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Border Patrol chief visits Detroit Lakes

Looking for a job that pays well, offers good benefits, and allows you to play a role in keeping U.S. borders safe from terrorism, smuggling and illegal immigration?

If you're a good tracker, proficient with firearms, and have a working knowledge of Spanish, the U.S. Border Patrol might just have the right job for you. (And even if you aren't any of these things, they can train you.)

"We need to hire 6,000 new agents in the next 14 months," said Glen Schroeder, chief patrol agent for the Border Patrol's Grand Forks sector, during a visit to Detroit Lakes Tuesday.

Schroeder was in town at the invitation of Detroit Lakes Mayor Larry Buboltz, who asked him to address the Detroit Lakes Kiwanis Club during its noon meeting at the Holiday Inn.

"This may be my last civic group presentation as part of the Border Patrol," Schroeder said, noting that he would officially retire on Dec. 31. "I think I've saved the best for last."

Schroeder, 56, a native of Pembina, N.D., has led the Patrol's Grand Forks sector since January 2, 2000. He is responsible for directing sector operations, which include patrolling an 861-mile stretch of the U.S.-Canadian border stretching from the North Dakota-Montana state line to Lake Superior and the west shore of Lake Michigan. The sector's boundaries encompass North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. It is the Patrol's largest sector, geographically.

Schroeder enjoyed his visit to Detroit Lakes, and the opportunity to talk about some of the changes the Border Patrol has undergone since the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

"How have your department's activities changed since Sept. 11?" one audience member asked.

"In just about every way possible," Schroeder answered, noting that the Patrol had completely shifted the focus of its mission, and was actually moved under the umbrella of the newly-created Department of Homeland Security at that time.

"Counter-terrorism is now our top priority mission -- and we take that mission very seriously," he noted during his presentation. "We can't let our guard down, not even for one minute."

Increased manpower is just one of the ways that the Patrol is stepping up border security efforts to keep the terrorists out.

Using his sector as an example, Schroeder stated, "With 861 miles of border to control, brute force just won't work."

Aircraft (including jets, helicopters and UAVs), sport utility and all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and boats are all used as what Schroeder called "force multipliers."

Grand Forks is, in fact, slated to become an air operations center, with beefed up aerial support vehicles including two jets, more helicopters and a UAV.

The southern border, meanwhile, is going to be targeted for the first phase of the Patrol's Secure Border Initiative, which will place additional manpower, technology and other force multipliers along the border. Some of the technological improvements will include motion sensors, cameras and ground-based radar that will keep the Patrol advised of any "intrusions" across the border, Schroeder noted.

This advanced technology will allow the Patrol to more quickly identify, classify and track the intrusion in order to make a prompt arrest, he added.

Eventually, the SBI will target the northern border as well; Schroeder said he estimates the initiative will begin on the northern border approximately 3-5 years from now.

Schroeder also clarified the soon-to-be implemented government policy regarding the need for U.S. citizens to present their passports for re-entry into the country.

Previously, no passports were required for re-entry by air or by ground, via the Canadian or Mexican border.

Passports will be required for all U.S. citizens re-entering the U.S. by air, starting on Jan. 23, 2007. And as of Jan. 1, 2008, all U.S. citizens crossing the Canadian or Mexican border into the U.S. over land will also be required to produce a valid passport.

Schroeder, however, won't be there to see these new policies taking effect. Starting this January -- his tentative start date is Jan. 8 -- he will begin a new position as border security advisor for the Georgia Border Police in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia (formerly part of the Soviet Union).

While he is excited to embark on this new adventure, Schroeder said he "wouldn't trade a day" of his time with the Border Patrol.

"I've loved every minute of it," he said.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454