It’s a rare opportunity to take part in a fact-finding trip along the Mexican border, so I accepted the invitation and headed south. The concept of this operation first took root in December of 2015, as a few of the SOFREP writers met in New York City for the annual SOFREP subscribers’ party. There, Jack noted the need for an observational mission on the Mexican border, and asked the writers for their thoughts and if any of us were interested. I excluded myself as a participant, as my expertise lies in Europe and the Middle East, the cartels kill more people than Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) without much attention or deterrence, and I have not had to speak Spanish since I was a student at my Catholic junior high school.

Image courtesy of PBS/Frontline

In spite of this, on the 26th of February, 2016, I found myself driving south from Ohio toward the eastern starting point of the Mexican border, on the Gulf of Mexico in Brownsville, Texas. Most of the news from the border comes with obvious bias. I was bringing something unique to the border with me. I had fresh eyes. My opinions on the Mexican border were abstract and removed. All that I understood were the geographical facts of the landscape and that the border represents a political hot button. In all honesty, I left home significantly less informed about the Mexican border than many of our foreign readers.

My destiny was out there, laid along the rough terrain of the 1,989-mile border. Fortunately, I have a strong sense of curiosity that drives me on, because my total trip ended at 8,174 miles and lasted for a total of 31 days.

On the border, I primarily encountered what I would consider light pockets of civilization at metropolitan crossroads—shared-nation cities such as El Paso, Laredo, Nogales, San Diego, and Yuma. As I drove along the border, I became aware of the spatial intersection of numerous activists, agencies, criminal enterprises, factions, non-government organizations, and militias, all at odds with one another. The scene is from Iraq, not America.