Investigative Group

‘Silent Professionals’: The Real Story Behind The Elite Border Patrol Unit That Killed The Texas School Shooter

(Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Jennie Taer Investigative Reporter
Font Size:
  • Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) agents receive training from military special forces veterans and are selected through a challenging series of physical and mental tests, a BORTAC agent and a subject matter expert who trained the agents told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • BORTAC agents went into the elementary school classrooms during the Uvalde, Texas, shooting when local law enforcement waited, and many have labeled them heroes for their actions.
  • “We’d like to remain as silent professionals … We don’t like the exposure, we just like to be quiet about our tactics, we just like to go in and get business taken care of,” the BORTAC agent told TheDCNF.

Until three agents with the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) burst into a classroom and shot the Uvalde, Texas, school shooter dead, few Americans even knew the elite unit existed. The reason they’ve largely flown under the radar and out of the public eye is simple: they see themselves as “silent professionals,” one BORTAC agent told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Before we were a secret society that nobody knew about. And there’s still a lot of us that want to keep it that way,” said the agent, who spoke with TheDCNF on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak.

Agents from the BORTAC rushed into Robb Elementary School classrooms on May 24, where 18-year-old Salvador Ramos had opened fire and killed 19 children and two teachers, according to multiple reports. After Ramos began shooting, the agents ran in when local law enforcement waited to go into the classrooms for about an hour.

BORTAC agents were first held back by local authorities for around 30 minutes before getting frustrated and storming in on their own volition, with Pete Arredondo, the Chief of Police in the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, reportedly instructing his officers to await backup and additional equipment before entering the school.

BORTAC has responded to threats in the U.S. and abroad and is trained by top elements of the military, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The unit was formed in 1984 in response to riots in immigration detention facilities, according to CBP. BORTAC has around 200 active agents across the border and is headquartered in the El Paso border sector, the BORTAC agent told TheDCNF. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Border Patrol Memo Lays The Groundwork For Mass Release Of Illegal Immigrants Into The US)

“One thing that we do look for in our guys is the preparedness, the awareness and the willingness to go into danger. And that is one thing that selection is really good for is we test our guys, and you could test their ability and capabilities by stress. That’s how we’re able to tell if somebody’s going to be able to go into the fire,” the agent said.

BORTAC agents receive not only internal training, but also training from Tier One elements of the military, the agent explained. Tier One refers to U.S. special forces.

Northern Red, a tactical training company, likely trained some of the agents that responded in Uvalde, a spokesperson for the company told TheDCNF.

“So, we’re talking about basic operator level skills to include pistol and carbine marksmanship, which are the tools of the trade, and we’re talking about doing what’s the worst case, as well as a wide range of tactical proficiencies that include hand to hand combat and that is like controlling suspects. Things that need to do with night vision devices, infrared lasers, small unit tactics, close quarters battle as well as team leadership,” said the spokesperson, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the integrity of Northern Red’s work.

However, the last training with subject matter experts from Northern Red was in 2017 due to funding issues, the BORTAC agent said.

“So, we’ve been running hard ever since and just depending on what’s the remnants of those guys that attended those courses. So, it’s been tough for us, for the financial situation has really been hard on us, especially with this administration where we can’t get the funding for training,” the agent explained.

Border Patrol agent lifts weapon near the site where family members illegally crossed into the the U.S. from Mexico, in Fronton, Texas

A member of the U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) lifts his weapon after what he assessed were the sounds of gunshots near the site where family members illegally crossed the Rio Grande river into the United States from Mexico, in Fronton, Texas, October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

BORTAC agents are trained to respond to cartel violence and investigate stash houses, which some of them were doing before they entered the school in Uvalde, according to Texas Monthly.

Before becoming a BORTAC agent, interested Border Patrol agents must meet physical fitness and marksmanship standards, according to CBP’s website. And, in the first few days of the roughly three-week selection process, agents must endure “demanding and intense” tests.

“It puts the candidate through non-stop physical and mental stress and sleep and food deprivation to see how the candidates react under fatigue and pressure,” CBP’s website states. “The final part of the training includes a field training exercise to test what the candidates have learned and how they perform during a simulated special operations mission.”

The elite agents have supported global military operations, such as Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

“For three solid years we had some very, very awesome trainers — heroes — out here training us. I put it as the equivalent of us being a fifth grade, peewee league football team and going out and training with not only the NFL, but with the Super Bowl winners,” the BORTAC agent told TheDCNF.

The identity of the reported BORTAC agent who shot and ultimately killed Ramos hasn’t been publicly revealed yet, according to the agent who spoke to TheDCNF.

“Everyone is in a hurry to be a hero,” the agent said.

The BORTAC agent said he and his colleagues focus on thwarting threats rather than gaining praise.

“We’d like to remain as silent professionals. We don’t like the exposure, we just like to be quiet about our tactics, we just like to go in and get business taken care of,” the agent said.

CBP didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.