Editor’s Note: Many of our readers will remember Heath Hansen. He’s posted several pieces for us in the past during some of his deployments with the 82nd Airborne Division. This is another piece by Heath from when he deployed in the U.S. along the southern border.

Thanks again to Heath, much appreciated. — SB

“I sent the grids; we’ll be heading out by noon on Thursday,” Tim Foley informs me over the phone before I hit the road. Foley is a grizzled former paratrooper of the 82nd Airborne Division and leader of the volunteer group Arizona Border Recon (AZBR). For over a decade, AZBR volunteers have assisted Border Patrol by sharing intelligence concerning the movement or location of illegal immigrants crossing the international border. In the weeks before, I coordinated calls and emails between Foley and his men to ensure the proper paperwork and background checks were complete. Now, I can partake in their training regimen executed in the mountains of Southern Arizona.

Years ago, I learned of AZBR while watching a documentary about drug cartels south of the border. Now, I jump on the opportunity to get in the field and see how Foley and his men operate. Staying true to their motto: “One Hill At A Time,” these guys will be training in the same hills they patrol during operations.


Arizona Border Recon
The author with Arizona Border Recon’s Tim Foley

It’s Wednesday morning and my vehicle is packed with everything I will need to survive in the wilderness for the next few days. It’s been over a decade since I served as an infantryman in the Army, making myself comfortable in the mountains of Afghanistan and deserts of Iraq. Hopefully, some of that training and experience will pay off during my stay with AZBR.

The drive through the Southwest United States eventually brings me to Arivaca, AZ. From there, I make my way into the Coronado National Forest. The roads are not paved, in fact, in some spots, they are almost non-existent. Treacherous, rocky, desert terrain greets me as I make my way into the mountains and wind my way higher towards the grid coordinates. Hawks hover above my car, tall saguaro cacti loom over the road, and deer hop out in front of me during the trip. I arrive at the campsite, less than a mile from the Mexican border. Surrounded by pick-up trucks, SUVs, and camping tents, I see Foley with his guys. They are wearing MultiCam camouflage and are sitting around a fire trying to stay warm.

I greet them all and shake their hands. A mix of veterans, law-enforcement officers, and civilians make up the group. They ask if I need help getting situated. I decline and tell them I’m sleeping on a blow-up mattress in the back of my SUV, so set-up should be quick and easy. After unpacking my gear, I head back to the fire to get acquainted with the guys.