Meet BORSTAR, Border Patrol’s Special Forces

These “special forces” agents are as awesome as they come.

When you hear the phrase “special forces” your mind — quite rightly — turns to units like the Army’s Green Berets or the Navy SEALs.

There’s no question those groups are heroic. However, even though the Border Patrol may be law enforcement as opposed to being part of the military, that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own special forces — and they’re heroes of the unsung sort.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, BORSTAR — Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue — was a unit “created in 1998 in response to the growing number of injuries to Border Patrol agents and migrant deaths along our nation’s borders.”

Headquartered at the Border Patrol’s Special Operations Group headquarters in El Paso, Texas, it’s “the only national law enforcement search and rescue entity with the capability to conduct tactical medical, search and rescue training for Federal, state, local and international government agencies.”

The unit is comprised of experienced agents who pass a “physically and mentally demanding course in which candidates are evaluated in various search and rescue techniques, tactical medicine, technical rescue, land navigation, communication, swift-water rescue, air operations, and the ability to work in a cohesive unit.”

John Welter is a BORSTAR agent in the San Diego sector. While he said the work is rewarding, he said it can also be a “selfless, thankless job.”

In an interview, he described just what his job entails, and why BORSTAR may be some of America’s most unsung heroes.

“Most people don’t realize that the Border Patrol has paramedics, search and rescue capability,” Welter said in an interview with The Daily Signal. “But a lot of times our guys put themselves in a lot of danger, and you end up almost in as bad a shape as the person you’re trying to rescue.”

Welter grew up on a family farm in Iowa. That’s an unusual place to start for an elite member of the Border Patrol in the San Diego sector, something Welter acknowledges.

“To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I even realized that the Border Patrol existed until probably my undergrad,” Welter said. He joined the elite unit in 2008, saying that he wanted to go “above and beyond.”

“On BORSTAR, we each have a specialty,” Welter said. “Here in San Diego, we have about 35 guys who are operator level. The idea is that everyone comes together in a rescue environment and everyone can provide something a little above and beyond what everyone else’s basic skills are.


BORSTAR has never lost an agent, something Welter chalks up to training.

“Sometimes, it’s a selfless, thankless job, but we don’t mind that,” Welter says. He adds that people south of the border are often more aware of what the Border Patrol does than those in the United States.

He also wants America to know that agents aren’t just robotic automatons hell-bent on stopping illegal immigration.

“Border Patrol agents are human beings,” Welter said. “They’re compassionate. Border Patrol agents, I believe, rescue more people in the course of our duties than any other entity within the United States.” And those individuals are often illegal immigrants who find themselves in distress.

They may be unsung heroes now, but they don’t have to stay unsung. Let’s make sure of that.

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Source: Meet BORSTAR, Border Patrol’s Special Forces

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