9OYS Border Watch
Airborne engineers drop in along border
Soldiers parachute in to help reinforce the U.S.-Mexico line in So. Ariz.
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - On a large C17 miltiary aircraft, they flew in from above. One by one, they jumped out. These are soldiers on a mission in Southern Arizona.
“It is building a brand new road,” said Second Lieutenant Michelle Zak, mission commander and platoon leader. “We are the first of three phases, actually, for the 0.7 miles of road that we're building right now.”
The first step for this Army unit, based in Alaska, is to parachute in. This is what they do. They're airborne engineers who drop in to repair runaways and build roads in combat zones.
At Fort Huachuca, of course, they're not in combat and haven't brought equipment with them. Their construction project is along the Mexican border, where new roads are needed.
“As you know, here in Arizona with our monsoon seasons, monsoons will come in and redesign any area completely,” said Steven Passement, a Tucson-based supervisory border patrol agent. “(The) problems that cause for agents attempting to reach these roads (is they) are sometimes washed out and it makes them impassible or they have to go all the way around. Time is essential.”
The nearly one-mile stretch to be built for Customs and Border Protection is west of Nogales. It will include drainage systems and be complete by the end of the year.
The soldiers involved in the operation will receive something in return: practice.
“With any airborne operation, you want to have different environments that you can jump in to,” said Colonel Tim Faulkner, garrison commander at the fort. “At Fort Huachuca, with the mountainous terrain and kind of high desert, it replicates a lot of the terrain in Afghanistan.”
KGUN9 News reporter Kevin Keen asked team leader Jarred Gillett: “Every time you jump, do you learn something?” “Yes,” the 17-time jumper replied. “We always go over our pre-jump and make sure that all of our skills are perfect before we exit the aircraft. Every time. Like this time, I’ve never done an in-flight rig. I learned the proper way to do it.”
The mission is organized through Joint Task Force North, a part of the Department of Defense. The more than two dozen active duty engineers involved are from 1st Platoon, 84th Engineer Support Company, 6th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade.