was a great success. Brown Field Station sent several additional vans and SUVs to pick up the Mountain Unit and the apprehended aliens and we all returned to the station. This story and many others from my detail to the Brown Field Mountain Unit highlight some of the most enjoyable times in the field I experienced as a Border Patrol Agent.