It was the early 1990s, the Soviet Union had collapsed, and the Gulf War had recently ended. The military was scrambling to justify manpower, means, and technology to a Democratic Congress and the Clinton administration, which foolishly saw to cuts in defense until 2000. In the midst of this scramble a security and technology deployment was conceived for the Mexican border.

Joint Task Force-Six, now known as Joint Task Force North, reinforced by a signal detachment from Fort Drum were ordered to Nogales, Arizona to assist and improve border protection efforts with tactical advice and new signal and surveillance technologies. In Nogales, JTF-6 command and staff met with local law enforcement and federal agencies, predominantly with Border Patrol, to discuss the area and the intent of the operation that JTF-6 was going to conduct in their backyard. JTF-6 needed to know the lay of the land, the tactics, techniques, and procedures of the bad guys just as well what was being done on the American side of the border and by whom.

JTF-6’s operation was simple, deploy advanced sensor and surveillance technology along the border with JTF-6 soldiers in near-hides and patrols to respond to intrusions in conjunction with Border Patrol. The operation was viewed positively and given the full support of local law enforcement and the Border Patrol. JTF-6 armed with solid local intel, support and lots of new toys was confident and assumed that this operation was set to be a resounding success.

Singal detachment soldiers guided JTF-6 soldiers on the deployment of the sensors and surveillance equipment as they monitored from a remote headquarters. The headquarters was separate from local and federal agencies, including Border Patrol, but operated through liaison officers. From the JTF-6 headquarters, soldiers ran twenty-four operations, a capable presence was always in the field, with a JTF-6 quick reaction force on standby to respond to any incident. Border Patrol was impressed, the soldiers were seen as the utmost professional, a Border Patrol agent I spoke to about the operation said: “They really had their shit together, they had everyone standing tall, and the Capos were panicked.”  The soldiers of JTF-6 did not screw around, and their commanders were adamant about meeting and exceeding the expectations of the mission, confident that they were going to bag the highest number of narcotics and smugglers to date.